- Coalition doubles down, calls for Biafra referendum
- Says it never threatened violence against Igbos
- Sâ€™East govs call for calm, peace
Following the ultimatum given by a coalition of Northern youths, demanding that Nigerians of Igbo extraction must leave the North in three months or face the repercussions, the Inspector General of Police, Ibrahim Idris, thursday at a meeting with the 36 state Commissioners of Police (CPs), ordered them to beef up security across country.
The IG also ordered the CPs to follow up on the directive of the Kaduna State Governor, Nasir el-Rufai, that members of the coalition be arrested over the groupâ€™s inflammatory remarks and threat to Igbos resident in Northern Nigeria.
Despite the security and threat of arrests, the youth coalition, however, doubled down on its rejection of Igbos, saying the North would not be part of a federation that includes indigenes of the South-east zone and called on the federal government to initiate the process for a peaceful referendum to allow the Igbos to go.
The coalition had on Tuesday in Kaduna, ordered Igbo residents in the North to relocate within three months, saying that the region was no longer disposed to coexisting with them in Nigeria.
This is just as the governors of the South-east zone thursday called on Igbos resident in the North to remain calm, peaceful and go about their lawful engagements without fear of intimidation, hindrance or molestation.
On the directive to maintain law and order, a statement by the Police Force Public Relations Officer, CSP Jimoh Moshood, said: â€œThe attention of the Nigeria Police Force has been drawn to publications in the media credited to the Arewa Citizensâ€™ Action for Change, Arewa Youth Consultative Forum, Arewa Youth Development Foundation, Arewa Studentsâ€™ Forum and Northern Emancipation Network on the Igbo Persistence for Secession, on their alleged ultimatum to Nigerians of Igbo extraction residing in the Northern Nigeria to relocate within three months.
â€œThe Nigeria Police Force sees this ultimatum by the above mentioned groups as illegal, unlawful, provocative and capable of causing a breach of the peace currently being enjoyed across the country.
â€œConsequently, the Inspector General of Police has directed all Commissioners of Police in charge of Police State Commands in the country and their supervising Assistant Inspectors General of Police in the Zonal Commands of the federation to beef up security in their respective states and ensure that the alleged ultimatum is not actualised.â€
Moshood stated that the heads of the state and zonal commands were under â€œstrict instruction to maintain law and order and to sustain the protection of the fundamental rights of every Nigerian as provided for by the 1999 Constitution, particularly Sections 33, 34, 35, 36, 37, 39, 40, 41, 42, 43 and 44 which are very sacrosanct and must be protectedâ€.
He added: â€œEvery Nigerian including the Igbos or any other ethnic group has the rights to life, personal liberty, freedom of movement and the right to acquire and own immovable property anywhere in Nigeria.
â€œNo individual(s) or group(s) under any course, guise or excuse has the right to issue any ultimatum or warning to compel any Nigerian to leave or relocate from or to any part of the country without their wish.
â€œThe Nigeria Police Force is imploring all well-meaning Nigerians, most especially the people of Igbo extraction to disregard the alleged ultimatum and go about their lawful engagements and other activities without fear or apprehension as adequate security arrangements have been put in place by the Nigeria Police Force and other security agencies to protect them and their properties across the Northern states and other parts of the country.â€
He maintained that they should report any suspicious/untoward incidents observed in their neighbourhoods to the nearest police station.
He said: â€œAs a result, the Force is calling on Arewa Citizens Action for Change, Arewa Youth Consultative Forum, Arewa Youth Development Foundation, Arewa Students Forum and Northern Emancipation Network on the Igbo Persistence for Secession, to desist forthwith from the ultimatum and any further act that can precipitate tension and cause a breach of the peace anywhere in the country.
â€œThe Nigeria Police Force is closely monitoring the activities of these groups and will apply full weight of the law on any violator of the law or anyone who attempts to molest, mistreat, panic and cause fear in the mind of any other Nigerian anywhere in the country.
â€œThe Force wishes to advise traditional rulers, opinion leaders, religious leaders, parents and guardians to prevail on their subjects, adherents, children and wards not to allow themselves to be used by any group(s) to cause a disturbance of the public peace and unleash mayhem on innocent Nigerians anywhere in the country.
â€œThe Nigeria Police Force will continue to respect the diversity of the people and ensure that the rule of law prevails everywhere in the country.â€
Also, the IG ordered the CP in Kaduna State to investigate and arrest members of the Arewa youth coalition for issuing ultimatum to Igbos to leave the North, in compliance with the directive of the state governor.
