© 2019 - International Centre for Investigative Reporting
Zamfara Killings and nine other times Buhari talked tough to end violent attacks in 2018
PRESIDENT Muhammadu Buhari had on Monday written to condemn the recent attacks on villages in the Birnin Magaji area of Zamfara State, which according to reports left 25 dead and many others injured. In the press statement, Buhari promised “to flush out the bandits from wherever they are” — but it is not the first time the president has talked tough but acted weakly.
“This violence must stop,” said the statement, issued by senior presidential spokesperson Garba Shehu.
“The President … reassured residents of States plagued by armed bandits, including Zamfara, Sokoto, Kaduna, Niger and Taraba, that their safety is an enduring commitment of his administration and he will continue to ensure that security agencies worked round the clock to protect local populations.
“To this end, a major operation by the Nigerian Armed Forces, Police, Department of State Services and the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps, is being considered to restore peace and stability in the region…These measures, among others, will be intensified to flush out the bandits from wherever they are.”
Checks reveal that similar statements have been released by the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces through different channels in the past, especially Twitter, yet the spate of violence against harmless civilians does not appear to ebb.
On killings in Zamfara, others: “Perpetrators will face full wrath of law”
Using his personal Twitter handle on Friday, February 16, President Buhari condemned the murder of Nigerians in Zamfara and promised to bring the offenders to book.
He tweeted: “The perpetrators of all of these senseless attacks on innocent and defenceless Nigerians, in all parts of the country, will be made to face the full wrath of the law. May the souls of the dead Rest In Peace.”
He also said he had directed the Minister of Defence to visit the state for an on-the-spot assessment of the situation and expressed condolences to the bereaved families.
Two days earlier, suspected cattle rustlers had attacked Birane villa in Zamfara State’s Zurmi Local Government Area. According to the police, the attack left 18 persons dead.
Premium Times had observed the president’s tweet to be his “quickest so far to frequent cases of mass killings that have dogged his administration for months.”
On attacks in Benue: “We are doing everything to end them”
On March 12, during his visit to Makurdi, Benue State, in the heat of clashes between farmers and herdsmen, Buhari said the level of insecurity experienced in certain states was a concern to his administration, vowing to put an end to it “very soon”.
“I cannot overlook the killings in Benue or any other part of Nigeria. I cannot do that. I am genuinely worried about the attacks in Benue and we are doing everything to end them,” he said.
The president had also confessed to not knowing the Inspect-General of Police, Ibrahim Idris, did not obey his order to relocate to Benue until the crisis stopped — in spite of earlier media reports.
On farmers-herdsmen clashes: “Culprit will face the full wrath of law”
While delivering the customary democracy day speech on May 29, one of the key things the president mentioned was his government’s commitment in addressing “the unfortunate incidences of kidnappings, herdsmen and farmers clashes in several communities which have led to higher number of fatalities and loss of properties across the country”.
He also assured Nigerians that “the identified culprits and their sponsors shall be made to face the full wrath of the law” and that all tiers of government are engaging with the affected communities and religious bodies to ensure that peace is restored.
On Plateau Killings: “We won’t rest until murderers are incapacitated”
After reportedly over a hundred people lost their lives to suspected herdsmen attacks in Plateau State on Saturday, June 23, President Buhari took to Twitter the following day to appeal for calm, assuring that the perpetrators would be brought to book.
“The grievous loss of lives & property arising from the killings in Plateau today is painful and regrettable. My deepest condolences to the affected communities. We will not rest until all murderers and criminal elements and their sponsors are incapacitated and brought to justice,” read one of the tweets.
On Boko Haram attacks: “We will not allow them to succeed”
Delivering his speech to commemorate the 58th anniversary of the country’s independence from British rule on October 1, President Buhari said the government’s prayers are with the victims of Boko Haram attacks.
“We will not allow them to succeed,” he said.
“As their Commander-in-Chief, I assure these our gallant men and women [members of the armed forces] that I will continue to empower them by deepening their professionalism and providing all the necessary force multipliers and enablers required for them to prevail on the field,” he continued.
“I am looking into all reported cases of inadequacies in relation to their entitlements, their welfare and those of their families.”
On killing of Hauwa Liman: “We will protect all residents of the North East”
Following the murder of Hauwa Liman, a humanitarian worker of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), on Monday, October 15, President Buhari took to his Twitter account to assure the world that the federal government tries its best to save her life, describing the incident as tragic and regrettable.
He also appealed to the ICRC to continue to provide services in Nigeria despite the series of executions affecting their members.
Finally, he said: “I am reassuring everyone that the Fed Govt will continue to do all within our power to protect not just humanitarian workers, but also everyone working or living in the North East. I salute our military, who continue to fight and strive hard to permanently neutralize Boko Haram.”
On Boko Haram attacks: “We will destroy them.”
While hosting entertainers from Kannywood at the statehouse on Thursday, October 18, the president, speaking in Hausa, said no group will be allowed to terrorise innocent people under the guise of religion.
“You cannot be shouting Allahu Akbar (Allah is Great), Allahu Akbar, and be killing innocent citizens and destroying properties all in the name of God,” he lectured.
“It is either you don’t know what you are saying or you don’t even believe in the existence of God Almighty. God has nothing to do with injustice.”
He also said the federal government is now confronting them “and by the grace of God we will destroy them.”
On violence in Kaduna: “They will not go scot-free”
While on official visit to Kaduna State on October 30, President Buhari said his government will make moves to ensure those who fuelled and orchestrated the recent violent attacks in Kasuwan Magani will be prosecuted.
“If in the past, they got away scot-free, we shall now hold everyone to account for these latest killings,” he said at the Musa Yar’Adua Sports Complex during a meeting with stakeholders.
“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 added.
On Matele attack on soldiers: “No responsible commander-in-chief would fold his hands”
Following the November 18 terrorist attack on the 157 Task Force Battalion in Matele, Borno State, by Boko Haram members, where 118 soldiers were reported killed and numerous others missing, President Buhari released a statement six days after to express shock over the incident, “assuring at the same time that immediate measures are being taken to ensure that loopholes which led to the fatalities are blocked once and for all.”
“No responsible Commander-in-Chief would rest on his oars or fold his hands to allow terrorists to endanger the lives of its military personnel and other citizens,” the statement quoted Buhari as saying.
“There is nothing I can do”: Buhari resorts to prayers
Apart from the characteristic tone of the president’s statements during or after attacks againt Nigerians was a remark credited to him during his June visit to Plateau State over recent killings in various communities within Barkin-Ladi and Riyom Local Government Areas.
“There is nothing I can do to help the situation except to pray to God to help us out of the security challenges. What has happened is a very bad thing. The bottomline is that justice must be allowed to take its course,” he is reported to have said.
“Fulani herdsmen are used to carrying sticks during grazing but the herders of these days carry AK 47. Anybody caught with weapon should be arrested.”
Amnesty International (AI), a non-governmental organization focused on addressing human rights violations, has repeatedly accused the federal government of doing too little to address the country’s insecurity challenges. It recently noted that 2,082 deaths occurred in 2018 alone as a result of clashes between farmers and herders compared to 814 recorded in 2016, and 745 in 2017.
During its launch of a report on the clashes in Abuja, Amnesty International said “the Nigerian government has displayed what can only be described as gross incompetence and has failed in its duty to protect the lives of its population and end the intensifying conflict between herders and farmers.”
Seun Bakare, the organisation’s Programmes Manager in Nigeria, also urged the government to end impunity because “the only reason why these attacks have continued is because people become bolder and bolder by the day when they are not held accountable for rights violations”.