BY HENRY UMORU, LEVINUS NWABUGHIOGU & JOSEPH ERUNKE
SOUTHERN and Northern delegates almost engaged one another in a free-for-all yesterday, when a motion on the arrest of 486 Boko Haram suspects in Abia State was presented for consideration.
Tempers rose and almost boiled over but for the quick intervention of the Chairman, Justice Idris Kutigi, which averted the breakdown of law and order.
The drams started when a South-South Delegate, Chief Sergeant Awuse, in a motion on a matter of urgent national importance, drew the attention of the conference to the weekend’s arrest of the suspects and called on security agencies to beef up security around oil installations in Port Harcourt and other parts of Rivers State.
Referring to the report of the Defence Headquarters that a kingpin of the Boko Haram Islamic sect was among the 486 suspects arrested, Awuse said: “We do not want Boko Haram in our area.
We want the Confab to beg the security agencies to be very more proactive. From dependable security sources, we have been told that the apprehended Boko Haram members are not the only ones. Many of them have already infiltrated the city.
“We can’t wait further because we have been told that one of the wanted persons was found among the 486 Boko Haram members. We have to be a little bit more proactive on this matter. One of our Governors, Alhaji Ibrahim Shettima (Borno State) was quoted to have said if Boko Haram succeeded in overrunning the North, they will want to extend to the South.”
He added that a situation where 486 ‘traders’ were traveling in 35 buses at night claiming to be looking for jobs was questionable.
Hardly had he finished his motion than a delegate from the North, Alhaji Bashir Dalhatu stood up, saying the arrest of the suspects could lead to serious crisis, warning that “a warning is enough for the wise.”
Amid protests from Southern delegates, Dalhatu said the arrest of the suspected Boko Haram members was an ominous signal of dangers ahead.
His words: “We must exercise great and serious caution when we address serious national issues on the floor of this house. For us to quote a newspaper report as authentic sources is not the best; we were told that those arrested in Abia State are migrant traders.
“We have been so far informed that only one of them could be a suspected Boko Haram member. Port Harcourt has been receiving people and visitors from other areas. When traders travel to the North at midnight, we don’t describe them as armed robbers. They do their legitimate businesses.
“Let nobody here think because I dress the way I dress or speak Hausa that I am a Boko Haram member. Now, we understand that Northerners have to pay to get identity cards. The security agencies should note that if other Northern states decide to retaliate, the consequences would not be imagined.