Speaking to journalists and the CPs present before the closed door meeting with the senior police officers, Idris said that no individual or group of persons had the right to ask any individual to leave his or her place of residence in any part of the country.
He ordered other state CPs in the North and AIGs in the various zonal commands to do same.
â€œAs Commissioners of Police and Assistant Inspectors General of Police, we have the responsibility to stop this group of persons from carrying out their threats.
â€œI want us to be at alert to ensure that such persons or group are stopped at all cost from carrying out their threats.
â€œNo individual has the authority to stop anybody from looking for his daily bread,â€ he said.
He explained that the Nigerian Constitution guarantees every citizen the right to live in any part of the country he or she chooses.
Arewa Youths Remain Adamant
But the threat of their arrest and the condemnation did not seem to dissuade the Northern youth groups from their position thursday, as the coalition insisted that Northern Nigeria would not be part of a federation that includes the Igbos.
In a statement after its meeting in Kaduna, the group also called on the federal government to as a matter of urgency initiate the process for a peaceful referendum to allow the Igbo to go.
The statement signed on behalf of the youth groups by Abdulazeez Suleiman, however, said the coalition had never called for violence or war against the Igbos, adding that the groupâ€™s statement on Tuesday was distorted.
The coalition maintained: â€œSome elements have for reasons best known to them, mischievously distorted the intent of our original script by alluding such words as â€˜violenceâ€™, â€˜threatâ€™, â€˜warâ€™ and â€˜mass actionâ€™ to it.
â€œWe find this mischievous because as cultured thorough bred Northerners, we have never anywhere and at any time, under whatever circumstances, called anybody to violence as a means of conflict resolution.â€
The group also lashed out at el-Rufai and the Chairman of the Northern Nigeria Governorsâ€™ Forum (NNGF), who is also the Governor of Borno State, Kashim Shettima, for taking sides with the Igbos because of â€œselfish political ambitions.â€
The coalition said: â€œIn strict observance of that tradition, we never employ violence as a means of pursuing our interest, and at every opportunity, we opt for peaceful engagements and implore people to eschew violence in all its ramifications.
â€œThis informs why a majority of discerning Nigerians, not necessarily Northerners alone, understood and identified with our express call for the Biafrans to be allowed to actualise their long-held secessionist aspiration.
â€œWe restate that we have never called anybody to violence and that people should discountenance the elements of fear and threat introduced by the distortions of merchants of mischief.
â€œWe wholeheartedly endorse the moves made variously by our leaders to allay those fears and urge people to be peaceful and law-abiding while at the same time resolutely insisting on having the right thing done by allowing the Igbos to have and move to their dream country in accordance with the universal fundamental right to self-determination.
â€œWe restate our determination and commitment to ensuring that the North will never partake in any contrived arrangement that would still have the Biafran Igbo as a component.
â€œWe reiterate our call on Nigerian authorities and recognised international bodies such as the ECOWAS, AU and UN to hasten the initiation of the process for the final actualisation of the Biafran nation and with it the excision of the Igbo out of the present federation.
â€œDespite the minor distortions that caused some measure of anxiety, we make bold to say that the cheerful responses to our position which flowed through the internet and by way of personal telephone conversations nationally and universally has resonated that peace-loving Nigerians who have been tormented and menaced by the irredentist proclivities of the Igbos are overwhelmingly desirous to put an end to it.
â€œAs we acknowledge this outpouring of patriotic support across the nation, we implore people, particularly our cultured Northerners to remain restrained in the face of any provocation from any quarter and to debate intelligently.
â€œWe assure them that we shall be firm and resolute in honestly and painstakingly pursuing what we all know is a noble and just cause without hurting anyone.
â€œWe have taken time to analyse the reactions that trailed our declaration, and were nauseated by the comments of some disgruntled Northern political power mongers.
â€œWe are particularly disappointed by the treacherous positions assumed by Nasir Ahmed el-Rufai and Kashim Shettima who in pursuit of their blind ambitions for the vice-presidency, chose to side with the secessionist Igbos against the interest of peace-loving Nigerians.
â€œEl-Rufai and Shettima are openly known to be waiting in the wings for Mr. President Muhammadu Buhari to die so they can further their plots to seek the presidency.
â€œIt appears that characters like el-Rufai have no limit on how low they can fall in their inordinate desire to achieve their long held dream of power grab at the expense of the peace, well-being and the stability of our country.
