The Arewa Youth Consultative Forum on Tuesday condemned in strong terms, what it referred to as the random arrest of 486 northerners in Abia State, over terror links.
The group said it was certain that virtually all the arrested northerners had no link with Boko Haram insurgents, warning South-East governors that labeling them terrorists was capable of widening the gulf between northerners and southerners.
AYCF President, Alhaji Yerima Shettima, explained that the group was concerned that a continuation of such indiscriminate arrests could lead to the break-up of Nigeria.
“This gives us a lot of worry. Are these South-East governors or whoever is at the helms of affairs, doing this in the interest of this country or to cause more hatred for our people, so that the country will break up?” he asked.
Shettima continued: “Those who are acting out this script of disintegration are not helping this country, especially at this challenging period.
“We are not in support of Boko Haram or their bomb attacks. We are saying that innocent citizens should not suffer because some evil-minded people come from their area. I can tell you that those who were arrested in Abia are not Boko Haram members.
“We had a case where about 500 people arrested in Lagos. I intervened and on getting to the force headquarters, we discovered that most of them were innocent and they were released.
“We are not saying security agencies should not do their work, but they should not go about arresting hundreds of people just because they are looking for one or two suspects”.
Shettima also said it was wrong to assume that only northerners were planting bombs in the country, adding that some southerners had been arrested for terrorism.
He also gave the northern governors and other political leaders in the region knocks for keeping quiet in the face of northerners’ victimization.
Earlier, we reported that the Defence Headquarters had identified a wanted Boko Haram kingpin among the 486 suspects arrested while travelling in over 33 Hiace Hummer buses at night along Enugu-Port Harcourt expressway last Sunday.