Foodstuff and cattle dealers across the Northern part of the country have started diverting their goods and all consumables to the neigbouring countries of Niger Republic and Cameroon. They have also begun blocking trade routes to the South by stopping food item-laden trucks from going south.
Truckloads of food items from the northern part of the country were on Friday stopped by northerners from entering Kwara State and neighbouring states in the South West. A video clip showing the illegal stoppage of trucks carrying food items from the North to the South at a Jebba village in Niger State by some northern youths circulated on social media on Friday.
But the Defence Headquarters clarified that following the tension generated by the incident, joint troops comprising the military and other security agencies were deployed to clear the Jebba-Kaduna Road and they had since restored normalcy in the general area.
Saturday Tribune gathered that some Northern youths prevented many trucks carrying items like tomatoes, onions, beans, yams and cattle from going beyond a location in Jebba called Kara into Kwara or other states to the South West.
The situation, it was gathered, caused the trucks to park by the roadside with some of their contents already going bad.
The development, it was learnt, was connected to an ultimatum given by the national leadership of the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACBAN) to the Federal Government which demanded compensation for the losses suffered by Northern traders in the recent mayhem at Shasha market in Ibadan, Oyo State, and during the EndSARS protest.
Also, the new trading network began shortly after the Northern Consensus Movement (NCM) and the Amalgamated Union of Foodstuff and Cattle Dealers of Nigeria commenced a strike on Thursday and blocked all ‘borders’ between the North and South.
The Northern groups also clarified on Friday that they were demanding only N4.7 billion as compensation for their members killed and properties destroyed during the Sasa crisis in Ibadan, Oyo State and the EndSARs protests in the western and eastern parts of the country, against the earlier reported N475 billion.
Speaking in an exclusive interview with Saturday Tribune on Friday, the National President, Northern Consensus Movement, Awwal Abdullahi Aliu, pointed out that the Federal Government had failed to meet all their demands, hence the commencement of the strike declared by the groups.
He stated that all the border roads between the North and West, North and South, and the North and East had been blocked against trucks carrying foodstuffs and other consumables from the North to any part of the South.
Speaking to Saturday Tribune, the vice chairman of the Kwara State branch of the MACBAN, Alli Mohammad, said Kwara State was yet to carry out the association’s demand except for some other northern states like Niger and Bauchi states which he said had started giving in to its demand.
Mohammad, who said that a meeting had been scheduled for Sunday to decide when to start the implementation of the demand in Kwara State, added that in the event of default, the traders would not necessarily be disallowed from entering the state but the traders would not even come with their goods.
“Except those who may decide to take other routes to get to the state or those who may act in defiance to the directive, the traders would not come from the North and those who come may be stopped or sanctioned,” he said.
The state Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO), Ajayi Okasanmi, said that the command was not aware of such development in the state.
But a son of the traditional ruler of Jebba, Prince Ibrahim Adebara, confirmed the development to Saturday Tribune. He said the incident happened at the Kara area of Niger State.
“The story is true but the incident did not happen in any part of the axis of Kwara State. It was at the Kara area in Niger State. The Hausa people are not allowing trucks to get to the toll gate area of Niger State. The people refer to the area as Jebba North and call our own Jebba South. They generalise the place to be Jebba.
“The traders are not even happy with the development as some of the foodstuffs are already getting bad while they also lament loss over cost of transportation,” he said.
In a related development, Prince Adebara said the Jebba community would tomorrow (Sunday) carry out the eviction of some herdsmen who were trying to settle in the area, at the expiration of the ultimatum given to them.
“With bandits, insurgents and kidnappers being chased from some neighbouring states, the community decided with some of the identified and registered herdsmen who had been with us to ask the new ones to leave.
“Even those that had been with us say that they can’t vouch for them. So, they have been asked to leave in the interest of the existing peace. They are staying at Mofara village in Jebba community here. They will be driven away on Sunday and they are aware of this,” he said.
‘We are shipping our goods to Niger, Cameroon’
However, Aliu of the Northern Consensus Movement told Saturday Tribune that his people would not lose anything if the situation persists and the strike continues as the foodstuff and cattle dealers had discovered another marketing opportunity as a result of the current challenge.
He said: “As I speak to you, my people are already shipping their goods, onions, tomatoes and what have you to Niger, Cameroon, and other neighbouring countries through Illela border. Already, we have diversified. Our people have already found a way of not wasting their goods. They will not be wasted. They will be sold just like the way they were being moved to the South West, South East or South South.
“So, my people will end up not losing anything. We did not arrange this one, it just came up. Automatically, it started happening. People just quickly saw it and the goods started moving in those directions.”
Aliu said the Northern groups had made three simple demands from the Federal Government aftermath of the EndSARs protest and Shasha crisis, which include guarantee of the safety of lives and properties of Northerners living in the other part of the country, compensation for the lost souls, creation of national regional market across border towns and reestablishment of toll gates.
He said what was happening now was strategic, adding that after the EndSARs protest, the NCM, which is the umbrella body of all the groups, had “called the Amalgamated Union, the Cattle Dealers Association and all other associations to a discussion table and we have been discussing, strategising on what to do, and this is just the phase one of what we are going to do.”
