By Our Correspondents
Governors of the 19 Northern States of the federation yesterday disowned a coalition of Arewa Youths who reportedly issued an ultimatum to Igbos to vacate the Northern part of the country within three months or be forced to leave.
The governors urged easterners living in the North not to panic, saying they were in touch with heads of their security agencies and have taken measures that will guarantee the rights of all Nigerians to live in any of the 19 states in the three geo-political zones within the region.
The governors’ position was made public by chairman of the Northern States Governors’ Forum and Borno State governor, Kashim Shettima who spoke on behalf of his colleagues in Maiduguri yesterday evening.
Accordingly, the governors directed security agencies to arrest the youths and probe the motive behind the call, which they described as a suspicious act that falls in line with recent trend of arms catch, coup rumours that may not be coincidental.
Shettima said, “On behalf of the governors of the 19 Northern states, we totally condemn such irresponsible pronouncements by those groups. We condemn, we disown, and we are totally distancing ourselves from those faceless groups who don’t have the mandate of the people of Northern Nigeria to make such loud pronouncements.
“Section 41, Subsection 1 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria is very explicit in safeguarding the rights of all Nigerians to reside in any part of the country with no hindrance whatsoever. But then, when you see a toad dancing in the broad daylight, the drummer is not far off from the main road. We wish to call on the security agencies to beam their lenses on these groups and unearth the faces behind the mask.
“Some months back, there were cases of importation of arms, illegal importation of arms intercepted at the ports. Then we started hearing rumours of a coup d’etat. Now, a group, or a bunch of groups that do not have the mandate of the people came up with remarks capable of destabilizing the north and the country as a whole”.
Disowning the youth groups, Shettima declared that the governors of Northern Nigeria do not in anyway align themselves with the said ultimatum, adding that Nigeria is one nation tied to a common destiny.
Warning that the governors will take whatever measures that are necessary to safeguard the lives and properties of Nigerians living in any part of the North, Shettima said, “I am in contact with most of my colleagues, and they are all talking to heads of security establishments in their respective domains because we cannot afford to take chances. We cannot afford to toil with the destiny of this country.
“The 19 Northern Governors wish to call on our brothers of Igbo descent to remain calm and go about their legitimate businesses. Nobody can dare to intimidate, harass or dehumanize them in any of the 19 Northern States, our Governors will not allow that”.
Nigerians free to live anywhere – FG
Meanwhile, the federal government has warned Nigerians against making statements that are capable of undermining the country’s peace and security, saying Nigerians are free to reside in any part of the country.
Assuring Nigerians of their safety anywhere, it stated that the security agencies are fully on the ground to deal decisively with any individual or group that engages in incendiary activities.
The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, who disclosed this also noted that there is no reason for any Nigerian to feel unsafe anywhere in the country, warning that the government would not tolerate any threat to the unity, peace and security of the country under any guise.
‘’There is zero tolerance for actions and speeches capable of inciting one part of the country against another, and the security agencies are fully on the ground to deal decisively with any individual or group that engages in incendiary activities”, Mohammed said.
Urging Nigerians, irrespective of where they reside, to go about their daily activities without fear, the federal government also assured that there was no cause for alarm over the ultimatum issued by some Northern youth groups to Igbos to leave the zone.
Briefing State House correspondents after the Federal Executive Council (FEC) presided over by Acting President Yemi Osinbajo at the presidential Villa, the minister assured that the security agencies were on top of the situation.
He also noted that threats and counter threats by diverse groups and organisations in the country were not entirely new as they had occurred over time in the history of the nation.
“The issue of one or two groups issuing statements that is capable of destabilising the polity and then being responded to by another group, I think, did not just start today or did not start yesterday. What I want to assure you is that security organisations are very very much on top of this matter,” he said.
Mohammed said, however, that the matter was not discussed at yesterday’s FEC meeting.
LEADERSHIP recalls that a coalition of Northern youth groups under the aegis of “The Kaduna Declaration” had on Tuesday given Igbos residing in any part of Northern Nigeria three months to relocate to their places of origin.
They also advised Northerners residing in the South East Zone to, within three months, relocate back to the North.
ACF condemns unguarded utterances
Obviously miffed by the actions of the youths, the apex Northern socio-cultural organization, Arewa Consultative Forum ( ACF) warned yesterday that it will not encourage any act that is not in conformity with the law by any group or individual in the Northern region.
It said although it appreciates the frustrations of the northern youth groups with the activities of Movement for the Actualization of Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB) and Indigenous People of Biafra(IPOB) members, certain divisive utterances won’t do anybody or the country good.
In a statement issued by its Spokesman, Muhammad Ibrahim Biu, ACF while reacting to the quit notice by Arewa youths to Igbos to leave the Northern region within three months, said the democratic system of government which is anchored on law guarantees free movement of all Nigerians to any part of the country and to also pursue their legitimate livelihood devoid of any hindrance or molestation by any group or individuals.
ACF noted further that the system of government allows settlement of all grievances through elected representatives in both the national and state assemblies and the law courts.
The statement reads: “The attention of Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF) has been drawn to the press statement issued by a Coalition of Northern Youth groups calling on Igbos currently residing in the Northern part of Nigeria to relocate to the East within three (3) months, while Northerners in the East should do likewise.
“This position of the groups was as a result of the persistent agitations of some members of the Movement for the Actualization of 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.
“ACF wishes to draw the attention of all concerned, to note, that our democratic system of government which is anchored on law guarantees free movement of all Nigerians to any part of the country and to also pursue their legitimate livelihood devoid of any hindrance or molestation by any group or individuals.
