President Muhammadu Buhari has denounced the call by a sectional Northern group for all Fulani herdsmen to leave the southern part of Nigeria.
Backstory: A sectional group known as Northern Elders Forum (NEF) called on the herdsmen to return to the Northern part of the country. This followed the escalation of tensions following the murder of the daughter of an Afenifere (Yoruba ethnic group) leader, Mrs. Olufunke Olakunrin by alleged herdsmen.
What the presidency is saying: The State House rebuked the NEF and questioned the motive behind their order at such a difficult time. Furthermore, the Buhari administration also emphasized the rights of Nigerians to free movement and its determination to protect this right.
Why it matters: The call by the Presidency is quite important at this time. The presidency appears to appreciate that the directive of the NEF could potentially result in ethnic alienation, xenophobia and the possibility of an uprising. President Buhari has been frequently accused of maintaining a silence that signals support for the violent herdsmen who happen to be of his own ethic stock. A now suspended controversial land settlement program for herdsmen in southern Nigeria (RUGA) by the Buhari administration has also done damage to the Presidency. The program was largely rejected by several southern leaders as a land grabbing scheme meant to favor the herdsmen.
Bottomline: Nigeria is more fragile than it has ever been. President Buhari will need to do more to show commitment to the unity and stability of the nation. The tensions in the country has become a subject of many warnings with a former President, Olusegun Obasanjo warning that the country might disintegrate if Buhari fails to step up.