“Defend Yourselves” – Middle Belt Forum Tells Communities
The Middle Belt Forum has charged communities in the North Central geopolitical zone to defend themselves against further attacks by any armed group.
President of the Forum, Dr. Pogu Bitrus, made this known on Thursday in reaction to last weekend’s killings in parts of Plateau State.
Over 200 people were reported killed and many houses burnt by suspected Fulani herdsmen.
Bitrus described the killings as unacceptable, adding that the call to self-defence had become necessary to halt further attacks on defenceless people.
Speaking at a press briefing, he said the constitution allowed citizens defend themselves to prevent them from being deprived of their right to life.
Furthermore, the MBF President lambasted security agencies in the country, accusing them of culpability in the killings.
He said, “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 recognised to protect that right to life.”
Bitrus added, “In very many cases, the circumstances surrounding the killings and destruction suggest that there is complicity by the leadership of security and intelligence agencies.
“Besides, the forum has asked the international community, African Union, AU, to condemn and call to order the federal government for failing in its responsibility to protect the people of the Middle Belt.”
Making the self-defense call, he said, “We call on the entire people of the Middle Belt to organise 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.
“Governments of all states in the Middle Belt should as a matter of urgency support communities in the Middle Belt to train vigilante groups on ways of repelling external aggression of the sort communities in our homelands have been subjected to in the last two decades.
“Governors of the states of the Middle Belt should urgently bring to the attention of 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.”
He maintained, “The people 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 and Commander in Chief in January, 2018 and the recent comment of the Minister of Defence directing states to suspend the Anti-Open Grazing Prohibition Laws of their various states are clear evidence that they are neither interested, willing or able to be fair to the people of the Middle Belt.
“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.
“We call on the President to immediately direct arrest of the leadership of the Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore and Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria, MACBAN, for investigation and prosecution.
“The President should also immediately direct the Attorney General and Minister of Justice to set in motion the process for the proscription of these two organisations.”
Elaborating on complicity by security agencies, Bitrus said, “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 access to mobile phones and have numbers of police divisions and relatives’ numbers. Our conclusion therefore, 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 Haure 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 organisation.”