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FG, Southeast leaders meet, reject agitation for secession

By Daniel Anazia (Lagos) and Mansur Aramide (Gombe)
12 June 2021   |   3:37 am
A delegation of the Federal Government led by Minister of Defence, Maj-Gen. Bashir Magashi (rtd) and the governors of the South East states rose from a closed-door meeting, yesterday...

Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi of Enugu State (right), Governor of Ebonyi State and Chairman of South East Governors Forum, David Umahi; Abia State Governor, Okezie Ikpeazu; Imo State Governor, Hope Uzodimma; Deputy Governor of Anambra State, Nkem Okeke; Minister of Defence, Maj. Gen. Bashir Magashi (left) and others, during a security meeting of the Federal Government’s delegation with leaders of political, religious and traditional institutions in the South East geo-political zone, held at the Government House, Enugu… yesterday

A delegation of the Federal Government led by Minister of Defence, Maj-Gen. Bashir Magashi (rtd) and the governors of the South East states rose from a closed-door meeting, yesterday, rejecting agitation for secession and reiterating their commitment to peace, unity and stability of the country.

The meeting, which was held at the Government House, Enugu, was also attended by political, religious and traditional leaders from the zone.

Addressing newsmen after the meeting, Magashi said the delegation would relay the resolutions reached to President Muhammadu Buhari.

Other members of the delegation include Interior Minister, Rauf Aregbesola and the service chiefs.

Magashi said they were in Enugu at the instance of President Muhammadu Buhari for a consultative meeting with leaders of the South East zone on the issues of ‘instability and criminality.

According to him, the meeting agreed that there are fundamental issues, including the herders/farmers conflict, that need to be addressed in the South East region.

The Defence Minister said the issues would “be given the necessary accord to stop this menace all over the country, from the perspective of national interest”.

Magashi revealed that the leaders also discussed “the problem of marginalisation.”

“It was well accepted. Further discussion will continue after we have met with Mr. President to see their grievances and after the governors would have articulated the grievances so that we can have further discussion on them,” Magashi said.   

The delegation endorsed the community-policing model of the South-East governors, saying “it should be encouraged because we have set precedence in the Amotekun in the Western part of the country.”

“We appreciate our discussions. We are most humbled and I think each of us; the governors, the elders, the religious leaders were able to say one or two things.

“We would put our heads together to see that peace and stability of this nation are brought back to normalcy in no distance time.

“We are appealing to the media to report the positive side of government and encourage us to pursue legitimate ways in which we can bring back peace and stability in this country,” the minister said.

In his address at the meeting, Governor of Ebonyi State and Chairman of South-East Governors Forum, David Umahi, on behalf of the leaders of the zone, restated their commitment to national unity, saying “this sincere commitment is a new dawn not only to South East but to entire Nigeria”.

On the ban on open grazing, Umahi said: “We discussed the issue of ban on open grazing and this delegation is in support of the ban on open grazing. We also informed the delegation that each of the South-East states has laws in this respect”.

He stressed the need for Federal Government’s commitment to addressing all the issues pertaining to herdsmen in the South East.

The governors agreed to articulate all the grievances and concerns of the people of the South East as spelt out by Ohanaeze Ndigbo. “We are happy that there is a genuine willingness for further dialogue on such issues”.

Umahi maintained that Ebubeagu is the only recognised local security outfit in the South East. “No other security outfit is speaking for South East and this is the position of Ndigbo.

“We are committed to one united Nigeria; we have always mentioned it that all our leaders are committed to this and that is why we read it everywhere. We are for a united Nigeria of fairness, equity and equality of freedom.
“Those who dish out hate speeches from our region, the threat of violence or secession do not speak for South East. I repeat we the South East people are not for secession, we don’t support it; we don’t call for it.

“We condemn the killing of security men and innocent people in the South East. The governors are doing everything possible to ensure the safety of our people. We are supporting the security agencies. We finally appeal to our people to continue to engage our youths to eschew violence,” the Ebonyi governor said.

Earlier in his opening remarks, Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi of Enugu State described the meeting as timely and apt, expressing optimism that the outcome would address the security challenges in the zone.

Ugwuanyi, who stressed the need for all government structures to uphold the security and welfare of the people as the primary purpose of government (enshrined in the 1999 Constitution), said that the consultation with the service chiefs and critical stakeholders in the South East zone on the current security challenges, underscored the centrality of the issue. 

He thanked President Buhari for sending the delegation to the South East to consult with the leaders of the zone.

The meeting was also attended by Governors of Abia and Imo states, Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu and Hope Uzodinma; Deputy Governor of Anambra State, Dr. Nkem Okeke; Senate Minority Leader, Enyinnaya Abaribe; Minister of State for Mines and Steel Development, Uchechukwu Ogah; President General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Prof. George Obiozor; former Senate President, Ken Nnamani; Senator Ike Ekweramadu; Deputy Minority Leader of the House of Representatives, Toby Okechukwu; Speaker of Enugu State House of Assembly, Edward Ubosi; former governor of old Enugu State, Dr. Okwesilieze Nwodo; Chief Emmanuel Iwuanyawu; Chief Nnia Nwodo; Chairman of Christians Association of Nigeria (CAN), South East, among others.

Meanwhile, IGBO Delegates Assembly (IDA) has dissociated itself from the call for a Republic of Biafra.

IDA is an association of Igbo in the 19 northern states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT.)

Rising from a two-day meeting in Gombe State, the group charged security personnel to fish out and “deal with secessionists anywhere in Nigeria.”

In a nine-point communiqué issued at the end of the meeting by the group and signed by its National President, Chief Chi Nwogu, IDA posited that there could never be a better disunited Nigeria. “Drummers of ‘break Nigeria’ are mere tools in the hands of disgruntled politicians. We reiterate our stand as one Nigeria and hereby, in our strictest terms, condemn the activities of the secessionists in this country.”