By Luminous Jannamike, Abuja
The Northern Elders Forum, NEF, has raised concerns over the integrity of the intervention by Kogi State Governor, Alhaji Yahaya Bello, and former Aviation Minister, Chief Femi Fani-Kayode, in the recent industrial action by the Amalgamated Union of Foodstuffs and Cattle Dealers in Nigeria.
Recall that the strike by the Union resulted in six days of food and cattle blockade from the North to the Southern parts of the country.
However, NEF said its concerns stemmed from the alleged support to threats against the security of northerners living in the southwest by one of those who mediated the resolution of the strike.
This was contained in a statement signed by NEF’s Director, Publicity and Advocacy, Dr Hakeem Baba-Ahmed, in Abuja, on Friday.
The statement read in part, “The Forum is disturbed by the visible involvement of a private citizen identified as supporting threats to the security of northern communities in the south-west in the discussions preceding the resolution of the strike, and the mention of a number of people who had been instrumental to creating intense hostility around northerners living in the south-west.
“Indeed, some of the persons mentioned as having been contacted to give assurances to northern traders, herders and transporters have been fingered by the police as being involved in criminal activities against northerners in the south-west.”
He said, “The Forum rejects the idea that the federal government or its agents could encourage the outsourcing of its duty and responsibility to protect citizens, to individuals who are neck-deep in encouraging violence and corruption of communal co-existence.
“The Forum would rather believe that the involvement of these people was contrived to render its purported intervention valueless.
“In any case, the involvement of private citizens who represent existential threats to citizens in an exercise designed to give them assurances that they could be safe is abhorrent and unacceptable.
“We wish to invite the attention of groups and private individuals who may be tempted to give themselves the power to harass and intimidate others that they are involved in illegal activities, and northerners will not accept to live and pursue their livelihoods in the south-west only with their approval.”
However, NEF noted the pivotal role of Southwest Governors as well as other stakeholders, working with the federal government, to improve the sense of security of all ethnic communities residing in the region.
“Governors, in particular, are leaders with the constitutional responsibilities to protect all citizens, and the Forum calls upon them to exercise those responsibilities fairly and diligently,” Baba-Ahmed said.
Doing so, the Forum said, will encourage members of northern communities to continue to live in peace with other communities in the Southwest and explore all avenues to improve better inter-communal relations.
The Forum equally welcomed the decision of the Federal Government to address a major and prolonged grievance of transporters over multiple taxation and extortion on federal highways along the country’s eastern corridor.
“These illegal checkpoints numbering more than one hundred had been pronounced as illegal, yet they had been tolerated by all authorities. Their effects had been to stifle trade and massively raise the cost of transporting food items and cattle. The Forum hopes that this decision will be enforced comprehensively and immediately,” the statement added.