“We’ve blocked all roads to south”
On the strike, he said: “The strike has started. There is no movement of goods and any consumables from the North to the South. It has been blocked. I will send you some videos to see the areas that have been blocked and the progress we are making so far.
“The roads have been blocked by our members, all the entry borders between the North and the South, and between the North and the East. All the border towns between North and South, North and East, North and West where the vehicles pass have been blocked.
“Every angle, from North West, North East, North Centre, all the borders have been blocked; even between Borno and Yobe, between Yobe and Bauchi, to Taraba, Nasarawa, to Abuja, and Abuja to Lokoja. And then Sokoto to Katsina, to Kebbi, to Zamfara, Kano, Kaduna, to Niger.”
Aliu regretted that despite the letters and warnings of the groups to the governments at the federal and state levels and the security agencies, the Federal Government had not met their demands
“Up to this very moment and we do not intend to withdraw until something tangible is achieved. So, the strike continues.”
He said: “No government representative has gotten across to us on this issue of the protest and strike going on. We have also not made any further attempt. Like I said in the beginning, we have reached out to all people that are concerned as far as Nigeria is concerned; personally, the president, then the presidency, the Chief of Staff to the President, the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, and the security echelon.
“We have written to the National Security Adviser, the Minister of Defence, the Minister of Interior, the Inspector General of Police, Director General of DSS and Comptroller General of Civil Defence. We have written to the Senate and the House of Representatives.
“Back in the North, we have written to each of the 19 Northern state governors, the Northern Governors Forum through their chairman, the Houses of Assembly of the 19 states, and the chairman of the 19 state Houses of Assembly. We have written to all first class emirs of each state and also the chairman of the Northern Traditional Council Forum, the Sultan of Sokoto, all Northern Elders Committee, the Arewa Consultative Forum, and the Northern Elders Forum.
“We have also gotten across to the United Nations Secretary General, written to the American Parliament, and the British Parliament, notifying them of what is going on and we needed them to intervene because we call it systematic elimination, destruction and killing of Northerners. We are having a Boko Haram and banditry challenge, and the ones that are moving to go and find daily bread outside the North are also now being killed.”
Aliu added: “The blow is too much for Northern Nigeria, both from bandits and those that were supposed to be our brothers. We have also informed them that we never have issue with either a Yoruba man or an Igbo man. As far as we are concerned, the Igbo man owns houses, shops farmlands in the North without hindrance.
“While our people are petty traders in the South, wheelbarrow pushers, shoe shiners, okada riders, the Igbos and Yorubas own houses and multi-million naira investments in the North. We are accommodating, so why are our people being killed at the slightest provocations and their property destroyed?”
On the issue of compensation, he regretted that a question from a journalist during a press conference held last week made him angry and this caused him to make a mistake while giving the amount requested for compensation.
He said: “When I mentioned N475 billion, it was a slip of tongue. What we actually requested is N4.7 billion, not N475 billion. I was angry with the question one of the journalists asked. You know journalist can ask you provocative questions.
“The question got me provoked and when I was trying to say N4.7 billion, I made a mistake by saying N475 billion. What we wrote to all Federal Government agencies is N4.7 billion and we broke it down with the number of people that have been killed.
“By the Islamic injunction and Northern tradition, compensation for life is N35 million for one life. We calculated the money by the number of people that were killed and put it together. We lost over 100 open-body trucks and each truck head, without the body, cost N56 million. We lost about 75 (18-seater) buses, then a lot of cow forcefully seized and distributed during the EndSARs crisis, and bags of rice and beans. All these things are what we put together to arrive at a figure. We didn’t just call a figure, we calculated the number of people that died, property destroyed, those injured and arrived at a figure for compensation, not outright payment for the losses.”
He added: “It is the responsibility of the government to protect lives and properties. If anything goes wrong and they were unable to protect lives and properties, they should pay for that loss.
“We also say the government should fish out the perpetrators of the act, who are people that came out and do this killing? Government should arrest them, prosecute them, and let us see them being sentenced accordingly.”
‘Sardauna asked us to establish regional markets’
Also on the issue of regional markets, he said: “government should create national regional market because since our people are moving their goods from the North to the South, West and East, and in the process, our people are being killed, we don’t want our people to be killed. Nigeria is one country with one destiny under God, and we love being Nigerian, let there be national regional market in border towns between North and the West, North and the South, North and the East, as Sardauna first initiated.
“It was Sardauna’s initiative that there should be regional markets where Northerners would move their goods from the North and go and drop them in those regional border town markets. The Southerners or Westerners or Easterners will also bring their own goods and drop them in those markets. I buy from you what you bring from the West or East, then you buy from me what I bring from the North. You take your own to your zone and I take mine to my zone. There will be no shipment of heavy trucks with a lot of loads that somebody will way-lay on the road and begin to destroy and kill.
“But we said that does not mean that Northerners that are living in the South, West or East should come back to the North or the Southerners, or Westerners, or Easterners that are in the North should go back to their own region. No, they can live where they choose. Nigeria is a free country and by constitution, you can live anywhere. So, let whoever wants to live anywhere live there but for intra-market transaction, let there be a market in the center.”
