’East Groups Demand Early Referendum on Confab Report

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Emmanuel Ugwu, Umuahia

Groups comprising civil society, socio-cultural, religious and community-based organisations drawn from the South-East and South-South zones have called for an early referendum on the report of the 2014 National Conference.

The groups, numbering over a dozen, made the call at the weekend in the resolution adopted at a meeting held in Umuahia. They noted that it was predicated on their strong belief that a referendum on the implementation of the confab report “is the only way forward to save Nigeria”.

They condemned “the hounding, arrests and intimidation of IPOB members, innocent youths, whose only sin is their loss of faith in the lopsided, unfair and unjust unitary Nigeria where some regions are continuously treated as conquered people”.

Recalling the contemptuous disposition of President Buhari towards the confab report, the groups condemned in no uncertain terms his decision “to consign the only solution to the myriad of problems afflicting Nigeria to the archives”.

Therefore, they insisted that the document must be retrieved from the archives, and early referendum conducted to determine the fate and future of Nigeria.

On the federal government’s reaction to those expressing opposing views, the groups vehemently condemned “the apparent decision of the FG to crush dissenting voices”, insisting that dialogue and negotiation would engender peace, harmony and stability of the nation.

The groups that were represented at the meeting under the umbrella of Old Eastern Region Movement include traders’ organizations, students’ groups, traditional rulers and town unions, CAN, age grades and socio-cultural organizations from the South-East and South-South zones.

There were also representatives of Igbo in Academia, South East Professionals, Niger Delta Youth Forum, PFN, World Igbo Congress, South East Traders Associations, Igbo Survival Movement, South East Congress, Igbo Women Assembly, amongst others.

The forum agreed to be holding bi-monthly meetings “until a larger and broad based coalition is built amongst like minds in the South West and Middle Belt for a stronger demand for a referendum on the 2014 confab resolutions”

In the course of deliberations the interim chairman of the group, Bishop Michael Ibeneme had lamented the continuous heaping of false allegations on the IPOB members in order to criminalize them, saying such wicked plots will only deepen division in Nigeria.

“The IPOB are unarmed, non-violent mass movement of millions of young people, who are completely tired of the injustice in Nigeria as presently constituted. Everyone knows they are a big headache to the Federal Government but the resort to laying false allegation on them in order to incriminate them, has turned out to be the last straw, there is a limit to what people can take,” he said.

He condemned the “obvious plot to continue killing and arresting them (IPOB members) in the hope that they would eventually turn around and suddenly fall in love with this unitary Nigeria where they have been permanently relegated to second class status will never work. The F.G. is clearly applying the wrong strategy. We want a referendum now.”

Leader of the Igbo Women Assembly Chief (Mrs.) Maria Okwor, who is deputy chairman of the meeting said, only a referendum will solve the problem now.

“Our children are massacred daily, arrested in their sleep on trumped up charges of planning to bomb China, Canada, and Germany. No evidence, no proof, this Abacha style is only designed to intimidate and cow everybody into fearful silence,” she said