From Paul Osuyi, Asaba
In view of the deafening silence from the presidency over the deteriorating security situation in the country, governors of the southern states on Tuesday urged President Muhammadu Buhari to address Nigerians and convoke a national dialogue.
The governors expressed worries over the escalating insecurity in the land, noting that addressing Nigerians by the president would go a long in dousing tension and restoring confidence.
But they affirmed the commitment of peoples of Southern Nigeria to the unity of Nigeria “on the basis of justice, fairness, equity and oneness and peaceful co-existence between and among its peoples with a focus on the attainment of shared goals for economic development and prosperity.”
In a 12-point communiqué issued at the end of a crucial meeting held in Asaba, Delta State, the governor’s reviewed the situation in the nation and generally focused on the current insecurity, agitations, restructuring, prospects of inter-state collaboration and partnerships and COVID-19 pandemic.
Reading the communiqué, chairman of the Southern Governor’s Forum and Governor of Ondo State, Rotimi Akeredolu (SAN) expressed worries over the incursion of armed herders, criminals and bandits into the Southern part of the country.
He said the development has presented a severe security challenge such that citizens were not able to live their normal lives including pursuing various productive activities leading to a threat to food supply and general security.
“Consequently, the meeting resolved that open grazing of cattle be banned across Southern Nigeria,” he said.
He said the an on open grazing would be enforced as the population growth in the southern region has put pressure on available land, and increased the prospects of conflicts between migrating herders and host communities.
However, the governor’s recommended that the Federal Government should support willing states to develop alternative and modern livestock management systems.
According to him, the governors agreed that there was urgent and bold steps be taken to restructure the Nigerian Federation for it to make progress.
He said there was dire need for the “evolution of state police, review of revenue allocation formula in favour of the sub-national governments and creation of other institutions which legitimately advance our commitment to and practice of true federalism.”
On the widespread agitations for greater inclusiveness in existing governance arrangements, the governors urged the Federal Government to convoke a national dialogue as a matter of urgency.
They “recommended that in deference to the sensitivities of our various peoples, there is need to review appointments into Federal Government Agencies (including Security Agencies) to reflect federal character as Nigeria’s overall population is heterogeneous.”
Akeredolu said the governors resolved to foster cooperation among the Southern States and the nation at large, and expressed “concern on the continued gridlock on the Oshodi-Apapa Expressway and the choke hold it has exerted on the nation’s economy being the sole outlet from Apapa Wharf.
“The meeting therefore recommended the activation and establishment of ports in other states of the federation to create new jobs and promote socio-economic activities in the country.”
On COVID-19, the governors warned against another lock down in the country, saying that the economic implications of such would be grave
They however advocated for greater “coordination and cooperation between Federal and State Governments in evolving strategies for dealing with the pandemic.”
Thirteen governors and two deputies were present at the meeting which lasted over four hours.
It was held amid tight security in Asaba and environs as heavily armed security operatives were positioned in strategic locations of the capital city.
The heavy presence of security operatives heightened tension in the town.
A staff at Asaba Airport told our correspondent that he was scared as a result of the volume of air traffic, following the influx of aircraft at the airport.
He said fears were worsened when he dialed the phone number of his immediate boss, and the network failed to connect.