“Furthermore, the system allows settlement of all grievances through our elected representatives in both the National and States Assemblies and the Law courts. Any act to the contrary is, therefore, a breach of law and order that are not helpful”
el-Rufai orders arrest of any erring Northern youth
Meanwhile, he Kaduna State government has ordered security agencies to immediately arrest and arraign Northern youths who are behind the threat to Igbos to leave the region within three months.
The state governor, Mallam Nasir el-Rufai assured every resident of the state that nobody can tamper with their freedom to reside where they choose.
Addressing a news conference in Kaduna, spokesman to the governor, Samuel Aruwan, said that the constitutional right of every Nigerian to own property, move freely and to live in peace and harmony is sacrosanct.
According to Aruwan, Kaduna State government strongly condemns the inciting hate speech delivered by those he described as self-appointed “Northern youths” seeking to target and violate the rights of our citizens of Igbo extraction.
He stressed that Kaduna State government took exception to the fact that the “northern youths” did their irresponsible press conference in Kaduna.
Aruwan said, “This government has been consistent in taking action to punish hate speech and incitement. People who may feel unhappy about irresponsible comments or actions that have taken place in other states must know that two wrongs cannot make a right, and they cannot use our state to do or say things that threaten the peace.
“KDSG has, therefore, ordered the arrest, investigation and prosecution of the signatories to the statement. The Kaduna State government condemns in the strongest terms the press statement by some self-appointed “northern youths” that threatened the safety and property of our citizens of Igbo extraction.
“Government assures every resident of our state that their constitutional and human rights to live peacefully and own property wherever they choose is sacrosanct. Even people who may feel unhappy about irresponsible comments or actions that have taken place in other states must know that two wrongs cannot make a right. The Kaduna State government believes in and will uphold the right of every Nigerian to live safely and develop his/her full potentials within its territory.
“Reckless disregard for the rights of other citizens drips through the press statement by these “northern youths” who have chosen to use the discourse around restructuring to promote their own agenda of hate, division and incitement. This sort of opportunists cannot be allowed to distort debate, or turn it into a pretext for a barely-disguised agenda of displacement and dispossession of some citizens.
“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. Therefore, the Kaduna State government has directed that its Ministry of Justice should prepare charges and prosecute the signatories and anyone complicit in arranging this egregious assault on the rights of fellow citizens”.
Northern Youth Group Official Arrested In Kaduna, Others On The Run
Indications have emerged that one of the Northern Youths Coalition officials behind the three months ultimatum has been arrested by security operatives in Kaduna
LEADERSHIP learnt that other officials of the coalition were on the run to avoid arrest as security operatives close in on the remaining ones.
Although the Kaduna State Police Command’s spokesman, Aliyu Usman, did not pick his calls to confirm the arrest, a security source said if the arrest is made before Thursday morning the wanted youths will be charged to court accordingly.
Saraki Appeals For Tolerance, Unity
Amid rising ethnic agitations in some parts of the country, the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, has called on Nigerians to tolerate each other and display understanding, saying there is strength in unity.
Saraki spoke when the leadership of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) in the 19 Northern States and Abuja, led by its chairman, Rev. Yakubu Pam, visited him.
In statement by his special assistant on print media, Chuks Okocha, the Senate President said, “Let me through you appeal to all our people for tolerance and understanding. I want to appeal that we preach tolerance. I believe that it is our responsibility as leaders, to impress on our people to be very tolerant and let us seek unity.
“We also wish to appeal to everybody that we should in our speeches and actions work for the unity of the country, because you made reference to some of the issues but this is not about who is right or who is wrong, we should always ask ourselves that what can we do to unite our people and mend the fault lines”.
Ohaneze Blames PMB, APC
Meanwhile, in a statement issued by its national publicity secretary, Prince Uche Achi-Okpaga, the Ohaneze Ndigbo while condeming the threat, faulted appointments made so far by the President Muhammad Buhari and APC administration noting “Appointment wise, apart from the statutory (at least) one ministerial slot per state, what else has the South East. Even the little positions they occupy, they are tactfully removed and replaced”
This is even as the Ohanaeze Ndigbo Youth Council in its reaction, urged Igbos residing in the North to leave the North before the 1st of October this year.
In a statement signed by Mazi Okechukwu Isiguzoro and Mazi Okwu Nnabuike, national president and national secretary of the group, the Igbo Youths said from the text of their statements, their aim was to seize Igbo hard earned properties and wealth in the North.
The statement noted: “It is regrettable that at this age when other Nations are going to the moon and advancing the wellbeing of their countries, this bunch of misled youths have joined their forebears to make Nigeria a laughing stock in the comity of nation. They and their forebears have never added any value to Nigeria than bloodshed, parasitism and violence.
“We are not afraid of their declaration but they will never be allowed to seize the properties that belong to the hard working Igbos which we know they are dangerously eying to convert forcibly.
“We call on Ndigbo in the North to be vigilante. Security agents in the country should now know those that want to cause violence in Nigeria”.
Northern CAN Condemns Threat
Also, the Northern Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) yesterday condemned the call by some Northern youth groups for Igbos to leave the region.
The condemnation is contained in a press statement issued by the Public Relations Officer of the association, Rev. Joseph Hayab.
CAN noted that it was very sad to read that some shortsighted and ignorant groups from the region were calling on Igbos to leave the North before October.
“Such call is evil and a threat to national security and unity. Leaders of these groups and their sponsors should be arrested immediately. Which North do they claim to be speaking for and making these evil threat? We are Northerners and can not recall any meeting where such decisions were taken”, it stated.
The statement noted tht CAN would never support or encourage anyone to champion such evil idea.
“What our country needs today is unity for progress not threat from people who don’t know and understand the positive contribution and sacrifice our parents made to keep this country to this level”, the association added.