Northern Elders Forum Alleges Plan to Disrupt CNG’s Rallies

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By Chuks Okocha

The Northern Elders Forum has alerted Nigerians of plans to disrupt the peaceful protests especially in the Northern part of the country over insecurity.

This was disclosed in a statement yesterday signed by Dr. Hakeem Baba-Ahmed, Director, Publicity and Advocacy, Northern Elders Forum.

The Forum while acknowledging the peaceful nature of the protests in Katsina planned by the Coalition of Northern Groups (CNG), said “Unfortunately, it has come to our attention that there are plans to disrupt these peaceful protests and subvert their objectives in some parts of the North.

“The goals of these subversives are to create a hostile environment that will worsen the state of insecurity in which our people live, and divert attention from their goal, which is basically to urge government to take firm and immediate steps to arrest the bleeding in the North.

Dr. Baba-Ahmed added, “The Northern Elders Forum has therefore engaged the CNG in discussions to prevent a subversion of its otherwise commendable efforts to organise peaceful marches and protests. We both took cognizance of some positive developments since the Minna and Katsina marches.

Therefore, he said, “The Northern Elders Forum has counselled the CNG to suspend its marches and explore additional avenues with other groups and individuals to sustain the momentum and keep the government on its toes. We have also agreed that all groups in the North should be encouraged to raise their levels of vigilance and organisation to demand that our elected leaders live up to their oath to secure Nigerians.

The statement further noted that “The Northern Elders Forum is confident in the maturity of members of the CNG to demonstrate the best traditions of respect for elders for which our Northern communities are famous.

“As we await the outcome of their deliberation on this, we wish to draw the attention of President Buhari and all governments that neither the Forum nor the CNG represent a threat to them. We do, however, represent voices that need to be heard in our current circumstance in the North,” Baba-Ahmed said.

The text of NEF statement signed by Hakeem Baba-Ahmed reads thus in full: “Northern Elders Forum is aware that the Coalition of Northern Groups (CNG) had commenced a planned series of peaceful marches in all parts of the North to invite attention to the dire state of security of lives and property in many communities in the North. Two of such marches had held in Minna, Niger State and in Katsina. After the protest in Katsina, the Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the CNG, Nastura Ashir Shariff was invited to Abuja and detained. He was released in the evening yesterday.

“The Forum and many well-meaning Nigerians had demanded that he be released or charged, and we wish to use this opportunity to appreciate all persons and groups who have intervened to deepen the rule of law and the rights of citizens to engage in peaceful protest. We recall that then General Muhammadu Buhari and leadership of the APC had exercised these same rights before his election as President.

“Unfortunately, it has come to our attention that there are plans to disrupt these peaceful protests and subvert their objectives in some parts of the North. The goals of these subversives are to create a hostile environment that will worsen the state of insecurity in which our people live, and divert attention from their goal, which is basically to urge government to take firm and immediate steps to arrest the bleeding in the North.

“The Northern Elders Forum has therefore engaged the CNG in discussions to prevent a subversion of its otherwise commendable efforts to organize peaceful marches and protests. We both took cognizance of some positive developments since the Minna and Katsina marches. President Muhammadu Buhari had appealed to people in Katsina to be patient as plans to clear the State of bandits are under way. After the marches, President Buhari dispatched a high-powered delegation to some States in the North West to meet with Governors and convey his concerns and plans to take firmer action against banditry, rustlers, kidnappers and rapists who have made lives of our people virtually valueless. Yesterday, President Buhari met with Service Chiefs and expressed his disappointment at their records and performance, and directed them to do better to protect our communities. All these are evidence that the administration is taking note of the growing outrage from many quarters, but particularly from the courage and the faith of members of the CNG that change comes only when we raise our voices and act against indifference and incompetence.

“We realise that there is still a long way to go, and many Northerners are concerned that protests and marches do not become the only means of getting our leaders to do what is right.

“The Northern Elders Forum has counselled the CNG to suspend its marches and explore additional avenues with other groups and individuals to sustain the momentum and keep the government on its toes. We have also agreed that all groups in the North should be encouraged to raise their levels of vigilance and organization to demand that our elected leaders live up to their oath to secure Nigerians.

“The Northern Elders Forum is confident in the maturity of members of the CNG to demonstrate the best traditions of respect for elders for which our Northern communities are famous.

“As we await the outcome of their deliberation on this, we wish to draw the attention of President Buhari and all governments that neither the Forum nor the CNG represent a threat to them. We do, however, represent voices that need to be heard in our current circumstance in the North.”