Political and traditional leaders of Western Nigeria have renewed their push for a speedy review of reports of constitutional conferences, including the 2014 National Conference.
This is happening as their counterparts in Eastern Nigeria, the hotbed of Biafra agitation were in Port Harcourt, the Rivers State capital, to resolve the alleged issue of killing of Igbo youths by the security forces in Oyigbo with Governor Nyesom Wike.
At the Port Harcourt summit were the Chairman of South-East Governors Forum, Governor Dave Umahi of Ebonyi State, his Abia counterpart, Okezie Ikpeazu, Deputy Governor of Anambra State, Dr. Nkem Okeke, a representative of Enugu Governor, President-General of the Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Chief John Nnia Nwodo, Chief Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu, among others.
Security forces in the state are accusing members of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) of hiding under the EndSARS protests to kill security operatives in the state. But the pro-Biafra group has been accusing Governor Wike of ordering soldiers to invade their homes to murder innocent and defenceless Igbo in retaliation.
It is being alleged that around 20 lives were lost in recent clashes between IPOB and security officials in Oyigbo, a boundary town between Rivers and Abia.
At the summit, Eastern Nigeria leaders pressed for improved security and peaceful co-existence of all ethnic groups in the area. They also demanded that the state should equally extend the same compensation offered to families of fallen security personnel, to Igbo families that lost members to the military action in the area.
Governor Wike recently pledged to pay N20 million each to families of soldiers and police killed during the EndSARS protest in the troubled Oyigbo.
The governor, however, claimed at the Port Harcourt summit that he never ordered soldiers to kill Igbo in the area, pointing out that he couldn’t have taken such an action when he has commissioners, personal aides and friends from the place.
In the mean time, in a communique issued after their meeting that was also attended by ministers from the region following the EndSARS protest mayhem in Lagos, leaders of Western Nigeria said reviewing reports of constitutional conferences, including the 2014 National Conference is the way out for the Buhari administration.
In the communique signed by the Ooni of Ife, Oba Enitan Ogunwusi and the Chairman South-West Governors’ Forum, Governor Rotimi Akeredolu of Ondo State, they also called for the implementation of some of the recommendations of the conferences, especially with reference to security, economy and equal treatment for citizens all over the country.
The meeting that was also attended by a presidential delegation led by President Muhammadu Buhari’s Chief of Staff, Prof. Ibrahim Gambari, commended Abuja for its responsiveness to the initial demands of the EndSARS demonstrators and the firm handling of the aftermaths of the protest.
While calling for an adjustment of the security architecture to adequately address the threats and realities of insecurity in the country, they said, ‘’there is need to undertake preventive actions aimed at prevention of repeat of what happened in the country following the EndSARS demonstrators. Security needs to be strengthened in all states.
“We wish to encourage the Nigeria Police by responding to their needs and appeal to them to do more to protect lives and properties and enhance security all over the country. We call for specific measures and proposals to repair damage done to the physical infrastructure and economic assets of the South-West.”
According to them, the prolonged closure of the border had caused economic difficulties for the people of the region. “The border closure should be re-examined to alleviate problems of the people in the border communities and prices of some essential commodities. There is need to review the closure and permit resumption of economic and trading activities.”
For them, a comprehensive programme that will address youth employment and empowerment should be prioritised and ensure closer coordination and complementarity between the states and the federal government.
“In this regard, the curricular of tertiary institutions should be reviewed, with emphasis placed on skills acquisition and entrepreneurship. We urge that every effort should be made to resolve the impasse between ASUU and the federal government so that students can return to school in earnest’’, leaders of Western Nigeria said.
On the destructive and dangerous potency of fake news, the communique called for the use of the 2015 Cyber Act. “We call on Federal Government to use the instrumentality of existing laws and those regulations bench-marked from other countries to provide safeguards against the spread of fake news.
“Federal government should ensure that technology is used effectively for the advancement of the Nigerian Security and not its destruction, by working with the technology cum social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram etc. The regime of checks and gate keeping should be fully employed.”
Equally at the meeting that was hosted by Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu of Lagos State were Inspector General of Police (IGP), Muhammad Adamu and Director General, Directorate of State Security (DSS). The meeting called to evaluate and proffer solution to crisis rocking the region was also attended by governors, all ministers from the region, and paramount rulers.
Governor Akeredolu in his opening remarks said the meeting was called for all the stakeholders in the region to address various challenges facing the region, pointing out that everybody was worried and concerned over recent situation in the region, especially, a peaceful youths protest that later snowedballed into mayhem which Lagos suffered most.
“What we have seen recently in the region in few days, we believe something has to be done. We are still going back to our respective states to meet all the relevant stakeholders as well; such civil society organizations, traders and their various associations, and all the security agencies, we want to find last solution to youths unrest. Everybody here has a role to play in this mission because what we witness was an attack on our heritage”, he said.
Gambari, leader of Federal Government’s delegation, said President Buhari was fully aware of what happened and was putting critical measures in place to check reoccurrence.
While fe said Abuja recognises the need to reform police, Ooni of Ife, Oba Ogunwusi in his remark, charged political leaders not to wait till when there was crisis or election period before meetings with traditional rulers.
He said the monarchs were not competing with political leaders and should be seen as a partner in progress.
Alaafin of Oyo, Oba Adeyemi said the issue on ground was complex and complicated and did not start. He warned that the country cannot progress without restructuring because many things needed to be addressed, especially issue of security structure, resource control and regionalism.
Adeyemi said there was too much power at the centre (federal) and it was affecting individuals, tribe, ethnic, and region. Other monarchs who also spoke on the issue of restructuring, poverty, unemployment, insecurity included Olugbo of Igbo, Oba Akinrutan Obateru, Oba of Lagos, Rilwan Akiolu, Alawe of Ilawe, Oba Adebanji Alabi, Olu of Ilaro, Oba Kehinde Olugbele and others.