The Southern and Middle Belt Leaders Forum has turned down an invitation to attend a security roundtable organised by a former military head of state, Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar (retd.), scheduled for Minna, Niger State.

The roundtable slated for July 29 and 30 is expected to have in attendance heads of security forces and other notable Nigerians.

But the SMBLF, comprising pan-Yoruba group, Afenifere; Ohanaeze Ndigbo; Pan-Niger Delta Forum; and the Middle Belt Forum, said it would not be part of the event because the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria was invited to the meeting.

The regional leaders said this in a statement co-signed by Chief Edwin Clark (PANDEF); Chief Ayo Adebanjo (Afenifere); Chief Nnia Nwodo (Ohanaeze); and Dr Bitrus Pogu (MBF) in Abuja on Sunday.

It read, “We thank you for your interest in the affairs of our country which made us to accept your invitation in good faith.

“It was in the thick of our preparations for the journey that fuller details of the roundtable came to our attention, some aspect of which has necessitated this last minute communication with you.

“We were comfortable up to that point until we saw the following: Gan Allah Fulani Development Association; Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria.”

It added, “While we do not know the members of the first group, the lumping of Miyetti Allah, a trade association for cattle herders and whose members have been accused of various violations of rights, including life, across the country sends worrying signal to us.

“It falls into the categorisation of our respected socio-cultural platforms with Miyetti Allah by Presidential Spokesman, Garba Shehu.

“We consider the above a grave insult to our bodies and our coming to a roundtable with the group would mean acquiescence to the narrative that put us in the same bracket with those wielding illegal AK-47 all over the country and inflicting terror on fellow citizens.”