The ethnic nationalities of the South- South geo-political zone, yesterday, denounced demands for Biafra by Igbo in the South-East zone and called for an immediate cessation of pro-Biafra protests on their soil.
This came as the South East Governors Forum, SEGF, summoned an emergency meeting of Igbo leaders to discuss the persisting protests by members of the Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra, MASSOB, the Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, which have paralysed economic activities in the old Eastern region.
In a 10-point communique issued at Uyo at the end of a meeting held under the auspices of the Conference of Ethnic Nationalities of the South-South at Uyo, Akwa Ibom state, chaired by HRM, Obong (Dr) EU Ekidem, Ntisong Ibibio III, the Ntisong of Ibibio land, they dissociated the South-South zone from the “so-called Biafra.”
Representatives of Ibibio, Efik, Anang, Ijaw, Itsekiri, Urhobo, Ikwerre, Oro, Isoko and several other nationalities attended the summit. Among them were the interim chair of the group, HRM Ekidem, Convener of the meeting and Secretary of the Itsekiri Leaders of Thought, ILoT, Delta state, Barrister Edward Ekpoko, Albert Akpomudje, SAN (Urhobo) and president general of Ogbakor- Ikwerre in Rivers state, Prof A.M Onyeozu.
Pastor Nelson CocoBassey (Efik ethnic nationality), Ulap Bidiak Uloh (Oro ethnic nationality), Amechi Ogbonnia (Itsekiri), Obong Ukpong Umoh and Obong Aniedi Ndem were at the conference and signed the communique.
The South South nationalities said, “We will not allow any inch of the land of the ethnic nationalities mentioned above and other lands of the South-South to be part of the ill-thought-out enterprise.
“We call for a halt to demonstrations for Biafra on our land henceforth as it touches on the collective sensibilities of our people and could provoke ethnic crisis.
“We are not only surprised but shocked that Igbos who returned to Nigeria after the fall of Biafra in January 15, 1970 with tales of woes and horrors can talk about Biafra.”
They added: “It is in the interest of Igbos that Nigeria is protected as they have more investments outside their homeland.”
The Conference called on governors, political leaders and traditional rulers of the South-East geopolitical zone to “speak out now as their silence is becoming eloquent.” Furthermore, the South-South ethnic nationalities urged “well-meaning Igbos to call their children/wards to order to prevent an avoidable crisis.”
“We call on the law enforcement agencies to be more vigilant.
“We believe in one Nigeria and will do all within our power to protect the unity of Nigeria,” they stated.
Itsekiri, Warri territories not Biafra—INYC
In tandem with the communiqué issued in Uyo, President of the Itsekiri National Youth Congress, INYC, Esimaje Awani in a statement in Warri, Delta State, yesterday, warned that “Itsekiri and its territories should not be included in any IPOB or Biafran plan.”
He stated that Itsekiri were an indigenous ethnic group of Nigeria’s Niger Delta region of Delta State presently resident in the Warri South, Warri North and Warri South West Local Government Areas bordering the Atlantic Coast of Nigeria as their homeland with their only neighbours being the Bini to the North, the Ijaw to the South, the Urhobo to the East and the Yoruba of Ondo State to the Northwest.
Awani noted that from about 1490 – 1884, the Itsekiri had an independent political kingdom known as Warri Kingdom that was not subordinate to any of the World Powers in Europe or any African Kingdom, adding that it was in 1894 when the Niger Coast Protectorate was established that it came under the protection of Her Britannic Majesty vide the Treaty of 1884.
According to him, by another Treaty of 1894, the Itsekiri remained under the British until the Colony and Protectorate of Southern Nigeria was created and in 1914, without consultation with the Itsekiri people, Lord Lugard decreed Nigeria into existence and made Warri Kingdom (Itsekiri homeland) part of this enterprise.
He said by the map of The Republic of Biafra of May 1967, Edo and Delta states of Nigeria was never envisioned as a part of Biafra by the legendary Chukwuemeka Dim Ojukwu, saying that the current inclusion of present Delta State, including the Itsekiri National territories of Warri Kingdom without due consultation is preposterous, totally unacceptable and ultimately invalid.
“IPOB and Biafra have their rights of agitation for freedom of self determination as enshrined in the United Nations declaration, but other minority ethnic groups not duly consulted and their approval secured should not be dragged along to avoid the mistake that led to the civil war.
“The magnanimity of Itsekiri in allowing Igbos celebrate the Igbo Cultural Day in our land should not be taken for granted as we urge IPOB to de-list Itsekiri territories and Warri areas from its proposed map,” he said.