By Henry Umoru
ABUJA—LEADERS of thoughts and elder statesmen from four of the six geo-political zones of the country, under the aegis of Southern and Middle Belt Leaders Forum, SMBLF, have condemned in very strong terms the spate of targeted terrorist attacks on churches, and abduction of church leaders.
The SMBLF also reiterated its call for the urgent need to establish state police in order to nip in the bud continued cases of terrorism, killings, kidnapping and wanton destruction of lives and property in the country.
It equally called on the Federal Government and the National Assembly to ensure requisite legislative instrument to address the issue, instead of indulging in meaningless lamentations.
Rising from a meeting in Abuja, the leaders warned that the ambiguity of the Federal Government and the failure of the security agencies to decisively deal with the situation could buttress the argument that officials of the Federal Government and security agents were complicit in the security anomalies in the country.
In a communique issued at the end of the meeting, the leaders also noted that with the continuous abdication of government’s primary and abiding constitutional responsibility of safeguarding the lives and property of its citizens, Nigerians had been sent the dangerous signal of resorting to self-defence.
The communique was signed by the chairman and South South leader, Edwin Clark; Afenifere leader, Ayo Adebanjo; Ambassador Okey Emuchay, Secretary-General of Ohaneze Ndigbo Worldwide for the President-General and National president of Middle Belt Forum, Dr. Pogu Bitrus.
The communique read: ”The meeting extensively discussed critical issues of national concern, including the state of the nation and worsening insecurity, the outcome of the presidential primaries of political parties, the prolonged ASUU strike, Continuous Voters Registration and INEC’s preparation for the 2023 general elections.
On state of the nation and worsening insecurity
“Arising therefrom, the forum resolved that the state of insecurity in the country is worsening by the day, with devastating impacts on the welfare and livelihood of ordinary Nigerians, thus, calls on the Federal Government to take urgent steps to stem the tide and assuage the suffering of Nigerians.
“Forum denounces the spate of targeted terrorist attacks on churches and abduction of church leaders, in the country;
“ In this connection, condemns, in strongest terms, the daring attack on St. Francis Catholic Church, Owo, Ondo State on June 5 by gunmen, killing no fewer than 40 worshippers and injuring many others, describes as worrisome the hasty and doubtful conclusion by the Federal Government that the dastardly act was carried out by the Islamic State of West Africa Province, ISWAP.
“Further condemns the incessant killings of the indigenous peoples and decimation of communities in the Middle Belt, in particular, the current escalated war on Southern Kaduna, targeting communities and churches in Kajuru Local Government Area of the state, with reports of helicopters dropping weapons and supplies to the terrorists in their locations;
“SMBLF equally decried the continued confinement of victims of the Kaduna train attack in the terrorists’ labyrinth after 89 days as well as several other Nigerians who have been held by terrorists and criminals for months; calls on the Federal Government and security agencies to secure the safe release of all victims;
“Warns that the ambiguity of the Federal Government and the failure of the security agencies to decisively deal with these situations, buttress concerns that officials of the Federal Government and security agents are complicit in the security anomalies in the country;
“Warns that the continuous abdication of the government’s primary and abiding constitutional responsibility of safeguarding the lives and property of its citizens, is an irresistible signal to Nigerians to exercise their inalienable rights of self-defence, by all means, in deviance of extant laws, which have not deterred terrorists the use of weapons even superior to those of the security agencies;
“Reiterates the imperative of state police in the internal security architecture of the federation and urges the Federal Government and the National Assembly to ensure the requisite legislative instrument in this regard rather than indulging in meaningless lamentations.
On ASUU strike
“SMBLF expresses great concern over the continuous closure of Nigerian public universities due to the prolonged strike by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) and urges both the Federal Government and ASUU to take all necessary steps to urgently bring this situation to an end and let the students return to their lectures, in the interest of the nation’s future and development.
On outcome of presidential primaries of political parties
“SMBLF firmly reiterates its stance on the principle of zoning and power rotation between the North and the South, as the fulcrum on which the Nigerian Federation has, since independence, been premised;
“Accordingly, commends the political parties, which in line with the need for national cohesion, equity, fairness and justice, have nominated their presidential candidates from the South, particularly, All Progressives Congress, APC; African Action Congress, AAC; African Democratic Congress, ADC; All Progressives Grand Alliance, APGA; Labour Party, LP; People’s Redemption Party, PRP; Social Democratic Party, SDP, and others.
“Further deplores the insensitivity of Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, and other political parties in nominating presidential candidates from the North for the 2023 election, in total disregard of the time-honoured principle of rotation;
“Commits to, in due course, engage with the appropriate Presidential candidates and afterwards decide on which of the candidates to recommend to the peoples of Southern Nigeria, the Middle Belt region and indeed, all Nigerians of goodwill, for consideration at the polls in 2023.
INEC and preparations for 2023 elections
“Forum notes the current upsurge in youth voter registration and implores all young Nigerians who have attained the age of voting to go out in their numbers to exercise their constitutional right;
“ However, condemns the haphazard manner in which the ongoing continuous voter registration exercise is being conducted by INEC in parts of the country; calls for proper management of the process and even distribution of the Voter Enrolment Devices across the country, to ensure that all eligible Nigerians, in all locations, are registered to vote”