Femi Ogbonnikan writes on the controversy trailing the recent handover of arms and ammunition by the immediate past governor of Ogun State, Ibikunle Amosu, to the Ogun State Police Command at the twilight of his administration
Decent societies place a premium on creating an enabling environment for businesses to thrive. In Nigeria, some states government have set up Security Trust Funds to cater for the inadequacy in crime-fighting equipment. The fund is also used to boost the low morale of personnel of the Nigeria Police Force and of other sister security agencies.
Thus, the role of investors in the development of any state cannot be over-emphasised. One, they shore up the Internal Generated Revenue of a state and also provides employment for the teeming young graduates that the tertiary institutions churn out annually.
Towards the end of the administration of Otunba Gbenga Daniel in 2011, the growing menace of banditry, cultism and other violent crimes assumed astronomical proportions. Banks and other financial institutions were forced to shut businesses as a result of incessant attacks.
His successor, Senator Ibikunle Amosun, resorted to the establishment of the Ogun State Security Trust Fund. The Fund, through the state government, sought and got Presidential permit to import arms.
However, seven years after the arms import waiver, the handling of the weapons by the Amosun administration left some questions unaswered.
An online publication had reported on June 25 that “Amosun Surrenders 1,000 AK47 Rifles, 4 Million Bullets Acquired Before 2019 Elections.”
The Amosun administration had on May 28, through Mr. Femi Osipitan (office of the governor) issued a statement titled, “Amosun Hands Over Brand New APC, 4 Trucks of Ammunition to CP”, and circulated same to the media.
It reads, “Amosun, who made the hand over on Tuesday at the Governor’s office in Abeokuta, said the security gadgets were kept in safe armoury at the government house to avoid being taken for use indiscriminately.
“Speaking further on the reason for keeping the security gadgets, the Governor explained that, government realised that the arms were being taken to other states and allocated indiscriminately, hence the need to safe keep them at the government house.
“He added that the APC, which is the 15th among those earlier purchased, was seized at the port when purchased and after being released, he decided to keep it safe and hand it over to security agencies upon his exit from governance.
“Amosun disclosed that when his administration came on board, Ogun State was known for wrong reasons in the pages of newspapers, saying this informed the decision to invest massively in security.
“The Commissioner of Police in the State, CP Bashir Makama after receiving the security gadgets, appreciated the Governor, saying it was an encouragement for them and promised that they would do more to protect lives and property of citizen of the State.
“In attendance was the State Director, Department of State Services (DSS), Mr. David Tuksa.”
But the following day, Amosun in a statement by his media aide, Mr. Rotimi Durojaiye, denied handing over the alleged large arms and ammunition, adding that all arms importations were authorised by the presidency under the former president, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan.
Amosun said: “Suffice to say categorically that the AK47 rifles were supplied directly to the Nigeria Police, Ogun State Command. The rest of the merchandise were securely kept in the approved designated armoury within the Government House precincts under police surveillance as it obtains in most government lodges, to guarantee exclusive use of the materials.
“As a governor who understood and took the responsibilities of his office seriously, Senator Amosun was mindful to account for and properly handed over the remainder of the security items to the police and the new administration. On 28 May, 2019, the last of the APCs, and all other security assets under the custody of Ogun State Government were passed over to the police in full glare of the media and general public. We believed that was the surest way to prevent these assets getting into the wrong hands.”
The spokesman of the Ogun State Police Command, DSP Abimbola Oyeyemi, states: “On the 28th of May 2019, the then Governor of Ogun State Senator Ibikunle Amosun FCA CON invited the Commissioner of Police CP Bashir Makama to come and take delivery of some ammunition and other items which has been in the State government’s armoury.
“The items handed over to the Command on that day were: one armoured personnel carrier (APC) vehicle, One million four hundred and forty thousand, four hundred and twenty (1,440,420) rounds of 7.62mm ammunition, two hundred and seventy one units of armoured vests and 3 ballistic helmets.
“Immediately the Command took delivery of the items, the Force Headquarters was notified via an official signal as a normal procedure and standard practice of reporting any incident.
