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Onitsha pro-Biafra protests: Northern governors move to avert spread, sue for peace

Governor Kashim Shettima of Borno State
Governor Kashim Shettima of Borno State

ABDULLAHI ISAH, Maiduguri

Following Wednesday’s violence that led to the alleged burning of places of worship in the commercial city of Onitsha in Anambra State, the 19-member Northern Governors Forum, Thursday, approved undisclosed security measures with a view to averting spread of violence to the northern parts of the country.

Chairman of the Northern Governors’ Forum, Kashim Shettima of Borno State, who spoke through his media adviser, Mallam Isa Gusau said the governors, particularly those of major cities were in touch with one another and had taken some firm measures aimed at averting any spill-over.

Shettima said the governors took the undisclosed measures, following media reports claiming that worship places were torched during the Wednesday violence in Onitsha.

It would be recalled that the three-week-long pro-Biafra protests turned bloody, Wednesday, resulting in the killing of many protesters by police with many reportedly injured in Onitsha, the commercial city of Anambra State. The protesters were pressing for the release of detained Director of Radio Biafra, Mr. Nnamdi Kanu.

The statement by the Northern Governors, read by Governor Shettima condemned the Onitsha violence without blaming any individual or group and appealed for calm, saying ‘all Nigerians must realize that the evil being perpetuated by the Boko Haram insurgents against innocent Muslims, Christians and followers of other religions regardless of their geo-political divides since the last six years, was more than enough trouble for the country and hence the need to come together as a single unit to collectively fight terrorism that is a threat to all law abiding Nigerians.’

“We condemn the Wednesday crisis in very strong terms. We have been in touch with one another today. The Governors of major cities in the north in particular, have been in critical touch to share thoughts and we have collectively taken firm measures to ensure that the violence doesn’t spread to any part of the 19 northern states”, the forum said.

Continuing, the forum said: “We will also be working with our colleagues in the south to nip the crisis in the bud. But we will not disclose the measures we have taken so that those who may want to take advantage of the Onitsha mayhem don’t know our strategies.”

“It is surprising to the Northern Governors Forum that any Nigerian at all can even contemplate any kind of violence when we already have serious problems of Boko Haram insurgents that are killing Muslims and Christians, killing northerners and southerners, attacking mosques, churches and markets, in an effort to kill all of us that do not subscribe to their interpretation of Islam. We have Boko Haram that kills Hausa, Fulani, Ibo, Yoruba, Kanuri, Ijaw and anyone they are able to come across.”

“We thought that the existence of Boko Haram should have been enough to make all Nigerians fuse into one and fight a common enemy. It is really sad that any Nigerian can contemplate violence. We are not blaming any individual or group because there are security agencies whose job it is to safeguard lives and property and do investigations where necessary, we will not go into their duties.”

“We beg all Nigerians to be calm and go about their duties in peace. We have got more than enough problems to worry about. We can’t afford any distraction that will shift our focus from the bigger problems of Boko Haram that has an ambition of sending the human race into extinction. We urge all Nigerians to be calm.

“We particularly call on all Nigerians living in the northern states not to pay attention to differences in religion and ethnicity but rather, should see each other as Nigerians with equal residential rights and fundamental human rights that include freedom to lawfully reside anywhere in Nigeria, freedom of worship, movement, trade, association, education, healthcare and other rights as provided by the Nigerian constitution.

“We particularly call on our youths not to allow anyone use them for any purpose because youths have suffered more than any other age category from the hands of Boko Haram insurgents and that is more than enough. Our focus should be on how to end the Boko Haram insurgency and not to be driven into any other crisis.

“We have suffered too much, we must say no to any crisis. As heads of Government of the 19 northern states, we will by the grace of God, do everything humanly possible to ensure that no resident, regardless of his or her ethno-religious background, is denied any of these rights. As Nigerians, we are one, we need one another and we must live as one people” Shettima spoke on behalf of the Northern Governors.

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