Mr. Henry O. Idahagbon was the Attorney-General during Comrade Adams Oshiomhole’s administration in Edo State. In this Interview, he spoke on the current crisis in Edo APC, among other issues. Excerpts…
There was news making the rounds that your health was failing and you were rushed abroad for treatment. How true is this?
Even if it happened, I am human, so as a human being, I can be sick and anybody can fall sick. I am an adult, I can be ill. But it can be verified, London is not very far, anyone can go and find out if I was in the hospital. In any case, I didn’t go for any treatment, London is not a place where facts can be hidden, it is not like Nigeria. I went to London because my son gained admission into a university, and I had to be there. I took him to the primary school, I took him to the secondary school, so now that he got admitted into the university, it is my duty as a father to see him and congratulate him. I was just there for my son, I went to play the role of a responsible parent. So, if my distractors were wishing me sickness in London, I leave them in the hands of God. God gives life, he gives good health, and I thank Him for the adequate good healthy He has given to me.
How do you see the statement credited to Governor Godwin Obaseki that his second term is not negotiable?
There is no fighting whatsoever; he is free to say anything if that is what he thinks of himself. Obaseki is a very poor student who has refused to learn the political process. It is unfortunate that he is taking the goodwill of Edo people and the political class for granted. Obaseki got the governorship on a platter, he didn’t work for it, he didn’t know how he became governor. He woke up suddenly and became the governor and he thinks it is that easy. Let me tell you that it is easier to win a first term election than win a second term election. When you are contesting the first term, people don’t know you, people voted for you based on the promises you made, but when you have spent three years in office, we now know you. We now know that Obaseki is capable of sleeping at ma- j o r m e e t – ings and e v e n t s . P e o p l e n o w know that there is a disparity between a spoken word and performance. Like Adams Oshiomhole often say that government is not about earmarking, is about eye marking, tell me one single project that he has executed that can be eye marked, everything about Obaseki is earmark. Edo people want eye mark. The eye mark is that Benin – City became one giant River Niger whenever the rain falls, some of the roads he constructed have been washed away because they were poorly executed. He gives out contracts without supervision, those are the things that we can eye mark in this government. You can fool some people some time, but you can’t fool all the people all the time. We were deceived three years ago, we can’t be deceived the second time. He has randomly condemned the political class in Edo State; he has called us thieves, robbers, greedy disgruntled people, beggars and all kinds of names. Thank God he has not being sharing money with us; he should tell Edo people what he is doing with their money.
What if he wins?
This time around he will not have an easy ride, yes it is not negotiable, he is going to vote for himself. How many of his family members will vote for Obaseki? I spoke with one of them recently and he told me to stop calling him Godwin Obaseki, that I should just call him God-win. He can become boastful and says whatever he likes, it is a democracy, the minority will have their say, and the majority will have their way. He can talk as much as he likes, but on the day of the primary election, we will teach him the bitter side of politics, a political lesson he will not forget in his lifetime.
Some people have described the Edo Peoples Movement (EPM) as disgruntled people. What is your take?
He is very free. If we are disgruntled we have the right to be disgruntled. We brought him from political obscurity to national and International political limelight. Then after doing that for him he abandoned us, called us names and he expects us to be happy with him? We cannot be happy with him. The only thing that could have pacified us is if he had performed. In the whole of metropolitan Benin – City, Obaseki has only done three roads. If you know of any road that he has done, I challenge the ingrates and his errand boys to come out and tell Edo people. I mean major roads, not the 200 unfit roads that had been washed away by the rains.
The majority of Edo people are saying that Obaseki is doing very well. Don’t you agree?
Pride goes before a fall. When the chips are down we will know what to do. We know what we did three years ago, and we know what to do again. Let them go ahead and be praising him, NUT has given him award, let NUJ give him award, let NMA give him award, let NWWW give him award, we don’t care. Oshiomhole in order to get Obaseki to be governor three years ago, worked on the centripetal and centrifugal forces, he brought together all these forces, he brought together the men, the women, the boys, the girls, the youth, the traditional institutions, he brought everybody together and offended the majority of the political class in Edo just for Obaseki to be where he is today. Today, all those forces are fighting among themselves because they have been used and abandoned, they have seen that is the nature and character of Obaseki: to use people and dump.
