A prepared text of a press conference addressed by the groups was signed by the leaders of the various groups.
Those who signed the groups’ statement are Nastura Sharif (Arewa Citizens Action for Change); Amb. ShettimaYerima (Arewa Youth Consultative Forum); Aminu Adam (Arewa Youth Development Foundation); Alfred Solomon (Arewa Students Forum); Abdul-Azeez Suleiman (Northern Emancipation Network) as well as Joshua Viashman (Northern Youth Vanguard).
“We are also telling our brothers (northerners) out there in the South-East to get prepared to come back home,” Yerima had said.
The National President of the Northern Emancipation Network, Abdul-Azeez Suleiman, who read the text of the press conference, alleged that the Igbo had become a threat to the unity of the country.
The Force Headquarters spokesman, Jimoh Moshood, in an interview with one of our correspondents, said the police were still searching for the northern youths who issued the ultimatum.
On Wednesday, El-Rufai had ordered the immediate arrest and prosecution of the leaders, saying the call by the groups could destabilise the country.
But while the police said they had yet to make any arrest, the youth in a statement on Thursday dared the force by insisting on their ultimatum.
They, however, said they had no plan to resort to violence.
Explaining the efforts of the police to arrest the youth leaders, the police spokesman stated that police operatives were “looking for them.”
“We are looking for them. They are not sitting in the market waiting to be picked up,” he said.
When asked how long it would take to nab the youth leaders, Moshood said he was issuing a statement that would address the issues.
The Kaduna police command spokesman, Aliyu Usman, said there was no update on the matter.
“We have no statement to make, if there is any development, I will tell you. No arrest yet,” he said.
When asked if the police were reluctant to arrest the youths, Usman simply said he would speak when there was an update.
Also, the Inspector-General of Police, Ibrahim Idris, while responding to questions from journalists at the Force Headquarters, Abuja, on Thursday, said the police had yet to arrest the northern youth leaders.
Idris spoke during his monthly conference with assistant inspectors-general of police, commissioners of police and other senior officers.
The IGP stated, “We have no arrest yet. As Commissioners of Police and Assistant Inspectors-General of Police, we have the responsibility to stop this group of persons from carrying out their threats.
“I want us to be at alert to ensure that such persons or groups were stopped at all cost from carrying out their threats. No individual has the authority to stop anybody from looking for his daily bread.”
In a statement late on Thursday, the police called on Igbo in the North to disregard the ultimatum by the northern youths.
The statement by the Force spokesman, Moshood, was however silent on the expected arrest of the group members for making inciting statements.
The force said it was monitoring closely the activities of the various northern youth groups, warning them against acts that could precipitate tension and violence.
Youth leaders maintain threat, slam Kaduna, Borno govs
But the groups, which issued the quit threat on Tuesday, urged the Federal Government to begin the process of actualising the South-East’s clamour for Biafra.
Related: Defend Yourselves, Ohanaeze Youth Wing Tells Ndigbo In The North
The five groups, in a statement by their spokesman, Abdul-Azeez Suleiman, insisted on their ultimatum to the Igbo to move out of the 19 northern states.
The groups said the statement on Thursday was meant to clarify their stand on the controversies that the ultimatum had generated.
The coalition also berated El-Rufai and Borno State Governor, Kashim Shettima, for not supporting their cause, saying the two governors took sides because of their “blind ambition for the vice-presidency.”
El-Rufai and Shttima had, on Wednesday, condemned the threat by the youth, noting that the northern governors had taken measures to guarantee the rights of all Nigerians living in the 19 states in the northern geopolitical zones.
Speaking for the youth leaders, Suleiman said, “We are disappointed by the treacherous positions assumed by governors Nasir El-Rufai and Kashim Shettima, who, in pursuit of their blind ambition for the vice-presidency, chose to side with the secessionist Igbo against the interest of peace-loving Nigerians.
“The governors are known to be waiting in the wings for Mr President to die, so they can further their plots to seek the Presidency.
