The Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, while briefing State House correspondents at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, said that people should learn to express their grievances and criticisms without resorting to name calling.
He said the President, in accordance with the constitution, had the primary responsibility of protecting lives and property and that he had been doing that.
He said, “Those beating the gongs of war and fanning the embers of discord must remember what prevailed in Rwanda before the genocide of the early 90s, during which hundreds of thousands of lives were lost as a result of consistent hate speech spewing from that country’s media.
“We must learn to express our grievances and criticisms without resorting to gutter language or to name calling, and the press has a responsibility to maintain that, even if it means calling their columnists to order.
“Calling him (Buhari) a murderer is not only grossly disrespectful but unfair, especially when the President has written a letter to the Senate detailing his efforts to quell the crisis in Benue State.
“The President had also dispatched the Minister of Interior and the Deputy Inspector General of Police in charge of operations for an on-the-spot assessment of the situation in the aftermath of the unfortunate incident, and receiving a direct briefing from the IG the following day.”
The presidential spokesperson also raised concerns over some media reports on the recent killings, describing them as unfortunate.
He cited a recent column published in a national newspaper (not The PUNCH) alleging that President Muhammadu Buhari was the first to endorse the Benue massacre on New Year Day.
Shehu said the same columnist described the Minister of Defence, Mansur Dan-Ali as “a dyed-in-the-wool Fulani irredentist who places trade over and above human life” and that the writer went further to invite Nigerians to arm themselves and fight one another.
Shehu also frowned at the headline of one of the said newspaper’s edition, titled ‘Expect More Blood in Benue…’
He said some media reports on the recent Benue killings displayed lack of respect for journalism ethics and press laws.
He appealed to members of the Fourth Estate of the Realm to show more decorum and professionalism in the reportage of security and humanitarian situation in the country.
No decision yet on compensation for victims of Benue killings —Presidency
The Presidency also said that no decision had been taken on possible compensation for families who lost their loved ones in the killings that took place in Benue State on January 1, 2018.
Shehu said this during an interview with our correspondent.
He said that it was premature to be talking about whether the Federal Government would pay compensation to the victims or not at a time when the authorities were still investigating the incident.
He said that the Vice President Yemi Osinbajo-led committee, set up by the National Economic Council, on the matter was still meeting.
The presidential spokesman explained that after the committee members had completed their assignment, they would report to President Muhammadu Buhari on their findings and solutions.
He said, “You know there is the Vice President Osinbajo committee that has nine governors as members and they are discussing modalities. Whatever their conclusions are, they will definitely get back to the President.
“It will, therefore, be premature at this time to talk about whether compensation will be paid or not.
“You have to be patient and wait for the committee members to finish their work.
“In fact, at Thursday’s meeting, they set up another committee that will report back to the main committee and then the main committee will report to the President.”
Some persons suspected to be Fulani herdsmen had on January 1, 2018, attacked Guma and Logo local government areas of Benue State, killing 73 people and injuring many others.
Thousands of people were also said to have been displaced as a result of the attack.
During Thursday’s meeting, the Osinbajo-led committee set up a sub-committee that would interface with members of the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria and other groups with a view to ending the killings.
The sub-committee is headed by the Ebonyi State Governor, Dave Umahi.
Chairman of the Nigeria Governors Forum, Alhaji Abdulaziz Yari, made the disclosure to State House correspondents at the end of the meeting.
Yari, who is the Governor of Zamfara State, said that the governors of Plateau and Adamawa states were members of the dialogue committee headed by Umahi.
He said that some technocrats would also be invited to join them in visiting states affected by the crisis.