SEVERAL prominent Middle Belt leaders have withdrawn from Nigeria’s pan-northern socio-cultural group the Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF) and created the breakaway North Central Peoples Forum (NCPF) to protest the ongoing killings in their region.
Historically, the ACF has served as an umbrella body for the elite from Nigeria’s three northern geo-political zones but of late, its existence has been threatened by ethnic spats involving Fulani cattle herdsmen carrying out murderous attacks across the Middle Belt. Exasperated with the Fulani-dominated ACF’s refusal to address the crisis, several leaders from across the north central geo-political zone have decided to pull out.
According to the Middle Belt leaders, in spite of the abundant mineral and human resources in their area, the north central geo-political zone was bedevilled by vices like kidnapping, banditry and other forms of criminality. Their new group, the NCPF is being led by a former minister of state for health, Gabriel Aduku, who is its interim chairman.
Chief Audu Ogbeh, Nigeria’s former agriculture minister, is the current ACF chairman and being from the north central geo-political zone himself, has been put in an embarrassing position. Most of his colleagues from Middle Belt states including Benue, Kwara, Kogi, Plateau, Nasarawa and Niger, have all quit the ACF for the NCPF.
Among those listed as NCPF members include Senator Jerry Useni, Senator Ibrahim Mantu, Retired Col. David Bamigboye, Chief Olusola Akomode, Sam Nda-Isaiah, Ahmed Ibeto, Alhaji Tajudeen Kareem, Chief Stephen Lawani and Alhaji Alfa Mohammed. Senator Useni said that the existence of similar bodies in other parts of the country had given rise to group affinity and solidarity among the states to canvass things of common interest.
He expressed confidence that the forum would unite the people of Benue, Kogi, Kwara, Nasarawa, Niger, Plateau and the Federal Capital Territory in their quest to ensure that peace and stability was established and sustained within the zone. Senator Useni added that the forum would pursue rapid industrialisation across all nooks and crannies of the zone.
According to Senator Useni, the new group would pursue policies and process that would ensure that the massive solid mineral and agricultural endowments were adequately harnessed. It is not yet clear if the NCPF will form a security outfit similar to Amotekun to protect its communities.
Senator Useni said: “The forum is also aimed at ensuring cooperation and support for the good policies and administration of the six governors of the zone, irrespective of our political, religious and ethnic differences. We will support and cooperate fully with the federal government for full and complete implementation of infrastructures, development projects situated in the zone and the involvement of the people of the zone in the national affairs of the country.
“We will promote, defend and strengthen north central unity and the interest of its people in the context of one indivisible Nigeria and to contribute to the safeguarding of her territorial integrity. Consequently, every zone now has a common socio-political platform where they meet to discuss their strength and weakness with the view to propounding and promoting progress and development of the zone.”