by Achadu Gabriel, Kaduna
Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF) has said it will soon organize a meeting with leaders of Ohanaeze Ndi Igbo, Afenifere and South-South leaders to discuss the lingering issues in the country that have tended to pitch ethnic and regional groups against each other.
The forum also expressed satisfaction with the recent stand of the Southeast Leaders and Governors on the violent agitation for secession from Nigeria by the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) and Eastern Security Network (ESN).
ACF disclosed this in a communiqué issued at the end of the National Executive Council (NEC) meeting held at its headquarters in Kaduna on Wednesday.
The forum, in a communiqué presented by its national chairman, Chief Audu Ogbeh, also commended two Northern Governors, Senator Atiku Bagudu of Kebbi State and Professor Umara Zulum of Borno State for “demonstrating unusual courage” in their fight against terrorism in their states.
ACF thus urged other governors in the north to demonstrate similar bravery in the fight against insecurity that is ruining everything that the north has always stood for.
The forum also praised the gallantry of the country’s fighting forces who, against all odds, have continued to risk their own lives in the fight against banditry and insurgencies.
“The Forum expressed satisfaction with the recent stand of the Southeast Leaders and Governors on the violent agitation for secession from Nigeria by the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) and Eastern Security Network.
“Forum also expressed satisfaction that Igbo Elders have finally disowned the agitators and called on the elders to take concrete measures to ensure that such agitations come to an end.
“The ACF notes that, the Southeast Leaders called on Northern leaders to protect their indigenes, who are living in the North. We wish to assure them that all Ibos, who are living in the North, are guaranteed their personal security; sometimes they enjoy a security which even Northerners do not enjoy.
“On the other hand, we have received reports on a daily basis of Northerners, ordinary citizens, who are earning their daily lives as nail cutters, suya makers, shoe-shiners, onion sellers, are being bullied, beaten and even killed. We hope these ordinary Northerners are given the same protection we have given the South-Easterners in our midst.
“In the very near future, the Forum hopes to meet with leaders of Ohanaeze Ndi Igbo, Afenifere and South-South leaders to discuss the lingering issues in the country that have tended to pitch ethnic and regional groups against each other,” it stated.
On the economy, the Forum regretted the high rates of interest charged on bank loans in the country. According to the Forum, the interests charged by banks on commercial loans are so high that instead of promoting business, they are killing all indigenous business enterprises.
“No business can function in Nigeria or anywhere without a friendly environment of loaning from banks. We call on the government to intervene, because the collapse of businesses has direct links with unemployment and insecurity.”
It also stated that, “ACF wants to commend the Federal Government for the effort it is making to improve the state of the infrastructure in the country. The fact, however, remains that the northern part of the country – with the largest proportion of land (over 75%) and the highest number of population – is definitely not getting its fair share of the new infrastructure being developed,” it added.
On Food Security, the Forum stated that, it’s not happy with the scant attention paid to Animal Husbandry by States and Federal Government in the country. “Animal Husbandry alone accounts for 6% of our Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Nigeria spends $1.6 on importation of milk alone. If animal husbandry is well harnessed, it will save Nigeria this large expenditure.
“Many Nigerians are not aware that those involved in the business of animal husbandry are themselves victims of insecurity. Their cattle are often rustled and they are kidnapped for ransom, too.
“There is need to encourage alternative means of dispute resolution, as those involved in farmers/herdsmen clashes are rural illiterates, who sometimes are not comfortable with the police and the modern court system but would prefer traditional way of resolving issues.”
The Forum also regretted that a laudable program, like the Nomadic Education, embarked on during the Babangida administration has been abandoned. There is need to revive and expand this laudable programme so that the pastoralists, who have been profiled, exploited, abandoned and left behind by the modern society, will also acquire skills to live in harmony with their brothers and sisters in Nigeria.
On Local Governments, it state that, this tier of government is not being allowed to work and the failure is having a devastating effort on the security architecture of the country.
“They must be allowed to work, and ACF calls strongly on the Federal Government and the State Governments to allow the Local Government to perform the roles and functions they were constitutionally created to perform,” it lamented.
The forum chairman also said that, given the realities of the time over issues of security, food scarcity, drug abuse, he urged members of the Forum to adopt more proactive measures in addressing problems facing the North and the Nation.