The Igbo Community in Borno State on Saturday held a peace meeting with the people of the state, and both sides condemned the eviction threat issued by the Arewa Youth Consultative Forum (AYCF).
The Arewa group had weeks ago issued a three months ultimatum for the Igbos to vacate the 19 northern states. Its threat followed sustained agitation for the secession of the Igbo states of the Southeast Nigeria by the Indigenous Peoples of Biafra, IPOB.
The eviction threat was widely condemned by different groups and state governments across Nigeria.
A Maiduguri-based nongovernmental organisation, Borno State Progressive Associations, initiated a meeting between the host state and the Igbo Community.
Speaking at the meeting that was attended by government officials, traditional chiefs and clerics, the chairman of BOSPA, Ashelik Dadai, said his group initiated the meeting because they believe in one and indivisible Nigeria.
According to him, the IPOB agitation was needleless and should be condemned by the Igbos and other Nigerians.
He also said his group had also dissociated itself from the threat of the AYCF whom he said did not act on behalf of the northerners.
He said BOSPA stood by the earlier statement of the Borno state governor, Kashim Shettima, who led in the condemnation of the eviction threat of AYCF, a group he said was “unknown”.
He appealed to the two groups to draw lessons from the bitter experiences of the civil war, which he said had left deep scar on the face of Nigeria.
“The Igbos are our brothers and sisters with whom we have been living together peacefully and in harmony,” he said.
“Borno is the home for all Nigerians and we wish to assure the Igbos that they are safe in Borno and they have nothing to fear.”
The representative of the Shehu of Borno, Zannah Boguma, went into memory lane to emphasise how the Igbos had been part of the Borno history dating back to pre-colonial days.
He said the Shehu of Borno wanted the Igbos to live freely in the state without any fear.
“Even after the unfortunate incident of the civil wars of the 60s, we in Borno welcomed the returning Igbos who came back and met their assets and other belongings very intact.”
The governor, who was represented by the state’s Commissioner for Justice, Kaka Garbai, said the governor had made his position clear on behalf of the Northern Governors’ Forum which he said remains the same.
He implored the Igbos to live freely in any part of Borno and Nigeria.
He commended the BOSPA officials for initiating the meeting even before the elders did.
The president-general of Igbo Welfare Association in Borno State, Mikelaw Nwaogwu, thanked BOSPA, the Borno State government and the Shehu of Borno, for their kind words of assurances.
He said despite IPOB’s agitation, the Igbo in Borno state and other parts of the northern region believed in the spirit of one Nigeria. He added that the country should develop the spirit of freedom of speech and agitation.
“The Igbo elders have not spoken for secession. They believe in one Nigeria where there is equity and fair play in the running of the country. All they want is equality and equal opportunity for all and not for who knows who. Even in Borno state, we have never for once agitated for Biafra or cessation,” he said.