Northern, Southern elders caution against derailment of democracy

Junaid Mohammed

•Condemn EFCC freezing of Benue, Akwa Ibom states accounts
The Southern and Northern Leaders and Elders Forum has raised the alarm over purported plans by some government agents to truncate the nation’s democratic rule based on selfish and inordinate ambition.

The body, which comprise Yoruba socio-cultural organisation, Afenifere; Igbo apex cultural group, Ohanaeze; Pan-Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF) from South South-South; Northern Elders Forum (NEF) and Middle Belt Forum said it was shocked over the ‘coup’ staged against the legislative arm of government last Tuesday by hooded members of the Department of State Services (DSS), who shut-down the National Assembly complex and prevented lawmakers from gaining access for several hours.

In a statement yesterday, spokesmen of the forum, Yinka Odumakin for Afenifere; Dr. Junaid Mohammed for NEF; Prof. Chigozie Ogbu for Ohanaeze; Senator Basey Henshaw for South South and Dr Isuwa Dogo (Middle Belt), said the development was a wake up call for Nigerians to stand alert and be prepared to resist any attempt aimed at destroying the country.

According to the forum: “The gang invasion of the legislative arm, which constitutes the essence of democratic rule, exposed Nigeria to the whole world as a crude entity where political misfits ride roughshod over decency and all moral pillars have collapsed.”

While the forum commended the lawmakers for resisting the siege to the National Assembly complex with the full backing of civil society organisations and the mass media, it also appreciated the timely intervention of the international community, particularly the European Union (EU) and the United States, which criticised the incident.

Although the elders eulogized the Acting President, Prof Yemi Osinbajo, for taking prompt action by firing the former Director-General of the DSS, Mr. Lawal Daura, it however rejected the appointment of the Inspector General of Police, Ibrahim Idris to probe the invasion, alleging he is part of the matter.

According to the forum: “We consider the dismissal of Daura as only a token in the circumstance. High treason was committed, and therefore the matter cannot and should not end with merely firing a public official. We demand that the planners and perpetrators of the invasion and sealing of the National Assembly premises be investigated, tried and punished.

“We also reject any attempt to make Idris to investigate the crime. We have perused the wishy-washy interim report submitted to the Acting President by the IGP and the only thing we saw in it was the puerile deduction that there were political figures that colluded with Daura to carry out the crime.”

Stating reasons for rejecting Idris, the forum said: “The police under the command of the IGP did nothing but watched almost with amusement when about six hoodlums walked freely into the Senate chambers and made away with the mace.

“The police under Idris recently sealed the Benue State House of Assembly Complex in Makurdi and provided protection for eight out of a 30-member legislators to sit illegally to serve an impeachment order on Governor Samuel Ortom.”

The forum, however, called for a judicial probe to the matter given the enormity of the crime. It stressed: “A judicial panel of inquiry to be headed by a retired justice of the Supreme Court with proven integrity should be appointed to investigate the matter.

“By virtue of Sections 145 and 146 of the 1999 Constitution the highest authority in the land on the day of the invasion was the Acting President who has described the invasion and sealing of NASS as ‘unauthorized’. Nigerians need to know the power ‘from above’ which undermined the Acting President by illegally authorizing the desecration of our country’s parliament.”

The forum further appealed to the international community to take more than a passing interest in the matter and in the affairs of Nigeria from now on, saying: “If Nigeria continues as it is now doing unchecked, the forces of iniquity will roll it into a mighty cataclysm.”

The forum also condemned the freezing of the accounts of Benue and Akwa Ibom states by the Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC), saying: “The can freeze, with a court order, the accounts of persons that are linked with criminal activities but we are at a loss as to how accounts of state governments can be treated as proceeds of crime. Obviously, political vendetta was at play here.”

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