The Southern and Middle Belt Leaders Forum (SMBLF) has pulled out of a roundtable to discuss security matters.
The forum announced this in a letter co-signed by Edwin Clark, Pan-Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF) leader, Ayo Adebanjo, Afenifere leader, John Nwodo, leader of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, and Pogu Bitrus, leader of the Middle Belt Forum.
They cited the invitation of the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACBAN) by the organisers of the programme as one of the reasons for their withdrawal.
The roundtable scheduled to hold from July 29 to 30 in Minna, Niger state, is being hosted by Abdulsalami Abubakar, a former military head of state.
“It was in the thick of our preparations for the journey that fuller details of the roundtable came to our attention, some aspect of which has necessitated this last minute communication with you,” the letter read.
“We observed that the roundtable will have in attendance all the national security heads, chief of defence staff and notable Nigerians; underscoring the high level of the dialogue.
“We were comfortable up to that point until we saw the following: Gan Allah Fulani Development Association, Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria.
“While we do not know the members of the first group, the lumping of Miyetti Allah, a trade association for cattle herders and whose members have been accused of various violations of rights, including life, across the country sends worrying signal to us.
“We consider the above a grave insult on our bodies and our coming to a roundtable with the group would mean acquiescence to the narrative that put us in the same bracket with those wielding illegal AK-47 all over the country and inflicting terror on fellow citizens.”
The leaders said even if the above were not the case with Miyetti Allah, it would have been inappropriate to put nationality organisations in the same vehicle with this “trade group as there are organisations for fishermen, farmers, poultry owners and spare parts dealers across the country like such who were not invited”.