SOUTHERN and Middle Belt Leaders Forum have called on President Muhammadu Buhari-led Federal Government to institute a probe into the statement made by the Director-General, State Security Service (SSS), Lawal Musa Daura, that most of the sophisticated weapons being used by herdsmen were from the armouries of security agencies in the country.
The Forum led by Chief Edwin K. Clark for South-South delegation, Chief Ayo Adebanjo (South-West), Chief John Nwodo (South-East) and Dr Bala Takaya (Middle Belt) made the call at a high-powered meeting it held at the weekend in Abuja, saying such occurrence if not properly investigated and addressed had serious implications for the country’s national security.
Daura had reportedly made the shocking revelation at the Senate Security meeting investigating the herdsmen/farmers clashes which had occasioned several deaths in the country, with several others injured while properties worth billions of naira were destroyed.
The leaders, who met to review the Benue crisis and other flashpoints in Nigeria, expressing disappointment that President Buhari had not lived up to the expectations of his office by keeping mute on the killings and visiting neighbouring Nasarawa and Adamawa States while ignoring Benue, equally demanded immediate rejig of the country’s security architecture to reflect the principle of Federal Character.
According to the Forum, which said it was disturbed by the allegation that soldiers drafted to Benue under “Operation Cat Dance” were circulating leaflets calling Tivs cattle rustlers which clearly suggested that the operation was ostensibly meant to turn victims into villains and decimate their capacity for self-defense, the current template where 16 out of the 17 security chiefs are from a section of the country is not healthy for a multi-ethnic state and, therefore, violates the principle of Federal Character.
The leaders, while also expressing disappointment with the poor state of affairs at the IDP Camps in Benue compared to other IDP camps around the country, urged President Buhari to immediately stop the killings going on in Benue and other parts of the country.
They said he should do this by disarming all armed herdsmen carrying illegal weapons and fish out culprits of killings in Benue and other places for prosecution.
This was just as they warned against any plot to declare a State-of-Emergency in Benue State as being canvassed by some sponsored group, recalling that such a move in the Western Region had dire consequences in the past.
On the issue of underage voters as cited in Kano during the in the recent Local Government polls in the state, the Southern and Middle Belt Leaders Forum said it was alarmed by what it described as the perverse culture as happened in the recent exercise in the state, describing the development as open rape on democracy.
According to the Forum, the unwholesome development is a carryover of the 2015 elections practice and a clear erosion of confidence in the electoral umpire, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to conduct credible elections.
The Forum, while rejecting INEC’s move to probe the incident as that would amount to cover-up, demanded that a Judicial probe of the voters registry be done by a panel to be headed by a retired Supreme Court Justice with members drawn from the Commission, registered political parties, Civil Society Groups and the National Democratic Institute for international representation.
It, however, said the enquiry should be done before further elections are held in the country with the current INEC register.
“Meeting was alarmed by the perverse culture of underage voters which was palpable in the recent Local Government elections in Kano. This open rape of democracy is a carryover of the 2015 elections practice and a clear erosion of confidence in the INEC to conduct credible elections.
“Meeting rejects INEC probe into the incidence as its earlier statement that the cards were used for local elections was an attempt to cover up forgetting we know that it has exclusive right over registration of voters which state electoral bodies only make use of.
“Before further elections are held with the current INEC register, we demand a Judicial probe of the voters registry by a panel to be headed by a retired Supreme Court Justice and members drawn from INEC, registered political parties, Civil Society Groups and the National Democratic Institute for international representation,” the Forum demanded.
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