Vice President Kashim Shettima, on Friday, said the Tinubu-led government is resolute to end the reign of terror in Nigeria’s South-East fueled by those he called “self-serving criminals” taking advantage of the security situation to foster their political agenda.
“The problem we are here to solve as a community, as a Umunna, is a creation of self-serving criminals who do not represent the interests of the Ndi-Igbo and Nigerians,” Shettima said in Bende, Abia State when he unveiled the Peace in South-East Project by the Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Benjamin Kalu.
His comments came over three weeks after he advocated the adoption of non-kinetic mechanisms to tackle insecurity in the South-East.
Shettima who received a delegation led by the Deputy Speaker at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, on December 5, said, “The approach is the most beautiful I have seen so far. We need to build bridges, there is a need for a handshake, that way, those that have not been radicalised can be captured.” Kalu’s delegation were at the State House to seek the VP’s buy-in on the PISE-P.
Since 2012, insecurity in Nigeria’s South East, where the Indigenous People of Biafra is most active, has become increasingly complex and multifaceted as the region continues to see a rise in unrest and conflict in recent years.
The increased unrest is partly attributed to the activities of IPOB and its militant wing, the Eastern Security Network, which, proponents say, was established to combat criminality and protect the local population from perceived threats.
However, ESN’s operations have led to clashes with Nigerian security forces, resulting in casualties and further instability. A report by the International Centre for Investigative Reporting revealed that at least two people die daily as a result of violence in the South East, with over 1700 deaths documented between 2021 and June 2023.
According to a statement signed Friday by the Senior Special Assistant to the Vice President on Media and Communications, Stanley Nkwocha, the VP said Tinubu is concerned about the development and is “determined to deploy all available resources to eliminate the purveyors of falsehoods and propaganda that have become weapons against Nigeria’s unity.”
The statement is titled ‘Tinubu poised to end the reign of terror in South-East – Shettima.’
Delivering his speech titled, ‘Why We are all Umunna’, Shettima said, “His Excellency, President Bola Tinubu, has been concerned about the extensive economic devastation inflicted by non-state actors on this beautiful region since we took office.
“He is acutely aware that our commitment to Nigeria’s future remains incomplete as long as we grapple with the sinister operations of economic saboteurs who masquerade as advocates for the Ndi-Igbo.
“That’s why he’s determined to utilise all available resources to ensure that the peace we’re establishing in this region is not cosmetic, and we can’t guarantee it unless all of us see through the falsehoods and propaganda that have become weapons against our unity.”
Shettima reasoned that the terror groups that have held the South East to ransom were not created by the people of the region, or of Nigerians from other parts of the country.
“Mr President knows this better than all of us, and that’s why he has never held any group accountable for the infractions of law-breaking individuals who identify as their members. This, I believe, is the democracy we have all chosen,” he stated.
He revealed that the criminals disrupting the peace in the South-East are doing so in connivance with “forces exploiting the situation for dangerous political agenda,” adding that attempts to undo the hard work of the nation’s heroes past will fail.
However, the VP maintained that the situation cannot be reversed unless the government involves the people whom he said are its ears, legs and mouths in the region.
“Today, we stand united to firmly declare: enough is enough,” Shettima stated, stressing the need for a coordinated intervention to tackle insecurity in the region head-on.
He promised that the Tinubu administration “shall not rest until it fulfils its pledge to mitigate the crisis” it inherited.
Shettima commended Deputy Speaker Kalu, who is the convener of the peace initiative, for his efforts to restore lasting peace in the South East, just as he said the event attests “to the profound understanding that no one comprehends the experience of a community better than the people themselves.”
Earlier, Kalu said his goal for initiating the PISE-P was to foster peace, unity, and development in the region. The project also aims at promoting reconciliation among communities and individuals affected by past conflicts, he added.
Also speaking at the event, the Chairman of the South-East Governor’s Forum, Governor Hope Uzodimma of Imo State, commended the Vice President for his sufficient goodwill to the people of the South East.
Uzodimma who is also Chairman of the Progressive Governors’ Forum said, “Our Vice President has shown sufficient goodwill to the people of the South East.
“From this part of the country, we will continue to work with the rest of Nigeria to make the country a prosperous nation for the interest of all of us for service to God and humanity.”
Dignitaries present at the event include Deputy Governor of Anambra State, Gilbert Ibezim; Deputy Senate President, Senator Barau Jibrin; Speaker of the House of Representatives, Tajudeen Abbas and National Chairman of the All Progressives Congress, Dr. Abdullahi Ganduje.
Others are Senator Osita Izunaso; Kano State APC governorship candidate, Nasiru Gawuna; former Minister of State for Mines and Steel Development, Henry Ikoh; the Obi of Onitsha, Nnaemeka Achebe; the Ooni of Ife, Adeyeye Ogunwusi; former Imo State Governor, Rochas Okorocha; former Minister of Labour and Productivity, Emeka Wogu; former Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Emeka Ihedioha, and former Chief of Army Staff, Lt.-Gen. Azubuike Ihejirika, among others.