â€œWe would like to assure el-Rufai and his ilk that we shall continue to expose their recalcitrant treachery and opportunistic proclivities. We also assure them that the drive for a peaceful and prosperous Nigeria in which the Igbos are not partners, will continue unabated.
â€œSimilarly, we are irked by the hordes of lies and misleading innuendos issued by Kashim Shettima, ostensibly on behalf of 19 Northern governors in which he referred to us as faceless and violent.
â€œBy our antecedents and track record, no politician or leader of honourable pedigree and impeccable character will associate us with such fabrications and this goes to prove that Shettima has disconnected from reality as he gets intoxicated by immoral wealth and property acquisition at the expense of people of the state suffering the devastation of Boko Haram.
â€œWe urge the Federal Government of Nigeria to as a matter of urgency, to initiate the process for a peaceful referendum to allow the Igbo to go. LET THEM GO.â€
Sâ€™East Govs Call for Calm
However, the South-east Governorsâ€™ Forum, in its first official reaction to the ultimatum by the Northern youth coalition, called on all Igbo sons and daughters resident in Northern Nigeria to go about their lawful engagements without fear of intimidation, hindrance or molestation.
In a statement in Abakaliki thursday, the Chairman of the forum, who is also Governor of Ebonyi State, Mr. David Umahi, further called on all serious-minded patriots, particularly the religious leadership in Northern Nigeria, the leadership of other socio-cultural groups, the Nigerian Governorsâ€™ Forum and all the service branches, to rise up with voices of peace and wisdom to counteract the quit order issued to Ndigbo by the Northern youths.
Umahi noted that the lives and property of law-abiding citizens of Igbo extraction were as precious as the lives and property of all Nigerians, irrespective of the region of their abode within the republic.
The forum further urged the federal government and the security agencies to guarantee and defend all forms of threats against the lives and property of all the people in the country.
He noted that governors of the South-east were collaborating effectively with the security agencies to ensure that no harm of any description is visited upon any law-abiding Nigerian citizen resident in the South-east, including those from the North of Nigeria.
Umahi stated: â€œThe attention of the South East Governorsâ€™ Forum has been drawn to the widely publicised ultimatum, credited to a coalition of 16 Northern youth associations or groups, demanding that Ndigbo resident in Northern Nigeria should vacate the region within 90 days or before the 1st day of October, 2017; and equally urging Northerners resident in Igboland to return to the North within the same time spectrum.
â€œWe must call on all serious minded patriots, particularly the religious leadership in the Northern Nigeria, the leadership of other socio-cultural groups, the Nigerian Governorsâ€™ Forum, and all the service branches to rise up with voices of peace and wisdom to counteract the mischievousness and exuberant excesses of the Northern youths.
â€œThe ugly lessons of history are too grim to be stoked with carelessness. As leaders, we must exert the full measure of our powers and influence to forestall a repetition,â€ Umahi cautioned.
The South-east governor also denied rumours being peddled on conventional and social media platforms that they have agreed to mobilise vehicles and cash for the repatriation of Ndigbo resident in Northern Nigeria, describing it as nothing but a â€œtissue of liesâ€.
Umahi noted that no amount of â€œprovocation would lead them to such a precipitate and irresponsible action and warned those exploiting such vacuous tittle-tattle as a basis for divisive rhetoric in public spaces to cease and desist from suchâ€.
Lawmakers, APC React
Also in its reaction to the ultimatum by the Northern youths and the response by some Igbo group, including the Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB) and Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), the House of Representatives yesterday passed a resolution condemning in strong terms, the positions of the 16 northern youth groups and the Igbo groups.
The lower chamber further called on all security agencies to be at alert in order to prevent unscrupulous elements from taking advantage of the unpatriotic calls to avert disaster.
The lawmakers also called on the federal government to wade into the issue on time to avoid the loss of lives and property, which the actualisation of the partiesâ€™ threat might cause.
It however urged the warring parties to rescind their decisions.
The House resolution was consequent upon a motion brought under a matter of urgent public importance by Hon. Oghene Egoh during plenary thursday.
The motion cited recent developments, which had prompted the Biafra agitators to call for the return of the Igbos back home as well as the Northern Arewa youths who issued the ultimatum to the Igbos to vacate the North before October 1, 2017.
The House noted that the campaign by IPOB for the actualisation of the Biafra Republic, had led to the shutdown of major towns in the South-east on May 30.
