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Show commitment to peace in Southeast, religious, traditional leaders urge FG

By Leo Sobechi, Abuja
07 March 2022   |   4:31 pm
The Nigerian Government has been tasked to demonstrate a serious commitment to the restoration of peace and security in the Southeast geopolitical zone so that non-state actors do not take over the civil space. Making the call in a joint statement, Monday, the Southeast Council of Traditional Rulers, representatives of Igbo Archbishops and Bishops, frown…

The Nigerian Government has been tasked to demonstrate a serious commitment to the restoration of peace and security in the Southeast geopolitical zone so that non-state actors do not take over the civil space.

Making the call in a joint statement, Monday, the Southeast Council of Traditional Rulers, representatives of Igbo Archbishops and Bishops, frown at the Presidency’s handling of the insecurity in the zone.

Signatories to the resolution after their meeting include His Majesty, Igwe Charles Mkpuma, (Chairman, Ebonyi Traditional Rulers Council (TRC); His Majesty Eze Joseph N. Nwabeke, (Chairman, Abia TRC); His Majesty Obi Nnaemeka Achebe CFR,( Chairman, Anambra TRC); HM Igwe Amb. Lawrence Agubuzu OON, (Chairman, Enugu TRC) and Hm. Eze Dr. E. C. Okeke (Chairman, Imo TRC).

Others are, Most Rev. Dr. Anthony Obinna (Emeritus Catholic Bishop of Owerri); Most Rev. Dr. Emmanuel Olisa Chukwuma, OON, (Anglican Archbishop of Enugu); Mos Rev. Dr. Chibuzo Opoko TFG, (Methodist Archbishop of Umuahia); Most Rev. Dr. Valerian M. Okeke, (Catholic Archbishop of Onitsha); Most Rev. Dr Uma A. Onwunta, (Past Principal Clerk Presbyterian Church Nigeria) and Bishop Obi Onubogu, (Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria).

They recalled how it intervened for peace when confronted with the escalation of insecurity in the zone and were concerned that the response of those in authority were failing to stem the tide of violence, especially in the run-up to the last Anambra State guber poll.

“The public appeal on Sunday, 30th October 2021, (was) for de-escalation and suspension of the IPOB sit-at-home order. We undertook extensive behind-the-scenes consultations with all relevant stakeholders. The response to the appeal by political actors in committing to a peaceful election, as well as by IPOB in cancelling its seven-day sit-at-home order, paved the way for the peaceful Governorship election in Anambra State,” the group noted.

While thanking all stakeholders for the respect accorded to it in that regard, the leaders disclosed that “in a bid to sustain the momentum gained, on November 3, 2021, the Joint Body wrote a letter to the President, Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Nigeria, His Excellency, Muhammadu Buhari (GCFR), requesting an audience.”

It regretted, however, that three months after seeking audience with the President, “the Presidency has neither acknowledged receipt nor responded to the letter.”

The statement added: “It is puzzling that the President and the South-East Governors appear to be ignoring the demonstrated value of dialogue and consensus-building in finding a lasting solution to the region’s security issues.

“As leaders who are continuously required by our burden of service to interface with the populace, the Joint Body is desirous of confirming the sincerity and commitment of the Federal Government, in particular, to find a lasting solution to the security crisis.

“In anticipation of the audience with the Federal and State Governments, however, the Joint Body has continued fastidiously with its engagement with stakeholders across the dimensions of the conflict and ensuing insecurity, a rigorous fact-finding and data-gathering exercises, and bridge-building through dialogue and moral suasion.”

The joint body tasked the President and State Governors to grant audience to it “as requested so that all hands can be on deck towards restoring peace and security in the region while improving the welfare of its citizenry.”

The council explained that the “purpose of the request was to dialogue and explore avenues for peace-building, douse the tension in the Southeast to ensure it does not result in a grave socio-economic burden on our people.

“The joint Body fears that further delay or inaction on this request may have the unintended consequence of giving credence, albeit erroneously, to the belief by some groups in the region that restoring peace and stability is not the primary goal of the Federal Government.

“In the same vein, genuine efforts made through the Chairman, Southeast Governors’ Forum to dialogue with Southeast Governors have so far also met a brick wall. Taken together, the shuttered silence gives room for suspicion and presents ominous portends if left unattended to.”