*Meeting restate commitment to national unity, end to herders attacks on farmers
By Nwakpa O Nwakpa
A delegation from the federal government led by the Minister of Defence, Maj-Gen. Bashir Magashi (rtd), governors of the five South-East states and other political, religious and traditional leaders in the zone rose from a closed-door meeting on the security challenges confronting the region in particular and Nigeria in general, at the Government House, Enugu, reiterating their commitment to peace, unity and stability of the country.
Addressing newsmen after the meeting, the Defence Minister, Gen. Magashi, disclosed that the delegation will relay the commitment and outcomes of the consultation to President Muhammadu Buhari.
The Minister was accompanied by the Interior Ministry and Service Chiefs, explaining that they were in Enugu for a consultative meeting with leaders of the zone towards finding solutions to rising instability and criminality, at the instance of President Buhari.
He disclosed that they agreed that there were fundamental issues of marginalisation and infrastructural neglect that need to be addressed in the South-East zone.
The leader of the presidential delegation stated that one of the issues is the attack of farmers by herders which leads to conflict, saying such will “be critically analysed to stop this menace all over the country in national interest.
Magashi stated that the second issue was “the problem of marginalization”, stressing it “is well accepted and further discussion will continue after we have met with Mr. President to see their grievances and after the governors will articulate the grievances so that we can have further discussion on them”.
The Minister further disclosed that the delegation endorsed the Community Policing Model of the South-East governors, adding that it “should be encouraged because we have set precedence in the Amotekun in the Western part of the country”.
His words: “We appreciate our discussions. We are most humbled and I think each one 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 encourage us to pursue legitimate ways in which we can bring peace and stability in this country”.
In his address, the Governor of Ebonyi State and Chairman of South-East Governors Forum, Engr. David Umahi, on behalf of the leaders of the zone, restated their commitment to national unity, saying that “this sincere commitment is a new dawn not only to South-East but to entire Nigeria”.
Commenting on the ban on open grazing, Gov. Umahi said: “Just on a very minor specifics for the emphasis of our people, we discussed the issue of ban on open grazing and of course this delegation is in support of this ban on open grazing, and we also informed the delegation that each of the South-East states has laws in this respect”.
The Governors Forum Chairman noted that the commitment of the federal government towards addressing all the issues pertaining to herdsmen in the South-East is very important, stressing that it is the major source of instability in the zone.
He stated that the governors have agreed to articulate all the grievances and concerns of the people of the zone “as spelt out by the Ohanaeze Ndigbo”, saying: “We are happy that there is genuine willingness for further dialogue on such issues”.
Gov. Umahi maintained that Ebubeagu is the only recognized local security outfit in the South-East, stressing that “no other security outfit is speaking for the South-East and Ndigbo”.
According to him, “We are committed to one united Nigeria; we have always mentioned this; all our leaders are committed to this and that is why we read it everywhere, a united Nigeria of fairness, equity and equality of freedom and this we have further expressed.
“Those who dish out hate speeches from our region, threat of violence or secession do not speak for the South-East. We are not for secession; we don’t support it; we don’t call for it.
“We condemn the killings of securitymen and innocent people in the South-East and 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”.
Earlier, Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi of Enugu State described the Town Hall meeting as timely and apt, expressing optimism that the outcome will address the security challenges in the zone.
Gov. 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 of the South-East zone, on the current security challenges, “underscores the centrality of this security responsibility in our consideration”.
Other South-East leaders at the meeting included the governors of Abia and Imo states, Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu and Senator Hope Uzodinma respectively; the Deputy Governor of Anambra State, Dr. Nkem Okeke; the Senate Minority Leader, Sen. Enyinnaya Abaribe; Minister of State for Mines and Steel Development, Hon. Uchechukwu Ogah; President-General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Amb. (Prof.) George Obiozor; former President of the Senate, Sen. Ken Nnamani, Senator Ike Ekweramadu, Deputy Minority Leader of the House of Representatives, Hon. Toby Okechukwu; Speaker of Enugu State House of Assembly, Hon. Edward Ubosi; former Governor of old Enugu State, Dr. Okwesilieze Nwodo; Chief Emmanuel Iwuanyawu, Chief Nnia Nwodo, Chairman of Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), South-East zone, among others.