By Vincent Ujumadu, Awka
LEADERS in the South East geopolitical zone have demanded unconditional release of the leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, Mazi Nnamdi Kanu by the Federal Government, arguing that it would douse the current tension across the Southeast and create an atmosphere for collaboration towards a constructive resolution of the issues.
In a statement issued in Awka, they also implored the people of Anambra State and all religious congregations to join in the prayers, which would take place within the premises of all Cathedrals, Churches and prayer houses across Igbo land by 11:00am.
The statement was signed by Obi Nnaemeka Achebe, Chairman, Anambra State Traditional. Rulers Council, His Grace, Archbishop Valerian Okeke, Archbishop of the Catholic Archdiocese of Onitsha, and Metropolitan of Onitsha Ecclesiastical Province, Prof. Solo Chukwulobelu, Secretary to the Anambra State Government, Igwe Laurence Agubuzu, Chairman, Ebonyi State Traditional. Rulers Council and Most Rev. Chibuzo R. Opoko, Secretary.
“The statement read: “We recognize that there is country-wide agitation for restructuring of inter-ethnic and inter-governmental relations in Nigeria, with a view to greater inclusiveness.
“We therefore share the genuine concern over the political and economic marginalisation of the Southeast Geo-Political Zone of Nigeria, a major plank of the agitation by the IPOB.
“We call for constructive and continuous dialogue by all parties as a more sustainable solution to overcoming the challenge and win the hearts and minds of the people.
“We call on all criminal elements masquerading as working under the instruction of IPOB or ESN to cease and desist from further acts of violence and criminality or face the implacable force of law and order.
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“We call on all who may have taken up arms in the belief that their grievances could be achieved only through armed struggle to lay down their arms. The government and good people of Anambra hereby offer the olive branch for you all to return. The Anambra State government hereby undertakes to train, rehabilitate and empower you to contribute to our homeland development. The centres where our youths can register for help will be announced shortly.
“We call on all injured, aggrieved and victims of the insecurity in Alaigbo over the past three years to step forward and cooperate with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission that will be inaugurated by the Anambra State Government next week to conduct an inquiry into the remote and immediate causes of the agitations, documentation and examination of the circumstances surrounding the killings in the south east, and recommendations on the road to sustainable solutions”.
The leaders declared Monday, April 4, 2022 as a day of prayer for peace in Igbo land and called on the faithful wherever they reside across Nigeria, or abroad to pause and join in fellowship, adding that the prayers were meant to seek the face of God in the zone.
The statement added: “It is the expectation of the joint body that the conclusion of the prayer session shall mark the end of sit-at-home in Anambra State in particular and the Southeast region in general.
“The march towards peace and the restoration of normalcy in our society and economy require the collective action of all people of God.
Going down memory lane, they recalled their earlier call in October 2021 for restoration of genuine peace and normalcy in the South East based on justice, equity, fairness, love, mutual understanding and respect; and to the invitation of the new Governor of Anambra State, at his inauguration address on March 17, 2022, to all non-state actors to interrogate their goals and methods in the interest of peace and harmony.
The statement added: “The representatives of the traditional rulers and religious leaders in Anambra State convened a meeting with representatives of the Anambra State Government and the counsel to Mazi Nnamdi Kanu, to consider path ways to restore normalcy in Anambra State.
“You may recall that a number of groups have previously called on the Federal Government to free Mazi Nnamdi Kanu, to no avail. Indeed, the present Governor of Anambra State, Professor Charles Chukwuma Soludo showed solidarity with Mazi Nnamdi Kanu, whilst he was held in Kuje prison, awaiting trial, on February 28, 2017 and followed up with demand for his release after he was granted bail by the High Court.
“On its part, the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) announced ‘a total lockdown of social and economic activities every Monday starting from August 9 in the South-East region of the country’ on July 30th, 2021 ostensibly to press home the release of Mazi Nnamdi Kanu.
“While we have severally, collectively and individually supported the call for his release from incarceration, the experience of the past 14 months, however, leaves no iota of doubt that the sit at home is blurring the intent and objective of the agitation and it is time for us to count our losses and move on.
“It is beyond doubt that the sit-at-home exercise has done incalculable damage to the economy of Anambra State and indeed the Southeast. We are losing the most productive day of the week as intra-, inter-state and even international business activity are severely constrained, and slowly forcing the diversion of economic activity to other commercial centres outside Alaigbo.
“It is therefore abundantly clear to all that the Monday- sit-at-home is ill advised and counter-productive. All over the world, it is our inalienable right to make demands, make our voices to be heard, make agitations against perceived injustice and the reality of marginalisation. It is however totally unacceptable to stop our children from going to school, to destroy our means of livelihoods, to kill, maim or recklessly destroy properties of the so-called potential beneficiaries of the struggle, to make our economies unattractive to investors, and to create an environment in which our youths have little hope of realizing their legitimate dreams and aspirations for jobs and wealth creation.
“We have taken cognizance of the August 24, 2021 announcement by members of IPOB of the suspension of the sit-at-home , and subsequent repeat announcements arising from the continued enforcement through killings, abductions, beating and burning of properties of innocent citizens.
“We also note the recent press release by IPOB spokespersons of April 1st, 2022 stating inter alia, “We wish to reiterate once again that IPOB has cancelled Monday sit- at-home order and anybody or group enforcing the relaxed order is neither from IPOB nor from IPOB volunteer group.