A delegation from the Federal Government and leaders from the South-East, on Friday, met behind closed doors to discuss insecurity and other issues affecting the region.
The meeting comes less than 24 hours after the President, Muhammdu Buhari, threatened tougher military sanctions against secessionists.
In the meeting that lasted several hours at the Enugu State Government House, the South-East leaders aired several grievances affecting the region, including marginalisation and attacks by herders.
The Federal Government’s delegation was led by the Defence Minister, Major General Bashir Magashi (retd).
Magashi admitted that the herder crisis should be treated as a national issue, noting that the leadership of the South-East and the Federal Government would engage in discussion on the complaints of the leaders of the zone.
He said, “Having told them the purpose of being here and having listened to us, we discussed the issue and agreed on the following:
“That the South-East and South-West governors are committed to the unity and stability of this great country. And we are giving them the assurance and confidence that this commitment will be relayed to the Federal Government and, in fact, the Commander-in-Chief.
“Issues raised included the instability and criminality affecting the country in general. And we were happy to discuss the ones that are peculiar to this part of the country. We have agreed that there are fundamental issues that need to be addressed.
“I will just mention one or two for your consumption; one, the herders’ conflict should be seen from the perspective of national interest that should be given the necessary accord to stop the menace all over the country.
“Second, we discussed the problem of marginalisation which I think was well accepted. But further discussions will continue after we have met with Mr President to study the grievances and after the governors articulate their positions, then we can hold further discussions on it.
“We have also talked about community policing which is invoked now in Nigeria by state governments and we are of the opinion that community policing by the South-East governors should be encouraged because we have already set precedence in Amotekun in the Western part of the country.”
Responding on behalf of the South-East leaders, the Chairman, South-East Governors’ Forum, Chief David Umahi, commended the delegation, describing it as a new dawn for the country.
The Ebonyi State governor said, “Our people are very much excited with this commitment and we are very much satisfied. It is a new dawn, not only in the South-East, but also in entire Nigeria.
“We discussed the issue of the ban on open grazing and, of course, this delegation is in support of the ban. We also informed this delegation that each of the states of South-East has laws in this respect.
“The Federal Government has committed towards addressing all issues pertaining herdsmen matters in the South-East. We have also agreed to articulate our grievances, our concerns and position of Ndigbo as spelt out by Ohanaeze for further discussion.”
Umahi stressed that “the Ebubeagu security outfit is the only recognised local security outfit in the South-East,” adding “no other security outfit is speaking for South-East and this is the position of Ndigbo.”
He said the South-East people were committed to a united Nigeria where justice, fairness, equality of freedom and equity are guaranteed.
Those who attended the meeting included the governors of Abia and Imo states, Dr Okezie Ikpeazu and Senator Hope Uzodinma, respectively; Deputy Governor of Anambra State, Dr Nkem Okeke; the Senate Minority Leader, Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe; Minister of State for Mines and Steel Development, Uchechukwu Ogah; President General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Amb George Obiozor; former President of the Senate, Senator Ken Nnamani; Senator Ike Ekweramadu; Deputy Minority Leader of the House of Representatives, Toby Okechukwu; Speaker of the Enugu State House of Assembly, Edward Ubosi; former governor of old Enugu State, Dr Okwesilieze Nwodo; Chief Emmanuel Iwuanyawu; Chief Nnia Nwodo; and the Chairman of the Christian Association of Nigeria, South-East, Bishop Goddy Okafor.