THE Northern Elders Forum (NEF), on Monday, said it was alarmed over the silence of President Goodluck Jonathan regarding the revelations made by Australian cleric and international negotiator, Dr Steven Davies.
The Australian had alleged that former Borno State governor, Senator Ali Modu Sheriff and former Chief of Army Staff, Lieutenant-General Azubuike Ihejirika, were sponsors of insurgent group, Boko Haram.
Addressing a press conference at the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) Press Centre in Bauchi, shortly after its committee meeting on Monday, the spokesman of forum, Professor Ango Abdullahi, said the allegations were serious, considering the fact that the Australian claimed to be engaged by President Jonathan to negotiate with the insurgents on behalf of the Federal Government.
Professor Abdullahi also said contrary to the position taken by the Northern Elders Council, the forum was against President Jonathan’s continuous stay in office beyond 2015.
He added that the two personalities mentioned by the Australian were close and had personal and official relationship with the president, saying that as the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Nigeria, he owed the citizens an explanation on these revelations.
“The allegations of a clergy and an international hostage negotiator, Dr Steven Davies, are serious enough not to be merely repudiated by the two key persons under reference.
“The President, as Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Nigeria, owes Nigerians the duty to explain what these revelations suggest, coming as they do from a man who claims to be engaged by President Jonathan himself.
“Beyond a statement, which should state the role of the president himself and his reaction to Dr Davies allegation, the Northern Elders Forum expects a full investigation and, if necessary, the prosecution of these and many other persons involved in support for the Boko Haram insurgency at any stage of its life,” Abdullahi said.
According to the NEF, the silence of the Presidency on the allegations since they were made by Davies was likely to be construed as full acceptance, urging that the matter should not be swept under the carpet.
The forum, according to Abdullahi, shared Nigeria’s alarm at the rapid territorial gains of the insurgents in vast area of Nigerian soil and what appeared as the imminent fall of key cities and towns in the North-East geopolitical zone of Nigeria.
“We cannot say in a louder voice that the nation must stand up as one to reverse these creeping disasters.
“Our military is obviously showing evidence of prolonged neglect and abuse by its political and professional leadership, but we will not accept that we should concede vast parts of our nation as a consequence.
“We insist that our military capacity be immediately improved upon and its morale boosted.
“It appears that cannot be achieved without immediate and thorough overhaul of the leadership of our Armed Forces, and a resolute assertion of the highest standards of professionalism and discipline throughout the rank and file,” the former Vice Chancellor of the Ahmadu Bello University (ABU), Zaria, who was in company with Mr Solomon Dalung and Professor Idris Muhammed, said.
Professor Abdullahi stated that it was the position of NEF that no more loss of territory should be tolerated by the nation, adding that all towns and villages currently under occupation or threat by the insurgents had to be freed and secured.
While saying that the Northern Elders Forum was convinced that Nigeria was capable of winning the war against insurgency, Abdullahi declared that the forum would support far-reaching measures taken by President Jonathan to win the war.
He called on Nigerians to support a re-organised and better equipped military to defend the country’s territorial integrity, saying that “we are convinced that Nigeria can win this war, but we need to reinforce our current weak responses with stronger political will and actions which will rid our Armed Forces of its severe handicaps.”
He further declared that NEF would not support President Jonathan to contest the 2015 Presidential election, because the forum could not trust him.
“The resident betrayed an earlier agreement and he had not demonstrated enough competency to be Nigeria’s number one citizen,” the forum added.
Speaking on the 215 general election, Abdullahi stated that the NEF noted that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) was slow in ensuring comprehensive voter registration throughout the country, saying that this had to be addressed with the seriousness and urgency it deserved.
“The forum further notes INEC’s derelictions of responsibly in ensuring that everyone complies with electoral law and regulations,” he said.
The former ABU vice chancellor said INEC had the tendency of bias and misuse of security agencies, reasons he described as major concern if Nigeria was to avoid conflicts before or after the 2015 election.
He, however, noted that relevant agencies, including political parties, were not doing enough to mobilise and educate the civil society towards active participation in the elections.