The Southern and Middle-Belt leaders made the calls in a communiqué issued at the end of their meeting in Abuja, the Federal Capital, and signed by the leader, Chief Dr E. K. Clark; Chief Ayo Adebanjo on behalf of Afenifere, Dr Pogu Bitrus (SMBLF) Ambassador Okey Emuchay (Ohanaeze Ndigbo) and Senator Emmanuel Ibok Essien (PANDEF).
Delegations that attended the parley that took place on Thursday were former governors, ministers, Federal and state legislators, top politicians and professionals, including Senator Jonah Jang, Chief Cornelius Adebayo, Senator Femi Okurounmu, Chief Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu, Prof. Ihechukwu Madubuike, Prof. Charles Nwekeabu, Chief Gary Igwariwey, Senator Bassey Ewa Henshaw, HRH Eze Cletus Iluomanya, Dr Solomon Arase, Chief Supo Shonibare, Chief Sola Ebiseni and Chief Edozie Ezeugwa.
Others are Eze Dr Ibe Nwosu, Bekinbo Dagogo-Jack, Nze Ozichukwu Chukwu, Elder Steven Bangoji, Dr. Akin Fapohunda, Dr. Alabi Femi, Dame Betty Igbeyi, Hon Stella Dorgu, Nella Andem-Ewa, Dr. Ebun Sonaiya, Hon. Edward Pwajok, Dr. Alex Ogbonnia, Eze Charles Olisakwe, Hon. Keftin Amiga, CP Iorbes Ihagh (Rtd), Dr Esther Mangzha, Mrs Beatrice Eze, Elizabeth A. Jibrin, Engr. Bayo Adenekan, Elder Mac Emakpore, Chief Douyi Douglas-Naingba, Akin Osuntokun, Hon. Jonathan Asake (SOKAPU), Comrade Jare Ajayi and Ken Robinson, among others.
The meeting extensively discussed the state of affairs in the country, particularly, the security situation, restructuring and the 2023 General Elections.
The communiqué, while calling on all political parties in the country to zone their 2023 presidential tickets to the South and also urging all people of Southern Nigeria and Middle Belt region to reject any political party that failed to do so, consequently cautioned political Smstakeholders from Southern Nigeria against aspirations or actions that would compromise the shared resolve of the people in the region.
“Maintains that the basis of any viable democracy, especially in a diverse and complex country such as Nigeria, is fair and even sharing of power;
“Therefore, unequivocally, and in full resolve, again, call on all political parties in the country to zone their presidential tickets to the south;
“Accordingly, calls on all lovers of peace and equity in Nigeria, particularly our people of Southern Nigeria and Middle Belt region to reject any political party that fails to zone its presidential ticket to the South;
“Consequently cautions Political Stakeholders from Southern Nigeria against aspirations or actions that would compromise the shared Resolve of our people,” the communiqué said.
The leaders of the ethnic nationalities, in the communiqué, while again reiterating their call for fundamental restructuring of the country to reflect true federalism, and enthrone equity, fairness and justice, before the 2023 General Elections, noted that Local Government affairs, in particular, were state matters and that the listing of Local Governments in the Constitution was inconsistent with the principle of Federalism.
According to the leaders, who recalled the reports of the 2014 National Confab and the Governor Nasir El-Rufai – APC Committee on True Federalism of 2018, which recommended “that the Federation of Nigeria should remain as constituted by the Federal Government and the States, and specifically excluded Local Government from being a Tier of Government in the federation but only subject to the creation and administration of the States,” it was superfluous and an exercise in futility the legislations of the National Assembly granting local government an autonomy.
“The legislation of the National Assembly granting Local Government autonomy are superfluous and exercise in futility,” the communiqué said.
Speaking further, the communiqué declared State Police is a sine qua non in a Federal System of Government; noting that “there is no government, properly so-called, that is without the Instrument and capacity to enforce its Laws and maintain security within its territorial jurisdiction.
It posited that the resultant effect of the monopoly of internal security by the Federal Government was the unprecedented dire state of insecurity in the country, even as it emphasized that “the designation of Governor of a State as the Chief Security Officer of the State is a ruse without being in control of the State’s Security Apparatus.”
The leaders, therefore, demand that every state in Nigeria should have its own police, to complement the Federal police.
The leaders further demanded the harmonization and immediate implementation of the Reports of the 2014 National Conference and the 2018 APC Committee on True Federalism rather than, what they termed the current cosmetic Constitutional Amendment, which they perceived as “a drain on the resources of the country and do not address fundamental issues, including fiscal federalism.
“On the worsening state of insecurity in the country, the Forum, particularly, decries the continued kidnappings and killings of innocent citizens and wanton destruction of livelihoods across the country by terrorists and criminals, especially in the North West, North East and Middle Belt region.
“Condemns, in the strongest terms, the ongoing massacres and decimation of indigenous populations, especially in Zuru, Kebbi State, Southern Kaduna, Benue, Plateau and Southern Gombe, where an untold number of citizens have been killed and Communities deliberately displaced, by Islamic Extremists and foreign Fulani Herders, with plausible official complicity,” the leaders said in the communiqué.
They therefore urged the President Muhammadu Buhari-led Federal Government to be alive to its primary duty of protecting the lives and property of citizens; safeguard all communities across Nigeria, and ensure the immediate return of displaced citizens to their ancestral homes.
They equally called for the immediate release, in the national interest, of IPOB leader, Mazi Nnamdi Kanu, while urging the Federal Government to stop any further persecution of the Yoruba nation agitator, Chief Sunday Adeyemo popularly called Sunday Igboho, who is currently on a conditional release in Benin Republic.
The Southern and Middle-Belt leaders warned “that the continued detention and trial of Nnamdi Kanu on charges of terrorism and treasonable felony while known Boko Haram terrorists are being given VIP treatments and hosted in Government Houses is not only provocative and perfidious but a bizarre double standard on the part of the Nigerian State.”
“More disconcerting is the fact that the women and children rendered widows, orphans, and displaced by the terrorists, now being gratified by the Federal Government and its security agencies, are wallowing in wretched IDP camps,” the leaders said.
This was just as they also warned that the Federal Government’s lukewarm attitude in tackling the security challenges in the country lends credence to impressions that this administration was using insecurity to foster certain political agenda.
They, however, reaffirmed their commitment to the unity of Nigeria, situated on the tenets of equity, fairness, justice, and the Principle of Federalism.