A group of of APC members placed an advertorial disowning EPM. Are you comfortable with that?
That is the handiwork of the state chairman who does not know what he is doing. Our state chairman is a man that has never contested any election in his lifetime, that is a man that has never won his ward in his local government. He is the worst state chairman Edo state and Nigeria has ever produced. Can you compare him to the vibrant PDP state party chairman? You can see Chief Dan Orbih going everywhere criticizing, doing his job as an opposition. Let no one be deceived, the EPM is the conscience of the Edo APC, we are the conscience. We have a party that had been decimated by the state chairman, and we have a government that has lost touch with the people. The EPM is the sole of APC in Edo State, we will determine who becomes the next governor of Edo State in 2020. We told our state chairman over two months ago to call a leadership meeting of the party where we can tell ourselves the truth, till this moment, he has not been able to do it. Our state party chairman is a failed chairman, he cannot summon the courage to do it, and he has become the mouthpiece of the governor. The party is superior to the governor; the state chairman is bigger than the governor. He supposed to seat in his office and call the governor to come and explain his government policies. He has forgotten that there is a great difference between the party and the governor. In a democratic setting, the party is supreme. In any case, when we get to the bridge we know how to cross it.
Bayelsa guber: Ijaw Leaders Forum endorses Douye Diri
A group known as Ijaw Leaders Forum, in collaboration with the coalition of civil society, faith based organisations and some other groups, on Tuesday endorsed Senator Douye Diri the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) candidate for Saturday’s governorship election.
Speaking in Yenagoa, at a press conference, the group, through it’s leader Timi Ogoriba, said that they decided to endorse Diri after a thorough assessment and evaluation of the unfolding political developments and electioneering process, the so far.
“We are convinced that Senator Douye Diri has the requisite pedgree, administrative knack, exposure, qualification and reach to turn around the fortunes and developmental challeges of the state,” they said.
Accepting that there were some mistakes in governing the state, the group maintained that: “In this connection, we wish to appeal very strongly particularly to the organised labour, professional associations, trade unions, artisans, students, women and youth groups and the Bayelsa State electorate to vote for Senator Douye Diri.
“A vote for Douye is a vote for prosperity, light, massive infrastructure and human capital development.
“We therefore endorse Senator Douye Diri, the gubernatorial candidate of the PDP, for Saturday’s election.”
Ex Gov Aliyu asks Sani Bello to account for N1.4bn saved for 5-star hotel
Former Governor of Niger State, Dr. Muazu Babangida Aliyu has again asked his successor, Alhaji Abubakar Sani Bello to account for the N1.4 billion set aside in an “escrow account” for the construction of the Minna International 5-star hotel.
This is coming barely two weeks after the former governor raised the issue of $181million Islamic Development Bank loan which he facilitated for the dualization of the Minna-Bida Road.
He made the disclosure while speaking to journalists on Tuesday as part of activities to mark his 64th birthday in Minna, that he left the money in what he called an “escrow account” of the state.
According to him: “The N1.4 billion was left in the escrow account and was for the payment of the contractor when the job had reached a certain level.
“To my surprise, the contractor was invited by this government and given the whole amount, after two months he (contractor) disappeared from site and has not returned to finish the job.
“Am I to be held responsible? The government that invited and paid the contractor should be asked to account for the money.”
Furthermore, Dr Aliyu maintained that the vexed $181million was secured during the twilight of his government and must also be accounted for.
Accordingly, he said: “I negotiated and secured the approval for the $181million Industrial Development Bank (IDB) loan. The facility is not only for the dualization of the Minna-Bida Road, the other component of the loan was the construction of a Bilingual Language Centre in Minna; we presented five items before the IDB team only two were picked.
“I went to Jeddah to negotiate for the loan with some of my officials then, some of them are still part and parcel of this APC government. He, (Governor Sani Bello) can cross check from these people.
