Northern elders Forum: Jonathan unfair to our people

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Northern Elders Forum (NEF) and the Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF) yesterday described as “unfair” President Goodluck Jonathan’s declaration of a state of emergency in Yobe, Borno and Adamawa states.

The ACF described the action as an indirect declaration of war on the North.

NEF’s spokesman Prof Ango Abdullahi said the group was disappointed by what he calls the president’s sudden change of tactic on how to resolve the crisis in the North.

”It is very sad for us to see that the President has easily changed direction from dialogue and reconciliation to war in his bid to end the cycle of violence in the North,” Abdullahi said

In a communiqué at the end of its National Executive Council meeting presided over by its chairman, Aliko Mohammed, ACF said the government should not consider the deployment of more troops on the troubled spots as alternative to dialogue.

The communiqué, signed by the Deputy National Publicity Secretary, Fati Ibrahim said ACF would monitor the military campaign in the affected states.

The communiqué reads: “The National Executive Council of the Arewa Consultative Forum met today, the 15th of May, 2013 at its national headquarters on Sokoto Road, Kaduna. The meeting which was presided over by Alhaji Aliko Mohammed, the Chairman, was attended by large delegations from all the states of the North. After reviewing and discussing recent developments in the country, the meeting resolved to issue the following communiqué.

“The ACF takes notice of the proclamation of the state of emergency in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa states by the Federal Government on the grounds that attacks and killings by insurgents and other terrorist groups require more massive military response.

“The meeting was concerned that the President appears to invest more faith in a military solution even where evidence from our experiences so far bears no such optimism. It is the hope of the ACF, therefore, that the Federal Government does not consider the increased military deployments as a superior option or alternative to the slower and more tedious path of dialogue, negotiation and conciliation.

“Given the dismal history of peace-making campaigns by the military all over the world, dispatching battalion after battalion to the field in the hope of combating insurgents or terrorists, sounds naïve.

“In particular, the ACF calls on the military to avoid the temptation of deploying heavy handed tactics or adopting measures that will cause increased civilian casualties and bloodshed under the cover of emergency rule. They are well advised to involve the local populace in their operational plans in order to minimise collateral civilian suffering.

“Even so, under the circumstances, ACF will raise a team that will observe and monitor the prosecution of the military campaign under the new state of emergency. The team will collect information and evidence from the field and determine if at all times, the military campaign is conforming with the published terms of engagement and other human rights conventions to which Nigeria is a signatory.”

The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) yesterday explained that it endorsed the emergency rule because the attacks were capable of breaking-up Nigeria.

In a statement entitled “State of Emergency is Appropriate,” NLC President Comrade Abdulwahed Omar said: “We agree that the level of bloodletting and the co-ordinated and audacious cross-border attacks if not decisively checked are capable of over-running, over-whelming and balkanising the country.”

NLC, said Omar, has resolved that as a pan-Nigerian organisation, every action necessary should be taken to preserve its sovereignty against all acts of terrorism and insurgency.

He urged the government to ensure that the troops and other security personnel adhere to the rules of engagement or be held accountable.

Omar said: “However, we must warn that the government must clearly understand and spell out the rules of engagement to which the troops and other security personnel must strictly adhere or be called to account.

“This is purely an internal security challenge, which if not initially mishandled requires more guile than brawn. It makes little sense for our troops to violate, alienate or annihilate the very populations they are out to protect.”

Omar said the tragic Baga and Bama incidents, which drew global condemnation, were instances to learn from.

The statement reads: “Although government has not dissolved the democratic structures in the affected states, the declaration of emergency should not be a tool for dealing with perceived political enemies.

“The emerging internal security challenges make imperative the need to modernise or re-equip our police force.

“While the Congress insists that government must firmly address the issues of corruption, poverty, illiteracy, disease, unemployment and electoral injustice, it is concerned that the border communities often seem to breed insurgents or offer sanctuary to insurgents.

“We, however, call on workers and the Nigerian people not to despair or panic. We cannot be overwhelmed if we resolve not to be. Even this trying moment shall pass away.”



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