“We are irked by the hordes of lies issued by Shettima, ostensibly on behalf of the 19 northern governors, in which he referred to us as faceless. Shettima has disconnected from reality.”
The groups stated that they had never called on anybody to embark on violence as a means of conflict resolution.
They added, “We restate our determination and commitment to ensuring that the North will never partake in any contrived arrangement that would still have the Biafran Igbo as a component.
“We reiterate our call on Nigerian authorities and recognised international bodies such as ECOWAS, the AU (African Union) and the UN (United Nations) to hasten the initiation of the process for the final actualisation of the Biafran nation and, with it, the excision of the Igbo out of the present federation.
“We urge the Federal Government, as a matter of urgency, to initiate the process for a peaceful referendum to allow the Igbo to go. Let them go.”
All attempts to get a reaction from El-Rufai’s Senior Special Assistant on Media, Samuel Aruwan, proved abortive due to a bad telephone connection. He had yet to respond to a text message as of 9 pm on Thursday.
The spokesman of Borno State Governor, Mallam Isa Gusau, said the governor would not take issue with the youth.
“If there is no nation, where do you realise your ambition. Governor Kashim Shettima and the rest of his colleagues are foremost interested in the existence and unity of Nigeria,” he stated.
Meanwhile, the Arewa Consultative Forum said on Thursday that it was not a party to the coalition’s decision, adding that the ACF stood by its earlier statement.
The ACF National Publicity Secretary, Muhammad Ibrahim, in an interview, said, “Our stance has not changed. We would not encourage any act that is not in conformity with the law by any group or individuals which will do no one any good. We appeal for caution over unguarded utterances that can jeopardise the unity and corporate existence of Nigeria.”
Northern groups can’t decide for other Nigerians –Ohanaeze
Reacting to the latest statement by the coalition, the Deputy Publicity Secretary of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Mr. Chuks Ibegbu, told one of our correspondents that the Northern groups had no right to speak or decide for other Nigerians.
Ibegbu also stressed that Ohanaeze, as a body, did not want the break-up of Nigeria, but a restructured Nigeria.
The Ohanaeze chieftain stated, “One thing they (Northern groups) should know is that they are not speaking for the Niger Delta; they are not speaking for the Middle Belt; they are not speaking for the South-West, who have all spoken out to condemn the ultimatum given to the Igbo to leave the North.
“They have no moral duty to decide for other parts of the country.
“They should be made to understand that threats of separation started with the North. In 1950, during the Ibadan conference, the North threatened to secede if not given half of the seats in parliament. Again, after the counter-coup in 1966, the North threatened to secede until they were assured that power is now in their hands.
“Biafra is not an Igbo thing; every Nigerian is a Biafran. The Biafra agitation is a cry against injustice. Even geographically, Biafra is not an Igbo thing; it has never been an Igbo thing.”
Afenifere backs referendum
On its part, the pan-Yoruba socio-cultural group, Afenifere, endorsed the demand for a referendum to determine the future of the country.
Its National Publicity Secretary, Yinka Odumakin, stated that a referendum was the right thing to do, but chastised the northern youths for insisting on expelling the Igbo from the North.
He said, “There is nothing wrong with organising a referendum, there is no section in Nigeria today that would not want a referendum on the future of Nigeria and that’s a civilised way of doing things.
“In Quebec, Canada, how many times have they organised a referendum and now they even called it liberendum. If they (northern youths) had called for this, nobody would be against them, but to first say you are expelling the Igbo and now calling for a referendum, is an after-thought.”
Work together to resolve differences –UN
The United Nations expressed concern with the ultimatum issued by some youths in the North.
“We have to work together to resolve peacefully any concerns that different groups in the country may have,” says the UN Resident Coordinator in Nigeria Mr Edward Kallon.
“I am heartened by reactions of leaders from all over the country condemning this ultimatum.”