“The issue on the ground is not about EFCC or ICPC; let the government come out clean that it has not collected the money.”
Last minute court judgements won’t affect Kogi, Bayelsa polls – INEC
*PDP: Come out on modalities for the election
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) said it has taken steps to ensure that this weekend’s governorship elections in Kogi and Bayelsa states were not affected “by any 11th hour judgement.”
This is just as the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) wants the commission to come out clean on the modalities for the conduct of the elections, particularly on transmission of the results.
INEC Chairman, Prof. Mahmoud Yakubu, at a stakeholders’ meeting in Lokoja, Kogi State Tuesday assured that the commission’s preparations would not be affected by court judgements delivered few days ago.
A Federal High Court sitting in Abuja, last week, ordered INEC to include the candidate of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) in Kogi State on the ballot for this Saturday’s election.
But Prof. Yakubu said such judgement was at variance with the decision of another Federal High Court in Abuja delivered earlier which affirmed the propriety of the commission’s action in a similar case by another political party.
“However, we will consider legitimate steps to address the conflicting judgements by courts of coordinate jurisdiction in the interest of our electoral jurisprudence,” he said.
Kwara story on ease of doing business will change — AbdulRazaq
• Gov lists strategies to change course
Kwara State Governor AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq has pledged to implement reforms to ease business climate in the state, saying the current narrative about it ranking lowest in the North Central region is unacceptable.
AbdulRazaq, who was represented by Deputy Governor Kayode Alabi, said various concrete steps are already being taken to make business transactions a lot easier and faster to attract investors.
The governor spoke on Tuesday at the North Central regional engagement on Ease of Doing Business which was organised by the Presidential Enabling Business Environment Council (PEBEC) and the Kwara State Government.
The event was attended by the Special Adviser to the President on Ease of Doing Business Dr Jumoke Oduwole; Secretary to the Kwara State Government Prof Mamman Saba Jibril; Chief of Staff to the Governor Aminu Adisa Logun; Kwara Commissioner-designates; PEBEC Enabling Business Environment Secretariat Project Manager Ayokunnu Ojeniyi; representatives of federal government agencies; several small and medium-sized enterprises; and regulatory bodies from across the region.
The governor expressed dismay at a World Bank report in 2018 which ranked Kwara 30th out of 37 states including the FCT — and the lowest in the North Central — in the ease of doing business.
“On the national average, according to the report, Kwara ranked the lowest among its peers in the North Central. In terms of starting a business, Kwara ranked 7th out of the seven states sampled in the zone, including the Federal Capital Territory (Abuja). In dealing with construction permit, we ranked 4th out of seven; in registering of properties, Kwara ranked 6th out of seven; and in terms of enforcing contract, Kwara ranked 7th out of the seven states/places,” AbdulRazaq said.
Bayelsa guber: Act expeditiously on H’Court judgement, Secondus tells INEC
The National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Prince Uche Secondus has called on the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to act quickly on the Abuja High Court ruling, which disqualified the deputy governorship candidate of the All Progressives Congress, (APC), Bishop Degi.
Secondus in a statement by his media adviser, Ike Abonyi said the electoral umpire should invoke the relevant sections of the constitution and the Electoral Act and disqualify the APC candidate.
According to him, what court ruling meant was that APC has no validly nominated candidate for Saturday’s governorship poll.
He also called on the military to show professionalism in the Saturday’s governorship elections in Kogi and Bayelsa states.
Gombe Assembly Deputy Speaker impeached
Hon. Shuaibu Haruna, the Deputy Speaker, Gombe State House of Assembly has been impeached by his colleagues.
Haruna, who was impeached on Tuesday, has been replaced by the member representing Kwami West, Sidi Buba.
The motion to impeach the former deputy Speaker was moved by Adamu Pata, member representing Yamaltu East; and was seconded by the member representing Billiri West Tulfugut Kardi.
Stop campaigning for 2023, APC chieftain urges politicians
A chieftain of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), Mr Nduka Anyanwu, has called on political stakeholders to stop the campaign for 2023 presidency to allow President Muhammadu Buhari concentrate on good governance to Nigerians.