“It is worthy of note that not a single AK 47 riffle was among the items handed over to the Command by the former governor, the much talked about 1,000 riffles were those purchased by the State government and handed over to the Command in the year 2012. The former governor only made reference to it during the handing over on 28th May 2019.”
Also, the Allied Peoples’ Movement (APM), the brain child of the ex-governor, on July 1, rose in stout defence of its financier. The Acting Publicity Secretary of the party, Mr Olamide Balogun, in a statement, absolved Amosun, who is currently Senator representing Ogun Central at the National Assembly, of any wrongdoing.
“If anybody would store ammunition for illegal use, it was definitely not Senator Ibikunle Amosun as he neither sponsored violence nor encouraged it,” said Balogun.
A Lagos-based legal practitioner, Mr Jiti Ogunye, who also doubles as Legal Adviser of The Premium Times, said “The import and purport of the report were that the arms and ammunition were improperly procured and were illicitly kept in the custody of the governor at the Government House, Oke-Igbein, Abeokuta, the state capital, same not being a designated armoury.”
He, therefore, raised posers for the immediate past governor thus: “Was the governor involved in any other lawful or unlawful procurement and importation of arms and ammunition into Ogun state, and the storage of same at the Government House or in any other parts of the state between his declared 2012 arms and ammunition importation, and the 28th May, 2019, when he handed over the arms and ammunition in question? Was the End User Certificate from the appropriate authority, in this case, the Office of the NSA, obtained prior to the order, purchase, shipments and delivery of the arms and ammunition? Could the Ogun State Government or the ex-Governor or any arms and ammunition supply contractor, other than the Nigeria Police Force (NPF), have been the end user of the arms and ammunition, in the circumstances of their purchase or importation? Who took delivery, and custody of the imported arms and ammunition in 2012: the Ogun State Government, the Governor, the Nigeria Police Force or a contractor? Who in law could lawfully have taken custody of the arms and ammunition imported and delivered in 2012? If the Nigeria Police Force was the designated or named end user of the arms and ammunition, said to have been imported in 2012, could the lawful custody of the arms and ammunition have been taken by the Ogun State Government or ex-Governor Amosun or yielded to ex-Governor Amosun, who were not the end users?
PDP and Potentially Costly House Leadership Crisis
ne of the seven deadly sins of the modern world listed by Rev. Canon Fredrick Donaldson in his Westminster Abbey sermon and popularised by Mohanda Gandi in his weekly newspaper, Young India, is politics without principle.
Although Donaldson delivered this sermon way back in 1925, it just seems he had our contemporary politics in mind. How else does one explain the inconsistencies and poor leadership bedeviling most of our political class and political parties today? Many times, our hopes have been raised that new parties like the All Progressives Congress (APC) would do things differently, but only for our hopes to be dashed. They end up worse than the ones they displaced from power. If you call them out, they remind you that the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) did exactly the same thing. Then you wonder what they came to change because it is just like selling our dog to buy a monkey. When you think the former ruling party would learn from their mistakes, you learn the hard way that old dogs don’t learn new tricks.
Nothing typifies the bad luck we have in leadership and political party organisation as the unnecessary rumpus created by some PDP lawmakers over the leadership of the House Minority Caucus. Only last four years, the PDP was all over the place blasting the APC for attempting to foist leadership on the APC (Majority Caucus) in the Senate and House of Representatives. On 23rd June 2015 specifically, there was free-for-all at the floor of the House between supporters of Rt. Hon. Yakubu Dogara and Rt. Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila over alleged attempt to impose leadership of the House Majority Caucus from Bourdillon Road, Lagos. At the end of the day, Dogara announced the party list of leadership, not because it is the right provision of the House Standing Rule, but to stay out of trouble.
However, the case was different in the Senate. On 25th June 2015, former Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, defied the party directive on choice of other principal officers. Instead, he announced those elected by various APC Senate zonal caucuses based on the zoning principle of their party. Rather than Senator Ahmed Lawan, Saraki announced Senator Ali Ndume as Senate Majority Leader. He also announced Senator Bala Ibn Na Allah as Deputy Senate Majority Leader and Senator Francis Alimikhena as Deputy Chief Whip.
