Although the quit notice issued by some northern youths to the Igbo is a threat to national peace and unity, it was not discussed at the Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting yesterday. FEC is the highest decision-making body in the country.
The Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed who briefed State House Correspondents after the meeting which held at the Presidential Villa, Abuja simply responded with an emphatic “No” when newsmen sought to know whether the ultimatum given by the groups came up for discussion during the meeting.
He dismissed the group’s ultimatum and assured that the matter was being handled by the nation’s security agencies. “The issue of one or two groups issuing a statement that is capable of destabilising the country, and then being responded to by another group in another part of the country, did not start today and did not start yesterday. What l want to assure you is that the security organisations are very much on top of this matter,” the minister said.
The Nigeria Police yesterday refused to issue an official statement on the issue. When The Guardian contacted the Force Public Relations Officer (FPRO), Jimoh Moshood via his mobile phone, he said he would call the reporter back. But when contacted again, he refused to pick his call.
But the Kaduna State Governor Mallam Nasir El-Rufai has ordered the arrest of the leaders of the 16 northern groups that gave the Igbo living in their states the ultimatum to vacate their region.At an emergency meeting in Kaduna on Tuesday, the groups ordered all Igbo residing in the north to leave the region before or on October 1, 2017 over their struggle to actualise Biafra Republic.
If the crisis, which is a fallout of mutual distrust among the ethnic groups is not well managed, it could lead to the disintegration of the country.Governor El-Rufai, who spoke through his Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Samuel Aruwan, condemned the quit notice issued by those he described as “self-appointed northern youths.”
Addressing pressmen at the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) Secretariat in Kaduna, Aruwan said “ the Kaduna State government takes exception to the fact that the ‘northern youths’ did their irresponsible press conference in Kaduna and Kaduna State has been consistent in taking action to punish hate speech and incitement.”
He assured every resident of Kaduna that their constitutional and human rights to live peacefully and own property wherever they choose would be protected. He said they should ignore the threat.“We will not tolerate such irresponsible statements and conduct in our state. The statement issued by the ‘northern youths’ violates the laws of Kaduna State and the government has directed its Ministry of Justice to prepare charges and prosecute the signatories and anyone complicit in arranging this egregious assault on the rights of fellow citizens.
“Preparatory to prosecution, the police have been directed to immediately arrest, interrogate the signatories to the statement and investigate all the circumstances and persons that may be implicated in the matter.”
The President General of Igbo Community in Kaduna, Chris Nnoli urged the Igbo residing in the north to remain calm and go about their business without any panic.“ I am aware they ordered that Igbo should vacate the north but our stand is that Igbo wherever they are should remain calm and continue to be law-abiding citizens,” he said.
But in its reaction, the Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF) said the quit notice was a result of frustration from the agitation for the Republic of Biafra.In a statement issued at the end of an emergency meeting in Kaduna yesterday, the northern leaders said:
“This position of the groups was a result of the persistent agitations of some members of the Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB) and the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) for the actualisation of the Republic of Biafra, which have continued to threaten the unity, peace and corporate existence of Nigeria”.
The National Publicity Secretary of ACF, Alhaji Muhammad Biu, in the statement, noted: “ACF appreciates the frustrations of the northern youth groups with the activities of MASSOB and IPOB members, but would not encourage any act that is not in conformity with the law by any group or individuals which will do no one any good.
“ACF therefore, appeals for caution over unguarded utterances or statements that are capable of jeopardizing the unity, peace and corporate existence of Nigeria.”
Former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar faulted the ultimatum.In a statement, he described the development as not only provocative, reckless and thoughtless, but a grave threat to national security and the peaceful coexistence of Nigerians.
Atiku said he was alarmed by the latest dangerous outbursts, warning that it would not augur well for the north and the country at large. He added that for a country facing threats of disunity, such ultimatum and counter rhetoric at this time are most irresponsible and callous since they are capable of setting off a chain of ugly events nobody could control.
Meanwhile, the Middle Belt Youth Council yesterday offered to accommodate Igbo sent away from northern states . In a statement, the group said: “In the light of incessant threats to one Nigeria posed by killer-herdsmen, we call on good people of Middle Belt to first of all support the Anti-grazing Bill. Grazing by Fulani herdsmen on our land has become the major cause of conflicts in our region, therefore, we’re calling for total ban on open grazing so as to save the lives of our people and their farmlands.
“It is no longer news that our country Nigeria is facing a daunting challenge of peace and unity but we want to assure the good citizens of Nigeria that we have been a peace-loving people and we’ll continue to be. But, in an event one part of the country decides to go away as a separate entity, Middle Belt is also ready to make an independent statement.
“We want to clarify for those who think that the Middle Belt is part of the north: God created everywhere and everyone and He gave it to whom He chooses and Middle Belt is a creation of God and not man (Usman dan Fodio). Therefore, we choose what to use our land for, how to run it and where we want to be. Middle Belt has been a home for the Ohanaeze Ndigbo, south-south and the south-west without any form of discrimination against anyone. We’ve accommodated every Nigerian for centuries now. We deserve respect and commendations.
“If the Arewa youths are sending away Igbo from their states, we in the Middle Belt are ready to offer them accommodation in our land (which is an inheritance from God and nobody will take it away from us) for them to continue with their life and businesses.
“Southern Nigeria people should also know that ‘Middle Belters’ are not northerners and we can never be because we’re not affiliated in terms of culture, language, education, economy, and general lifestyle.
“The Biafran struggle did not come as an accident but as a result of injustice and unfair treatment to regions, people or religion. Over the years, our federalism has been a fat lie that deprives political rights and freedom of some sections of the country while others benefit immensely from it. Middle Belt has been at the receiving end of this inequitable arrangement in which our people in Southern Kaduna, Southern Bauchi, Southern Borno, Southern Kebbi, Adamawa are under constant alienation and annihilation.“Therefore, Middle Belt strongly stands for reconstruction of Nigeria not only restructuring. We’ll join hands with Southern Nigerian people to actualize it.”