Anyanwu, who is the APC Ex-official representing South-East, gave the advice in a statement in Abuja on Tuesday.
News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that posters of notable politicians like the APC National Chairman, Adams Oshiomhole, Governor Nasir el-Rufai of Kaduna State and APC National Leader Bola Tinubu were sighted in some parts of the country.
He said that it would be unfair and a distraction to the president for some people to start campaigning for 2023 six months after the 2019 elections.
Anyanwu urged politicians in the ruling APC and the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to avoid heating the polity.
Anyanwu cautioned that if the distraction was not curtailed, it might have negative effects on the good intention of the president for the nation.
“Politics should be about the development of our land. We just finished an election about six months ago and people are already heating up the polity, this is not right.
“Buhari is laying a solid foundation for the betterment of our nation, so we must commend the judiciary for upholding the will of the people,” he said.
He appealed to party members and other Nigerians in opposition parties to give the ruling party a chance to deliver.
“The Supreme Court has determined the winner and the loser, it is time to develop our nation, let all, irrespective of our political affiliation, support the Buhari-led government and the APC to take the country to the next level,” he said.
JUST IN: Appeal Court reaffirms Gov Sule’s election
The Court of Appeal sitting in Makurdi, the Benue State capital on Tuesday reaffirmed the election of Governor Abdullahi Sule of Nasarawa State.
Consequently, the court dismissed the case brought before it by candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), David Ombugadu and his party.
The court held that the March 9, 2019 governorship election, which returned Sule as governor, was conducted in substantial compliance with the Electoral Act 2011 in disregard to the allegation by Ombugadu that the election was conducted in gross violation of the Electoral Act among other allegations.
Bayelsa guber: Gladiators who’ll shape poll
PAULINE ONYIBE writes on political gladiators who will shape Saturday’s governorship election in Bayelsa State
The political terrain of Bayelsa State has become tensed as the November 16 governorship election approaches. Already the state is locked down with all manner of campaigns including propaganda on the social media.
The governorship election on Saturday undoubtedly is a two-horse race between the candidate of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the state, Senator Douye Diri and his All Progressives Congress (APC) opponent, Chief David Lyon.
Some Bayelsans have been clamouring for change on the ground that the PDP-led administration has not done enough after 20 years, while some are rooting for the ruling party to continue on the account that PDP has not done badly. But despite being a ruling party in Bayelsa in the last 20 years, the election is not going to be a walk over for PDP as APC is not only relying on federal might, but has a candidate most Bayelsans say has impacted on the lives of many.
Unlike the 2015 governorship election, which was mainly between Governor Seriake Dickson, who contested on the platform of the PDP and former Governor Timipre Sylva, who ran on the platform of the APC, Saturday’s election has gone beyond the 2015 event as both of them are battling to install their anointed candidates in Bayelsa State government house come February 14, 2020, when Governor Dickson is expected to bow out of office after two terms in office.
Expectedly, the poll is not going to be a tea-party as some political gladiators in the state will do everything possible to ensure victory for their favourite candidates.
Among the gladiators, who will shape the poll are former President Goodluck Jonathan; his wife, Patience; Governor Dickson and Sylva, among others.
There is no doubt that the former president is one of those who will shape the gubernatorial election. Jonathan is not a novice in Bayelsa State politics. He has seen it all in Nigeria politics, having served at both state and federal levels as number one citizen.
Within 16 years (1999-2015), Jonathan served the people of Bayelsa State as deputy governor and governor before moving to the federal level to serve Nigeria as vice president, acting president and president against all odds.
By the virtue of his position as a former president, Jonathan is a leader in the PDP, but due to political tussle in Bayelsa, he seems not to be in control of affairs and structure of the ruling party in the state. Therefore, some people believe that he is not keen to see PDP win Saturday’s poll. The former president has been absent from all the campaigns of the PDP.
His absence is hinged on his disagreement and disappointment over the outcome of the PDP governorship primary that produced Senator Diri as the party’s flag bearer.
