Kogi State Governor Yahaya Bello on Thursday met with President Muhammadu Buhari as part of an ongoing effort to further appease members of the Amalgamated Union of Food and Livestock Traders in Nigeria, who called off their strike on Wednesday.
While the strike lasted, AUFCDN members blocked the movement of livestock and food from the northern part of the country to the South.
But they called off the strike on Wednesday after the intervention of the governor and former Aviation Minister Femi Fani-Kayode.
Their President, Muhammad Tahir, had said the strike was called off following the Federal Government’s promise to pay N4.75bn compensation, stop multiple taxes and ensure protection of their members, among others.
Emerging from the meeting where he briefed the President on the development at the Presidential Villa, Abuja on Thursday, Bello said the traders were not asking for too much.
“I don’t think they are asking for too much. If those demands are met, or at least, attempts have been made to meet those demands, and if they can graciously respect Mr President, respect us and sympathise with Nigerians and call off their strike and begin the supply of food and other items to all parts of this country, I think it behoves on us to also meet them midway so that there will be no such occurrence again,” the governor said.
Justifying the demands, Bello noted that while they were carrying out their legitimate business, criminals hijacked the process, killed them “in their hundreds” and destroyed property worth billions of naira.
He added, “Those that were killed, their families, the properties that were lost, where are they going to start from?
“They are demanding that the Federal Government should do something and remember they have gone round the country, met various authorities and you know, they never received any attention. Hence, they embarked on that particular strike.”
Bello said the President had already directed law enforcement agencies to ensure that traders were no longer extorted.
He recalled that before the strike was called off, the crisis was already degenerating into what he called “a major national catastrophe” where some other parts of the country were gearing up for reprisals.
The governor added, “We cannot afford to allow this country to snowball into civil war again, not this time around.
“We are so much interwoven that we are inseparable, again. By marriage, business investments, politics, and every other form of development, Nigeria is so much interwoven that we shouldn’t allow few bad elements, however, lowly placed or highly placed, come and divide us again.
“So, I think that if the Federal Government or the authorities take responsibility and do or attend to it (the demand), I think such a strike will not repeat itself again.”
The governor also denied insinuations that his intervention was because of his 2023 presidential ambition.
He said some people had been calling on him to contest the presidential election in 2023, saying such calls were within their rights.
He, however, said he currently had an assignment to govern his state well.