By Chioma Onuegbu, Uyo

LEADERS of Akwa Ibom States have advocated the need for a dialogue to address the various tribal and religious agitations that are threatening the unity, peace and Nigerian democracy in recent times.

The leadeelrs who spoke weekend in Uyo at a one-day dialogue organised by Civil Liberties Organisation Akwa Ibom State branch in liaison with the office of the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Niger Delta Affairs, also reiterated call for true federalism as solutions to Nigeria’s problems.

Speaking, the Lawmaker representing Etinan/Nsit Ibom/Nsit Ubium federal consituency, and Chairman of the occasion, Mr. Onofiok Luke described the stakeholder dialogue as apt by bringing together men and women who could suggest solutions, and ideas that could be fine-tuned for the development of this country.

His words, ” I have always been an advocate of bi-partisan approach to the problems of this country. The problem today, from the agitations for secession, agitation for all sorts of things is because some sections of the country feel marginalized.

“I know that there was a time in this country that the loudest voice agitating for the betterment of the people was the Niger Delta region. But you will agree with me today that by the grace of God we have experienced relative peace in the Niger Delta region compared to other regions.

“So what I am asking for at this level is, can we go back to the dialogue table?. We should not ignore agitations from Southeast, we should not ignore agitations from South West. I think what this time call for is, let the people come and sit at the dialogue table, express their grievances and ask for what would make for their betterment and the betterment of their lives.

” I am a firm believer in the unity of Nigeria, but the unity of Nigeria founded on justice, equity and then founded on true federalism. And we can achieve this by every segment of this society seeing ourselves as equals. And
I have stated times without number that the problem we are faced with doesn’t know party, it doesn’t know region, or religion”

Presenting a keynote address the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Ita Enang said it has become important to examine legal and historical solutions to the myriads of problems
fueling mutual ethnic suspicion and insecurity in the country.

“The voices of discord are getting louder and it may be time to allow Nigerians to dialogue with each other by whatever arrangement. It was like this underJonathan Presidency in 2013 when President Jonathan convened that 2014 confab and that political temperature was tamed and calmed.

“The solution to the farmers herders clashes is strict adherence to the Law and agreed policies consistent with the Law .The Land Use Act, 1978, which Law is also in Volume 7 of the Laws of Akwa Ibom State Vests ownership and control of Land in the Government of the respective States if in Urban and the Local Governments Areas.

“Lands in the Federal Capital Territory is Vested in the President who has delegated same to The Fct Minister. It Stands therefore that the House of Assembly of a State can enact Laws regulating the use of land in the State. The Constitution also guarantees the right to own property and this includes farms and crops thereon.

“Therefore the question of making laws banning open grazing or not does not arise again because this has already been outlawed by the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999,and the Land Use Act, 1978 which has now been again ingrafted into the 1999 Constitution as part thereof.

“The Land use Act in addressing this issue issue provided in Section 6 that the Local Governments may establish, make out and gazette grazing reserves to provide fodder for goat, sheep, cattle, pigs and generally for raising animals, fisheries and integrated farming.

“This is what the Laws of the States and Local Governments are expected to do. The National Economic Council, chaired by the Vice President and made up of all the governors of the 36 states: APC, PDP and APGA took a decision and endorsed the above submission in the national animal transformation plan.

“Therefore there is no contention on this matter as solution to the Security and economic problems posed by the farmers -herders clashes and destruction of farmlands.
Section 1,2, 6 (1) b are reproduced hereunder Section 50(1) defines grazing purposes to ” includes only such Agricultural operations as are required for growing fodder for livestock on the grazing area”

The SSA to the president who also explained that it was time to have meaningful dialogue with Nigerian youths and give them roles and space in the Governance and economy of the country, stressed that youths should not be profiled as criminals or cultists nor demeaning appellations that gives them low self or societal esteem.

He further explained that doing so ostracises them and embolden them to form camps, carry arms and do the worst, stressing, “This please is in view of the peculiar times, and not the normfor all times. We should not profile nor stigmatise them”

In his address, the guest Speaker and National Legal Adviser of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) Emmanuel Enoidem regretted that after 22years, the expectations of Nigerians that democracy would allow them to close the gap of hatred and animosity among ethnic groups, end the culture of violence, and lead them towards a prosperous nation has not been feasible.

He outlined strategies that could adopt to make the country work again to include amending the country’s constitution to reflect the practice of true Federalism, dialogue with ethnic secessionists, strengthening Nigerian laws to enable full practice of the Rule of Law, Liaising with a western power to train Nigeria’s military personnel on how to combat terrorism, among others.

“The anticipated dividend of democracy is far-fetched. Instead of closing the gap of ethnic rivalry, Nigeria is fast becoming a country that seems to gauge its political maturity by how many inter-ethnic animosities it frequently generates.

“To sustain democracy in Nigeria and find a solution to her numerous problems, there is a need for all the various groups’ interests to come together and understand the dynamics of democracy and the need to incorporate the spirit of tolerance.

“Nigeria has come of age, the country belongs to us all, and hence no ethnic or religious group should impose superiority over the other. Our democracy must be strengthened and made to work”

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