Jonathan was believed to have supported the former Managing Director of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), Timi Alaibe, but the power tussle between him and Governor Dickson during the primary led to the emergence of Dickson’s candidate, Senator Diri, who is a member of Restoration Caucus, as PDP’s governorship candidate.
Given the controversy over the primary, it has been alleged that Jonathan is working behind the scene to see that APC takes over the state. Of course he had suffered a lot of humiliation from the incumbent governor in the time past and it is believed that he doesn’t forgive in a hurry. So, all the pleas by Governor Dickson may not yield any fruit in convincing Jonathan to work for Diri’s victory in Saturday governorship poll.
Governor Dickson is another force that cannot be brushed aside in Bayelsa politics. He is the leader of the PDP in the state and from every indication; he has succeeded in shoving everybody, including former President Jonathan to a corner.
Dickson dictates what happens as far as the state and PDP are concerned and that is the reason why he is called Ofuruma Pepe (Great White Shark) because he has dominated the political landscape of Bayelsa State.
He is also not a novice in Bayelsa State, having broken many political jinxes in the state. He was the first member of House of Representatives to represent his constituency for two consecutive terms and also serving as governor for two terms.
Governor Dickson dictates who gets what in the state. He was instrumental to the emergence of 19 out of the 24 members of the state House of Assembly. He installed all the chairmen of the eight local government areas of the state as well as their 105 councillors. He even succeeded in ensuring that the local government chairmen, who were not up to 90 days in office to be delegates in the PDP primary governorship primary.
Recently a new speaker, Monday Bulou Obobo from Southern Ijaw emerged in the state Assembly because the former number one, Tonye Isenah, was impeached courtesy of the governor because of his bid to make sure that there won’t be any challenge for Diri to emerge as his successor. The former speaker is from the same local government with Diri and that was not right as far as Bayelsa State politics is concerned.
Also, Governor Dickson picked Senator Diri as the PDP candidate against the decision of many PDP stakeholders. This has made many to leave the ruling party and pitch their tent with the opposition party. In fact, Dickson has dominated the political landscape of the state and he is leaving no stone unturned to make sure that his candidate wins the election.
Sylva is the current Minister of State for Petroleum and former governor of Bayelsa State. He is the undisputable leader of APC in the state and he contributed immensely to the nomination of David Lyon as the party’s governorship candidate.
The plan, according to political pundits is for Lyon to hold brief for Sylva until he serves put his ministerial appointment and come back to take over from him.
Most Bayelsans believe that things were easy during Sylva’s time as almost all the internal roads were done by is administration, but most of the roads are bad now. Things were also moving on fine contrary to now that many businesses have left Yenagoa.
It was against this backdrop that some residents, who spoke with New Telegraph, said that they may vote for APC because of Sylva. They averred that Sylva empowered many Bayelsans when he was governor people and that those people still believe in him till today.
In the last few weeks, many people have defected to the APC because of Sylva. So, the minister is a political force that cannot be overlookedin Bayelsa politics. Of course, he has been around for the the APC campaigns, showing total commitment and surely all his supporters will pitch their tent with him.
Sylva hails from Brass Local Government Area, which is a stronghold of the ruling party at the centre.
The former First Lady from all indications is also a force to reckon with in Bayelsa State politics as her political prowess cannot be underestimated, considering the roles she played in the past to install successive governors of the state.
Though she hails from Okirika in Rivers State, Dame Jonathan’s network cuts across her state of origin as she has used her political influence, especially when she was First Lady to determine who gets what at both the state and federal level.
In recent times, Dame Jonathan has not been seen around the Bayelsa first family unlike before when Sylva was the governor and she really had a good relationship with Alanyingi, the wife of the former governor.
Governor Dickson’s wife, Rachael, is not seen anywhere around the former Nigerian first lady even as reports have it that the former First Lady is supporting Lyon’s candidature and that she has already endorsed him.
Gboriobiogha John Jonah
Rear Admiral Gboriobiogha John Jonah (rtd) is the deputy governor of Bayelsa State, but he has not been seen in any public function since he lost out in the PDP’s governorship primary.
