The Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF) yesterday reacted angrily to the arrest of 486 northerners in Abia state by the Nigerian Army on the allegation that they belong to the dreaded Boko Haram sect.
The forum said it learnt that those arrested were travellers who were on their way to pursuit legitimate means of livelihoods.
In a statement issued by its National Publicity Secretary, Malam Muhammad Ibrahim, yesterday in Kaduna, it said: “Arewa Consultative Forum learnt with serious concern the arrest of 486 northerners in pursuit of their legitimate means of livelihood in Abia state in the southern part of Nigeria on the allegation that they are members of the outlawed Boko Haram sect on account of their faith, origin and appearance.
“On arrest, they were alleged to have been subjected to ill treatment and hardship in the hands of security agencies. This indiscriminate act of arrest based on faith and origin negates the spirit of one Nigeria and equally violates their freedom of movement and association as guaranteed in the Nigerian Constitution.
“While ACF is not against operations designed to checkmate the activities of Boko Haram insurgents, it however condemn in strong terms arrest on account of appearance, faith and origin. This is because such an action will make innocent and law abiding citizens of a particular origin or faith to suffer unduly in the hands of security operatives.
“ACF therefore calls on the relevant authorities and in particular the Abia state government to exercise caution on the alleged arrest of Jigawa indigenes on suspicion of being Boko Haram members, lest such an action make some people of a particular faith and origin become foreigners in their fatherland.
“Nigerians deserve adequate protection of their lives and property wherever they are from their governments. Therefore, governments should ensure peaceful coexistence among Nigerians in any part of the country irrespective of their faith and origin,” the ACF stressed.