President Muhammadu Buhari has been urged to show concern for all farmers as he does Fulani herdsmen. The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Nigeria made the call on the president when they visited him on Thursday. In their written address and jointly signed by the CBCN President and Archbishop of Jos, Most Rev. Ignatius Kaigama; and the Secretary Most Rev. William Avenya (the Bishop of Gboko), the clergymen said they supported the opposition to government’s plan to create cattle colonies in states of the federation.
“We would like to add our voice to those of other well-meaning Nigerians who insist that a better alternative to open grazing should be sought rather than introducing cattle colonies in the country.
“While thinking of how best to help cattle owners establish ranches, government should equally have plans to help the other farmers”.
Moreover, the bishops said the goodwill Nigerians showed to the president upon his assuming office has fast depleted “by some glaring failures of government”. They added that they would be failing in their duty as “spiritual fathers and leaders”, if such was not brought to the president’s notice.
The bishops further said, “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.
“There is a feeling of hopelessness across the country. Our youths are restive and many of them have taken to hard drugs, cultism and other forms of violent crime, 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.”
“These and many more such problems are, in our opinion, grave matters that should be worrying all political leaders in our country today, rather than any bid for re-election,” the bishops said.
However, President Buhari disagreed with the visiting bishops that he was not doing enough to tackle insecurity in the country.
“The impression created that I was sitting in an air-conditioned office and home enjoying myself while these things happened is dishonest”, the president said.
“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 the law enforcement agencies to be on the alert.
“We have done very well on security in the North-East 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’s policies and programmes to return to the farm and they have not regretted it,” he said.
“People are being prosecuted systematically with evidence.
“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 property and there are bank transactions linking him to the property, the prosecuting agencies will not have difficulties to make progress on the case.” The president also promised the visiting clergymen that he would redress perceived imbalance in the appointments he made.