•Berate position of NEF
•Say killings are acts of criminality, not ethnic or religious related
By Joseph Erunke
SOME concerned Igbo elders have condemned in strong terms, recent cases of criminality in Imo State and other parts of South East, resulting in the death of innocent citizens.
To this end, they have called on perpetrators of such acts to desist from their wicked tendencies or face the wrath of God and the people.
The elders, who operate under the umbrella of the Conference of Igbo Elders for Peace and Development, CIED, said that while collaboration with security agencies on ways to stop killings in Imo State in particular, and the South East, in general was ongoing, their attention was drawn to a statement issued by the Northern Elders Forum, NEF, imputing ethnic agenda into the condemnable acts.
It will be recalled that the NEF, through its spokesperson, Dr. Hakeem Baba-Ahmed, had expressed concerns over what it said was the alleged ‘profiling’ of Northerners in parts of the South.
NEF”s statement had read in part: “We are deeply concerned over rising cases of profiling, targeting and killings of Northerners in many parts of the South. The recent murder of Nigerians in Imo State, apparently on suspicion that they were Northerners, is one incident among many recent ones that involve harassment, illegal arrests, attacks and killings of Nigerians from the North.
“The impression that Northerners are fair game for groups and organisations in the South is forcing Northerners to exercise their rights to travel and live peacefully in any part of Nigeria, only under great danger and fear. This is intolerable and unacceptable.
“The forum demands that governments, communities, and law enforcement agencies protect northerners living in the South.
“It demands clear and emphatic condemnation from leaders, elders, and communities who understand that the welfare and security of all citizens are vulnerable to the degree that other citizens are unsafe in certain parts of the country.
“We serve notice that the North will use the degree to which contestants for political office speak in clear terms in condemnation of these attacks on northerners as a yardstick for our support of candidates and parties.
“While we appeal to all communities to live in peace with each other, we also demand that killers who target northerners are found and punished.”
In a measured response, however, the Igbo elders expressed regret that their counterparts in the North could descend to such a pedestrian level as to make claims of the targeted killing of their kith-and-kin in the South.
“While conceding the right to freedom of expression, especially as it concerns the interest of individuals and groups, we hasten to advise people of goodwill to, at all material times, be circumspect and patriotic on sensitive issues such as the subject matter of the press statement.”
In a statement, yesterday, jointly signed by its National President, Mazi Festus Edochie, and National Secretary, Mrs Esther Amadi, the CIEPD insisted that, contrary to attempts to foist ethnic agenda on the incidents in Imo State, and some parts of the South East, the killings are purely acts of criminality that know no ethnicity, tribe, religion, or political inclination.
“Without mincing words, we condemn the killings witnessed in Imo State, and some parts of Igbo land, even as we have continued our advocacy and sensitization against acts of criminality and barbarism, in whatever guise.
“We also condemn attempts by the Northern Elders Forum, through its spokesman, Dr. Hakeem Baba Ahmed, to suggest ethnic profiling, and targeting of Northerners in a case of pure criminality”, the statement read in part.
Continuing, the South East elders warned individuals and groups in the country against actions and tendencies that possess the capacity to exacerbate ethnic tensions, maintaining that Nigeria could not afford another tension at this time of national crisis, occasioned by growing insecurity, excruciating poverty, biting hunger, and general economic woes.