The Northern Elders Forum (NEF) has said that President Muhammadu Buhari has failed the nation in tackling the security challenges facing the country.
The group also lamented the pervasive poverty particularly in the north, which it alleged, has worsened under the Buhari administration.
Thisday reports that the forum, in a statement on Sunday signed by the convener of the forum, Prof. Ango Abdullahi, said the relationship between insecurity and poverty is fundamental, but the administration does not appear to have any idea on what will provide relief or solution.
Abdullahi, a former vice-chancellor of the Ahmadu Bello University (ABU), Zaria, regretted that in spite of unprecedented consensus among Nigerians that the Buhari administration requires a new resolve, approach and leadership in the fight against the security challenges, the president appears either totally isolated or in deep denial over the result of his failures to secure Nigerians.
“Northern Elders Forum has refrained from comments on major developments relating to management of national security and governance because it is convinced that these are times which require the highest levels of responsibility and circumspection in the manner elders and leaders in the nation contribute to the search for solutions to the multiple problems which face the nation.
“It has become necessary and appropriate, however, to make public, the position of the forum on important matters that affect the manner Nigerians live and the future we must address.
“The forum regrets that by any standard of judgement, the leadership of President Muhammadu Buhari has failed the nation in the vital area of improving its security.
“Poverty, particularly in the north, and massive social security have worsened under this administration.
“The relationship between insecurity and poverty is fundamental, but the administration does not appear to have any idea on what will provide relief or solution.
“It gives the forum no pleasure to say that it had warned Nigerians that President Buhari lacked the will, the competence and commitment to lead it into a secure and prosperous future before the 2019 elections.
“It is shocking that in spite of unprecedented consensus among Nigerians that the administration requires a new resolve, approach and leadership in the fight against the nation’s multiple security challenges, President Buhari appears either totally isolated or in deep denial over the result of his failures to secure Nigerians,” the statement said.
The forum maintained that “with this type of mind set, it is difficult to see how President Buhari can accept the challenge to radically improve his handling of our security situation”.
The statement urged Nigerians to continue to raise their voices and organise through all legitimate means to demand that the administration addresses major failings in his perception of “our situation and his response to our demands for our rights to security”.
“The forum demands a thorough overhaul of the leadership of our security and public safety agencies, and the injection of higher levels of competence, integrity and accountability in the manner our troops and the police and security agencies deal with security challenges.
“We appeal to our religious leaders and fellow citizens not to fall into the trap of insurgents to set us up against each other.
“We condemn the tactic of targeting Christians and publicising their executions by an insurgency seeking to exploit our different faiths. We also condemn the murder of thousands of Muslims and Christians in communities which the insurgency has made permanent targets in the last decade.
“These are times when we must unite and resist a common enemy as we demand that our leaders protect us all as Nigerians,” the forum said.
The forum said it supports the idea of improving the policing capacities of the nation in principle, emphasising however that all initiatives to improve public safety must find accommodation within the laws, and must not be designed to threaten or harass particular groups or interests.
“We recommend the adoption of a more vigorous and inclusive process which will result in the creation of acceptable frameworks and higher levels of confidence among all communities with respect to policing strategies,” the statement said.
The statement called on state governments across the country to “exercise higher levels of restraint and responsibility in the manner they respond to the challenges of improving our security and safety”.
The forum also noted the comments of the Chairman, Board of Trustees of the Coalition of Northern Groups (CNG), which recently announced the establishment of a northern security outfit, in response to the opinions of the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Sa’ad Abubakar III, saying it did not conform with the culture of respect and reverence for leaders which northerners are noted for.
“The forum demands that the Chairman of BoT of Coalition of Northern Groups should apologise to His Eminence, the Sultan of Sokoto without reservations.
“The forum notes that His Eminence has many avenues for relating with the coalition, and urges him to continue with his close relations with the coalition and utilize his position to extract the maximum benefits which could accrue to the northern community in his relations with the coalition” the statement said.
The forum also expressed concern over herders’/farmers’ clashes and the recent banning of commercial motorcyclists in Lagos State.
The NEF said: “In moments of tension and stress, Nigerians tend to find easy solutions or scapegoats. This Forum is concerned that the apparent resurgence of certain types of conflicts such as ethnic and farmers/herders clashes will have multiplier effects and cause damaging setbacks to the successes made in improving community relations.
“We appeal to governments and communities to commit further to living together in peace and earning a living within the ample resources we are blessed with.
“With due respect to the rights of the Lagos State Government to take decisions that improve the environment and public safety, we are constrained to draw attention to the impact of its policy on banning Okada and Keke in parts of the state on the poor and operators, many of them from the north, who earn honest living through this trade.
“We urge restraint in the responses of those who are immediately affected by this policy, while we urge northern state governments to mobilize and support the people who will be compelled to relocate back to the north with other sources of legitimate living.”
The forum has observed that political manoeuvres around the 2023 elections are targeting the north as a region available for exploitation.
“We want to make it clear that people of the north will be very careful in committing to persons seeking their support on the basis of their region or wealth.
“The north knows its interests, and will stand together to elect only persons who meet the standards and interests of the people of the north. No politician should assume that they are entitled to our support unless they show a clear understanding and a commitment to deal with our problems and meet our aspirations,” it said.