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The Southern and Middle Belt Leaders’ Forum (SMBLF) has called for the immediate release of the leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), Nnamdi Kanu as well as stop to any further persecution of Sunday Igboho, who is currently on a conditional release in Benin Republic.
The Eastern Updates reports that this call was made in a communiqué issued at the end of its meeting chaired by the elder statesman, Chief E.K. Clark, and held in Abuja, on Thursday, March 10, 2022.
The leaders warned that Kanu’s continued detention and trial on charges of terrorism and treasonable felony ‘while known Boko Haram terrorists are being given VIP treatments and hosted in Government Houses is not only provocative and perfidious but a bizarre double standard on the part of the Nigerian state.’
The Forum also expressed displeasure at situation whereby women and children rendered widows, orphans, and displaced by the terrorists, now being gratified by the Federal Government and its security agencies, are wallowing in wretched IDP camps.
Other demands made by the communiqué signed by Clark, Chief Ayo Adebanjo, leader of the Afenifere, Dr. Pogu Bitrus, National President, Middle Belt Forum, Senator Okey Emuchay, Secretary General, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, and Senator Emmanuel Ibok Essien, National Chairman of Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF), includes the restructuring of the polity to give every Nigerian a sense of belonging and the creation of a state of police in light of worsening state of insecurity, and the separation of powers between the state and the local government areas to allow for rapid development of rural areas.
On the worsening state of insecurity in the country, the Forum decried the continued kidnappings and killings of innocent citizens and wanton destruction of livelihoods across the country by terrorists and criminals, especially in the North West, North East and Middle Belt region. It condemned the ongoing massacres and decimation of indigenous populations, especially in Zuru, Kebbi State; Southern Kaduna, Benue, Plateau and Southern Gombe, where an untold number of citizens have been killed and communities deliberately displaced, by Islamic extremists and foreign Fulani herders, with plausible official complicity.
The group urged the Federal Government to be alive to its primary duty of protecting the lives and property of citizens, safeguarding communities across Nigeria, and ensuring the immediate return of displaced citizens to their ancestral homes. It demanded the harmonisation and immediate implementation of the reports of the 2014 National Conference and the 2018 APC Committee on true federalism rather than the current cosmetic constitutional amendment, which serves as a drain on the resources of the country and do not address fundamental issues including fiscal federalism.
The Forum insisted that the basis of any viable democracy, especially in a diverse and complex country such as Nigeria, is fair and even sharing of power, and therefore, called on all political parties in the country to zone their presidential tickets to the south.
The group pointed out that the existing constitution and structure of Nigeria are grossly flawed and therefore, insisted on the fundamental restructuring of the country, to reflect true federalism, and enthrone equity, fairness and justice, before the 2023 general elections. It argued in particular that local government affairs are state matters and that the listing of local governments in the constitution is inconsistent with the principle of federalism. It tagged the legislations of the National Assembly granting local government “autonomy” superfluous and exercise in futility.
The Eastern Updates gathered meeting was attended by many dignitaries including former governors, ministers, federal and state legislators, top politicians and professionals from the Southern and Middle Belt regions.
THE EASTERN UPDATES