President Muhammadu Buhari has said that the atrocious ethno-religious killings in the country have left him distressed and depressed and has therefore appealed to Nigerians to learn to live together in peace and harmony.
Receiving leaders of the Church of Christ in Nations (COCIN) Tuesday, at State House, led by Rev Dr Dachollom Datiri, he urged religious, community and traditional leaders to do more in promoting peaceful co-existence among Nigerians at different walks of life.
A statement issued by Femi Adesina, Special Adviser to the President (Media & Publicity), quoted the President as saying: ”As an organised institution (COCIN), I have no reason to doubt your report on the atrocities being committed in your communities including the killing of Idris Alkali, a retired Major-General, the dumping of his car into a pond and the body of the deceased thrown into a disused well.
”The communities (in Plateau) have lived long enough to know that there is nothing they can do without each other than to live together in harmony.
”As leaders, we must persuade the upcoming generation, using every channel particularly the educational institutions, to live together with our neighbours.’’
President Buhari, who used the occasion to underscore the important roles religious leaders play in engendering peace, lauded the exemplary role of the Imam in Plateau State who risked his life to save hundreds of Christian families fleeing attacks, in June.
”It is not all Muslims that are against Christians and neither are all Christians against Muslims. The leadership in the respective religions have to work harder to make sure they convince the coming generation that they have to live together in the same country,” he further said.
President Buhari assured the Christian delegation that he will continue to exert pressure on the Nigeria Police Force to do the needful in protecting lives and property.
”In our security arrangement, the police is in the front line in making sure that communities, irrespective of ethnic or religious bias, live together in peace,” he said, adding that Nigeria cannot afford to take its unity for granted and allow a return to the unfortunate perils of a civil war.
In his remarks, Datiri, while condemning the recent killing of an Army General in the State, chronicled recent attacks against Christian communities in Plateau and neighbouring States, resulting in the displacement of thousands of persons.
The cleric appealed to the Federal Government to ensure the safe return and rehabilitation of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) to their communities, in addition to the rebuilding of places of worship destroyed in the unfortunate incidents.
The COCIN president also called on the Federal Government to take adequate measures in ensuring the release of Leah Sharibu and other abductees of Boko Haram terrorists.
Datiri also requested the President to use his good offices to persuade some Northern States to allocate land titles to Churches, in addition to directing the Ministry of Education to allow the teaching of Christian Religious Knowledge in schools in the region.
Governor of Plateau stays, Simon Lalung who accompanied the delegation, said his administration will do all that is necessary to ensure peace in the State.
Stressing the importance of the meeting with the President, he said: “It was in the interest of the state because all of us are searching for peace. I have been searching for peace in Plateau State so any move for peace in Plateau and Nigeria, I will put myself at the front burner, that is why you saw me today.”
The governor vowed to hold community and religious leaders accountable for any killings in their areas.
He added: “I have also charged community leaders just like Mr President said, I said if you want to ensure peace in your place, community leaders must also come out and expose criminals in their domain.
“But when people commit crime and community leaders or religious leaders fight to protect them, that why we have problems. If they had exposed the killers of (Gen.) Alkali earlier everything would have been solved. But there you have community and religious leaders who claimed to be religious, who claimed to be religious leaders hiding criminals.
“They might not like me but that is what I am doing. I have said that yes, you wantthe government to work but if I catch you or get any criminal activities in your domain, we will hold the community leader, religious responsible.
“We cannot claim to live in a community and we don’t know the criminals and who are good people.”