Seventeen southern governors met on Tuesday in Asaba, Delta State and called on President Muhammadu Buhari to convoke a national dialogue to resolve all the contentious issues heating up the polity.
They also called on President Buhari to address the nation on the spate of insecurity in the country.
But an elder statesman from the North, Alhaji Tanko Yakasai, said there was no conference that will solve Nigeria’s problems at the moment and advised the federal government to revisit previous conferences, pick issues that would unite the country and then implement them.
There have been agitations in various quarters over deteriorating security in the country and the need for Buhari to speak out. Different geopolitical sections of the country are asking for different things, including secession, resource control, restructuring, among others.
While reiterating their loyalty to the unity and indivisibility of Nigeria during their meeting in Asaba, the 17 governors, drawn from the South West, South East and South South, highlighted the areas the national dialogue should dwell on.
They underscored the need to brainstorm and agree on restructuring, state police, revenue allocation formula and true federalism.
The governors during the meeting which started at about 12 noon and ended about 4.20 pm urged the federal government to organise the dialogue as a matter of urgency.
They also resolved to completely ban open grazing across Southern Nigeria.
They were however silent on the activities of Independent People of Biafra (IPOB) members in the region.
The 12-point communiqué
The Forum, in a 12-point communiqué read by its Chairman, Governor Rotimi Akeredolu of Ondo State affirmed that the people of Southern Nigeria remain committed to the unity of Nigeria on the basis of justice, fairness, equity, oneness, and peaceful co-existence.
According to him, “Southern governors expressed very grave concern on the security challenges currently plaguing the nation and strongly urged that Mr President should address Nigerians on the challenges of insecurity and restore the confidence of our people.
“We observed that the incursion of armed herders, criminals, and bandits into the southern part of the country has presented a severe security challenge such that citizens are not able to live their normal lives including pursuing various productive activities leading to a threat to food supply and general security.
“Consequently, the meeting resolved that open grazing of cattle be banned across southern Nigeria; agreed that the progress of the nation requires that urgent and bold steps be taken to restructure the Nigerian Federation leading to the evolution of state police, review of revenue allocation formula in favour of the sub-national governments and creation of other institutions, which legitimately advance our commitment to and practice of true federalism.
“In view of widespread agitations among our various peoples for greater inclusiveness in existing governance arrangements, the federal government should convoke a national dialogue as a matter of urgency.”
The forum expressed concern on the continued gridlock on the Oshodi-Apapa Expressway and recommended the activation and establishment of ports in other states of the federation to create new jobs and promote socio-economic activities in the country.
Governors that attended the meeting included that of Delta, Ifeanyi Okowa; Ekiti, Dr Kayode Fayemi; Rivers, Nyesom Wike; Edo, Godwin Obaseki; Ogun, Dapo Abiodun; Oyo, Seyi Makinde; and Lagos, Babajide Sanwo-Olu.
Others were the Governor of Bayelsa State, Douye Diri; Abia, Okezie Ikpeazu; Enugu, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi; Ondo, Rotimi Akeredolu; Ebonyi, David Umahi and Anambra, Willie Obiano.
Governor Hope Uzodinma of Imo and his counterpart in Akwa Ibom, Udom Emmanuel, were represented by their deputies while those of Osun and Cross Rivers states were absent at the meeting.
Buhari approves new security measures for S’East, S’ South
President Buhari has endorsed new security measures to tackle the challenges of insecurity in the South East and South South geo-political zones of the country.
The Acting Inspector General of Police (IGP), Usman Baba, announced this on Tuesday while briefing State House reporters after the National Security Council meeting presided over by President Buhari in the presidential villa, Abuja. The acting IGP briefed reporters alongside National Security Adviser (NSA), retired Major-General Babagana Monguno; Chief of Defence Staff, General Lucky Irabor; and Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina.
Baba, however, did not disclose details of the new security measures apparently in compliance with new directive announced by the NSA that operational strategies must now be kept secret.
Daily Trust reports that scores of police operatives have been killed by the Eastern Security Network (ESN), the armed wing of the outlawed IPOB while many police stations and other symbols of authority have been attacked in the South.
The acting IGP said the meeting of the National Security Council held three times in two weeks “shows the premium the president and the administration has placed on security issues.”
Baba said the meeting assessed the situation in the country, particularly in South East and South South, as it affects law and order.
He said: “We have some measures, which we have outlined and have been approved by the Council and we will see how we can change the narrative within the quickest possible means to restore law and order and restore peace in that area.
“We solicit all law-abiding citizens to work with us to identify and deal with the situation. That is that I may not go into the details of how we will do that.”
