The Arewa Consultative Forum, ACF, has condemned the call by a coalition of youth groups in the north asking the Igbos residing in that part of the country to leave within three months.
Also, former vice president and chieftain of the All Progressives Congress, Atiku Abubakar, said the ultimatum given to the Igbos to quit the region and the counter response by a South-east group was not only provocative, reckless and thoughtless but also a grave threat to national security and peaceful coexistence.
A Coalition of Northern groups under the aegis of Arewa Youth Consultative Forum, AYCF, had on Tuesday issued a three months ultimatum for all Igbos in the 19 northern states to relocate from the region.
The groups, which issued the warning in response to the demand by some Igbo youth for actualisation of Biafra, threatened to forcefully evict the Igbos if they failed to leave the north by October 1.
“With the effective date of this declaration, which is today, Tuesday, June 6, 2017, all Igbo currently residing in any part of northern Nigeria are, hereby, served notice to relocate within three months and all northerners residing in the South-East are advised likewise,” the AYCF officials led by the group’s National President, Yerima Shettima, said at a press conference in Kaduna.
“All northern civil societies and pressure groups are, by this declaration, mandated to mobilize for sustained, coordinated campaigns at their respective state Government Houses, state Houses of Assembly, local government council secretariats and traditional palaces.”
But in a statement by its spokesperson, Muhammad Biu, on Tuesday, the ACF disowned the coalition, saying Nigeria’s laws guaranteed her citizens free movement to any part of the country and to pursue legitimate means of livelihood devoid of any hindrance and molestation by any group or individuals.
It warned the youth against any act or making utterances that could threaten the corporate existence of the country.
“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.
“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.”
In its reaction, the Northern Elders Forum, NEF, said it would not react to the position of the northern youth until the Igbo leaders speak up on the call by MASSOB and IPOB for the renewed actualisation of Biafra.
Its spokesperson, Ango Abdullahi, a professor, made the stance known in a phone interview with PREMIUM TIMES.
“What is your own reaction (to the statement by the northern youth)? I don’t care if you are Igbo or not. What are the Igbo leaders saying?
“Until you find out what the Igbo leaders are saying about their sons’ call for Biafra then you can call me to get my reaction to what our sons are saying.”
In his statement by his media office on Wednesday, Mr. Abubakar said he was alarmed by the latest dangerous outbursts, warning that it does not augur well for the North and the country at large.
According to the former vice president, for a country facing threats of disunity, such ultimatum and counter rhetoric at this time was most irresponsible and callous, because it was capable of setting off a chain of ugly events nobody could control.
The APC chieftain warned politicians of all hues to distance themselves from such divisive rhetoric because, according to him, the consequences of such association could ultimately consume them.
The Waziri Adamawa noted that all grievances must be peacefully discussed and resolved through negotiations, and not through threats to fellow citizens.
He called for restraint on all sides by the groups to pave the way for meaningful dialogue on how to restructure our country for the good of all.
“Our country is too precious; our problems are too pressing to pander to divisive rhetoric,” he said.
However, the former vice president appealed to the authorities to address the challenges of youth restiveness, as well as social and economic exclusion, which are the drivers of tensions.
He stressed that the country should not be afraid to confront the recurring clamour for restructuring, adding that burying problems under the carpet wouldn’t make those problems go away.
On the contrary, he said, an ostrich attitude towards these challenges “could produce future complications beyond our capacity to manage.”
A group, the South East/South-South Network, SESSNet, in its reaction asked the security agencies to immediately swing to action and arrest leadership of northern groups over statement credited them that all Igbo residents in the north should vacate the region.
The group, in a statement on Wednesday, said that the threat was evidently as a result of the unity displayed by the Igbo in the South-east and the South-south to obey a “sit at home order” to mark 50 years anniversary of the Biafra civil war that caused the death of about 3 million people.
The group called for the arrest of the promoters of the northern coalition.
It added, “We use this medium to ask our people across the 19 northern states to be more vigilant and proactive in being security conscious.
“If the DSS could arrest Nnamdi Kanu for demanding for Igbo rights, I don’t see the reason why the DSS will not arrest the leadership of the group for treason offences because they are inciting one section of the country against another, we will not take excuse from security agencies if anything happens to our people in the North.
“Those youth should be treated like criminals by security agencies and we are watching to see what DSS will do on this matter and if any Igbo are killed in the North, the leadership of the groups should face the consequences.”