The pan-northern socio-political organisation, Arewa Consultative Forum, ACF, yesterday decried the arrest of 486 northerners, suspected to be members of the Boko Haram sect, in Abia State by military operatives on Sunday.
ACF argued that the arrest and subsequent denigration of ‘northern traders’, suspected to be members of the outlawed terrorist group, negated the spirit of oneness and the violation of rights of Nigerians in their own country.
The Forum, through its spokesman, Muhammad Ibrahim, noted with concern that it was dangerous to arrest people on the basis of their “faith and origin”, warning that the act would not augur well for the peaceful coexistence of the country.
The ACF added that in as much as it supported the war against terrorism, it was completely against a situation whereby innocent citizens would be picked up by security operatives simply because they professed a particular religion and hail from a particular part of the country.
It, therefore, called on government, particularly, the Abia State Government, to thread with caution on the arrest of the 486 traders, noting that “such an action makes some people of a particular faith and origin become foreigners in their fatherland”.
The statement added, “Arewa Consultative Forum learnt with serious concern the arrest of 486 Northerners in pursuit of their legitimate means of livelihood in Abia State in the southern part of Nigeria on the allegation that they are members of the outlawed Boko Haram sect on account of their faith, origin and appearance .
“On arrest, they were alleged to have been subjected to ill treatment and hardship in the hands of security agencies.
“This indiscriminate arrest based on faith and origin negates the spirit of one Nigeria and equally violates their freedom of movement and association as guaranteed in the Nigerian Constitution.
“While ACF is not against operations designed to checkmate the activities of Boko Haram insurgents, it however condemns in strong terms arrest on account of appearance, faith and origin. This is because such an action will make innocent and law abiding citizens of a particular origin or faith to suffer unduly in the hands of security operatives.
“ACF therefore calls on the relevant authorities and in particular the Abia State Government to exercise caution on the alleged arrest of Jigawa indigenes on suspicion of being Boko Haram members, lest such an action makes some people of a particular faith and origin become foreigners in their fatherland”.