The Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF), Afenifere, Ohanaeze, Middle Belt Forum (MBF) and Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF), have disagreed with elder statesman, Tanko Yakasai, who in an interview with Saturday Sun, said that the associations were not registered with the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC), and as such are illegal bodies.
Reacting, the Publicity Secretary of ACF, Emmanuel Yaweh, said ACF is not an illegal organisation. According to him, it was formed in 1999, when the country returned to civilian rule and the North was exploding in religious and ethnic violence, which posed a security threat to the whole country.
“ACF is not an illegal organisation; it is an organisation formed to help the country. We are law abiding, we carry out our activities in the open and very high government officials participate. By March his year, we were going to hold our 20th anniversary, and the president was supposed to be there if not for this COVID-19 pandemic that stopped us from holding public meetings,” Yaweh said. In the same vein, the Ohanaeze, through its Publicity Secretary, Uche-Achi Opaga, wondered why somebody at the level of Yakasai would say that a geo-political organisation like Ohanaeze that has a structure and its leadership elected by the people is illegal simply because it was not registered with CAC.
“Our organisation is genuine and represents the interest of her people. It is not a commercially oriented structure and for the fact that it is not registered with CAC doesn’t make it illegal. The argument that Ohanaeze is an illegal organisation is pedestrian and puerile.
“The elder statesman’s choice of words wasn’t appropriate. Tomorrow if we say what he wants to hear, then we become legal organisation and the following day if we say what he doesn’t like we become an illegal organisation. It doesn’t follow. Don’t we have a constitution that governs the nation, and the constitution allows for freedom of association.”
The National President of MBF, Dr. Bitrus Pogu, stressed that whether or not CAC recognises MBF, it doesn’t make it illegal because the constitution allows people to associate.
He said: “Whether CAC recognizes it or not, the constitution allows for association of people; so, we are free to associate. It is up to him to recognise or not to recognise; our people are associating and they will continue to associate for the interest of our people.”
Also, the spokesman of Afenifere, Yinka Odumakin said Yakasai was expressing his personal view. According to him, Nigeria’s constitution allows freedom of association and expression.
“Whatever Afenifere is doing is not illegal. Nigeria’s constitution provides for freedom of association, and expression, and we have not been involved in any act of illegality,’’ Odumakin declared.
On his part, National President, PANDEF, Commodore Idongesit Nkanga said the statement by Yakasai shouldn’t be taken very seriously, noting that “even though he was not correct, the statement was his personal opinion of our association.”