The Minister of Interior, retired Lt.-Gen. Abdulrahman Dambazau, has called on opinion and religious leaders to refrain from giving religious connotation to the crisis between herdsmen and farmers in Southern Kaduna.
Dambazau gave the advice in a statement by his Press Secretary, Mr Ehisienmen Osaigbovo, in Abuja on Tuesday.
He said that the warning became expedient following insinuations that the criminal violence in Southern Kaduna had s religious interpretation.
The minister called on well-meaning Nigerians to refrain from making comments capable of heightening the crises, but join hands with government to end the perennial problem.
Dambazau said some people were always looking for ways to further create division along religious or ethnic fault lines for their selfish interest, with the aim of creating instability in the country.
He said that true religious leaders should not fan the embers of hate, but ensure that communities live in peace and harmony.
“Economic growth and development will remain a mirage for Nigeria, with over 500 ethnic groups and multiple religions, unless we resolve to live amicably as a people with common destiny,” he said.
He said that criminals who perpetrate violence against innocent, law-abiding citizens did not discriminate along religious and ethnic lines, citing examples of how Communities in Zamfara, Katsina, Taraba, Enugu, Lagos and Niger were victimised by those violent criminals. “A criminal should be treated as such, whether he is involved in armed robbery, drug trafficking, homicides or cattle rustling. People should avoid honouring criminals with religious or ethnic attachment,” he added.
He advised opinion and religious leaders to focus on the real enemies of our society, who illegally acquire weapons to terrorise Christians and Muslims communities alike.
Dambazau said he had directed the Nigerian Police to ensure the sustenance of law and order, and to arrest and prosecute anyone involved in criminal activities in the area and across the country. He urged citizens to cooperate with the police by providing information in its quest to restore normalcy to the troubled communities.
He assured Nigerians of government’s commitment to tackling the root causes of similar crisis in all parts of the country, while paying special attention to measures aimed at eradicating poverty, climate change, population explosion and youth restiveness.