It expressed concern that the Northern youth groups had subsequently risen from a meeting in Kaduna on June 6 and gave Igbo resident in their states till October 1 to vacate the region, following the shutdown of major towns in the South-east.
The lawmakers further expressed worry over the reaction of MASSOB, which said it received the â€œquit noticeâ€ with gladness, urging Igbos to return home immediately.
The House said the calls from both parties created an alarming twist, which was ominous and dangerous for the good health of Nigerians.
It added that while people had the right to their views and decisions about their lives, the National Assembly must rise to the occasion and bring an end to the confusion that was brewing by appealing to both parties to withdraw their demands in order to avoid loss of lives, especially that of innocent children, women and the feeble who were not part of the problem.
On its part, the Senate South-east Caucus asked Igbos residing in the North to ignore the quit order.
The caucus, in a statement in Abuja by its spokesperson, Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe, described the quit order as poisonous, irresponsible and one that was aimed at dealing a deadly blow to Nigeriaâ€™s unity.
Quoting the constitution, Abaribe said Section 41 firmly guarantees the right of every Nigerian to move freely in and reside in any part thereof, and no citizen of Nigeria shall be expelled from Nigeria or refused entry thereto or exit therefrom.
â€œSo nobody or groups of persons have the right to abridge the right of the Igbo or any other Nigerian for that matter,â€ he said.
The caucus, nonetheless, asked the people to be very cautious and vigilant while going about their normal businesses, especially when viewed from the fact that the security agencies had become lethargic in the face of the treasonable threat by the Arewa youths.
Abaribe said: â€œIt is alarming that neither the police nor the DSS were forthcoming to effect the arrest or even issue any serious warning more than 24 hours after the open threat laced with a three month deadline.
â€œWe consider the cold feet of the relevant security agencies in the circumstance as sinister and one that casts an ominous sign on the corporate existence of Nigeria,â€ Abaribe said.
The caucus appealed to the federal government to direct the security agencies to be above board and nip â€œthis dangerous and highly divisive threat in the bud in the interest of the countryâ€™s unityâ€.
In its reaction, the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) thursday also asked the political leaders in the South-east to emulate their northern counterparts by reigning in separatist agitators in the region.
In a statement issued by its National Publicity Secretary, Mallam Bolaji Abdullahi, APC commended the proactive and decisive action taken by the Northern governors and political leaders on the ultimatum and declaration by the Arewa youths.
â€œWe are delighted to see that the pressure mounted by the various leaders have forced the group to reverse its misguided ultimatum and threats,â€ the party said.
APC, nonetheless, said it remained disturbed by the increasing spate of separatist agitations by individuals and groups in the country.
It said: â€œWhile we affirm the inalienable rights of citizens and groups to agitate for legitimate causes, as a key ingredient of participatory democracy, we believe that such agitations should be guided by the extant laws of the country and established democratic norms.
â€œThey must be peaceful and demonstrate respect for the constitutional rights of other citizens who may not share in their separatist aspirations.
â€œWe observe that the nature and content of recent agitations clearly transcends the boundaries of the law and exceeds the limits of freedom of speech.
â€œThey are therefore patently inimical to national cohesion and the sustenance of our hard-earned democracy. The National Assembly, the courts and several lawful avenues are available to citizens, groups and sundry interests to make change, seek redress and advance legitimate causes.
â€œTherefore, we call on agitators to either join a political party which shares their ideology or form a new party to push their cause.
â€œFor emphasis, APC strongly condemns any utterance, ultimatum or actions that threaten the corporate existence of our country. The party is hopeful that various security agencies will investigate and prosecute promoters and sponsors of these provocative, divisive, inciting and undemocratic declarations and actions.
â€œWe express our firm belief that despite our challenges, our strength as a country lies in the diversity of our peoples. This we must use to our advantage in our quest to lift the country to its deserved heights,â€ it noted.
The party also urged political leaders in the South-east to do something to arrest the spate of provocative and inciting declarations and actions.
â€œWe hereby call on political leaders in the South-east to emulate their Northern counterparts by reigning in separatist agitators in the region and arresting the spate of provocative and inciting declarations and actions.
â€œThis is the leadership responsibility imposed on them by the positions they occupy.
â€œWe are disappointed to see that non-state actors could effectively subvert civil order in the face of duly constituted political authorities.
â€œCertainly, this unfortunate situation cannot be allowed to repeat itself.â€