The global body called for tolerance and a spirit of togetherness in transparency to address the concerns of all the citizens in a peaceful manner, urging that no one should be left behind in the quest for sustainable development.
In a statement by the National Information Officer, United Nations Information Centre, Oluseyi Soremekun, on Thursday, the UN urged cultural and religious leaders to play their part in guiding the youth to settle differences peacefully.
Nigerians have rights to live anywhere –Jonathan
Also, former President Goodluck Jonathan, on Thursday, said every Nigerian had a right to live anywhere they pleased in the country, calling on citizens to tailor their thoughts, utterances and action towards the preservation of this right.
Jonathan, who stated this in a post on his Facebook wall, was apparently reacting to the ultimatum reportedly issued by some northern youths that the Igbo living in the North should leave within three months.
In his post, Jonathan stated, “As Nigerians, we should all tailor our thoughts, actions and utterances to promote this and other rights.
“We are all brothers and sisters born from the womb of mother Nigeria. There are no stillbirths or unwanted births from our mother. We are all one and equal and it is the responsibility of all men of goodwill to appeal for calm and unity in our beloved country Nigeria.”
Arewa Youth Forum faults ultimatum insists on united Nigeria
The umbrella body of all youth groups in the North, the Arewa Youth Forum, however, condemned the three-month ultimatum issued to the Igbo.
The group insisted that Nigeria belonged to all Nigerians irrespective of tribe or religion.
The National President of AYF, Alhaji Ibrahim Gambo-Gujungu, said while the Arewa groups that issued the ultimatum had the constitutional right to free association and expression , issuing such an ultimatum to the Igbo would not only be viewed as a threat but also as inciting the public.
He stated, “If it was the belligerent action of the IPOB, MASSOB and others that made the Arewa groups to issue such ultimatum, they should know that many among the Igbo frown on the activities of these dissident Igbo groups.
“We have many Igbo in the North living peacefully; they have invested massively in northern states, we even inter-marry. So, I see no reason why the seeming fault of Nnamdi Kanu should be a reason to force an unceremonious relocation of peaceful and law-abiding Igbo in the North.”
Reps ask FG to place security agencies on the alert
In its own reaction, the House of Representatives, on Thursday, condemned the northern youth groups over the October 1 deadline they gave all Igbo in the North to quit the region.
It also asked the Indigenous People of Biafra and the Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra to withdraw their directive to the Igbo to comply with the deadline.
At a session presided over by the Speaker, Mr. Yakubu Dogara, lawmakers suspended their rules to pass the resolution, condemning all the youth groups under matters of urgent public importance.
A Peoples Democratic Party member from Lagos State, Mr. Oghene Emma-Ego, had moved the motion, seeking the urgent intervention of the House.
Members wasted no time in passing the motion and specifically asked the Federal Government to intervene by ensuring that the northern youths did not carry out their threat.
The resolution stated, “The House calls on all security agencies to be on the alert in order to prevent unscrupulous elements from taking advantage of the two unpatriotic calls and avert disaster.
“The two calls will lead to loss of trillions of dollars, dislocation of lives of people who have lived in different parts of Nigeria for several decades because people cannot carry their houses, properties, business from their abode in a short frame of time.”
Reacting on Thursday, the Speaker, Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly, Mr. Onofiok Luke, described the ultimatum by the northern youths as “a high level of insult.”
Speaking in Uyo, the Speaker said the call was an insult to the sensibilities of not just the people of the South-East, but also to Nigerians in other parts of the country.
Luke said this while receiving a delegation from a foremost socio-political group in the state, the ‘1 for 8 Initiative’.
He stated that Nigeria had gone past the stage where people should be holding tenaciously to tribal differences.
Southerners will retaliate, says Fani-Kayode
Also, a former Minister of Aviation, Chief Femi Fani-Kayode, warned the youth, who issued the ultimatum to the Igbo on Tuesday to weigh the consequences of their actions because “they are playing with fire that will consume them.”
