The South-East Council of Traditional Rulers and some Christian leaders have called on the federal government to reverse the proscription of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB).
The council, and representatives of Igbo Archbishops and Bishops, in a joint statement issued on Sunday, also asked the government to release Nnamdi Kanu, IPOB leader, and all members of the group in detention.
Kanu has been in the custody of the Department of State Services (DSS) since July and is standing trial over allegations bordering on treasonable felony and terrorism.
His arrest and detention have sparked unrest in the region with members of IPOB enforcing sit-at-home orders in the region in solidarity with Kanu.
The unrest has also led to the loss of lives and the destruction of properties.
“Flowing from similar initiatives taken to bring peace to other troubled parts of the country, we urge the Federal Government and other stakeholders to explore dialogue and negotiation in resolving critical issues that threaten national unity, cohesion and development,” the statement reads.
“Accordingly, we refer to our earlier request for the release of Mazi Nnamdi Kanu to the South-East Council of Traditional Rulers and the Representatives of Igbo Archbishops and Bishops and restate this call even more strongly.
“We are of the firm belief that this act of courage and statesmanship is not only imperative but will speedily de-escalate the heightened state of insecurity and dislocation in the South-East zone.
“We also urge President Muhammadu Buhari (GCFR) and the Federal Government to take immediate steps to de-proscribe the Indigenous People of Biafra and release all IPOB members being held in various detention facilities in Nigeria.”
The south-east leaders further asked the government to demilitarise the zone and embrace dialogue as a means to quell the tension.
In October, the army launched new exercises — ‘Golden Dawn’, ‘Enduring Peace’, and ‘Still Water’ — across its divisions in the south-east, south-west, and the south-south to stem the tide of criminality as the yuletide approaches.
The south-east leaders alleged that the militarisation of the zone had resulted in clashes and “bloodletting” between the youths and security agents.
“It has become urgent, imperative and compelling to de-emphasise the military option and move towards finding a political solution that will lead to sustainable peace,” they said.
The federal government proscribed IPOB in 2017 and branded it a terrorist group.