While also briefing and fielding questions, Monguno said the meeting also approved a memo he presented on the control of drugs, which he said are enablers of insecurity.
“Again, the President has given direction on how to make these things effective. Already, the Nigeria Communication Commission (NCC) has been given certain instructions on how to deal with this, but by and large, the Council has agreed that the level of insecurity in the country, especially in the last one month is something that has to be addressed with the immediacy that it requires and at the operational level, of course, the chief of defence staff has been working with the service chiefs and the recommendations they have made to the Council are already being handled.”
General Irabor, while speaking, said: “No doubt, far-reaching decisions were made. On our part, just as the national security adviser indicated, I briefed on various measures that the armed forces, in partnership with other security agencies, the measures we have taken to stem the tide of insecurity across the country.”
Police bars operatives escorting VIPs to S’East
In a related development, the Nigeria Police Force has ordered its personnel attached to Very Important Persons (VIPs) and government officials to stop following their principals to the South East region of the country till the security situation of the area improves.
It said asking police operatives not to go to some parts of the South South region became imperative sequel to deteriorating security in the region.
A police wireless signal from Delta State Command by the Commissioner of Police, Department of Operations with reference: DTO: 101054/05/2021, said the politicians and other VIPs will be on their own till further directives.
‘‘Sequel to the incessant attacks on policemen/snatching of arms and ammunition by the proscribed IPOB/ESN elements in the eastern states of Abia, Anambra, Ebonyi, Enugu, Imo, state and Rivers State, Commissioner of Police, Department of Operations, directs you warn personnel that escort of their principals to the six eastern states is suspended forthwith until the security situation improves. Ensure strict compliance please,’’ the signal read.
Confab needless – Yakasai
An elder statesman and First Republic politician, Malam Tanko Yakasai, told Daily Trust that convoking another conference will be a waste, as he suggested revisiting reports of previous conferences.
“I don’t support holding any national conference. The government can appoint a committee to look into the recommendations made by the previous national conferences and pick the ones they consider appropriate to promote national harmony and deal with issues not considered by the previous conferences,” he said.
Yakasai also expressed fears that instead of ameliorating tensions, another conference at this time may only escalate tensions.
“Prevailing situation in the country is not conducive for any national conference. I doubt if there are many issues that have not been dealt with by the previous conferences. A new national conference will be a mere opportunity for troubleshooters to use in aggravating tension and overheat the polity. No useful purpose a new national conference will be served,” he said.
President should honour growing calls – Don
A political scientist and public affairs commentator, Prof. Jibril Ibrahim said it is time for President Buhari to accede to the increasing demands for Nigerians to sit on a dialogue table, as suggested again by the southern governors yesterday.
“I think this is an opportunity for the president to respond and he should respond positively,” he said by telephone yesterday.
Ibrahim said such a conference will provide an opportunity for Nigerians to discuss and iron out burning issues and forge a better future for the country.
“There has been this agitation for restructuring. We are not sure what it is that they want to restructure, through the conference we can place this issue on the table and see what it is that is needed to be done and how,” he said.
Southern govs have secessionist agenda- Abdullahi Adamu
On his part, A former chairman of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF), Senator Abdullahi Adamu, said there was nothing wrong in the recommendations of the southern governors but that the method they adopted to reach out to the president was subversive and secessionist.
Adamu, a ranking lawmaker, in a phone interview last night, said the formation of the Southern Governors Forum (SGF) at a time the country was facing separatist movement was wrong.
He said the southern governors were playing to the gallery of the promoters of the separatist movement.
“We have had this from them at various times as individuals. They have the right to express opinions on governance in Nigeria but what I have difficulties in understanding is why apart from being members of the national council of state, they have a forum for governors…Why this discriminated attitude? Why this secessionist attitude and why this separatist attitude? Why did they now aggregate themselves as southern governors? This is very secessionist, separatist and this is most unfair to the collective will of the country,” he said.
Daily Trust reports that the call by the southern governors is the latest in the clamour for a national conference, with agitators outlining different proposals for the form and goals for the dialogue.
The Yoruba socio-political umbrella, Afenifere had at different times tasked the government on the need to convoke a constitutional conference to set the tone for restructuring of the country.
But last month, presidential spokesperson, Garba Shehu said there was no basis for the convocation of a national conference.
Speaking at a function at the APC National Secretariat, Shehu urged pro-conference agitators to approach the National Assembly with their request for the resolution of the national question.
He said there was no agenda at the national conference that would be difficult for the parliament to handle because it is made up of elected representatives of the people.
From Victor Sorokwu (Asaba), Muideen Olaniyi, Abdulaziz Abdulaziz, Ismail Mudashir & Idowu Isamotu