Barely four days to a new government in Nigeria, the Southern and Middle Belt Leaders Forum (SMBLF) has reiterated its call for fiscal federalism and restructuring of Nigeria if it must advance among the comity of nations.
The group, comprising the Afenifere for the South West, Ohanaeze Ndigbo for the South East, Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF) for the South-South and the Middle Belt Forum (MBF) for the Middle, expressed consternation at the post-election killings ongoing in Plateau, Nasarawa, Benue, Kebbi, Southern Kaduna and parts of the South East.
In a communique issued at the end of its meeting held on Wednesday, 24th May 2023, in Abuja, which was chaired by elder statesman, Chief Edwin Clark, the group commended Nigerian youths for their resilience in the last general elections while urging them not to be discouraged.
The group, however, charged the Nigeria judiciary to be wary of its activities at the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal as well as various election tribunals across the country, describing the cases as a true test of the rule of law.
The communique, signed by Chief Kiagbodo Clark, Chief Ayo Adebanjo, Chief Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu, Dr. Pogu Bitrus, and Senator Emmanuel Ibok Essien of PANDEF, Afenifere, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Middle Belt Forum and PANDEF, read in part:
“Restates its time-tested position that the future of Nigeria can only be sustained on the basis of true federalism and respect for the autonomy of the federating units.
“Express shock at the escalation of killings, pogroms, total destruction of entire communities and means of livelihood in several targeted areas in select states since after the 2023 General elections, mainly in Plateau, Benue, Nasarawa, Taraba, Southern Kaduna, Kebbi, and various states of the South East, where hundreds of armless citizens are being slaughtered daily.
“Notes with grave concern that the nation’s security agencies have continued to show unwillingness to decisively deal with the perpetrators of these monstrous acts, or rather, deliberately turned a blind eye to the atrocious occurrences, thereby exposing the country to a seeming state of war. It is shameful that non-state actors are allowed to openly tote dangerous weapons about and rampage the country unhindered.
“Condemns, in unmistakable terms, the cavalier and totally nonchalant attitudes of the outgoing governors of some states over the collapse of security in certain parts of their states, which has continued to exacerbate the worrisome situation, and hopes their successors will show greater commitment to the welfare of their citizens who are the victims of this sad situation.
“Further warns that the continuous abdication of Government’s primary and abiding constitutional responsibility of safeguarding the lives and properties of its citizens is an irresistible signal to Nigerians to exercise their inalienable rights of self-defence, by all means.
“Again deplores the inhuman plight of thousands of indigenous people in the Middle Belt states driven out of their homes and have now become Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) for years as well as several other Internally Displaced Persons in different parts of the country, left to live in conditions that impinge on their human rights as citizens of this country. Hence, calls on the Federal Government to, without any further delay, facilitate the return and reintegration of these Nigerians to their communities.
“With regards to the 2023 general elections, SMBLF commends Nigerian youths for their courage and astuteness in expressing their interest in the future of this country and calls on them not to become discouraged by some of the seeming outcomes.
“Accordingly, calls on the youths of Nigeria to remain undeterred and emboldened to carry their foresight of building a new Nigeria to fruition, and to note that the struggle for the needed change has just begun.
“SMBLF strongly urges the Nation’s Judiciary to be aware that all Nigerians are watching with very keen interest the ongoing judicial processes at the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal as well as various election tribunals across the country.
“Further cautions the judicial arm, at all levels, to be mindful of the fact that the present process is a true test of our effort at building a country based on the rule of law and respect for our constitution.
“It is the expectation of Nigerians that the outcome of the processes will be a reflection of the provisions of the Constitution of the country, which must be sacrosanct, and the rights of all affected parties upheld based on the provisions of the laws of Nigeria.
“SMBLF commends the various parties for subjecting themselves to the expected judicial processes in line with the Constitution and the Electoral Laws of the country.
“SMBLF notes with serious concern, the continued snowballing level of indebtedness being incurred by the Federal Government, particularly the recent request for a $800 million World Bank loan, and calls on the Federal Government to rescind that request.
“Decries the rising cost of living in the country and the hyperinflation rate, confining a vast majority of ordinary Nigerians to a dire state of survival. Implores the government at all levels to take urgent, practical steps to rejig the economy, check inflation and help improve citizens’ well-being and prospects.
“Congratulated Chief Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu over his emergence as the President General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo Worldwide.
“Eulogized its National Leader, Chief Edwin Clark on the occasion of his 96th birthday on Thursday, 25th May 2023.
“Observed moments of silence for the memory of the late President General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Amb. Prof. George Obiozor, CON; the late leader of the Middle Belt, Commodore Dan Suleiman, and late Senator Inatimi Rufus-Spiff, who was Chairman of the Bayelsa State Chapter of PANDEF.”
Other delegates at the meeting drawn from former governors, ministers, federal and state legislators, community leaders, top politicians and professionals from the Southern and Middle Belt regions, included Oba Oladipo Olaitan – Deputy Leader Afenifere, General Lawrence Onoja rtd., former Military Governor of Plateau and Katsina States, Potter L. Dabup, D.I.G (Rtd.), Chief John Nnia Nwodo, former Minister of Information & former PG Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Ambassador Okey Emuchay, MFR, Secretary-General Ohanaeze Ndigbo, HRM Dr Eze Ibe Nwosu, Amb and Eddy Onuoha.
Others were Chief Dr Simon Okeke, former Chairman of the Police Service Commission, Amb. Dr God knows Igali, OON, FNAH, Professor G. G. Darah, Chief Barr. Sola Ebiseni – Secretary General, Afenifere, Dr. Akin Fapohunda, Chief Supo Shonibare, Professor Charles Nwekeaku, Dr. Alex Ogbonnia, Dr. Ene Ede, Elder Mac Emakpore, Prince Maikpobi Okareme, Engr. Ben Akaakar, Hon. Jonathan Tsaku, and Dr Ken Robinson, among others.
READ ALSO FROM NIGERIAN TRIBUNE