President Muhammadu Buhari has repeated a controversial statement he made about recorded deaths in Nigeria’s ongoing violence linked to suspected herdsmen.
During a condolence visit to Taraba State on March 5, the president told his audience in Jalingo, the state capital, that more people were killed in Zamfara than Taraba and Benue states.
The comments generated nationwide uproar, with many saying that not only was the president factually incorrect, but also fuelling serious suspicion that could be perceived from his seemingly partisan comments.
The opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) also came down heavily on the president for the remarks, describing it as divisive and ill-thought.
Mr Buhari has not clarified his comments since then, and he doubled down when he commented about it again during his recent trip to the United States.
Asked by the Voice of Nigeria what other agreement he sealed with President Donald Trump during their bilateral talks, Mr Buhari responded as follows:
“Not agreements, just discussions. The first one is the information being given to them that Christians are being killed in Nigeria; but what happened in the Church also happened in the South-east and the North and they just say it is herdsmen that are killing them.
“Those making these allegations against the herdsmen know that herdsmen, as we know them only carry sticks, going about with guns is a new thing and those making the allegations know that conflict between farmers and herders has a long history even before we were born.
“Therefore, it is wrong to say the conflict is between Fulani and Tiv or other tribes, like in Taraba. ‘What of Zamfara, where more people were killed than in Taraba and Benue put together’?
“People need to understand that it is mischief that makes people to bring in religion or ethnicity,” the president said.
States affected by the ongoing killings by suspected herdsmen have largely handled their crises individually without necessarily highlighting who suffered more cassualties, but the president’s statement could now be seen as a challenge for some states to frequently publish statistics recorded in the unabated carnage.
The president holds that the killings are perpetrated by possibly imported mercenaries with similarly imported arms from Libya and other crises-plagued countries across the Sahel.