The Igbo Women Elders Council, an affiliate of Ohaneze Ndigbo, has called on all residents of South East to give peace a chance in the region, issuing a 90 days ultimatum to South East governors to pass and sign into law, an anti-open grazing bill in their respective states.
The group, comprising women above 60 years from Igbo speaking communities across the country, also called on the federal government to restructure the country to ensure true federalism or conduct a referendum for the South East residents to vote to remain in the country or not.
They stated these at an international press conference at Awka, Anambra State capital, on Tuesday, April 27, 2021, which was addressed by Chief Mrs. Chika Ibeneme.
While rejecting the recent asylum offered by the British government to south easterners, the women urged Britain to rather pressurize the federal government of Nigeria to restructure the country to give all citizens a level playing ground and a sense of belonging.
Parts of the address and their demands reads:
• As an immediate remedial measure before the situation gets out of hand, the Federal Government must, without further delay, demilitarize the South East Region and its key outposts, including its named gateway neighbours by ending the current military and police siege in the region. We therefore demand immediate withdrawal of all the deployed military and police personnel on our roads, boundaries and other strategic locations in the entire South East.
• We call on the federal government to immediately end the policy of flooding our land and its outposts with compromised Muslim military and police commanders. This must be reversed while all the top officers we have identified above must be transferred out of the South East States and its boundaries. To ensure effective policing in any region, the percentage of non-indigenous Military and Policing officers, including senior officers, must be drastically reduced to 30% so as to allow indigenous officers to fill the remaining 70% of the total slots or positions and give the indigenous citizens of the region a true sense of security and safety.
• All killer herdsmen, clandestinely aided and protected by federal security forces who have now permanently settled in farmlands, bushes and forests in our land and our key neighbouring states must be moved out and relocated back to wherever they were brought from. Most of these killer herdsmen are foreigners, which President Muhammadu Buhari once confirmed that they are not Nigerians. If they are not Nigerians, why is the federal government’s armed forces protecting and guarding these killers? We therefore demand that the federal government must immediately begin repatriating these non-Nigerians to enable our farmers go back to their farms.
• The Federal Government must discontinue its clandestine policy of turning Southern and Middle Belt Nigeria into Sharia or Caliphate colony and respect the country’s secular status as enshrined in Nigerian constitution. All armed forces must therefore vacate their security cordons in all parts of Igbo land because we have discovered that the cordons by security agencies are part of the clandestine oppressive strategy to keep Igbo land occupied to ease penetration by some Jihadists elements to permanently occupy the land and a source of dishonest enrichment for security personnel manning these extortionist cordons.
• The Federal government must ensure that the constitutional rights of citizens to freedom of residency and movement, as well as ownership of property in any part of the country, is no longer misconstrued and misinterpreted as these guaranteed rights are only practicable in strict conformity with the country’s Criminal laws and procedures. The exercise of such rights must conform to Chapter four of 1999 Constitution and the ratified and domesticated African Charter on Human and People’s Rights Act of 2004, including rights of citizens of the country to peacefully and nonviolently reside in urban residential areas anywhere in Nigeria and to own moveable and immoveable properties. The Constitution does not guarantee any citizen right to live violently in another’s farmland or bush or forest and settle in same with small arms and light weapons and engage in terrorism and gang rapping of the residents.
• The Nigerian Government must immediately begin reversal of the top security appointment imbalances and return to Constitutional Sections 10, 14 (3), 42 and 217 (3) in balancing the appointments and postings.
• We call on South East Governors to immediately begin consultations with critical indigenous stakeholders to draft an anti-open grazing and odd hours grazing prohibition bills and get them passed into law by the Houses of Assembly of the South East Region states.
• The South East states must institute a special probe panel to criminally investigate countless massacres in Igbo communities with a view to fishing out the perpetrators and bring them to book or hand them over to International Criminal Court (ICC) for international prosecution and victims of their atrocious activities adequately compensated.
• The Federal Government must immediately end the ongoing crackdowns on our sons and other innocent citizens who are being deliberately labeled as IPOB members and killed by security forces whereas the insecurities in Nigeria are creations of Nigeria’s 1999 constitution, which has continued to be a lie unto itself when it says “We the People….”.
Nigeria is ripe for a people’s constitution and true federalism.
• We demand the immediate release of all Igbos in secret detention facilities since 2020 and hundreds of citizens of Anambra, Imo, Abia, Ebonyi and Enugu States who are residents of Obigbo in Rivers State, including Citizen Elvis Chigbu and 109 others detained without charges since six months ago and presently held at the Nigerian Army Commando Base in faraway Bida, Niger State.
• South East Governors must genuinely enter into credible negotiations with Igbo youths to avert a major calamity waiting to happen in the South East if the current security situation is not handled with care. The governors of eastern region must convene a regional security dialogue with IPOB and all youth groups. If governors and Islamic clerics are meeting and dialoguing with bandits in the north, why is our governors not holding talks with unarmed citizens in the region to find lasting peace in the South East?
We therefore, call on the federal government to address reasons behind calls for agitations in the region and not to use force to suppress them.
The South East governments should stop the ongoing rape of women in the region by killer herdsmen. While this is going on, security agencies are killing our sons. This must stop!
We call on the federal government to meet our demands within the next 60 days while the South East governors are hereby given 90 days to meet their own part of our demands, including the passage and signing into law the anti-open grazing bill.
If our demands are not met within the stipulated time, Igbo women have their own way of tackling such crisis wherever they may be. If on the other hand, good sense prevails, and we hope and pray that the federal and State Governments adhere to this call and not push us, the South East women further to the wall, we will cooperate and work acidulously to bring peace to the South East region and Nigeria in general.
We, hereby, appreciate British government, for the recent asylum offer to the Igbo speaking people of Nigeria, but we, the Igbo women, have unanimously rejected the asylum by the United Kingdom in its entirety. The asylum offer was meant to remove the remaining Igbo men and open up our land for herdsmen to further occupy.
How come that Britain held a referendum and exited the European Union (EU) but refuses to support the self-determination agitation by Igbos or put pressure on the Federal Government of Nigeria to restructure the country?
Our demand from the British government is to pressurize the Federal government to immediately restructure the country and give all regions a sense of belonging and a level playing field.
We also demand for Igbo Presidency, where in 2023 all political parties must field an Igbo presidential candidate to offer the voters array of choices to make. The emergence of a President of Nigeria of Igbo extraction is the only peace and economic revival in Nigeria.
We call on President Muhammadu Buhari to as a matter of urgency relieve his Minister of Communication and Digital Economy, Sheikh Isa Ali Pantami of the huge responsibility he is wielding to answer for all the atrocities committed against the Nigerian State. The Minister openly admitted that he was a fundamentalist at his younger adult age but today, he has reformed. No amount of reformation can bring a fundamentalist to reason correctly.
Nnamdi Kanu is our son, we cannot disown him or wish him away. We may not like or endorse his over aggressive style but no Igbo man can fault his demands for justice in the South East. Therefore, if Sheikh Gumi could negotiate with bandits who are terrorizing, maiming, killing, kidnapping people in the North, we can as well negotiate with our son, Nnamdi Kanu.
At this juncture, it must be understood that the unrest in the South East region is the aftermath of several years of marginalization and injustices against the people.