A coalition of civil society organisations united in ending instability in the country especially in the South-East region has called on all stakeholders to sheath their swords and embrace peace, noting that no amount of civil disobedience including the popular sit-at-home observed every Monday in the region can bring about stability to the region.
The coalition comprising of Rising-Up for a United Nigeria, Empowerment for Unemployed Youth Initiative, Southeast Peace and Development Initiative, Arewa Youth Patriotic Front, Guardians of Democracy and Development, Independent Public Service Accountability Watch and the National Youth Council of Nigeria at a press conference in Abuja voiced their concern over the escalating tensions and disturbing developments in the South-Eastern region of Nigeria and emphasised the dire consequences of the actions, which include economic stagnation, increased violence, loss of life, and irreversible damage.
Speaking on behalf of the group, President, NYCN, Amb. Solomon Adodo, the groups urged swift action to address the escalating turmoil in the Southeast which has been grappling with criminal activities carried out by non-state actors and those claiming to represent various causes.
The coalition, representing over one hundred million Nigerian youth and middle-aged citizens, expressed deep dismay at the situation in the South-East. Drawing parallels with the Boko Haram terrorism in the Northeast.
“It has become highly imperative that these dastardly developments that are retrogressive be condemned and all appropriate measures emplaced to halt and reverse same.
We must alert the public, the security agencies and indeed the International community that all the signs and trappings of the Boko Haram terrorism and sundry menace of terrorism in the Northeast have sadly become evident in the tragic developments in the Southeast. This must therefore be arrested immediately and firmly so”.
Of significant concern has been the enforcement of the Sit-at-Home order by the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) and its affiliates, causing severe economic disruption and social unrest in the South-East. This policy, the coalition observed, has not only stifled businesses but also kept potential investors and tourists away, leading to dire economic consequences. Lamenting the worthlessness of the sit-at-home, the Coalition called “for an end to such counterproductive policies and the rejection of any non-state actor-driven programs or pronouncements”.
In welcoming the cancellation of the sit-at-home policy, the coalition had this to say; “it has come to our notice that Mazi Nnamdi Kanu has also announced the cancellation of the forced Sit-at-Home in the South-East on Mondays or any other days. While we welcome that, we equally reject his declaration of Economic Empowerment Day. This is another veiled threat to the Nigerian State and particularly a sniffling of the freedom of the people of the Southeast. The Economic Empowerment Day and its accompanying activities also has the potential to snowball into another security crises in the geopolitical zone. After all, sit-at-home began as a voluntary activity till it became a compulsory one, foisted on a hapless people and executed by daredevil terrorists. This veiled aggression must therefore be nipped in the bud even before its seeds of discord are planted”, the statement added.
The Coalition also commended the federal government and South-eastern governors’ efforts to counteract the insecurity and disrupt the hold of criminals on the region, emphasizing the need for collective action against criminal elements masquerading as freedom advocates.
“For several years the economy of the South-East has been brought to its crippling knees with the enforcement of the Sit-at-Home order by IPOB and its affiliates. Businesses in the region folded up while investors and tourists avoided the region for the fear of unknown gunmen. The efforts of all stakeholders (government officials and traditional leaders) to put an end to the counterproductive Sit-at-Home policy is a welcome development. The inability of people of the region to go about their legitimate business was very unfortunate. Therefore, security agencies must make sure no pronouncement or policy announced outside those from formal institutions governments must be allowed to stand”, the statement added.
Addressing the issue of Eastern Security Network (ESN) and other militant factions within IPOB, the coalition declared them as criminals and called for their unmasking and apprehension as well as the need to focus on internal factors contributing to the security crisis in the South-East region, cautioning against any externalization of blame.
“The degenerated security situation in the South-East is appalling and this is no longer a time to live in any denial. All stakeholders must note that the Eastern Security Network (ESN) and every other militant arm of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB); known and unknown gunmen are criminals and must be treated as such. In the past, some persons in the zone chose self-deceit by alleging that it was the former President – Muhammadu Buhari – who was using the Fulanis to kill and destabilize the Southeast but months after his departure, the situation has not changed.
“Furthermore, the battle between Nnamdi Kanu and Simon Ekpa is clearly unravelling as an ego war at the detriment of the region. Those funding IPOB from abroad should be made aware of the fact that they are tactically funding terrorism and further bringing down the economy of the region. We must warn again, this is how Boko Haram began and all true lovers of the South-East should rise to halt the dangerous slide”, the statement warned.
While calling for the arrest and prosecution of Mr. Sunday Ekpa for crimes against national security, the coalition appealed for unity, peace, and progress in Nigeria, pledging their commitment both international and local actors towards the peace and progress of Nigeria. They similarly cautioned against any political protests that could escalate tensions during the Elections Petition Tribunals’ proceedings.
“We urge the Federal Government to do everything within its powers and the elasticity of its diplomatic contacts to ensure that Barr. Simon Ekpa is extradited and prosecuted. Mr. Ekpa has sponsored so much acts of terrorism, directed from his safe haven and base in Finland against the South Eastern region. He is a criminal and his merchandize is in terrorism, setting foundation for the crippling of the South-East and adding to Mazi Nnamdi Kanu’s travails. For the sake of justice for the innocent souls killed by his gang of unknown gunmen and sundry criminal rape in the region, he must not go unpunished. For emphasis, we unequivocally restate our commitment to a peaceful, united and progressive Nigeria. We shall make our positions known to the United Nations and other international bodies as stakeholders and partners in progress,” the statement concluded.