Deji Elumoye in Abuja
President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday, on the last day of his two-day working visit to Ebonyi State, told leaders of the South-east geo-political zone that the court would determine the fate of the outlawed Indigenous People of Biafra’s leader, Nnamdi Kanu.
The Igbo leaders, during a meeting with the President at the Government House, Abakaliki, had pleaded with Buhari to release Kanu.
The Chairman, South-East Traditional Rulers Council, Eze Charles Mkpuma, delivered the plea.
Responding, the President said: ‘‘I have listened carefully to the various appeals from the elders to the traditional leaders regarding a wide range of options, and as I have said previously, this matter remains in the full purview of the courts where it will be properly adjudicated.
“My worry is for our hardworking and innocent civilians, for whom life is already tough and would like to earn a decent and honest living.
‘‘There are many that fit this profile and the government owes them that obligation to protect lives and property.
‘‘I will once again repeat, no one has the right to carry an AK-47, and anyone seen in any part of the country doing so and is not a law enforcement officer is a threat to our peaceful coexistence and should be treated as such.”
President Buhari pledged his administration’s readiness to protect innocent and hardworking Nigerians from terrorists and those causing break down of law and order in the South East zone.
He expressed concern over the deteriorating security situation in the region, reiterating his directive to security agencies to “flush out” those perpetrating violence in the land.
He said: “I must register my deep and grave concern with regards to the deteriorating state of security affairs in this region.
“In the last 48 hours, I have been informed of the latest in the round of brutal actions carried out by gun-wielding terrorists, who prey on innocent and hardworking citizens. Unfortunately, these barbaric acts were visited upon those who have committed their lives to protect their fellow citizens.”
The President paid tribute to members of the Nigerian Armed Forces who recently lost their lives in the region.
On infrastructure, President Buhari highlighted some of his government’s achievements in the zone, dismissing those peddling false narratives of lack of care and consideration for the people of the South-east by this administration
The President said he was proud of the reconstruction of the runway of the Akanu Ibiam International Airport and ongoing upgrade of the International Terminal Building, assuring Ndigbo that the N200 billion Second Niger Bridge and 10km six-lane expressway in Onitsha and Asaba would be completed before the end of the year.
He added that the $5.5 million Diagnostic Centre in Umuahia was already operational.
Earlier in his remarks, Governor Dave Umahi of Ebonyi State said President Buhari would be remembered as a man who did not use the plight of the people of the South-east to play politics, but came to their rescue severally.
The governor urged South Eastern leaders to work towards finding a political solution in resolving some challenging issues, warning that the region was at “crossroads.”
Umahi said: “On this issue of a political solution, I have never believed in IPOB’s method of operation, I disagree with them, but we have gotten ourselves to a very terrible and pitiable situation.
“Some of us warned that we will get to this situation and some were playing politics with it.
“Mr. President, we are at a crossroads. I have been to you and I have begged you for a political solution. Surprisingly and graciously, you granted that. You said our people should initiate that and at the forefront is Nnamdi Kanu’s lawyer.”
The governor, therefore, urged the President of Ohaneze Ndigbo to meet with elder statesman, Mbazuluike Amaechi, the Chairman of Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), South East, the Chairman of South East Traditional Rulers Council, Nnamdi Kanu’s lawyer and a few others to initiate the political solution.
On the forthcoming 2023 elections, Umahi said he believed strongly in the demand for the presidency to be zoned to the South-east region on the basis of fairness, equity, justice and morality.
The Ebonyi State Governor, who is also a presidential aspirant, commended some leaders from outside the region for expressing their support for the next president of Nigeria to emerge from the South-east.
The Chairman of South-east Traditional Rulers, Eze Charles Mkpuma and CAN Chairman, South-east, Very Rev. Fr. Abraham Nwali, also spoke in favour of the President of Nigeria of South East extraction come 2023.
The leaders, while expressing support for a united Nigeria, appealed to the President to grant pardon and release the IPOB leader, urging other agitators to cease all forms of hostilities.
The Ohanaeze had in a statement on Tuesday hoped that Buhari’s visit to Ebonyi State would kick-start the process to get Kanu freed.
The Igbo socio-cultural organisation, in the statement said, “Ohanaeze Ndigbo Worldwide has given assurances of peace and security ahead of the planned presidential visit to Ebonyi State.
Kanu is standing trial on an amended 15-count charge bordering on treasonable felony.
In April, a federal high court in Abuja struck out eight out of the 15-count charge filed against the IPOB leader.
Mike Ozekhome, Kanu’s lead counsel, described the charges as “defective and baseless.”