The Northern Elders Forum (NEF) has accused the federal government of allowing private citizens “known for supporting violence against other ethnic groups” to participate actively in affairs of national interest.
In a statement on Friday, Hakeem Baba-Ahmed, spokesperson of the group, condemned the decision of the federal government to include individuals, “who are supporting threats” to the security of northerners in the south-west, in the peace deal to lift food blockade to the south.
In a meeting held on Thursday in Abuja, Yahaya Bello, Kogi state governor, had helped facilitate an agreement to end the protest by northern traders who had blocked food supply to the southern part of the country.
At the Thursday meeting, Femi Fani-Kayode, a former Minister of Aviation, was also in attendance.
The blockade by the Amalgamated Union of Foodstuffs and Cattle Dealers of Nigeria (AUFCDN) had resulted in scarcity and an increase in the prices of food items in the south — while a supply glut crashed prices in the north.
Speaking on the recent peace deal, the northern elders rejected the involvement of such private citizens, and said the federal government should have taken better charge of the situation.
“The Forum welcomes the decision of the Federal Government to address a major and prolonged grievance of transporters over multiple taxation and extortion on federal highways along the country’s eastern corridor, all the way from Borno, through Adamawa, the states in the south-east, and the south-south,” Baba-Ahmed said.
“The Forum is disturbed by the visible involvement of a private citizen, identified as supporting threats to the security of northern communities in the south-west, in the discussions preceding the resolution of the strike, and the mention of a number of people, who had been instrumental in creating intense hostility around northerners living in the south-west.
“Indeed, some of the persons mentioned as having been contacted to give assurances to northern traders, herders and transporters, have been fingered by the police as being involved in criminal activities against northerners in the south-west.
“The Forum rejects the idea that federal government or its agents could encourage the outsourcing of its duty and responsibility to protect citizens to individuals, who are neck-deep in encouraging violence and corruption of communal co-existence.
“The Forum would rather believe that the involvement of these people was contrived to render its purported intervention valueless. In any case, the involvement of private citizens, who represent existential threats to citizens, in an exercise designed to give them assurances that they could be safe, is abhorrent and unacceptable.
“The Forum recognizes the pivotal role of governors in the south-west as well as other respected leaders of communities working with the federal government to improve the sense of security of all communities.”
Although Baba-Ahmed did not mention any name, Fani-Kayode, a former Minister of Aviation, who was also at the peace meeting, had earlier criticized the blockade and said there would be reciprocation from the south.
In a post on his Facebook page on February 27, the former minister had said the south will also block the supply of oil to the north.
“If the north blocks food supplies to the south, the south will block the supply of oil, refined products and oil money to the north. You touch me, I touch you! You do me, I do you! You Tarka me, I Daboh you! It’s called the law of reciprocity! Never start a dance you can’t finish!” Fani-Kayode wrote.