By Our Reporters
LAGOS — OUTRAGE, yesterday, greeted the ultimatum given by some Arewa youth groups to the Igbo to quit northern parts of the country within three months or be forced to do so.
The Federal Government urged Igbo and other Nigerians to ignore the notice and go about their normal activities just as Governors of the 19 northern states disowned the Arewa youths, assuring that they have put measures in place to ensure there is no break down of law and order.
In strong terms, the Kaduna State Governor, Nasir El-Rufai; Arewa Consultative Forum, ACF; Ohanaeze Ndigbo; and the Movement for the Actualization of the Sovereign State of Biafra, MASSOB among others, condemned the statement by 16 Arewa youth groups with Governor El-Rufai calling for their arrests as ACF stated that the groups had no right to issue such a statement.
The National President of the Arewa Youth Consultative Forum, AYCF, Alhaji Yerima Shettima, had handed down the ultimatum at a well-attended press conference held at the Arewa House, Kaduna, on Tuesday.
The ultimatum followed a successful sit-at-home order enforced by the Nnamdi Kanu-led Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB on May 30, 2017, which the five South-East states complied with.
The text of the press conference was jointly signed by Nastura Ashir Sharif (Arewa Citizens Action for Change); Alhaji Shettima Yerima (Arewa Youth Consultative Forum); Aminu Adam (Arewa Youth Development Foundation); Alfred Solomon, (Arewa Students Forum); Abdul-Azeez Suleiman (Northern Emancipation Network), as well as Joshua Viashman (Northern Youth Vanguard).
The National President of the Northern Emancipation Network, Abdul-Azeez Suleiman, who read the text of the press conference, noted that the Igbo had become a threat to national unity and their quit order was necessitated by the Igbo persistence in the actualisation of Biafra, saying this had led to the impediment of other people’s rights in the South-East by ‘’the Indigenous People of Biafra and its overt and covert sponsors.’’
Suleiman said: “With the effective date of this declaration, which is today, Tuesday, June 6, 2017, all Igbo currently residing in any part of northern Nigeria are, hereby, served notice to relocate within three months and all northerners residing in the South-East are advised likewise.
“All northern civil societies and pressure groups are, by this declaration, mandated to mobilise for sustained, coordinated campaigns at their respective state Government Houses, state Houses of Assembly, local government council secretariats and traditional palaces.
“Our first major move shall be to reclaim, assume and assert sole ownership and control of these landed resources currently owned, rented or in any way enjoyed by the …Igbo in any part of Northern Nigeria.”
Ignore ultimatum, security agencies on red alert – FG
Formally reacting to the quit notice, the Federal Government through Minister of Interior, Abdulrahman Dambazau, urged the Igbo and other Nigerians to go about their businesses without fear of molestation.
In a statement signed by his Press Secretary, Ehisienmen Osaigbovo, the minister “lamented the spate of such spurious and unwarranted calls for separation. He, therefore, called on all well meaning Nigerians to go about their normal activities as Government would bring to bear the full weight of the law on any individual or group violating the rights of citizens of the Country. He added that citizens were free to go about their normal businesses and would not be harassed or deterred by any group or persons.”
He further advised “the various ethnic groups to desist from flaming the embers of hate, animosity, discord and disharmony and adhere strictly to the teachings of our good values of religions and cultures that encourage good neighbourliness, national unity and Integration, and love for one another.
The Federal Government also said security agencies were already on the alert over the threat.
The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, said this while answering questions from State House correspondents after the weekly meeting of the Federal Executive Council at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
Mohammed assured Nigerians that security agencies were on top of the matter, adding that the statement was capable of destabilising the country.
Observing that such development did not start now, he said: “What I want to assure you is that security organisations are very very much on top of this matter.”
When asked whether the issue of the ultimatum came up for discussion during the FEC meeting, the minister said it did not come up.
The statement is irresponsible – Northern Govs
Borno State Governor and Chairman of the Northern States Governors ‘ Forum, Kashim Shettima, who spoke on behalf of his colleagues in Maiduguri, said they were in touch with heads of their security agencies and have taken measures that will guarantee the rights of all Nigerians living in any part of the North.
The Governors also called on security agencies to arrest the youths and probe the motive behind the ultimatum because it is a suspicious act that falls in line with recent trend of arms cache haul at the ports and coup rumours.
Shettima said: “On behalf of the Governors of the 19 Northern states, we totally condemn such irresponsible pronouncements by those groups. We condemn, we disown, and we are totally distancing ourselves from those faceless groups who don’t have the mandate of the people of Northern Nigeria to make such loud pronouncements. Section 41, Subsection 1 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria is very explicit in safeguarding the rights of all Nigerians to reside in any part of the country with no hindrance whatsoever. But then, when you see a toad dancing in broad daylight, the drummer is not far off from the main road. We wish to call on the security agencies to beam their lenses on these groups, and unearth the faces behind the mask.
