Alhaji Salihu Lukman, Director-General, Progressive Governors Forum (PGF) says addressing security challenges facing Nigeria required collaboration of all stakeholders.
He said this while reacting to Gov. Rotimi Akeredolu of Ondo state directive that herdsmen should vacate the state within seven days.
“The objective of the Ondo State Government was well articulated, which is to ensure that the forest reserves in the state are disallowed from being used as hideouts for kidnappers, bandits and other criminals.
“No Nigerian or indeed any rational person, irrespective of nationality, can oppose this laudable objective of the government,”he said.
He, however, stressed that there was need to recognise that no matter the kind of criminality in the country, the unity of all citizens was required to resolve it.
Lukman noted that criminality thrives in every part of the country with the active support of local community leaders across all ethnic and religious divides.
He added that as things were, every Nigerian should recognise that the country was in a challenging security situation.
“False divisive notion of any group initiative independent of others resolving our security challenges could only worsen the situation.
“We must caution ourselves as Nigerians to rise beyond sentiments and emotions. We must also appeal to our leaders to be much more circumspect in engaging security issues.
“Rather than making public statements, which could activate our fault lines, political leaders should be able to develop stronger strategies of engaging the people.
“Every time spent debating in divisive terms on problems of criminality in the country, which doesn’t discriminate our identities, means lost opportunity to contract or mobilise implementation of agreement,” he said.
Lukman added:“In fact, it may even mean some levels of protection for the criminals as all public attention is diverted from the criminals to engaging the false issues of what our identities represents.
“Nigerians needed to wake up to the reality that preventing or arresting criminal activities such as, kidnapping and banditry could not be achieved by massaging ethnic and religious sentiments.”
According to him, kidnapping and banditry are criminal activities that can hardly succeed without the collaboration of community and religious leaders.
“We therefore need to forge stronger national unity in the country to be able to initiate the kind of reforms, which can produce the expected outcomes.
“In addition to forging stronger national unity, we should include the issue of stiffer sanctions for both the criminals and their collaborators, much more than what is provided in our current laws.
“There is no reason why we should not consider the introduction of death penalties for both the criminals and their collaborators, for instance,”Lukman said.
He stressed that political leaders must exercise restraint when making public statements.
“Any statement capable of activating our fault lines must be avoided.
“Two wrongs would never make a right, our leaders and all of us must carry the burden of national unity,” he said.
Lukman noted that statements and proposals for reforms from political leaders should inspire Nigerians to respect each other.
He said that such statements should also recognise the incontestability of supporting initiatives from every part of the country in order to prevent or arrest crime, no matter its strength.