Middle Belt forum reacts
Meanwhile, the Middle Belt Forum has expressed shock at the development which it said it believed was orchestrated by some unpatriotic elements. In a statement on Friday by its national president, Dr Pogu Bitrus, the forum stated that as an organisation that represents ethnic nationalities in the Middle Belt region,
“We are irrevocably opposed to such an act which we believe is capable of creating a rift and widening the fragility of our corporate existence.”
The statement reads in part:
“For such persons to block food items being transported to the South from the North is not only criminal, but also intended to throw the entire nation into chaos. “We call on the Federal Government and relevant security agencies to flush out these hooligans in order to discourage retaliation from the southern part. “Amidst the ongoing banditry in various parts of the country, the deliberate blockage of food items is nothing short of waging another form of terrorism on Nigerians. We cannot as a nation afford to deal with these urchins and bandits with kid gloves. “The Federal Government needs to do something drastic to send clear signals that outlaws who threaten the country would never have it easy with the government. If we must take back our nation from these demons of destruction, we must never negotiate and treat them softly.
“As the umbrella organisation for all ethnic nationalities in the Middle Belt, we firmly believe that the only way for a prosperous Nigeria is restructuring. This will not only broaden our potentials but give ethnic nationalities in the Nigerian nation a space to develop and fully realise their potentials.
“We must avoid any form of aggressive tendencies in resisting and enthroning victory of unpatriotic elements. If some elements should block the transportation of petroleum products to the North from the South as retaliatory measures, what likely consequences would this have on our nation?
“Nigeria is passing through one of its darkest periods. The best way out is not to allow lawless brigands to take over our country but to unite against the common foes that are out to throw our country into the abyss of destruction.
“For the avoidance of doubt, we believe in a united Nigeria that is founded on inclusivity and not exclusivity. Those who are committed to the enthronement of ethnic supremacy should better be told that they have come too late.
“What is needful now is the obliteration of these bandits and hooligans that are now fueling separatist agenda. President Muhammadu Buhari should rise up now and bring these lawbreakers and bandits to justice. Anything short of this amounts to patting these blood-thirsty terror gangs.”
Defence Headquarters kicks, warns against unpatriotic acts
The Defence Headquarters, in a statement on Friday afternoon by its acting Director Defence Information Brigadier-General Onyema Nwachukwu, said it had cleared the Jebba-Kaduna Road of those preventing trucks from going to the South and restored normalcy there.
The statement reads:
“The Defence Headquarters wishes to clarify that following the tension generated by the incident, joint troops comprising the military and other security agencies were deployed to clear the JebbaKaduna Road and have since restored normalcy in the general area. There is currently free flow of traffic along the axis.
“Members of the public, commuters and residents are please urged to go about their normal businesses.
“This is also to give a stern warning to any unscrupulous group or persons who are aiming at disrupting legitimate economic and commercial activities by preventing free flow of traffic and movement of goods in a bid to generate clashes along ethnic divides to desist from such unpatriotic acts or face the wrath of the law.
“Members of the public are also urged to promptly report anyone found engaged in such atrocious activities to security operatives.”
North can’t succeed in plot to starve the south –S/Africa based professor
PROFESSOR Abiodun Salawu of the North-West University, South Africa, has described food blockade against the South from the North as an effort that was doomed to fail.
The don told Saturday Tribune on Friday that reports of Northerners of Hausa-Fulani stock preventing food-bearing vehicles from crossing to the south were shocking and funny at the same time.
Professor Salawu said:
“Not all the foodstuffs they are blocking from reaching the South are from the Hausa-Fulani enclave (North-West and North-East). A lot of the foodstuffs are from the Middle Belt axis and these people are not involved in the madness going on. “The Hausa-Fulani people will be the losers in this whole game of food blockade. It is their business that will suffer. The South can make do with what they have. In any case, it will even make the South to look more inwards and improvise. This is a battle they cannot win.
“And, it’s like they don’t understand the issues. The South is complaining about Fulani herdsmen destroying their farms and engaging in other nefarious activities like kidnapping, raping and killing. Instead for their leaders to call these marauders to order, they are spewing out nonsense.
The South has always been accommodating but cannot continue to tolerate the madness of these people.
“I really don’t understand their thinking. A governor was even supporting them carrying AK-47 in shepherding their cows. Who gave them the licence to carry guns? The same governor and some of the Fulani leaders were saying that all Fulani people, irrespective of their country of origin, have a claim to Nigeria. I really don’t understand how they think or whether they understand anything about nation-states.
“There are Yoruba people in the Republic of Benin and Togo but we cannot say they are Yoruba. And that is how it is all over the world. In Southern Africa, there are ethnic groups that are split across borders. There are Tswana people in South Africa and Botswana, but the Tswana in Botswana will not claim that he belongs to South Africa. The same goes for Sotho people in South Africa and Lesotho; and Ndebele in Zimbabwe and South Africa. Really, what is the problem with the Fulani people?”