He fell out his principal over the governorship poll. He believed that his principal will hand over power to him, having served as deputy governor for eight years, but was disappointed as Governor Dickson endorsed Senator Diri.
Already, the deputy governor’s younger brother, Gabriel Jonah of Otita Force has dumped the PDP for APC. However, nobody knows the stand of the deputy governor as he is yet to speak.
It is more than two months that the primary took place and the deputy was yet to sort out his differences with the governor. Already there is tension in Nembe, the hometown of the deputy governor as the PDP campaign team is yet to visit the local government as at the time of filling in this report.
Alaibe, a former Managing Director of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), is also among those who will determine the outcome of November 16 governorship election in the state.
He is a popular in the state and has contested for the number one seat on many occasions, but is yet to actualise his aspiration.
During the PDP governorship primary, many Bayelsans clamoured for Alaibe, but he came second in the exercise. He didn’t actually feel satisfied with the outcome of the exercise and he headed to the court.
Although the matter is still pending, Alaibe said he is not going to leave PDP but nobody is sure whether he and his supporters are working for party or they are sitting on the fence. For now, nobody knows what the outcome of the suit would be.
Senator Diri is the PDP governorship candidate, therefore he will do everything within his power to ensure that he wins the election and inaugurated as Dickson’s successor come February 20, 2020.
Though Diri is getting support from many gladiators in Bayelsa State, some people have described him as a stingy man, who may not deliver the PDP, considering the opposite nature of his APC counterpart.
Political pundits have said that he is not marketable despite being a current member of the Senate, representing Bayelsa Central Senatorial District and one-time member of the House of Representatives.
Diri may be stingy to some people but definitely he must have impacted on the lives of others and his people are not likely to abandon him.
The gubernatorial candidate would be throwing all he has to the battle for the number one position of the oil-rich state.
Lyon was not known in the political arena of Bayelsa before now, but almost everybody is clamouring for him as almost every household acknowledges how he empowered either their brother or sister.
Definitely those people would be forced to vote for him. So, if his political popularity doesn’t deliver him, his philanthropic gesture may work for him.
Senator Ehwrujakpo, the PDP deputy governorship candidate is a former commissioner for Works in Bayelsa State and he currently represents Bayelsa West in the Senate, serving as Vice Chairman, Senate Committee on National Planning and Economic Affairs.
Though his emergence as Diri’s running mate generated some concerns as some people believe that the deputy governorship seat should have been zoned to Bayelsa East or another local government since Senator Ehwrujakpo is from the same local government with Governor Dickson.
Despite this, some Bayelsans have confidence in him and that will go a long way to help advance the cause of the PDP.
Senator Degi-Eremenyo, who is currently representing Bayelsa East in the Red Chamber, is the running mate to David Lyon. He is Vice Chairman of Senate Committee on Special Duties.
Many believe that he has something to offer in determining who wins the governorship election. For instance, members of his congregation- Brotherhood of the Cross and Stars will want to vote for their member. Of course the population of that church is overwhelming.
Senator Lokpobiri has been an active participant in Bayelsa State politics since 1999 till date. He was a member of the state House of Assembly between 1999 and 2003, and while in the House, he served as speaker between June 1999 and May 2001.
He also represented Bayelsa West in the Senate between 2007 and 2015. He was also a one-time Minister of State for Agriculture and contested in the last APC governorship primary but lost the party’s ticket to Lyon.
Although higher powers chose Lyon, he wasn’t comfortable with that and he also headed to court. But, he has been canvassing for support for the APC.
Governor Dickson’s wife, Rachael is not left out as she has her own way of wooing the women. She organises prayers every Wednesday, where she always prays for the success of Restoration Government and tells the women to support her husband’s choice of candidate so that all his achievements would be consolidated.
The women also believe in their “Madam” and with her level of sensitization on these women, definitely PDP will surely get votes from them and it is expected they will persuade their relations to vote for the party.
The Amayanabo (King) of Twon-Brass, His Royal Majesty Alfred Diette Spiff is also a force to reckon with in Bayelsa politics being the chairman of Bayelsa State Traditional Rulers Council.
