Abuja, Asaba — The leader of Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF) and Chairman of Southern and Middle Belt Leaders Forum (SMBLF), Chief Edwin Clark, yesterday expressed concern over the silence of President Muhammadu Buhari and Northern elders to threats by Fulani jihadists and Miyetti Allah to attack Delta State for supporting the ban on open grazing.
He told reporters in Abuja that given their promptness in reacting to similar threats to herdsmen, he had expected Buhari and the Northern elders to condemn the threats to Delta State.
The group, on Sunday, had given Delta State a 72-hour ultimatum to review its ban on open grazing or risk an attack.
The group stated that it was angered by the fact that the Delta State Governor, Senator Ifeanyi Okowa, hosted the May 11, 2021 meeting of the governors of the 17 Southern states in Asaba, where they resolved to ban open grazing in their domains.
While claiming to be protecting the Uthman Dan Fodio heritage of free open grazing in Nigeria and the entire West Africa sub-region, the group asked Okowa to disown the position of the Southern governors on open grazing of cattle.
The group threatened to attack Asaba and Agbor unless Okowa withdrew his support to open grazing ban.
It also claimed responsibility for last week’s fire at the Federal Secretariat in Asaba, which destroyed the second floor office of the NYSC completely.
But in a counter move, another group, which identified itself as the Movement for the Emancipation and the Defence of the Niger Delta cautioned the self-styled ‘Fulani Jihadists’ group against attacking the state.
Clark, while condemning the silence of the federal government and Northern elders said open grazing was buried for good in all the 17 Southern states.
According to him, the Northern elders who are always quick to accuse Igbo leaders of not publicly condemning the Nnamdi Kanu-led Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) have not deemed it fit to call the jihadists to order.
He expressed concern that less than one week after leaders of thought, traditional rulers and others, including himself, met on the state of the nation, the Fulani jihadists issued a threat to attack Delta State.
He said: “We have watched with restrained patience, the reckless and irresponsible utterances of the so-called Fulani jihadists and the Miyetti Allah, who believe that they own Nigeria from the North to the sea, and, therefore, have the impunity to warn state governments, particularly the Delta State government and governor, to withdraw, within 72 hours, his decision against open grazing, recently taken by the 17 governors of the South, in a meeting held in Asaba.
He said: “We have decided to issue this advice and warning to the federal government and the Fulani jihadists that the people of the Niger Delta will resist in such a way that will make it definitely impossible for the federal government’s security forces to cope with should this action escalate.
“We are reacting because this is not the first time the Fulani and their collaborators have insulted our people. It will be remembered that sometime in 2009, a legislator from Kebbi State in the National Assembly asked the federal government to resettle the people of the Niger Delta in another territory to create a conducive and unhindered atmosphere for the oil companies to operate.
“That we warn, the resulting consequences will be very unpleasant to them. The federal government has continuously condoned them and behaving as if the federal government is the one giving support to these Fulani Jihadists and the Miyetti Allah because what is happening today in Nigeria, which has resulted in unprecedented insecurity and bad governance in Nigeria will be worse if they are not called to order by the federal government within the shortest time possible.
“For some Fulani Jihadists to issue such insulting and provocative 72 hours’ notice to the governor of Delta State, without the federal government and the elders of Northern extraction ever calling them to order, is most disappointing, considering that the same Northern elders were quick to accuse Igbo leaders of not publicly condemning IPOB.
“Such impudence of the Fulani Jihadists will no longer be tolerated. They even claimed responsibility for the burning/bombing of the secretariat in Asaba, which also houses the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) Office.”
He said the decision on open grazing and other decisions are taken on national interest by the 17 Southern governors received the full support of the people of Southern Nigeria, particularly the leadership of Ohanaeze Ndigbo of the South-east, PANDEF of the South-south and the Afenifere of the South-west.
He stated: “We will no longer tolerate hate and divisive statements targeted at deriding and insulting others, from these Fulani who believe Nigeria is exclusively theirs and other Nigerians are their subjects, and not their fellow citizens.
“I repeat, on behalf of Southerners, that open grazing has been finally buried in Southern Nigeria. For Mr. President to insist that open grazing should continue whereby he asked the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, to dig out the gazette that approved open grazing in the First Republic is unbelievable, unpatriotic and unacceptable to our people.”
