Dr. Pogu Bitrus, President, Middle Belt Forum (MBF), was speaking at a press conference on Wednesday, following a massacre in Plateau state on Sunday.
In a pre-written text read to the press, Mr. Bitrus called for immediate help, saying that the middle belt region in Nigeria was under siege by the Fulani herdsmen.
“Southern Kaduna, Benue, Nasarawa, Adamawa, Taraba, Kogi, Southern Borno and Plateau states have been the theatres of an undeclared war.
“A few days ago, Plateau state was once again the theatre of unspeakable, despicable and demonic massacre of our people. Over 200 persons were murdered by persons purported to be Fulani herdsmen.
“The world was treated to gory pictures of children butchered, women cut open, elderly men and women murdered by maniacal beings purported to be Fulani herdsmen,” Bitrus said.
Read full statement
TEXT OF A WORLD PRESS CONFERENCE BY DR. POGU BITRUS, PRESIDENT OF THE MIDDLE BELT FORUM (MBF) ON THE ONGOING GENOCIDE IN PLATEAU STATE AND OTHER PARTS OF THE MIDDLE BELT
Gentlemen of the Press.
We have called you here today to alert you on the escalation and the entirely new dimension the ongoing pogrom in the entire middle belt of Nigeria has taken.
You are all aware that the entire Middle Belt has been under siege for the past two decades.
Southern Kaduna, Benue, Nasarawa, Adamawa, Taraba, Kogi, Southern Borno and Plateau states have been the theatres of an undeclared war.
A few days ago, Plateau state was once again the theatre of unspeakable, despicable and demonic massacre of our people. Over 200 persons were murdered by persons purported to be Fulani herdsmen.
The world was treated to gory pictures of children butchered, women cut open, elderly men and women murdered by maniacal beings purported to be Fulani herdsmen.
Our ethnic nationalities whose domains and homelands are well known and clearly demarcated have been living peacefully with their nomadic Fulani neighbours who are known to them for over a century. Never have our people on account of their crops being destroyed killed Fulani herdsmen neither have Fulani herdsmen killed members of our indigenous communities on the basis of loss of their cattle. Disagreements over destruction of crops or killing of cattle were amicably resolved.
But recently and particularly in the last three and a half years, these purported Fulani herdsmen with sophisticated assault weapons are seen everywhere grazing their cattle openly without any challenge from the security agencies. Worse still, these purported Fulani herdsmen brandishing their AK47s have killed thousands of indigenes of the Middle Belt, sacked entire communities, destroyed property worth billions of Naira and have sought to change our ways of life and entire cultures!
The primary responsibility of government, under the social contract with the people, is contained in Section 14(2) (b) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended).
That primary responsibility is the welfare and security of the lives and property of citizens. The Nigerian government has serially breached this social contract with the peoples of the Middle Belt by its failure in protecting their lives and property.
In very many cases, the circumstances surrounding the killings and destruction suggest that there is complicity by the leadership of security and intelligence agencies.
The most recent attacks in Plateau state where several communities cutting across three LGAs left over 200 persons dead was sustained for over five hours without any response from the security forces. It is inconceivable that an attack of such magnitude requiring the kind of logistics involved could have been planned without any inkling by the intelligence agencies. It is absolutely impossible that for five hours the security agencies were ignorant of the attacks in this era where majority of the members of these communities have mobile phones and have numbers of police divisions and relatives’ numbers. Our conclusion is that this is evidence of high level complicity by the security forces.
The recent twist to the genocide in the Middle Belt is that after each round of these killings, the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACBAN) or the Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore have claimed responsibility for the killings. In Benue and Taraba, the Miyetti Allah opposed the passage of the Anti Open Grazing Prohibition Laws of those states and openly declared that the killings were a direct consequence of their opposition. Just a few days ago and immediately after the genocide in Plateau, the Miyetti Allah claimed responsibility and their justification was that over 300 cows were stolen by some indigenous Berom youths. In all of these cases, the leadership of the Miyetti Allah has not been arrested nor has the government banned this murderous organization.
On the basis of the foregoing, we hereby make the following calls:
To all Communities in the Middle Belt: We call on the entire people of the Middle Belt to organize themselves in their communities to defend themselves and their property as the government has abdicated its responsibility to protect them. Section 33 of the Nigerian Constitution guarantees every citizen the right to life and nobody should be deprived of that right. The right to private self defence is constitutionally recognized to protect that right to life.
To all State Governments in the Middle Belt:
Governments of all states in the Middle Belt should as a matter of urgency support communities in the Middle Belt to train the vigilante groups on ways of repelling external aggressions of the sort communities in the Middle Belt have been subjected to in the last two decades. Governors of the states of the Middle Belt should urgently bring to the attention of the President, President Muhammadu Buhari, the need to bring to an end this undeclared war against the people of the Middle Belt as it has the potential of degenerating to a state of anarchy.
To President Muhammadu Buhari, GCFR and the Federal Government of Nigeria:
a. We call on the President, Muhammadu Buhari, GCFR to immediately reconstitute the top echelon of the Security forces. The peoples of the Middle Belt have every reason to suspect that the top echelon of the security forces is unwilling or unable to protect them.
The refusal of the Inspector General of Police to stay in Makurdi as directed by the President in January and the recent comment of the Minister of Defence directing States to suspend the Anti-Open Grazing Laws of their various states are clear evidence that they are not interested, willing or able to be fair to the people of the Middle Belt.
b. We call on the President to work with the legislature and immediately commence the process of constitutional amendment for the proper restructuring of the Nigerian federation. In the interim, we call on the President to direct that all police personnel be posted to their various states of origin in line with the principles of community policing.
4 To National Assembly and State Houses of Assembly: We call on the National Assembly and the State Houses of Assembly to as a matter of urgency commence the amendment of the Constitution to restructure the Nigerian Federation. Devolution of powers to the various levels of government is the only way to gurantee peace, security of lives and property in a multi-ethnic, multi-religious and multi-cultural entity like Nigeria.
God bless Nigeria.
Dr. Pogu Bitrus
President, Middle Belt Forum (MBF)
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