A coalition of northern groups has called on President Muhammadu Buhari to engage in dialogue with Boko Haram and bandits terrorising the country.
Arising from the ‘Northern peoples summit’ convened at Arewa House in Kaduna state, the coalition said northerners have “sunk lower in all indices of human existence” under the watch of the president and other leaders.
The coalition which consists of 17 groups including the Northern Elders Forum (NEF) and Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF) made their resolutions known via a communique issued at the end of the summit on Friday.
They knocked northern leaders over what they described as the “hopelessness” being faced by residents in the region.
“The North invites the attention of President Muhammadu Buhari, Northern Governors and legislators to the fact that under their watch the North has sunk lower in all indices of human existence,” the communique stated.
“Delegates at the Summit commit to continuously engage in searching for solutions, as well as raising their voices against poor governance, corruption and absence of commitment to deal with insecurity, poverty and hopelessness among Northerners. Government should show effective presence in all ungoverned spaces in the North.”
The communique, which was read by Doknan Sheni, chairman of the drafting committee, also supported calls for restructuring, in what is perhaps the first time in years that prominent northern leaders are uniting to support Nigeria’s return to true federalism.
“The North believes that restructuring the country is now a vital necessity for survival as one united entity. The North will not be stampeded or blackmailed into taking major decisions around rotating the Presidency,” the coalition said.
“For Nigeria to survive, all parts of the country must equally commit to supporting its continuation as one entity, without equivocation or subterfuge. The North extends an invitation to groups that are genuinely interested in discussing the future of the country.
“The North believes that every interest can be accommodated in one united, just and equitable nation, but the North cannot be the sole custodian of this endeavour.”
The groups also distanced itself from calls for Nigeria’s breakup, saying that all parts of the country “must equally commit to supporting its continuation as one entity, without equivocation or subterfuge.”
“The North extends an invitation to groups that are genuinely interested in discussing the future of the country. The North believes that every interest can be accommodated in one united, just and equitable nation, but the North cannot be the sole custodian of this endeavour,” they said.
“The North resolves that there should be government-backed negotiations and dialogue with the bandits, Boko Haram and affected communities for effective peace in the North.”
They also warned against the “continuation of demonisation, attacks and killings of Northerners” in southern parts of the country, asking the authorities to ensure the arrest and prosecution of the suspects involved.