The retired naval officer was appointed military governor of old Rivers State in May 1967 at age 25 during the military administration of General Yakubu Gowon and was at the helms of affairs till July 1975.
As a royal father, some of his subjects are likely to listen to him by voting whoever he chooses.
Hon. Ebebi is regarded as one of the powerbrokers in the oil-rich state. He was a former Speaker of Bayelsa State House of Assembly as well a former deputy governor of the state. He was in PDP before he decamped to the APC. Ebebi has a lot of supporters and they will definitely follow him.
Okoko was one of the PDP aspirants during the party’s primary. Although he came third, he has decided to support Diri and has told all his supporters to work for him.
Others who may not have been satisfied with the outcome of the primary have gone back to their bases, as most of them are not being sighted at the campaigns.
Aganaba also aspired to govern Bayelsa State on the platform of the APC, but was aggrieved that he was not given a level playing ground to test his popularity as an indirect primary option brought in Lyon. He however headed to court to challenge the outcome of the exercise.
No doubt, the political gladiators will shape the outcome of the poll, but the electorate will be the ultimate decider. Already, some have said that they are going to vote for the highest bidder at the election ground, while others said they will vote for change.
OPI: How Reps moved against exercise
PHILIP NYAM reports on expectations in the House of Representatives as its Committee on Army submits its report on the military exercise code-named “Operation Positive Identification”
Fresh from a three-week recess, the House of Representatives in response to the public outcry against the planned nationwide implementation of Operation Positive Identification (OPI) by the Nigerian Army, rejected the exercise and consequently advised the army hierarchy to shelve its implementation, insisting that it will amount to trampling on the rights of Nigerians.
However, the House mandated its Committee on Army to interface with the Chief of Army Staff, Lt. General Tukur Buratai, to develop a pro-people strategy in combating crime. It equally called on President Muhammadu Buhari to review the situation and stop the army from commencing the planned operation.
Although, the committee met with the army and expressed the fears of the House concerning the OPI, the army maintained that the programme was in national interest and went ahead to kick-start it on November 1. As the House prepares to receive the report of the committee on today in plenary, all eyes are on the lawmakers to see how they would react since the OPI has already commenced.
The resolution was taken following the adoption of a motion of urgent national importance brought by the minority leader of the House, Hon. Ndudi Elumelu, who described the planned operation scheduled to commence on November 1, as a recipe to possible militarilisation of Nigeria.
Presenting the motion, Elumelu posited that such plan by the army would lead to the infringement on fundamental rights of Nigerians as enshrined in the 1999 Constitution (as amended).
He argued that the plan, if followed through, would downgrade innocent Nigerians to suspects and conquered people in their own country; strip them of their constitutionally guaranteed freedom of movement and instill fear, anxiety and panic in the entire polity.
Elumelu, who posited that the constitutional duties of the Nigerian Army is defending the territorial integrity of the country, urged it to allow the police and other relevant agencies such as Nigerian Immigration Services (NIS) to handle regulatory issues relating to internal security.
He also noted that the nationwide operation will also amount to an indirect imposition of a state of emergency across the country by the army adding that such operations that involves direct contact and regulation of civilians is likely to result in abuses and serious safety issues, especially at this time the nation is battling with the scourge of victimisation and extra judicial killings.
Speaking further, the minority leader pointed out that the operation will expose many Nigerians, particularly those living in the rural areas, to harassment as they do not have proper means of identification just as there has not been enough public sensitization for the operation.
While noting the security challenges the nation is faced with and the efforts by security agencies to safeguard lives of citizens, Elumelu however, insisted that the planned implementation of OPI across the nation will only worsen the situation in the country.
Supporting the motion, the deputy minority leader, Hon. Toby Okechukwu (PDP, Enugu), who insisted that identification of citizens is not the duty of the Nigerian Army, noted that the National Identification Management Commission (NIMC) as well as other security agencies is already saddled with such responsibility.
Also speaking in favour of the motion, Hon. Jaha Ahmadu Usman (APC, Borno) decried the lack of awareness of the planned operation and notes the difficulty Nigerians encounter in obtaining, also maintained that it will amount to the violation of rights of Nigerians.
