September 27, 2021

Military armaments not enough to end violent attacks – Plateau Governor

Gov. Simon Lalong

The Governor of Plateau State, Simon Lalong on Thursday said citizens must be involved in crisis prevention and management to end violent attacks, a slight diversion from his previous calls for military actions against the crimes.

Speaking at a meeting of the Nigeria interreligious council in the capital city of Abuja, Lalong blamed military inefficiency for growing violence in the country, but said hate speech and misinformation is a leading factor.

“While we blame lack of equipment, adequate funding, low manpower, over-streched personnel, proper training among others for the inability of our forces to quickly overcome the level of insecurity, we must also look at other factors such as the role of the citizens and engagement in crime prevention and crisis management.

“The situation where crimes are given religious, ethnic or political colouration rather than total condemnation is very worrisome. Sometimes, criminals find it easy to simply shield themselves within this cover and either escape or be emboldened to commit more crime,” the Governor said.

Lalong accused religious leaders of incitement. “It is rather unfortunate and highly disappointing that some religious leaders and their followers use the pulpit to incite, provoke and propagate hate, reprisals, as well as attempt to justify the actions of criminals rather than condemn it.

“Let me again reiterate that crime has no religion, tribe or ethnicity. Rather, evidence has shown that criminals unite across these lines to plan and execute their evil plans.

“It is when they are apprehended and being brought to justice that their sponsors play the ethno-religious card to curry sympathy for them and seek to set them free.”

Below is the full text of the Governor’s speech

REMARKS BY H.E. RT. HON. SIMON BAKO LALONG, KSGG, EXECUTIVE GOVERNOR OF PLATEAU STATE & CHAIRMAN NORTHERN GOVERNOR’S FORUM AT THE NIGERIA INTER RELIGIOUS COUNCIL NIREC STAKEHOLDERS MEETING IN ABUJA, 26TH AUGUST 2021.
Protocols

  1. I am delighted to again be invited to be part of this very important quarterly meeting of the Nigerian Inter-Religious Council which is an avenue for continuous engagement between adherents of the two major faiths in Nigeria, Christianity and Islam.
  2. Let me commend the Co-Chairmen of the Council, Rev. Dr. Samson Ayokunle, CAN National President and His Eminence Alhaji Saad Abubakar, the Sultan of Sokoto and Chairman, Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs for providing the desired leadership and remaining firm in the face of daunting challenges. I use this opportunity to once again wish his Eminence a happy 65th birthday.
  3. This meeting is coming at a time when our nation is still grappling with challenges of insecurity that are multi-faceted and remain a major threat to the peace and stability of the country. Our security forces have continued to put in their best which is yet to bring to an end to the ugly situation at moment.
  4. While we blame lack of equipment, adequate funding, low manpower, over-streched personnel, proper training among others for the inability of our forces to quickly overcome the level of insecurity, we must also look at other factors such as the role of the citizens and engagement in crime prevention and crisis management.
  5. The situation where crimes are given religious, ethnic or political colouration rather than total condemnation is very worrisome. Sometimes, criminals find it easy to simply shield themselves within this cover and either escape or be emboldened to commit more crime.
  6. The past weeks in Plateau State have been very challenging as we have witnessed resurgence of attacks on innocent citizens leading to the loss of many lives and destruction of properties. While we continue to take security measures to deal with the criminals, such attacks are easily given ethnic or religious colouration.
  7. Such unfortunate narratives tend to overshadow the criminal conduct as some try to brand a whole ethnic or religious group either as culprits or victims. This further fuels tensions and passions among sympathisers of either faith or ethnic group, leading to more unrest. The criminals use this advantage to hide, escape and become more audacious to commit more crimes.
  8. This is why even yesterday, we had to reinstate a 24-hour curfew on Jos North Local Government after the attacks that took place in Yelwa Zangam village of that Local Government where many people were gruesomely murdered and properties destroyed. We took that decision in order to prevent criminals from taking advantage of the situation to loot and begin to target places of worship and other facilities.
  9. As religious, traditional and political leaders, we must work hard to provide the leadership that guides people to isolate crimes from religious, ethnic or political affiliations. After all, no religion promotes hate, killing, kidnapping, stealing, destruction and intolerance. It is only when we treat criminals as criminals that we can overcome the level of insecurity we are facing in Nigeria today.
  10. It is rather unfortunate and highly disappointing that some religious leaders and their followers use the pulpit to incite, provoke and propagate hate, reprisals, as well as attempt to justify the actions of criminals rather than condemn it. Let me again reiterate that crime has no religion, tribe or ethnicity. Rather, evidence has shown that criminals unite across these lines to plan and execute their evil plans. It is when they are apprehended and being brought to justice that their sponsors play the ethno-religious card to curry sympathy for them and seek to set them free.
  11. Unfortunately, we have seen that some of those propagating inciting messages and fanning toxic ideas are people outside our State. They sit far away with little or no knowledge of what is happening to push out narratives that further escalate the situation and embolden criminals. These kinds of people must be fished out and made to face the law. We have mandated the security agencies to ensure they go after them.
  12. Again, I want to draw our attention to the negative use of the social media which is being exploited to create panic, spread hate and incite people. In fact, we have seen people glorifying or justifying crime in the social media space. I call on the regulatory bodies as well as well-meaning Nigerians to rise up to the occasion and deal with the matter.
  13. I will also like to call on the leadership of NIREC to again step up its sensitization among adherents of the two religions by engaging the clergy on the need to avoid sermons and comments that attempt to justify crimes. We must all rise in unity against criminals or be ready to become victims on the long run.
  14. Let me again thank you for the opportunity to speak at this forum and urge you to pray for Plateau State as we are doing everything possible to address the situation. We are isolating the few criminals that want to return our State to the days of agony and we shall deal with them. In all the recent attacks, arrests have been made and justice will be done. Plateau is still the Home of Peace and Tourism and welcomes everyone with good intentions.
  15. God bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

Rt. Hon. (Dr) Simon Bako Lalong, KSGG
Executive Governor of Plateau State & Chairman
Northern Governors Forum
26th August 2021.