*Declares special prayers Monday
The joint body of the South-East Council of Traditional Rulers and Bishops/Archbishops as well as the Anambra State Government have expressed deep worry over the increasing state of insecurity in the region.
The group said the insecurity, especially occasioned by the activities of gunmen enforcing the Monday sit-at-home, introduced by the proscribed Indigenous People of Biafra has created a lot of havoc on the South-East economy.
They, therefore, called for the restoration of genuine peace and normalcy in the region based on justice, equity, fairness, love, mutual understanding and respect.
Based on the call by the Anambra State Governor, Prof Chukwuma Soludo, to interrogate the goals and methods of the agitators, the group had convened a meeting with representatives of the state government as well as the counsel to Mazi Nnamdi Kanu, to consider pathways to restore normalcy in Anambra State.
In a statement signed by the Chairman, Anambra State Traditional Rulers Council, H.M. Obi Nnaemeka Achebe, CFR; Archbishop of the Catholic Archdiocese of Onitsha, and Metropolitan of Onitsha Ecclesiastical Province, Archbishop Valerian Okeke; Secretary to the State Government, Prof Solo Chukwulobelu; Chairman, Ebonyi State Traditional Rulers Council, H.M. Igwe Laurence Agubuzu; Secretary, Representatives of Archbishops and Bishops, Most Rev. (Dr) Chibuzo R. Opoko, JP; the group said, “While we have severally, collectively and individually supported the call for Kanu’s release from incarceration, the experience of the past 14 months, however, leaves no iota of doubt that the sit-at-home is blurring the intent and objective of the agitation and it is time for us to count our losses and move on.
“It is beyond doubt that the sit-at-home exercise has done incalculable damage to the economy of Anambra State and indeed the South-East. We are losing the most productive day of the week as intra-, inter-state and even international business activity are severely constrained, and slowly forcing the diversion of economic activity to other commercial centres outside Alaigbo.”
The group stated that, while it is the inalienable right of the people to make demands and make their voices to be heard, it is, however, totally unacceptable to stop the South-East children from going to school.
It noted the recent press release by the IPOB spokespersons on April 1, 2022, stating that “We wish to reiterate once again that IPOB has cancelled Monday sit-at-home order and anybody or group enforcing the relaxed order is neither from IPOB nor from IPOB volunteer group.”
The group, therefore, frowned on the Monday sit-at-home, saying that it is ill-advised and counter-productive, and called for a more constructive and continuous dialogue by all the parties as a more sustainable solution.
It said with the foregoing in mind, and following consultations, the Anambra State Government and the joint body jointly stated, among others, as follows:
“We recognise that there is country-wide agitation for restructuring of inter-ethnic and inter-governmental relations in Nigeria, with a view to greater inclusiveness. We, therefore, share the genuine concern over the political and economic marginalisation of the South-East geo-political zone, a major plank of the agitation by the IPOB.
“We call for constructive and continuous dialogue by all parties as a more sustainable solution to overcoming the challenge and win the hearts and minds of the people.
“We join our voices to the call for the unconditional release of Mazi Nnamdi Kanu by the Federal Government in order to douse the current tensions across the South-East and create an atmosphere for collaboration towards a constructive resolution of the issues.”
The group, therefore, suggested the following immediate steps:
“We call on all criminal elements masquerading as working under the instruction of IPOB or ESN to cease and desist from further acts of violence and criminality or face the implacable force of law and order.
“We call on all who may have taken up arms in the belief that their grievances could be achieved only through armed struggle to lay down their arms. The government and good people of Anambra hereby offer the olive branch for you all to return. The Anambra State government hereby undertakes to train, rehabilitate and empower you to contribute to our homeland development. The centres where our youths can register for help will be announced shortly.
“We call on all injured, aggrieved and victims of the insecurity in Alaigbo over the past three years to step forward and cooperate with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission that will be inaugurated by the state government next week to conduct an inquiry into the remote and immediate causes of the agitations, documentation and examination of the circumstances surrounding the killings in the south east, and recommendations on the road to sustainable solutions.
“We declare Monday, April 4, 2022 as a Day of Prayer For Peace for Alaigbo. We implore Ndi Anambra and all religious congregations to join in this important day of prayer. It will take place within the premises of the cathedrals, churches and prayer houses across Alaigbo at 11:00am and we enjoin the faithful wherever you may be across Nigeria, or abroad to pause and join in fellowship as we seek the face of our Father. It is the expectation of the Joint Body that the conclusion of the prayer session shall mark the end of Sit-At-Home in Anambra State in particular and the South-East region in general.
“In conclusion, the march towards peace and the restoration of normalcy in our society and economy requires the collective action of all people of God. We thank you for your time and commitment to the restoration of peace and the upliftment of the people of Anambra State, the Igbo homesteads and Nigeria at large.”