Usman also noted the difficulty Nigerians face in obtaining the national identity card, added that the operation will subject them to untold and unwarranted hardship.
In adopting the motion, the House also urged the army to develop pro-people strategies in combating the country’s security challenges instead of measures that would further victimise citizens.
Barely 48 hours after the resolution was taken, the House Committee on aArmy led by Hon. Abdulrazak Namdas, summoned the Chief of Army Staff to shed light on what OPI entails.
At the session that lasted for over three hours, the army stood its ground and insisted that the planned military exercise in different parts of the country, will not be suspended. Lt. Genreral Buratai, who appeared before the committee explained that the army’s insistence that all Nigerians must identify themselves “positively” is targeted at members of the terrorist group, Boko Haram.
He stressed that the operation, is in line with the army’s constitutional mandate and will curtail the operations of the terrorist group as intelligence report shows that its members have planned to infiltrate other parts of the country.
Represented by the army’s Chief of Civil/Military Affairs, Maj. General Usman Mohammed, Buratai said the OPI is one of several operations aimed at smoking out and eliminating terrorist activities across the country though it is primarily directed at the North-East zone.
His words: “Besides the OPI, the military is involved in operation Lafiya Dole in the North-East, Operation Ayem Akpatema in the North Central, Operation Crocodile Smile and Atilogu Dance, in the South-South and South-East.
“However, the OPI is based on intelligence. We decided to come up with the initiative because we got the intelligence that Boko Haram terrorists were infiltrating the civilian population, not only in North-East, but other parts of the country.
“But the exercise is not new; I’m surprised that we are getting the alert now. We actually started it on September 22. We are using it to checkmate criminality. It’s not new. The OPI is an intelligence led operation.”
The army chief countered opinions from the committee, doubting the propriety and legality of the OPI. “We are covered by the constitution. The exercise is constitutional. What we are doing it in line with the 1999 Constitution,” he said
Giving details of the programme, he explained that “so far two arrests have been made in Kogi and Lagos states and several other arrests would be made in the course of the last quarter of the year.
“We have details of arrests being made through the operation, but the operation won’t amount to additional roadblocks. It’s still based on credible intelligence. We’re actually getting intelligence from outside sources. We’re surprised when we got this alert from you that it’s fake news. It’s not fake. It is going on and It will assist us in conducting our operations,” he said.
Buratai, however, admitted that the insurgency battle “is not an easy war to win, but we will win. Insurgency has never succeeded anywhere in the world.”
He informed that the exercise will be launched nationwide between November 1 to December 24, with the full backing of other security agencies and the Federal Government, assuring Nigerians across zones not to be jittery as according to him, the target is not law-abiding civilians, but insurgents.
According to him, “200 most wanted Boko Haram terrorists may have been arrested in Kogi, Lagos and elsewhere. There is no specific way arrests are made. I would want to elaborate and say that other security agencies have their challenges. When they are absent and deficient, we must step in to do our bit.
“Even I don’t have a national ID card. I registered, but I have only a slip. We’re not happy doing police work at times, but when there are challenges, we step in,” he explained.
Although Buratai agreed that the military is not the lead agency for identification, he explained that the military is involved because of the “peculiar circumstances” the country is in at the moment.
Responding, the chairman of the House Committee on Army, Hon. Namdas warned that considering the weight of battling insurgency in the country, the army may be biting more than its statutory share, by extending its operations to identification of Nigerians.
He said: “Given the quantum of your responsibilities, we are shocked that the military is still adding to the responsibilities by taking up the role of other authorities.”
Namdas, however, constituted a sub-committee to liaise with the army on the details of the operation.
Some analysts are of the view that since the OPI borders on national security and is aimed at wiping out Book Haram, which has constituted a clog in the wheel of security in the country, the intervention from the House may not achieve any purpose because the army has already commenced the operation.
However, the Namdas committee has a date with the House and whatever findings and recommendations it presents today, the legislators will debate and decide on it.
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