The Southern and Middle Belt Forum says they were prevented from travelling to Benue state on Monday.
They said they were prevented from going to Benue state by one A. Audu, commandant of the state’s airport, from Abuja.
Speaking with journalists, John Nwodo (pictured), secretary of the group and president-general of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, described the act as an infringement of their fundamental human rights.
“We arrived in time for our flight today at 12 noon, the airport commandant disallowed us from flying and said we needed to go and get permission to land in Makurdi,” Nwodo said.
“We consider this fundamental infringement on our democratic rights of freedom of movement and freedom of association. There is nothing in our law precluding us from moving to wherever we like, from holding an opinion in so far as we do not breach any law in Nigeria.
“What has happened to us today expresses a lot of doom for fundamental human rights in our country, for the free exchange of ideas as unavoidable instruments of achieving growth and development of our polity.
“We deprecate the treatment that we were given today, which treatment prevented us from physical joining our brethren in the middle belt in a common view which we all hold, a very patriotic view, which we think will be the only way to guarantee the future of our country.”
On his part, Yinka Odumakin, Afenifere spokesman, said they were told of the landing issue as they were about to make payments for their flight.
“As we were about to make payments, they now said there was landing permit issues. They called the commandant in Makurdi, who said they should send application,” he said
“The chief of staff to the Benue state governor said we should fax the application to him and to the commandant.
“We waited at the airport for hours. Eventually, the chief of staff had to contact the commandant in Makurdi and was told that the landing permit requested by the first airline was still on their table. At that stage, General C. Ariyo Niege, a veteran ex-soldier, who was head of Nigerian military forces in Sudan, went to the commandant in Abuja.”
Edwin Clark and other leaders of the forum gave their goodwill messages to the summit via a telephone call.