The Jama’Atu Nasril Islam, JNI, led by the Sultan of Sokoto, Mohammed Sa’ad Abubakar II, yesterday warned against ethnoreligious conflict in the country, following the killing in Plateau State of 22 travelers returning from a religious event in Bauchi on Saturday.
Recall that some persons suspected to be Irigwe youths had opened fire on a convoy of five buses conveying some Moslem faithful who were heading to Ikare, Ondo State, from an annual Zikr prayer in Bauchi, killing 22, while several others sustained injuries, with many still missing.
The Sultan spoke on a day Plateau State government imposed a 24-hour curfew on three local government areas of the state, including Bassa, Jos South and Jos North, as a result of the crisis.
These came as Inspector-General of Police, Usman Alkali Baba, yesterday ordered immediate deployment of Police Intervention Team to Plateau State to carry out an on-the-spot assessment and ensure an enhanced, coordinated response to protect the community and boost public confidence in the affected areas of the state.
This is even as Plateau State chapter of Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN, and Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria, MACBAN, did not only condemn the killings but also asked the federal government to fish out the perpetrators and punish them.
Reacting to the killings, the Sultan in a statement signed by JNI’s Secretary-General, Dr Khalid Abubakar Aliyu, blamed politicians for the incident which he noted could snowball into ethno-religious conflict, if not urgently nipped in the bud.
“We call on governments and the security agencies not to be deterred on the search for the Rukuba Road assassins and whosoever is found wanting should be dealt with accordingly. The Plateau State Government should also be more proactive in saving the lives and property of innocent Nigerians.
“Muslims, particularly those residing in Plateau, should be steadfast with supplications, as all hands must be on deck to make Plateau State a peaceful and tourist attraction it used to be, for the benefit of the state and all peace-loving Nigerians.
‘’We also like to draw the attention of Christian neighbours, especially in Plateau State and Northern Nigeria in particular, to be wary of the diabolical attempts by some frustrated politicians to ignite an all-out ethno-religious conflict in Northern Nigeria.
“Many states in Northern Nigeria, especially Nasarawa and Kaduna states, and by extension North-Western states, have suffered from the scourge of herders and farmers conflict. It is on records that Muslims in these states have never blocked highways or roads to attack Christians or other non-Muslims in their localities.
“Not quite long ago, Nuhu Bamalli Polytechnic was attacked by armed bandits and some people lost their lives, including a student. Yet, the students of Nuhu Bamalli Polytechnic, Zaria, located just about 50 metres away from Kaduna-Zaria-Kano highway, never embarked on any violent outburst or targeted killings.
“Therefore, a stitch in time saves nine and nobody should live under any illusion of having a monopoly of violence.”
Speaking further, the Sultan said: “This tragedy cannot be swept under carpet; we have a firm conviction that this unwarranted attack on these helpless Muslims was a well-thought-out pogrom.
“It is also rather unfortunate that men in a position of authority will call this brutal act as mistaken identity, does this rather suggest the affirmation of ethnic or religious profiling which is seen as a norm? No life, we repeat, no life is worth taking save as stipulated.
“The Muslim community recalls with nostalgia the unfortunate assassination of Major-General Idris M. Alkali, by the Du community and how they subsequently dumped his vehicle in a pond and threw his dead body into a ditch. It is heart-rending that the perpetrators arrested have not been brought to justice.
“We would like to stress that so long as government and its agencies continue to treat serious security matters with levity, anarchy and disorder invariably becomes an exclusive preserve of those affected, no matter how long it will take.
‘’It should be noted that the late general meritoriously served the Nigerian Army for 35 years and was a fine gentleman. Nonetheless, the perpetrators are yet to be punished.
“What more do we expect for ordinary unarmed citizens numbering twenty-two (22) persons, murdered in cold blood, according to the PPRO, Plateau State Command, although the figures could be much more that twenty-two persons, as no one is talking about the severely injured.
“We nonetheless expect something definite and decisive. We however call on the Ikare Muslim community of Ondo State to be calm. The JNI is not oblivious of the fact that some years back, Muslims from Ningi in Bauchi State were waylaid and killed in Langtang, Plateau State.
“Again, Muslims from Gombe, Adamawa, Yobe, and Borno States have been waylaid and killed around Riyom on several occasions. Muslims traveling from Chad Republic through Riyom were killed in 2008.
“Muslims, just like any traveler, have to pass through Plateau State to get around to their various destinations. Thus, the late General Alkali was gruesomely murdered simply because he was a Muslim traveler plying the road. In all these incidences nobody has been brought to justice.
“It is a well-known fact that when indigenous peoples of Plateau rustled Fulani cattle and killed herders and Fulanis take the laws into their hands they quickly shout hell and target Muslims generally.