A major blow was on Sunday dealt to a national security summit scheduled for Minna, the Niger State capital, on Monday as the Southern and Middle Belt Leaders Forum pulled out of the event being organised by the National Peace Committee, headed by a former head of state, General Abdulsalami
The summit is part of means to tackle the insecurity threatening the unity of the country.
In a joint letter by the Southern leaders, addressed to General Abubakar, they gave their reason to boycott the summit, stating that it was a grave insult on them for the organisers to have categorised them with the “Gan Allah Fulani Development Association and the Miyetti Allah.”
They categorically said the classification sent a serious signal, recalling the “narrative that put us in the same bracket with those wielding illegal AK-47” across the country.
“While we do not know the members of the first group, the lumping of Miyetti Allah, a trade association for cattle herders and whose members have been accused of various violations of rights, including life, across the country sends a worrying signal to us.
“It falls into the categorisation of our respected socio-cultural platforms with Miyetti Allah by the presidential spokesman, Garba Shehu.
“We consider the above a grave insult on our bodies and our coming to a roundtable with the group would mean acquisence to the narrative that put us in the same bracket with those wielding illegal AK-47 all over the country and inflicting terror on fellow citizens.
“Even if the above was not the case with Miyetti Allah, bringing a trade group like them in the same vehicle with the nationalities organisations would not have been appropriate as there are organisations of their category for fishermen, farmers, spare parts dealers and poultry owners, among others, across Nigeria who are not invited.
“Towards this end, we decline participation in the roundtable as scheduled without prejudice to your peace-building effort which is appreciated,” the Southern and Middle Belt leaders replied the Abdulsalami-led peace committee.
The letter was signed by the leader of the Pan-Niger Delta Elders Forum (PANDEF), Chief Edwin Clark; leader of the pan-Yoruba group, Afenifere, Chief Ayo Adebanjo; president of the Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Chief John Nwodo and the leader of the Middle Belt Forum (MBF), Dr Pogu Bitrus.
The summit, with the theme: “Roundtable on National Issues and Security,” is expected to begin Monday and end Tuesday.
Other categories of representatives expected at the summit included heads of security agencies; traditional rulers, former diplomats, politicians, industrialists and leaders of mass-based cultural groups.
The Southern leaders, in their reply, said: “We individually received your invitation to the above event holding in Minna between July 29 and 30, 2019. We thank you for your interest in the affairs of our country which made us to accept your invitation in good faith.
“It was in the thick of our preparations for the journey that fuller details of the round-table came to our attention, some aspect of which has necessitated this last-minute communication with you.
“We observed that the roundtable will have in attendance all the national security heads, Chief of Defence Staff and notable Nigerians, under-scoring the high level of the consultations.
“We, however, noticed further that in your category of sociocultural organisations invited, you listed the following: PANDEF, Afenifere, Ohanaeze, Middle Belt Forum, Arewa Consultative Forum, Northern Elders Forum. We were comfortable up to that point until we saw the following: Gan Allah Fulani Development Association, Miyetti Allah.
“While we do not know the members of the first group, the lumping of Miyetti Allah, a trade association for cattle herders and whose members have been accused of various violations of rights, including life, across the country sends worrying signal to us.”
The leaders regretted any inconvenience the decision might cause the organiser.
Those invited for the summit from the North include General H. Akilu, Professor Auwalu Yadudu and General Ibrahim Haruna, while the name of the representatives for the North-Central were Professor Ango Abdullahi, General Martin Agwai, Professor Ibrahim Gambari, Archbishop Fearon and Bishop Matthew Kukah.
Leaders expected from the South-South were Ambassador Ignacious Olisemeka, Professor Epiphany Azinge, Ambassador Joe Keshi and Chief Edwin Kiagbodo Clark; while those of the South-East were Professor Kingsley Moghalu Professor Ikechukwu Madubuike, General Collins hekire, Professor Anya O.
Anya, Chief Emeka Anyaoku and Dr George Obiozor. For the South-West, the list included Chief Ayo Adebanjo, Lieutenant-General Alani Akinrinade, Professor Bolaji Akinyemi and Ambassador (Dr) T
Ambassador Tokunbo Awolowo Dosumu. Traditional rulers expected at the summit were the Shehu of Borno, Abubakar Ibn Umar Garba El-Kanemi; the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Muhammad Sa’ad Abubakar; the Emir of Kazaure, Alhaji Najib Hussaini Adamu; King Alfred Diete-Spiff and the Emir of Minna, Alhaji (Dr) Umaru Faruk Bahago.
The list of representatives from the industry included Mr Tony Elumelu and Dr Oba Otudeko.