“Some months back, there were cases of importation of arms, illegal importation of arms intercepted at the ports, then we started hearing rumours of a coup d’etat. Now, a group, or a bunch of groups that do not have the mandate of the people came up with remarks capable of destabilizing the north and the country as a whole.
‘We are one nation tied to a common destiny, the governance of Northern Nigeria is not in alignment with those pronouncements, and we will take whatever measures that is necessary to safeguard the lives and properties of Nigerians living in any part of the North. I am in contact with most of my colleagues, and they are all talking to heads of security establishments in their respective domains because we cannot afford to take chances. We cannot afford to toil with the destiny of this country.
“The 19 Northern Governors wish to call on our brothers of Igbo descent to remain calm and go about their legitimate businesses. Nobody can dare to intimidate, harass or dehumanise them in any of the 19 northern states. Our governors will not allow that.”
El- Rufai’s arrest order
A piqued Governor Nasir El Rufai urged the Nigeria Police to immediately arrest all signatories of the Kaduna declaration, directed his Attorney General and commissioner for Justice to prepare charges of incitement against leaders of the groups.
Addressing a press conference in Kaduna, yesterday, the governor, who was represented by his Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Samuel Aruwan, said Kaduna State has no room for anybody that will try to incite one section of the country against the other, stressing that “the constitutional right of every Nigerian to own property, move freely and to live in peace and harmony is sacrosanct.’’
He said the Kaduna State Government strongly condemns the inciting, hate speech delivered by some self-appointed “northern youths seeking to target and violate the rights of our citizens of Igbo extraction.”
The statement read: “The Kaduna State Government takes exception to the fact that the “northern youths” did their irresponsible press conference in Kaduna. This government has been consistent in taking action to punish hate speech and incitement. People who may feel unhappy about irresponsible comments or actions that have taken place in other states must know that two wrongs cannot make a right, and they cannot use our state to do or say things that threaten the peace.
Kaduna State government has, therefore, ordered the arrest, investigation and prosecution of the signatories to the statement.
“The Kaduna State Government condemns in the strongest terms the press statement by some self-appointed ‘northern youths’ that threatened the safety and property of our citizens of Igbo extraction. Government assures every resident of our state that their constitutional and human rights to live peacefully and own property wherever they choose is sacrosanct. Even people who may feel unhappy about irresponsible comments or actions that have taken place in other states must know that two wrongs cannot make a right.
“The Kaduna State Government believes in and will uphold the right of every Nigerian to live safely and develop his/her full potentials within its territory.
“Reckless disregard for the rights of other citizens drips through the press statement by these ‘northern youths’ who have chosen to use the discourse around restructuring to promote their own agenda of hate, division and incitement. This sort of opportunists cannot be allowed to distort debate, or turn it into a pretext for a barely-disguised agenda of displacement and dispossession of some citizens.
“We will not tolerate such irresponsible statements and conduct in our state. The statement issued by the ‘northern youths’ violates the laws of Kaduna State. Therefore, the Kaduna State Government has directed that its Ministry of Justice to prepare charges and prosecute the signatories and anyone complicit in arranging this egregious assault on the rights of fellow citizens.
“Preparatory to prosecution, the police have been directed to immediately arrest, interrogate the signatories to the statement and investigate all the circumstances and persons that may be implicated in the matter. The Kaduna State Government urges all residents to ignore the threats from the ‘northern youths.”
Count us out— Arewa youth groups, Middle-Belt youths
Meanwhile, four northern youth groups and Middle Belt Youth Consultative Forum, MBYCF, have distanced themselves from the threat.
The four northern youth groups are Arewa Youth Progressive Movement, Northern Almagamated Youth Congress, Ahmadu Bello Youth Fans and Northern Youths Leaders Forum, NYLF, who asked Igbo living in the North to ignore the ultimatum.
Their decisions were conveyed at a joint press conference addressed by their spokesmen Tijani Usman, Muhammaded Bawa and Othman Yakubu.
Indeed, NYLF leader, Comrade Elliot Afiyo, told journalists in Abeokuta that the ultimatum was uncalled for.
In like manner, Leader of the Middle Belt Youth Consultative Forum, Joseph Ntom dissociated the group from the ultimatum to Igbo to leave the North, saying that the the signatories to the so called Kaduna declaration cannot speak for all northern youths and do not have their mandate to speak for them. They warned the trouble makers to desist from such acts or face the full wrath of the law.
Police begin manhunt for signatories
Following Governor El-Rufai’s directive, the police in Kaduna said a manhunt has been launched for the signatories to the statement. The manhunt, according to the police, is backed by the order given by Kaduna State government to have them arrested.