President Muhammadu Buhari has been accused by the Southern Leaders of intimidating Nigerians in some parts of the country with military operations.
The forum, which comprised delegates from the South-West, South-East, South-South and Middle-Belt states, rose from a consultative meeting on Thursday in Abuja with a call on the Federal Government to stop the deployment of troops in the South-West and South-South.
It states that under federalism, the Federal Government should not deploy troops in the federating units without the invitation, adding that the government must employ dialogue above raw force.
The meeting had in attendance elder statesmen including Chief Olu Falae, Prof. Gerry Gana, Chief Banabas Gemade, Chief Ayo Adebanjo, Chief Edwin Clarke, Dan Suleiman, Mrs. Stella Omu, Alhaji Idris Wada, Tunde Ogbeha, Prof. Ihechukwu Madubuike, Ferdinand Agu, and Chief Chigozie Ogbu, among others.
In its communiqué read by John Dara, the group condemned military Operation Python Dance in the South-East geopolitical zone, and asked the President to urgently initiate processes for the restructuring of the country.
The statesmen restated their commitment to the unity of the country, noting that Nigeria could only enjoy lasting peace, development, progress and happiness under a federal system which would allow all the federation units to develop at their own pace under full cultural expression.
The forum also appealed to the National Assembly to, as a matter of urgency, revisit its decisions on restructuring and resolve the matter in a way that would entrench a new fiscal formula away from the current over-dependence on oil and gas revenue.
The communiqué read in part, “We call on the Federal Government to always exercise restraint in the deployment of troops in quelling civil agitations, which is the responsibility of the police in any democracy.
“Consequently, we call on the Federal Government to reconsider similar operations that the Army is embarking on in the South-West and the South-South geopolitical zones, which are peaceful areas.
“We do not need these exercises, which are seen largely as sheer intimidation and baring of fangs,” the forum stated.
The group pointed out that Nigeria, as constituted, is not a proper federation, “as the structure is over-centralised, unjust and anti-development and therefore unacceptable.”
It added, “There is no gainsaying the fact that this is at the core of the many agitations across the country with some delving into separatist feelings; Nigeria must therefore be grateful to those of us speaking in demand of restructuring of the federation for the restoration of the Federal principles enshrined in the 1960 and 1963 constitutions.”
The statesmen expressed worries over the spate of kidnappings, rapes and extortions across the minority areas of northern Nigeria, which they said had become a major threat after the militia herdsmen menace.
“The fact that these kidnappers are allegedly arrested without trials and non-revelation of their contacts/sponsors and details of their activities suggest possible shielding from the law and a sinister agenda behind their operations,” they stressed.
The forum also condemned forced marriage and conversion of underage girls in non-Muslim communities in violation of Section 38 of the Constitution.
“We equally strongly condemn the incessant invasion by the herdsmen militia, which we believe is aimed at dispossessing our agricultural lands for their settlements and grazing,” the forum stated.
Source: ( Punch Newspaper)