Ohanaeze reacts as Arewa youths ask Osinbajo to facilitate Igbo exit

  • N-Delta youths set to shut oil operations over concession of PH refinery

The coalition of northern groups, including the Arewa Youth Consultative Forum, which gave Igbo residents in the North three-month ultimatum  to leave the region, has written to Acting President Yemi Osinbajo to facilitate the process of allowing Igbo to leave Nigeria.

One of the leaders of the coalition and National President, AYCF, Alhaji Shettima Yerima, confirmed this on the telephone to The PUNCH in Kaduna on Monday.

In the open letter, signed by five of the leaders of the groups, the coalition urged the Acting President to ease the exit of the Igbo from Nigeria so that they could have  their dream country, Biafra.

This, they said, should not be through violent means but in a peaceful manner through a referendum.

Those who signed the letter are Yerima; Joshua Viashman (Northern  Youth Vanguard); Aminu Adam (Arewa Youth Development Foundation); Abdul-Azeez Suleiman (Northern Emancipation Network) and Nastura Ashir Sharif (Arewa Citizens Action for Change).

According to the groups, the Acting President should take steps to facilitate the actualisation of the Biafran nation in line with the principle of self-determination as an integral part of contemporary international law.

They added, “We feel that it is risky for the rest of the country, particularly the North, to go on pretending that it is safe for us to co-exist with the Igbo given how deeply they are entrenched in our societies.”

They added that since the principle of self-determination became one of the Charters of the UN, after the World War ll, it was better for the Igbo to go without bloodletting.

The group argued that as the Igbo agitations persisted and assumed threatening dimensions, “we submit that there is the need to ensure that they are given the opportunity to exercise the right to self-determination as entrenched in the aforementioned international statutes to which Nigeria is a signatory.”

They insisted that they were not waging war or calling anyone to violence, but noted that “we nevertheless are also not willing to continue tolerating the malicious campaign and threats of war that the Igbo have continued to wage against us.”

But in its reaction, the apex umbrella for the Igbo, the Ohanaeze Ndigbo, said the North could not drive Ndigbo out of Nigeria.

The Deputy Publicity Secretary of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Mr. Chuks Ibegbu, who spoke to one of our correspondents in Enugu, said Ohanaeze insisted on the restructuring of the country, and not secession.

Stressing that the northern youths lacked the mandate to speak for the Igbo, Ibegbu noted that the Arewa groups were trying to provoke another war in the country.

Ibegbu stated, “In the first place, I want to thank the Acting President for the role he is playing in this situation. He is a peacemaker and he has shown himself to be conversant with the dynamics of leadership.

“The Acting President has told all the parties to allow peace to reign. Igbo are peaceful people; so, we will abide by what he said.

“We are conscious of what the Acting President told the Igbo leaders and the traditional rulers when they visited the Presidential Villa. Therefore, we will not be drawn into taking issue with these northern youths; they are people who have shown themselves to be lawbreakers and warmongers.

“The activities of these Arewa youths have shown that there is more than meets the eye to the ultimatum they gave the Igbo in the North. They simply want to drag the country into another war.”

In the meantime, youths in Niger Delta have vowed to shut down all oil operations in the region over perceived deprivation of the region’s stakeholders from gaining ownership stakes in the controversial concession of the Port Harcourt Refinery even as the Senate suspended the move.

Briefing newsmen, yesterday, in Warri, Delta State under the aegis of  Pan Niger Delta Youth Leadership Forum, PANDLEAF, the region’s youths said Niger Delta was not against privatisation of the ailing refineries towards reviving them, but accused Minister of State for Petroleum, Dr Ibe Kachikwu, of double-speak to rationalize his determination to sell the refinery to the exclusion of host communities.

In a statement by Famous Daunemigha, President and Michael Ekpo, Secretary, PANDLEAF said, “Dr. Kachukwu came out to say they are not planning to concession the refinery but that they are looking for third party financier for re-building of the refinery to the tune of $1.2 billion.

“We were shocked to hear him announcing sale of same refinery in disguise, playing on the semantics of concession to financiers, apparent euphemism for selling the refinery to Agip and Oando, which names have been favoured in an unpopular private bidding. It’s very unfortunate that our leaders speaks from both sides.”

Harping on their rights to economic, social and cultural development as enshrined in the United Nations’ and African Union charters, the region’s youths vowed to resist any attempt to privatise public refineries in the Niger Delta soil without giving the host communities right of first refusal in determination of the ownership of the facilities.

The group stressed: “We shall resist any attempt at bringing any company (Oando and Agip inclusive) in the name of concessioning or third party financier in the business of rebuilding the Port-Harcourt Refinery without the inclusion of companies owned by persons from the Niger Delta.

“We have submitted a memorandum to the Senate Ad-hoc Committee on concessioning of refineries. We have put together a consortium of indigenous investors and corporations with necessary capacity and created a special purpose vehicle for putting together the $1.2 billion  stated by Kachukwu and willing to present all relevant details if requested.

“At this moment, people of the Niger Delta are more than capable of managing the refineries optimally. No external back-up, investor or financier is necessary. In the pursuit of peace and sustainable development of the Niger Delta, these refineries should be given to our people to finance and run.”

Punch with additional report from Vanguard