Director General of the Progressive Governors Forum (PGF) Salihu Moh. Lukman, has warned against ethnic and religious sentiments in the efforts to end banditry and kidnapping across the country.
The All Progressives Congress (APC) chieftain said “Nigerians need to wake up to the reality that preventing or arresting criminal activities such as kidnapping and banditry cannot be achieved by massaging our ethnic and religious sentiments.”
Lukman was reacting to the controversy trailing the eviction order given to some herdsmen in Ondo state.
In a statement signed Thursday in Abuja, Lukman said the easy temptation is to politicise the debate by some persons but adding that both Ondo state and the federal government are controlled by the APC.
“As a believer and campaigner for restructuring based on the need to make our governments functionally responsive, the challenge that reduced reform initiatives of governments to problems of activating our fault lines is simply a reflection of the inability of government officials – elected and appointed – to discharge their responsibilities without fear or favour as provided in the provisions of our constitutions and other statutes.
“While it is possible that initiatives are already taking place to resolve the issue between Ondo state government and federal government, to the extent that rather than announcements of resolutions of how initiatives to prevent and arrest crimes are hardly the case, confirms high degree of weakness in addressing national challenges. Instead, most of the public debate is about which group we want to support. Is there any Nigerian today who is not disturbed by the high rate of kidnapping, banditry and similar crimes? Such a Nigerian is either directly or remotely involved in kidnapping, banditry and all the crimes taking place.
“These are criminal activities that can hardly succeed without the collaboration of community and religious leaders. In fact, there are also strong allegations of even collaboration of security officials. We therefore need to forge stronger national unity in the country to be able to initiate the kind of reforms, which can produce the expected outcomes. In addition to forging stronger national unity, we should include the issue of stiffer sanctions for both the criminals and their collaborators, much more than what is provided in our current laws. There is no reason why we should not consider the introduction of death penalties for both the criminals and their collaborators, for instance.
“The issue is about responding to a national challenge. It is about Nigeria, which is why our leaders must exercise restraint when making public statements. If a statement is made, which potentially breach provisions of our constitution, any statement capable of activating our fault lines must be avoided. When we need to correct possible challenges arising from statements issued by our leaders, it mustn’t be a case of double jeopardy.
“Two wrongs will never make a right. At all times, our leaders and all of us, must carry the burden of national unity such that statements and proposals for reforms should inspire Nigerians to respect each other and recognise the incontestability of supporting initiatives from every part of the country in order to prevent or arrest crime, no matter its strength. As our party manifesto rightly emphasised, ‘It is no longer a question of choice but of will and courage!”
According to Lukman, no Nigerian, or indeed any rational person, irrespective of nationality, can oppose the laudable objective of the Ondo state government.
The APC chieftain said: “On the other hand, if Ondo state government was unable to engage groups and its decision to initiate reform as announced by Governor Akeredolu portend the possibility of violating provisions of the 1999 Nigerian Constitution as amended, given the powers of the federal government, rather than a public statement of caution by Mallam Garba Shehu, one would have rather recommend that the appropriate agency of the federal government invite the Governor, discuss the matter and agree on the best way to achieve the laudable initiative of the Ondo state government and accordingly inform Nigerians about the way forward. To make a public statement of caution suggest some disagreement between the federal government and Ondo state government about the desirability of reform as announced by Governor Akeredolu, which is not likely the case.”
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