Ancestral leader of the Tiv nation, Wantaregh Paul Unongo, has resigned as Chairman of the Northern Elders Forum, NEF, less than a year after taking over from the late Maitama Sule.
He stepped down as NEF chairman during an emergency meeting of the forum in Abuja on Wednesday. NEF spokesman, Prof. Ango Abdullahi, confirmed the development, adding that the forum reluctantly accepted Unongo’s resignation, even as the deputy Convener, Alhaji Sani Zangon Daura, was asked to hold forth until a new Convener is appointed.
Newsworth recalls that during a requiem church service for the burial of 73 deceased victims of the herdsmen attacks in Benue, Unongo had warned that Benue people may be left with no option than to train their own Army in the state to defend themselves if President Muhammadu Buhari refused to fulfill his mandate of protecting lives and properties of the people.
“If the Federal Government cannot stop or arrest those behind the killings, in two weeks, we shall raise an army of our own because we cannot allow people to colonise us again. We have all it takes to do that,” Unongo has said.
Announcing his resignation as NEF chair, Abdullahi said in a statement: “The Forum reluctantly accepted the offer of its Convener to step aside to allow the emergence of a structured leadership which should prepare the Forum to deal with many of the challenges facing the North.
“It took note of the sterling contributions of Wantaregh Paul Unongo to the foundation and development of the Northern Elders Forum along with its late predecessor and confident, Danmasanin Kano Alhaji Yusuf Maitama Sule.
“The Forum has been assured by Wantaregh Paul Unongo of his life-time commitment to the goals and projects of the Forum, and is grateful for the fatherly and statemanly status which he will continue to place at the service of the Forum.
“The Forum has approved that the Deputy Convener, Alhaji Sani Zangon Daura, CON should assume responsibility for the interim leadership of the Forum. Further reorganization of the Forum will be undertaken in the next few days”.
The statement further disclosed that at the meeting, NEF also reviewed some critical national developments, particularly the tensions about national security challenges generated by killings in many communities, in Benue, Taraba, Adamawa, Kaduna, Zamfara and other parts of the country.
According to Abdullahi, the Forum while commiserating with families and communities that lost members and assets, called on the federal and state governments as well as security agencies to take more decisive steps to restore the security of lives and property of citizens.
He continued: “The Forum calls on all leaders to exercise the highest levels of restraint and responsibility in the manner they exercise their powers to shape opinion and determine the responses of the citizens.
“It appeals to all communities to maintain vigilance over their relations with each other, and seek solutions that do not involve endemic conflicts that leave all of us as losers.
“The Forum will continue to seek all opportunities and avenues to engage leaders, governments and all stakeholders in the search for peace and security in the North and Nigeria.
“The Forum re-examined its basic philosophy and record, and has been re-assured that it represents a strategic asset for all Northerners, irrespective of location, ethnicity or faith.
“It is motivated, under the circumstances, to seek to re-assure all communities that it will defend and protect the interests of all Northerners and it will not succumb to blackmail and mischief that will reduce it as a platform for only one type of Northerner”.