By G9ija

President Muhammadu Buhari has expressed “great shock and deep concern” over the eruption of violence on a chieftaincy tussle in Billiri town in Gombe State.

In a press statement on Monday by his spokesperson, Garba Shehu, the president appealed to the feuding parties to sheathe their swords and allow the civil process to prevail in the matter.

According to an earlier report by The Nation newspaper, violence erupted in Billiri last week over the appointment of a new traditional ruler for the town, the Mai Tangale.

Protesters from Billiri and neighbouring villages had blocked the Gombe-Yola highway for three days, over the delay in the appointment by Governor Inuwa Yahaya.

The obstruction of traffic left people travelling between Adamawa, Taraba, Benue and other parts of the country stranded on the highway.

The protesters alleged that Mr Yahaya intended to appoint someone other than the man who got the highest votes from the kingmakers in the selection process.

They said Musa Maiyamba had received the votes of five of the nine kingmakers while his two rivals to the throne, Ahmadu Maiyamba and Danladi Maiyamba got two votes each.

They demanded the immediate announcement of the winner as the new Mai Tangale.

On Friday, the state government imposed a 24-hour curfew on the area after the protests degenerated into violence.

The Secretary to the State Government, Abubakar Njodi, announced the curfew at a press briefing in Gombe.

“The government affirmed the need for peaceful coexistence among the citizenry and commitment to the protection of lives and properties. Consequently, the government has suspended all forms of gathering in Billiri Local Government Area.

“All security agencies are hereby directed towards ensuring strict compliance with this directive. All citizens are expected to comply with the directive except those personnel providing essential services,” Mr Njodi said.

But the state government did not comment on the process for the selection of the new traditional ruler.

Reacting to the crisis on Monday in a press statement by his media aide, Garba Shehu, President Buhari decried the resort to violence over the matter.

Mr Buhari said he was “seriously disturbed by the outbreak of violence in Gombe State and call on the parties involved to exercise maximum restraint to avoid escalation.”

According to the president, “the easy resort to violence is uncalled for because there are enough avenues to resolve differences amicably without threatening law and order.”

He said “in a circle of violence, there are no winners, except losers,” advising Muslims and Christians to “avoid the temptation of resorting to violence in order to express their grievances.

“Nigerians have shed enough blood over issues that could have been peacefully resolved. I appeal to the two parties to sheathe their swords for the sake of peaceful coexistence. Gombe has enjoyed relative religious harmony for decades and you shouldn’t allow hoodlums destroy this positive record.”

Mr Buhari appealed to the feuding parties to sheathe their swords and allow the civil process to prevail.