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Why we dumped peace summit – Southern, Middle Belt leaders

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AFP PHOTO / PIUS UTOMI EKPEI

• Afenifere, Ohanaeze, PANDEF, others fume at inclusion of Miyetti Allah
• Say herders’ body only trade group, not regional organisation
• Want Abdulsalami Abubakar to exclude cattle breeders before involvement

Leaders from some parts of the country will not participate in the national security summit organised by former Head of State Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar (rtd). Yesterday, they turned down the invitation by the former head of state to the roundtable on national issues, including security, scheduled to hold in Minna, Niger State today and tomorrow.

The leaders, under the aegis of the Southern and Middle Belt Leaders Forum (SMBLF) disclosed that they had bought air tickets and concluded arrangements to travel by air to Minna yesterday. But they said that they were compelled to dishonour the invitation in a last-minute decision when they discovered the inclusion of Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association (MACBAN) of Nigeria among those invited.

In a statement by Chief Edwin Clark of the Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF); Chief Ayo Adebanjo of the Yoruba socio-cultural group, Afenifere; Chief John Nwodo of the Igbo socio-cultural group, Ohanaeze Ndigbo; and Dr. Pogu Bitrus of the Middle Belt Forum, SMBLF said it could not be at a roundtable to discuss issues of security with the MACBAN.

The southern and Middle Belt leaders, in a letter dated 28/07/2019, acknowledged the invitation from Abubakar and thanked him for his interest and intervention in the affairs of the country, which they noted made them to accept the invitation in good faith.

They, however, said: “It was in the thick of our preparations for the journey that fuller details of the roundtable came to our attention, some aspects of which have necessitated this last-minute communication with you.

“We observed that the roundtable will have in attendance all the national security heads, chief of defence staff and other notable Nigerians, underscoring the high level of the dialogue. We, however, noticed further that in your category of socio-cultural organisations invited, you listed the following: PANDEF, Afenifere, Ohanaeze, Middle Belt Forum, Arewa Consultative Forum and Northern Elders Forum.”

The SMBLF leaders said they were comfortable with the names of the six invited organisations until they saw Gan Allah Fulani Development Association and Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria.

“While we do not know the members of the first group, the lumping of Miyetti Allah, a trade association for cattle herders and whose members have been accused of various violations of human rights, including the right to life, across the country sends worrying signal to us. It falls into the categorisation of our respected socio-cultural platforms with Miyetti Allah by presidential spokesman, Garba Shehu.

“We consider the above a grave insult to our bodies and our coming to a roundtable with the group would mean acquiescence to the narrative that put us in the same bracket with those wielding illegal AK-47 all over the country and inflicting terror on fellow citizens.

“Even if the above were not the case with Miyetti Allah, it would have been inappropriate to put nationality organisations in the same vehicle with this trade group as there are organisations for fishermen, farmers, poultry owners and spare parts dealers across the country like such who are not invited. Towards this end, we decline participation in the roundtable as scheduled without prejudice to your peace-building activities,” the SMBLF leaders said.

They expressed regret for any inconvenience that their decision might have caused Gen. Abubakar “as we know the efforts that go into planning an event like this.”

“Be assured of our cooperation in all efforts and dialogues to make Nigeria peaceful, secure and forward moving provided they are organised in a way that does not subtract from our dignity and value. Once again, we appreciate all your efforts,” the group commended the former military ruler.

Attempts to reach Gen. Abubakar for reaction yesterday failed.

However, in separate telephone conversations with the spokesmen of the Afenifere and the Middle Belt Leaders Forum, Mr. Yinka Odumakin and Dr. Isuwa Dogo, they said if the former head of state agreed to remove the Miyetti Allah from the list of groups whose members would attend the meeting, “we will also be present.”

“But there is no way we would agree to sit and discuss issue of security with a group that has owned up on the national television and the media to the killings of innocent souls.”

Dogo said it was embarrassing and degrading in the first instance for Gen. Abubakar to have included MACBAN “and expected our respectable organisations to sit and deliberate with them.”


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