Clark also explained how far critical stakeholders have gone in addressing the crisis rocking the country, saying that “in order to maintain and promote a peaceful Nigeria, I was among other 50 prominent Nigerians, including former heads of state, traditional rulers, former chief justices, that met for nine hours, under the leadership of former President Olusegun Obasanjo, recently on Thursday, 11th June 2021, at the Conference Hall of the Transcorp Hilton Hotel, Abuja, where valuable decisions were taken to maintain and sustain the unity of this country.”
Clark told Buhari to regard himself as president of one Nigeria, and not as president of the Fulani or the Northerners, adding that Nigerians shall resist, at all cost, any attempt to subjugate them.
He cautioned the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami, against what he described as his irresponsible and unprofessional language, which he said is misleading the president.
He said: “I also use this opportunity to seriously advise the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, over his irresponsible and unprofessional language, which is misleading and misdirecting Mr. President. Because the rhetoric question Mr. President asked during his interview with ARISE Television, whether Nigerians want him (Mr. President) to contradict the Attorney-General of the Federation, was based on his understanding of the AG’s advice to him.
“The AG’s position is provided for in the constitution and he is expected to be independent of parochial and unconstitutional government decisions. He behaves as if his position is that of a minister of justice alone.
“This was the reason why at the 2014 National Conference it was recommended that the post of the Attorney-General recognised by the constitution should be separated from that of the minister of justice who owes his allegiance to the government in power that appointed him.
“Perhaps, Mr. President is not aware, or he has not been advised by the AG that the Land Use Act, which vested ownership of land on the state governor is entrenched in the constitution of the country. Therefore, any gazette or law passed by any State or National Assembly is and will be null and void because the 1999 Constitution supersedes all such laws or gazette notices.
“The President has no power or authority to impose open grazing on state governments. Such illegal actions which are a breach of the 1999 Constitution will not be accepted and will be legally resisted at all costs.
“Therefore, any law banning open grazing by state governments is not only legal and binding but is unchallengeable and binding on any person or group of persons, including the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.”
Clark, however, appealed to the president to call for national dialogue over insecurity and general violence, with Nigerians of various ethnic nationalities, adding that the various calls by groups for secession and breakup of the country are not healthy.
He said the Buhari needed to have a peaceful government until his exit from office in 2023, and canvassed the restructuring of the nation and return to a federal system of government as it was in 1963, before the military took over in 1966.
MEND Warns ‘Fulani Jihadist’ Group against Attack on Delta
Meanwhile, a group, which identified itself as the Movement for the Emancipation and the Defence of the Niger Delta has cautioned a self-styled Fulani jihadist group against attacking Delta State.
The group warned of dire consequences should the Fulani or Usman Dan Fodio heritage leadership group carry out their threat to Delta and the governor, after the three-day ultimatum.
In the statement titled, “Response to the Fulani Threat to Okowa on Open Grazing by Southern Governors” and signed off as “Dragon War, MEND”, the group said: “We are warning that if your threat is made to come to fulfilment, No Fulani will ever exist across the Niger Delta and all oil facilities linked to a Fulani will be brought down. If one soul is lost, 10 Fulani souls will pay for it. If one facility is destroyed, 10 Fulani facilities will be destroyed. We will respond proportionately ten times whatever you give, the corresponding response will not be limited to the Delta, it may be with your politicians or with your rulers.
“We will launch three rocket launchers and ballistic missiles at any facility of our choice as a warning in seven days if you make bold your threats.
“We don’t make cheap our threats. We have shut down the country and we can at any time shut you down. We are the Niger Delta. We stand for the interest of the Niger Delta and we will not allow any coward to threaten us. We fight without running. Be warned!”
However, the Delta State Police Command, in a statement by its spokesman, Mr. Bright Edafe, a Deputy Superintendent of Police, waved off the reported threat by the faceless group, describing it as inconsequential and something to simply ignore.
The statement by the police advised the people in the state to go about their lawful activities without fear of intimidation or attacks from any quarter.
The police attributed the source of the leaflet reportedly posted at different conspicuous points at Agbor and Asaba, including on walls near the Government House, as the handiwork of miscreants who were intent on creating panic among law-abiding residents in the state and escalating insecurity in the country.
The statement said the police were unwavering in their commitment to the security of lives and property of the people of Delta State.