COMMUNIQUÉ ISSUED AT THE END OF A CRUCIAL MEETING OF THE SOUTHERN AND MIDDLE BELT LEADERS’ FORUM (SMBLF), HELD IN ABUJA, ON WEDNESDAY, 24TH MAY 2023
A crucial meeting of the Southern and Middle Belt Leaders’ Forum (SMBLF) was held on Wednesday, 24th May 2023, in Abuja. The meeting which was chaired by elder statesman, Chief Edwin Clark, OFR, CON, had in attendance leaders of the component organizations: Afenifere for the South West, Ohanaeze Ndigbo for the South East, Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF) for the South-South and the Middle Belt Forum (MBF) for the Middle Belt.
2. Delegations of the constituent organizations were respectively led by Chief Ayo Adebanjo, Leader of Afenifere (South West); Chief Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu, CFR, President-General, Ohanaeze Ndigbo Worldwide (South East); Dr. Pogu Bitrus, President, Middle Belt Forum (Middle Belt); as well as Senator Emmanuel Ibok Essien, FNSE, National Chairman, Pan Niger Delta Forum, PANDEF (South-South).
3. Delegates to the meeting who were drawn from former Governors, Ministers, Federal and State legislators, Community leaders, top politicians and professionals from the Southern and Middle Belt regions, had Oba Oladipo Olaitan – Deputy Leader Afenifere, General Lawrence Onoja rtd., former Military Governor of Plateau and Katsina States, Potter L. Dabup, D.I.G (Rtd.), Chief John Nnia Nwodo, former Minister of Information & former PG Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Ambassador Okey Emuchay, MFR, Secretary-General Ohanaeze Ndigbo, HRM Dr. Eze Ibe Nwosu, Amb. Eddy Onuoha, Chief Dr. Simon Okeke, former Chairman of Police Service Commission, Amb. Dr. God knows Igali, OON, FNAH, Professor G. G. Darah, Chief Barr. Sola Ebiseni – Secretary General, Afenifere, Dr. Akin Fapohunda, Chief Supo Shonibare, Professor Charles Nwekeaku, Dr. Alex Ogbonnia, Dr. Ene Ede, Elder Mac Emakpore, Prince Maikpobi Okareme, Engr. Ben Akaakar, Hon. Jonathan Tsaku, and Dr. Ken Robinson, among others.
4. The meeting deliberated extensively on the present state of affairs in Nigeria, especially the renewed siege of insecurity around the country, the ongoing post-election judicial process in the various Tribunals and the national economy.
5. At the end of the discussions, the SMBLF resolves as follows:
On the State of the Nation
Restates its time-tested position that the future of Nigeria can only be sustained on the basis of true federalism and respect for the autonomy of the federating units.
Express shock at the escalation of killings, pogroms, total destruction of entire communities and means of livelihood in several targeted areas in select states since after the 2023 General elections, mainly in Plateau, Benue, Nasarawa, Taraba, Southern Kaduna, Kebbi, and various states of the South East, where hundreds of armless citizens are being slaughtered daily.
Notes with grave concern that the nation’s security agencies have continued to show unwillingness to decisively deal with the perpetrators of these monstrous acts, or rather, deliberately turned a blind eye to the atrocious occurrences, thereby exposing the country to a seeming state of war. It is shameful that non-state actors are allowed to openly tote dangerous weapons about and rampage the country unhindered.
Condemns, in unmistakable terms, the cavalier and totally nonchalant attitudes of the outgoing governors of some states over the collapse of security in certain parts of their states, which has continued to exacerbate the worrisome situation, and hopes their successors will show greater commitment to the welfare of their citizens who are the victims of this sad situation.
Further warns that the continuous abdication of Government’s primary and abiding constitutional responsibility of safeguarding the lives and properties of its citizens is an irresistible signal to Nigerians to exercise their inalienable rights of self-defense, by all means.
Again deplores the inhuman plight of thousands of indigenous people in the Middle Belt states driven out of their homes and have now become Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) for years as well as several other Internally Displaced Persons in different parts of the country, left to live in conditions that impinge on their human rights as citizens of this country. Hence, calls on the Federal Government to, without any further delay, facilitate the return and reintegration of these Nigerians to their Communities.
Outcome of the 2023 General
With regards to the 2023 General elections, SMBLF commends Nigerian youths for their courage and astuteness in expressing their interest in the future of this country and calls on them not to become discouraged by some of the seeming outcomes.
Accordingly, calls on the youths of Nigeria to remain undeterred and emboldened to carry their foresight of building a new Nigeria to fruition, and to note that the STRUGGLE FOR THE NEEDED CHANGE has just begun.
The Judicial Process
SMBLF strongly urges the Nation’s Judiciary to be aware that all Nigerians are watching with very keen interest the ongoing judicial processes at the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal as well as various election tribunals across the country.
Further cautions the judicial arm, at all levels, to be mindful of the fact that the present process is a true test of our effort at building a country based on rule of law and respect for our constitution. It is the expectation of Nigerians that the outcome of the processes will be a reflection of the provisions of the Constitution of the country, which must be sacrosanct, and the rights of all affected parties upheld based on the provisions of the laws of Nigeria.
SMBLF commends the various parties for subjecting themselves to the expected judicial processes in line with the Constitution and the Electoral Laws of the country.
On the Economy
SMBLF notes with serious concern, the continued snowballing level of indebtedness being incurred by the Federal Government, particularly the recent request for $800 million World Bank loan, and calls on the Federal Government to rescind that request.
Decries the rising cost of living in the country and the hyper inflation rate, confining a vast majority of ordinary Nigerians to a dire state of survival. Implores government at all levels to take urgent, practical steps to rejig the economy, check inflation and help improve citizens’ well-being and prospects.
6. General Issues
The meeting congratulated Chief Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu over his emergence as the President General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo Worldwide.
The meeting eulogized its National Leader, Chief Edwin Clark on the occasion of his 96th birthday on Thursday, 25th May 2023.
The meeting observed moments of silence for the memory of the late President General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Amb. Prof. George Obiozor, CON; the late leader of the Middle Belt, Commodore Dan Suleiman, and late Senator Inatimi Rufus-Spiff, who was Chairman of the Bayelsa State Chapter of PANDEF.
7. The meeting was held in an atmosphere of peace and collective commitment to the decisions.
8. DONE IN ABUJA, THIS 24TH DAY OF MAY 2023.
Chief (Dr.) Edwin Kiagbodo Clark, OFR, CON – Leader
Chief Ayo Adebanjo – Leader, Afenifere
Chief Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu, CFR – President-General, Ohanaeze Ndigbo Worldwide
Dr. Pogu Bitrus – National President, Middle Belt Forum
Senator Emmanuel Ibok Essien, FNSE- National Chairman, PANDEF