The Northern Elders Forum (NEF) has said the people of the North do not need anyone’s approval to live in the South-West.
Hakeem Baba-Ahmed, Director, Publicity and Advocacy, made the declaration in a statement on Friday.
The NEF position was in reaction to the decision of the leadership of the Amalgamated Union of Traders and Cattle Breeders Association Union (AUTCBAU) to call off its strike.
Their action, refusal to transport food and cattle to the southern part of the country, followed attacks on its members and related threats.
The Forum hailed the decision of the Federal Government to address multiple taxation and extortion on federal highways along the country’s eastern corridor, from Borno through Adamawa to states in the South-East and the South-South.
NEF said checkpoints numbering more than one hundred had been pronounced as illegal, yet they are tolerated by the authorities.
The body observed that the effects stifled trade and massively raised the cost of transporting food items and cattle.
The Forum condemned “the involvement of a private citizen identified as supporting threats to the security of northern communities in the South-West and the mention of some people creating intense hostility around northerners living in the South-West”.
NEF said some persons mentioned as having been contacted to give assurances to northern traders, herders and transporters were fingered by the police for involvement in criminal activities against northerners in the South-West.
The forum rejected the idea that the federal government or its agents could encourage the outsourcing of its duty and responsibility of protecting citizens to individuals, “who are neck-deep in encouraging violence and corruption of communal co-existence”.
Baba-Ahmed commended Governors in the South-West and stakeholders working with the federal government to improve security and urged them to exercise their responsibilities diligently.
The statement encouraged members of northern communities to continue to live in peace with other communities and explore all avenues to improve better inter-communal relations.