President Muhammadu Buhari on Tuesday said his government will take “strongest measures” possible to punish perpetrators of the latest killings in Kaduna state.
During a visit to the state, Mr Buhari expressed sadness at the loss of lives and property in Kasuwan Magani and the unrest around Kaduna metropolis, demanding an end to wanton killings.
More than 55 people have been killed in the state in the last one week in ethno-religious violence.
‘‘If in the past, they got away scot-free, we shall now hold everyone to account for these latest killings,’’ Mr Buhari said during at a meeting with senior government officials, security chiefs, traditional rulers, religious, political and community leaders at the Musa Yar’Adua Sports Complex.
‘‘It is unacceptable that criminal elements can visit on citizens the wanton killings recorded in the Kasuwan Magani incident of 18th October 2018 and the unrest around Kaduna metropolis a few days later. This must stop,’’ he said.
Mr Buhari has been criticised for his handling of recurring conflicts that have claimed thousands of lives across the country in the last three years.
Perpetrators of such attacks are hardly punished amidst rising levels of violence.
On Tuesday, Mr. Buhari said he will be firmer.
‘‘The Nigerian police are in the frontline of securing communities. For the judiciary, unless the investigations are credible and rapidly done, there is nothing they can do. From now on the Nigeria Police, you better watch it, I am going to watch you closely,’’ he said.
He appealed to community leaders to be closer to their people and not to shield those who are planning to wreak havoc on the community from law enforcement agencies.
Commiserating with the government and people of Kaduna State, and families who lost loved ones in the attacks, the president paid tribute to the late Agom Adara, Maiwada Galadima, eulogising the traditional ruler of Adara chiefdom for serving his community and Kaduna state with dedication.
Mr Galadima was killed by kidnappers last Friday after they abducted him.
Mr Buhari appealed to all who call Kaduna home to do their best to uphold peace in their respective communities, warning that chaos does not help.
‘‘Violence shatters and divides people and stifles the prospect of any community that succumbs to its tragic logic,” he said.
‘‘The Federal Government commends the efforts of the Kaduna State Government in responding to and managing the crisis. More Federal Security assets are being provided at the request of the Kaduna State Government to help uphold and keep the peace.
‘‘The Federal Government will continue to work to ensure that more security assets are recruited and deployed across the country to protect all citizens going about their lawful business and to reinforce the authority of the government,’’ he said.
President Buhari also welcomed the decision of the Kaduna State Government and its local governments to build and provide facilities for the take-off of more police divisions and civil defence offices in the state.
‘‘On their part, citizens also have a duty to be law-abiding in their conduct and within their communities. There is a need to avoid violence as a tool of negotiation or obtaining advantage, and learn to listen to each other and commit to resolving differences through peaceful means.
‘‘Kaduna, once the home of the Premier and home of the New Nigerian must not earn itself a new name – home of violence. The Federal Security Agencies will hunt and prosecute all those who sponsored these acts of violence,’’ he said.
Mr Buhari said his administration would continue to do its best to develop human capital and address poverty and inequality in all parts of the country.
‘‘Providing decent education and health are my priority goals. I am delighted with the successful collaboration between federal institutions like the Bank of Industry and the Kaduna State Government to provide vocational and entrepreneurship skills, and low-interest credit to expand economic opportunities,’’ he said.
Mr Buhari said mass killings in Nigeria had become of less significance to the rest of the world, because they seemed to be too rampant.
He cited the killing of Saudi journalist, Jamal Khashoggi, inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey, and how the tragedy drew the attention of the global community, whereas dozens died in Nigeria and nobody seemed to care.
‘‘I observed that more than 75 people were killed in Kaduna alone and I haven’t seen anything about it,” he said.
‘‘It means we are pushing ourselves as a nation and a people towards irrelevance, seen by the world itself,’’ he said.