Confab divided over arrest of 486 Northern “travellers” in Aba

A delegate raised concerns over a possible infiltration of the South by Boko Haram

The delegates to the ongoing National Conference on Thursday exchanged strong words over the arrest of 486 travellers by troops from the Nigerian Army in Aba, a commercial city in Abia State.

The military announced the arrest of the travellers and said it was investigating them for alleged Boko Haram links. It later said it identified a wanted Boko Haram kingpin among the travellers.

Trouble started when a South-South delegate, Sergeant Awuse, raised a motion of urgent national importance, drawing the attention of the Conference to the degenerating security situation in the country.

Mr. Awuse had expressed concern about the safety of Nigerians but noted that the arrest of 486 persons who claimed to be travellers going to Port Harcourt to seek jobs at 2 a.m. was worrisome.

He said, “We were told that those men are members of the dreaded Boko Haram and theses are happenings that make us to begin to see that we should be more proactive about these matters.”

He drew attention to a publication in the media where Governor Kashim Shetima f Borno State was quoted to have said that if Boko Haram succeeded in over-running the North-East, the terrorists would try to overrun other parts of the country.

“For those of you who are familiar with Port Harcourt, you must be aware of the oil installations there. We are worried that any attempt to attack any oil installation in Port Harcourt will cause so much trouble to the country,” he said.

“This is important because the people of the South-South enjoy the friendship of all Nigerians. But a situation where 486 “travellers” were found at 2 a.m. going to Port Harcourt, we should begin to be careful. We are asking that this Conference should bring to the notice of the security agencies that any attack on any of the South-South states, will be felt by people all over Nigeria. We don’t want Boko Haram in the South-South. From dependable security sources, we know that some of the buses had infiltrated the South-South.”

However, Bashir Dalhatu, a delegate from Jigawa, would not allow Mr. Awuse brand the travellers as Boko Haram.

He warned that due to the security circumstances that the country was facing, the delegates should be cautious when speaking on the floor of the Conference.  He said while hundreds of Northerners were arrested and branded as Boko Haram, people should be careful.

According to him, information from independent sources showed that those who were arrested in Aba were migrant traders. He said that while he would not condone or support anything that would breach the security of any part of the country, he would resist any action that
will alienate Northerners.

According to him, Rivers State has been receiving people from all over the country. He pointed out that every night, convoys of people from the South arrive at the North and were accommodated.

He said: “We wanted to organise a press conference on the matter but was asked to stay action because investigations were on-going. Let no one here, Sir, think that because of the language I speak and because of the way I dress, I am a member of the Boko Haram sect. This is a very serious issue. Now we understand that Northerners have to pay to get identity cards. The authority should better take heed that if others decide to take a cue, the consequences will not be palatable.

“Let no one be left in doubt because what these people are trying to do will bring serious crisis in this country. We should not be cowed to remain at home while other people are going about doing their

businesses. A word is enough for the wise.”

Another delegate, Hanatu Ibrahim, however, pleaded with her colleagues to give peace a chance, saying that as privileged Nigerians with high expectations from the public, delegates should show good examples.

She said, “As mothers and sisters of the nation, we want peace in this country because God created us as one. We must have respect for one another no matter of where we come from. Today Mr. Chairman, we do not want to be a party to those who cause problem in this country. We need peace, we need peace. We need to love each other. We should bury our sentimental feelings and march together in unity. For God sake, let us restrain ourselves. We want peace; we want unity in this country.”

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