The Northern Elders Forum, NEF, yesterday, lamented the killings and wanton destruction of private assets reportedly belonging to Northerners in parts of the South as hoodlums looted communities in the region.
The NEF, in a statement by its Director of Publicity and Advocacy, Dr. Hakeem Baba-Ahmed, called for the immediate stoppage of the attacks on Northerners in many Southern communities.
The forum, however, warned that any further attack on Northerners in the region could plunge the country into a major national crisis. The statement reads: "The Northern Elders Forum, NEF, has been alarmed by the recent and deliberate targeting of Northerners in many parts of the South, with reported killings, destruction and stealing of their assets and other assaults which had been going on for days.
"The Forum had resisted the pressure to raise alarm earlier at these unacceptable acts of hostility at Nigerians living and earning legitimate livelihood peacefully in many communities in the South, out of concern that doing so would further worsen a major national crisis.
"We are aware that Governors and security agencies and communities in many states in the South are aware of the widespread assaults on Northerners.
"Many people in the North are understandably concerned by the plight of family members who have lost lives and assets and are living in fear.
"The Forum calls for the immediate stop of attacks and harassment of Northerners in many Southern communities. "We commend efforts by some community leaders to reduce the vulnerability of Northerners in many Southern communities, and we urge Governors, in particular, to take urgent steps to improve the protection of Northerners and give them assurances of their safety."
NEF also advised Northerners living in the Southern States to stay put and continue to pursue their livelihood.
The forum said: "The Forum invites the attention of the country to the existence of millions of Nigerians from the Southern part of the country living in peace in Northern communities.
"These are Nigerians who are valued and whose rights are respected in the communities they live in.
"Unrestrained, criminal and ill-advised attacks on Northerners in the South are capable of putting our fellow citizens from the South in danger. This must be prevented at all costs by responsible leaders of the communities.
"So, the Forum calls on leaders at all levels in the country to work towards lowering tension, improving inter-community relations and isolating elements that seek to plunge the nation into deeper crises.
Don't make statements that can inflame passion --Afenifere
Reacting to the NEF's remarks, the pan-Yoruba socio-political organization, Afenifere, warned the forum to desist from making statements capable of inflaming passion in the country.
Afenifere's National Publicity Secretary, Mr. Yinka Odumakin, said: "Our friends in NEF should please be more careful about statements that can inflame passion. We make this appeal not out of fear but a deep sense of responsibility and the understanding of the place of elders. Our utterances should bring calm at this delicate period."