NAN) Gov. Babatunde Fashola of Lagos State on Thursday apologised to the people of the South-East over the deportation of some destitute of Igbo extraction from Lagos to Anambra.
The governor tendered his apology at a ceremony to mark the silver jubilee anniversary of Aka Ikenga, an Igbo-social group in Lagos.
He said that he was discomforted with the controversy the deportation generated, but argued that the deportation was for “re-integration”.
Fashola said that those who had exaggerated the issue in the media were merely provoking ethnic and political sentiments, insisting that the State Government had built long friendships with Igbos.
The News Agency of Nigeria(NAN) reports that the deportation had attracted scathing criticisms from various quarters, with Gov. Peter Obi of Anambra and other prominent Igbo leaders demanding apology from Fashola for the action.
“The truth is that I do not have a problem with the Igbos, they know that because I am close to them and indeed, the largest herd of cattle I received during my father’s burial came from Ndigbo.
“But there were people who did not clearly understand me and they have misunderstood words said or misrepresented actions taken in the way that it has pleased them to do so.
“To those people, I owe an explanation, not a defence of what has happened and that is partly why am here. We have built a relationship based on tolerance, based on mutual respect, based on trust and love.
“That relationship was started by our ancestors, it was handed over to us; we have nourished it with a lot of trust, with a lot of understanding and with a lot of fidelity.
“Those who misunderstand that relationship, who think that there is value in that relationship; I have come here to correct that because I place a lot of value on that relationship.
“ And so, if those people have misunderstood me or they have misunderstood actions taken by our government, here, now and today, I offer an unqualified and unreserved apology,” he said.
The governor, however, urged Aka Ikenga to always use its influence as a foremost Igbo group to debate and address the real issues that could arouse such decisions and actions by government.
Fashola said the state thrived on its diversity, saying his administration was committed to the well-being of all residents, irrespective of their ethnic background.
President Goodluck Jonathan, who was represented by the Secretary to the Federal Government, Sen. Anyim Pius Anyim, urged the group to continue to chart a positive course for the Igbo race.
He described the Igbos as very enterprising, saying they had contributed immensely to the country`s development.
NAN reports that the Bishop of Sokoto Diocese, Rev. Mathew Kukah, was among prominent Nigerians present at the occasion.(NAN)