By; JACOB ONJEWU DICKSON
The Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria (PFN) has been called upon to postpone its planned 15th National Biennial Conference billed to hold at IBB Square, Makurdi, Benue State from 5th to 8th February, 2019.
The appeal was made by the Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC) in a press release circulated on Tuesday, 22nd January, 2019. The Islamic human rights organization hinged the appeal on the dangers inherent in holding a national conference which will attract members from all over
the federation in the heat of political campaigns and agitations characterized by violence.
According to Professor Ishaq Akintola, the director and founder of the organization, “We urge the leadership of PFN to postpone its planned 15th National Biennial Conference billed to hold at IBB Square, Makurdi, Benue State from 5th to 8th February, 2019 because of the dangers inherent in holding such a programme at such a sensitive period.
“We are all aware that 2019 general elections will start on 16th February 2019 while the PFN conference is scheduled to take place between the 5th and 8th February. That is just eight days to the commencement of elections. We also know that Nigerian security agencies have been issuing warnings and pieces of advice to members of the public regarding safety measures to be taken during this electioneering period.
“Unfortunately too, the political campaigns which began some weeks ago have been marred by violence and some people have been killed in the process. The violence has been widespread across the country. In particular, Benue state which is the venue of the proposed conference
has been the hotbed of clashes between herders and farmers while militia activity has been rife there. In addition, political parties have been accusing one another of amassing weapons. Meanwhile Nigeria holds her breath and trembles.
“Another factor is the state government and its level of readiness. The state government of the host city of such conferences is usually the host. Incidentally the same state government and all its officials who should be involved in the logistics and render assistance where necessary already have their hands full with the political campaigns and preparations for the coming election.
“A programme of this magnitude should not take place just one week to the general elections. It should be noted that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) issued the time table of the general elections more than a year ago and all public and private institutions and organizations are expected to have taken note of it and adjusted their own schedules.
“This is where we are expressing concern about the dates picked by the organizers of the PFN biennial conference. We know that people are free to plan their programmes but it must be within reason. The lives of innocent citizens must not be endangered by any programme. Members of the PFN who will attend the programme are expected to travel from different parts of the country. This is not good enough just one week to elections.
“We warn that the PFN biennial conference planned to come up barely one week to the 2019 general elections constitutes serious threat to the security of lives of members of PFN. In the same manner, it poses serious danger to the public as any untoward incident during the event
is capable of ricocheting across the country.
“We therefore appeal to the Federal Government (FG) and the security agencies in particular to prevail upon the organizers to postpone the conference in the interest of peace, law and order. We charge FG to quickly act on this and save members of PFN from the aforementioned
danger. A stitch in time saves nine. Article 14 Section 2(b) of the1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria states that ‘the security and welfare of the people shall be the primary purpose of government’.
“Our concern for the security implication is based on the perceived inability of our security agencies to effectively cope with additional challenges. They are already overstressed. They are preoccupied with providing security for candidates of about 91 political parties. We
also have 109 senators and 360 members of the House of Representatives for whom the police provide aides. This becomes highly herculean when viewed against the background of security challenges across Nigeria, particularly the Middle Belt region, the South East and the North East.
“Finally, in view of the gargantuan challenges facing the Nigerian Police and other security agencies, we call on the organisers of the PFN biennial conference to postpone the programme until after the general elections when there will be less stress on the Nigerian
Police. We also appeal to the Federal Government, the Benue State government and the Nigerian security agencies to persuade the organizers of the conference and ensure that the event does not hold barely one week to the commencement of the general elections.