President Muhammadu Buhari Thursday said the proposed cattle colony by the Federal Government as a measure to find lasting solution to herdsmen/farmers clashes is not meant to colonise any part of the country.
The President spoke when he received the Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria (CBCN), led by Archbishop Ignatius Kaigama.
According to him, the intention of the government is to create grazing locations for cattle rearers, an idea which, he said, has been misconstrued as colonisation.
Buhari met with the Bishops in camera, but presidential spokesman Femi Adesina issued a statement on what the President said.
Besides, the Bishops gave the text of their address to State House reporters.
The President regretted that the well-thought out policy, which he said was conceived after wide consultations with stakeholders had been largely misunderstood by a section of the public.
He, however, assured the bishops that the government would continue to explore all opportunities and support initiatives to ensure peace and stability in restive areas.
Condemning the killings in Benue, Adamawa, Taraba, and Zamfara states, the President said security operatives would ensure prosecution of perpetrators and all those found with illegal arms.
He said: ‘‘The impression created that I was sitting in an air-conditioned office and home, enjoying myself while these things happened is dishonest.
‘‘At every step, I have tried to foresee these problems because I have the experience as a former military officer who commanded three out of the four divisions of the Nigerian Army – in Lagos, Ibadan and Jos.
‘‘I am quite aware of the problems we have and I am doing my best to get law enforcement agencies to be on the alert,’’ Buhari said.
The President added that he would not be tired of recounting remarkable progress recorded security, economy and the fight against corruption.
‘‘We have done very well on security in the Northeast, when you compare what the condition was before we came in and what it is now.
‘‘On the economy, particularly agriculture, I am very pleased that God answered the prayers of Nigerians who prayed for bountiful harvest.
‘‘People have taken advantage of Federal Government policies and programmes to return to the farm and they have not regretted,’’ he said.
On the fight against corruption, the President reiterated that the government would be guided by the law in the investigation and prosecution of all graft-related cases.
‘‘People are being prosecuted systematically with evidence”, Buhari said, adding:
‘‘If a permanent secretary has five houses in Abuja, two in Kaduna and one in Borno and Sokoto and he can’t account for the properties and there are bank transactions linking him to the properties, the prosecuting agencies will not have difficulties to make progress on the case.”
The statement by the Bishops, which they said was read at the meeting, is signed by CBCN President and Archbishop of Jos, the Most Rev. Dr. Ignatius Ayau Kaigama and Secretary and Bishop of Gboko, the Most Rev. Dr. William Avenya.
They said the Catholic Church in Nigeria would continue to support the Buhari administration and contribute to nation-building through prayers, admonitions and assistance to needy Nigerians.
‘‘As the voice of the people, we shall continue to highlight the plight of our people and play our prophetic role of sensitising the government, thus promoting good governance, national unity and cohesion,’’ Kaigama said.
He added that “there is no doubt that when you came into office, you had an enormous amount of the goodwill of Nigerians, since many saw you as a person of integrity who would be able to bring sanity into a system that was nearly crippled by endemic corruption.
“Nearly three years later, however one has the feeling that this goodwill is being fast depleted by some glaring failures of government which we have the moral responsibility to bring to your notice, else we would be failing in our duty as spiritual fathers and leaders.”
Expressing its concerns, the group said: “Your Excellency, there is too much suffering in the country: poverty, hunger, insecurity, violence, fear… the list is endless. Our beloved country appears to be under siege. Many negative forces seem to be keeping a stranglehold on the population, especially the weaker and defenceless ones.”
It went on: “While many have become victims of human trafficking. The nation is nervous.
“Just as we seem to be gradually emerging from the dark tunnel of an economic recession that caused untold hardship to families and individuals, violent attacks by unscrupulous persons, among whom are terrorists masquerading as herdsmen, have led to a near civil war situation in many parts of the country.
“We are saddened that, repeatedly, innocent citizens in different communities across the nation are brutally attacked and their sources of livelihood mindlessly destroyed. Lives are wasted and property, worth billions of Naira, including places of worship, schools, hospitals and business enterprises are torched and turned to ashes.
“We are still more saddened by the recent massacre of unarmed citizens by these terrorists in some communities in Benue, Adamawa, Kaduna and Taraba states, which has caused national shock, grief and outcry.
“The silence of the Federal Government in the wake of these horrifying attacks is, to say the least, shocking. There is a feeling of helplessness among the people and the danger that some people may begin to take laws into their hands.”
Quoting the Federal Character Principle as enshrined in the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, the bishops said: “The government of the Federation or any of its agencies and the conduct of its affairs shall be carried out in such a manner as to reflect the federal character of Nigeria and the need to promote national unity and also to command national loyalty, thereby ensuring that there shall be no predominance of persons from a few states or from a few ethnic or other sectional groups in that government or in any of its agencies (Section 14, Sub-section 3-4.”