By Shola Oyeyipo
Leaders across Nigeria, comprising Southern Elders Forum, Afenifere, Northern Elders Forum, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Pan-Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF) and the Middle Belt Forum, have collectively described the recent invasion of the National Assembly as “high treason,” that must not go unpunished.
In a statement jointly signed on behalf of the elders by Yinka Odumakin (Afenifere), Dr Junaid Mohammed (Northern Elders Forum), Prof. Chigozie Ogbu (Ohanaeze), Senator Bassey Henshaw (PANDEF) and Dr. Isuwa Dogo (Middle Belt Forum), the body insisted that the punitive action against the invaders should go beyond the sacking of the Director-General, Department of State Services (DSS), Lawal Daura.
“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.”
The body stated further that “Given the enormity of this crime, we demand a judicial panel of inquiry to be headed by a retired Justice of the Supreme Court with proven integrity to investigate this coup .There are cogent reasons for this demand :
“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 National Assembly as ‘unauthorised’. Nigerians need to know the power ‘from above’ which undermined the Acting President by illegally authorising the desecration of our country’s parliament .
“We refuse to accept that Daura woke up on the wrong side of his bed and, on his own, went and shut down the National Assembly. He must have worked with co-conspirators, and these need to be unveiled by the Judicial Inquiry. To sack Daura as fall guy and do no more is merely papering over the cracks .All his co-conspirators have to be identified and made to stand trial with him.
“The reason why impunity has grown steadily in our country until it is now about to consume our country is that we have always predictably allowed vested interests to shield serious crimes, resulting in the fact that the hearts of powerful men among us are now commonly set to do iniquity. We elders of this country now say that enough is enough and that this country must now draw the line!”
The body of notable elders also disagreed with the idea of the Inspector General of Police (IG), Ibrahim Idris investigating the development, saying “We have perused the wishy-washy interim report submitted to the Acting President by the IG and the only thing we saw in it was the puerile deduction that there were political figures who colluded with Daura to carry out the crime.
“We cannot accept any probe by the IG as he himself should long have been fired if this were a government that places any value on the rule of law. In case there are people who have forgotten, let it be remembered that IG Idris’s men did nothing but watched almost with amusement the day six thugs walked into the chambers of the Nigerian Senate and made away with the mace.
“All the policemen at the National Assembly could not get hold of any of the thugs. Hours later, the police shamelessly told the country that some police officers later found the mace under some bridge in Abuja!
“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 Assembly to sit illegally to serve an impeachment on the governor.
“There was no evidence that his men in the National Assembly lifted a finger during the invasion and indeed there were reports of police reinforcement for the illegal operation. These are matters that must be investigated.”
The leaders are particularly miffed that the invasion and sealing of the National Assembly brought to disrepute on a global scale and urged that Nigerians must pursue the matter to a logical conclusion.
“We equally appeal to the international community to take more than a passing interest in this matter and in the affairs of Nigeria from now on. If Nigeria continues as it is now doing unchecked, the forces of iniquity rolling Nigeria down-hill will roll Nigeria into a mighty cataclysm, and that will create perhaps the biggest bloodletting and refugee camp for the world to deal with on the African continent. The world can prevent such a disaster, The world must prevent it,” they said.