Fani-Kayode in a statement on Thursday, said the killing of Igbo residents in the North would lead to a swift, immediate and devastating retaliation throughout the south.
The ex-minister added, “Any pogrom or slaughter of Igbo in the North will lead to a swift, immediate and devastating retaliation throughout the south.
“The northern youths must be warned and told in very clear terms. This is not 1966.
“Those that gave the Igbo ‘notice to quit’ in the North are playing with fire and that fire will consume them.
“They are plunging us into darkness and we shall enter that darkness together. Nigeria belongs to us all.
“I urge the core Muslim northern elders and leaders to caution their youths before they spark off a series of events and crisis that may not only lead to a second civil war but will also lead to the end of Nigeria.”
‘Ignore threat to quit North’
In his reaction, the Eze Ndigbo Kano, Chief Boniface Ibekwe, advised the Igbo in Kano to ignore the threat, saying the threat lacked the northern elders’ support.
Ibekwe stated, “I believe, and based on my understanding as a major stakeholder in the North, the northern leaders are never in support of the threat; so they should ignore it and go about their day-to-day business and activities.’’
Also, youths in Plateau State, on Thursday, dissociated themselves from the ultimatum.
While calling on Nigerians to speak against such threats and work towards national unity, integration, peace and prosperity of the country, they also demanded the arrest and prosecution of the youth leaders by security agencies.
The Convener, Plateau Youths G-17 Peace and Progressive Forum, Dachung Bagos, told journalists in Jos, that such threats should not be taken lightly.
Bagos said, “The call is inimical, retrogressive and irrational to the fragile and relative peace the country is enjoying and capable of heating the polity and springing violence which could hinder peaceful coexistence.
“We call on security and law enforcement agencies to swing into action by ensuring that those youths that issued such threat and their sponsors are arrested and prosecuted according to the law of the land.”
In a similar development, the Ijaw Youth Congress described the insistence on a notice to quit to Igbo people in the North by some northern youths as a ploy by such youths to loot the massive investment of the Ndigbo in the area.
The IYC President, Mr. Eric Omare, said, “The ultimatum to the Igbo by the northern youths is senseless and baseless because the agitation of the Igbo people did not trample on the rights of any northerner.
“We call on the security agencies to go after those who gave such an ultimatum. The ultimatum for the Igbo to quit the North is a way of hiding under an umbrella to loot the massive investment of Igbo people in the North.”
Rising spate of separatist agitations disturbing –APC
Meanwhile, the All Progressives Congress described the growing spate of separatist agitations as disturbing.
It said it respected the inalienable rights of citizens to agitate for a just cause, the party noted that such agitations must be within the confines of the law.
The party said this in a statement by its National Publicity Secretary, Mallam Bolaji Abdullahi, in Abuja, on Thursday.
The statement stated that the APC commended what it called the proactive and decisive action taken by northern governors and political leaders on the ultimatum to the Igbo by a so-called Arewa Youth Consultative Forum.
It added, “Our party remains disturbed by the increasing spate of separatist agitations by individuals and groups in the country.
“We are delighted to see that the pressure mounted by the various leaders has forced the group to reverse its misguided ultimatum and threats.
“We observe that the nature and content of recent agitations clearly transcend the boundaries of the law and exceed the limits of freedom of speech. They are therefore, patently inimical to national cohesion and the sustenance of our hard-earned democracy.
“The National Assembly, the courts and several lawful avenues are available to citizens, groups and sundry interests to make change, seek redress and advance legitimate causes. Therefore, we call on agitators to either join a political party which shares their ideology or form a new party to push their cause.”
Story by: Niyi Odebode, John Alechenu, John Ameh, Chukwudi Akasike, Eniola Akinkuotu, Friday Olokor, Ade Adesomoju, Adelani Adepegba, Ihuoma Chiedozie, Etim Ekpimah, Olaleye Aluko, Godwin Isenyo, Ted Odogwu, Kayode Idowu and Ramon Oladimeji (Punchng.com)