The Presidency on Friday said President Muhammadu Buhari would continue to engage in dialogue with all stakeholders in a bid to tackle the security challenges facing the country.
It said engaging groups such as the Afenifere, Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria, and Ohanaeze Ndigbo in dialogue was part of the search for solutions and peace.
The Presidency recalled that the search for sustained peace in the country started many years back, including the establishment of the National Youth Service Corps in 1973 by the Yakubu Gowon administration.
The Presidency was reacting to criticisms by Afenifere and Ohanaeze to the Federal Government’s discussions with Miyetti Allah on the security problems in the country.
“We are pleased that Afenifere and Ohanaeze Ndigbo found our insights worthy of attention even when they disagreed with our view that they, as socio-cultural associations, represent same interests as Miyetti Allah, an association of Fulani herders,” the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Mr Garba Shehu, said in a statement.
“The point both socio-cultural groups missed, however, by insisting that government should not talk to Miyetti Allah, is the need to address and engage Nigeria’s ethnic, religious, cultural and economic plurality that was evident when General Yakubu Gowon introduced the National Youth Service Corps. The need to engage all groups is as much relevant today as it was then.”
The statement added, “The Presidency’s position is that the Muhammadu Buhari government is equipped to address these issues. The security challenges faced by Nigeria today make the task of addressing the issues very urgent.
“Miyetti Allah, like any other trade, community, ethnic organisation or interest group, is a legal stakeholder in our nation and should be respected. We maintain that the government needs to engage all stakeholders and seek partnership in building our country.
“The activities of Miyetti Allah do not benefit selected ethnicities or Muslims only, but everyone. Long before petroleum became the core of Nigeria’s economy, agriculture was the main source of Nigerian wealth. Cattle, hides and skin were a major part of Nigerian export.
“It is right to state that there are criminals among every group in Nigeria and in every country. There are criminals among the northern population as there are in the southern part of the country. It is not good to generalise blame. The government will engage each stakeholder and create dialogue between, and among different groups.”
On the allegation that the administration gave Miyetti Allah N100bn, the Presidency maintained it was “falsehood”.
It said, “We note the statement by Ohanaeze, who expressed concern about an allegation that government gave Miyetti Allah N100bn for dubious reasons. It is an absolute falsehood. The issue of money was never raised at any of the meetings between the representatives of government and Miyetti Allah.
“If they had raised it, this government would have dismissed them as yet another dubious group, like the many claiming to be representing our trusting people but serving their own interests.
“We choose again to speak on this because it is dangerous for the public to ignore rumours aimed at inciting people against one another or against the government. The people spreading such rumours should be helped to see the truth and participate in nation building, and not become crisis messengers.”