Acting President Yemi Osinbajo on Tuesday read the Riot Act to all those agitating for secession across the country – with the issuance of quit notice to other Nigerians in their domain – saying the full force of the law would be applied where necessary.
The acting president gave the warning during a closed door meeting with some leaders from the North, including some members of the Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF), at the old Banquet Hall of the State House, Abuja.
His statement is coming on the heels of a threat by some northern youth groups that the Igbo must leave the region within three months.
Although the caution is coming almost a week after the threat, the acting president vowed that the government will clamp down on “those who make speeches that are capable of provoking violence and division.”
He said hate speeches and other divisive behaviours would be met with the full force of the law.
Osinbajo added that the government would take very seriously any attempts to cause violence or disrupt the peace of the country.
“Every form of violence, every form of hate speech and any stone that is thrown in the marketplace will hit targets that are going to be deadly. So I need us to be fully conscious of that and the Nigerian people must be made to be fully conscious of that so that we do not create a crisis that is not intended,” he said.
“As part of living together, I know that misunderstandings and frustrations will always arise and people will always want to get the best part of the deal but we must be careful to recognise that we can only begin to talk about any part of anything is we are together in peace. These days, wars do not end and I am sure that those who have seen or experienced war in any shape or form will not wish it on their worst enemies.
“This is not a time to retreat behind ethnic lines, moments like this are not for isolating ourselves, I want to urge all of us here and the entire Nigerian populace to come together and work together.
“As a government, we are determined to ensure the unity of the country along the lines of our constitution and I want to say that hate and divisive speech or divisive behaviour where it is illegal will be met with the full force of the law.
“And I want to ensure that there is no doubt at all that it is the resolve of the government that none will be allowed to get away with making speeches that can cause sedition or that can cause violence especially because when we make these kinds of pronouncement and do things that can cause violence or destruction of lives and property we are no longer in control. Those who make those speeches are no longer in control.
“So I want to empathise that government will take very seriously any attempts to cause violence or disrupt the peace of this country. And that is very important because you cannot control violence once it begins.”
Some of those present at the meeting were Senate President Bukola Saraki; Yakubu Dogara, speaker of the house of representatives; Abba Kyari, chief of staff to the president; Gabriel Olonishakin, chief of defence staff and Ibrahim Idris, inspector-general of police.
Others are Ango Abdullahi, Aliyu Wamako, former governor Sokoto state; Pauline Tallen; former deputy governor of Plateau state; Sam Ndah-Isaiah, publisher of Leadership Newspapers; Paul Unongo and Tijani Ramalan, chairman Liberty radio/television.
The acting president is also expected to meet with Igbo leaders later in the week.