Of course, that decision did not go down well with the APC leadership, which was still smarting from a humiliating failure to impose its preferred candidates presiding officers of the 8th national Assembly and saw the imposition of its choices of principal officers as a way to save face and compensate people like Ahmed Lawan and others, who lost out in the NASS leadership tussle.
No sooner had Saraki finished reading the list of those elected by the various APC zonal caucuses than he was openly and indecorously challenged by Senator Kabiru Marafa, an arrowhead of the anti-Saraki forces, who remained a thorn in the flesh of Saraki-Ekweremadu leadership for a long time. He told Saraki: “Mr. President, you cannot read any list from any caucus because there is no caucus that is bigger than the party,” he insisted.
We all remember where PDP stood in the ensuing crisis. Hardly any day went by without the PDP and its chieftains lambasting the APC leadership for its anti-democratic tendencies. The PDP chided the APC leadership to allow APC lawmakers chose their principal officers from among themselves as contained in the Standing Rules. But, fast-forward to June 2019, one would expect the PDP to show example. Unfortunately, history is repeating itself, but in reversed order as the same PDP is singing a different song, exhibiting the same anti-democratic behaviour it accused the APC of exhibiting in 2015.
Order 7 Rule 8 of the House Standing Rule clearly provides that “Members of the Minority Parties in the House shall nominate from among them, the Minority Leader, Minority Whip, Deputy Minority Leader, and Deputy Minority Whip”. In observation of these provisions, the House Minority Caucus comprising eight political parties- PDP, All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), Action Alliance (AA), African Democratic Congress (ADC), Peoples Redemption Party (PRP), Allied Peoples Movement (APM), Action Democratic Party (ADP), and Labour Party (LP), met and chose from among themselves their Principal Officers, with over 90 Members voting. Even more numbers (111) signed the letter conveying their decision to the Speaker.
Their letter to the Speaker dated 2nd July 2019 partly reads: “Pursuant to Order 7 Rule 8 of the Standing Rules of the House of Representatives, we the under-listed Members of the House Minority Caucus hereby endorse the under-listed Members for the following position: Hon. Ndudi Godwin Elumelu (Minority Leader), Hon. Toby Okechukwu (Deputy Minority Leader), Hon. Gideon Gwani (Minority Whip), (and) Hon. Adesegun Adekoya (Deputy Minority Whip)”.
For performing his role as a presiding officer; by announcing the list of minority leadership as elected by more then two thirds of the Minority Caucus, the same PDP, which pilloried the APC in 2015 has turned round to insist that the Speaker, Rt. Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, announces the names it conveyed to the Speaker from PDP’s National Secretariat.
The House Standing Rule is clear that “Members of the Minority Parties in the House shall nominate from among them….” It does not state that the parties that form the opposition in parliament shall appoint for their members in parliament the minority leadership. So, the most PDP could do is to provide zoning formula. It is not for it to impose a list on them.
The PDP cannot speak from both sides of the mouth. It cannot continually accuse President Mohammadu Buhari and APC of lawlessness and impunity, yet fail to show example in its own jurisdiction. If it was wrong for the APC to impose leadership on its members in the NASS in 2015, what makes it right for the PDP to do in 2019?
Again, the PDP must understand that much as it constitutes the overwhelming majority in the Minority Caucus of the House, it does not represent the entirely Minority Caucus. The opinions of the other smaller parties with smaller membership in the Minority Caucus also count.
Another critical issue here is that of injustice and bigotry, the same Buhari and APC flaws, which the PDP complains bitterly about because it has practically driven the nation to the precipice. Kingsley Chinda is an opposition leader I have a lot of respect for. But it is unjust to even consider him as Minority Leader when he hails from the same Rivers State as the PDP National Chairman, Prince Uche Secondus.
The bottom line is that the fisticuffs and melee at the House plenary on Wednesday was shameful, uncalled for, and unbecoming of a party that parades itself as democratic. It is even more worrisome when one remembers that the PDP leadership is yet to clear the mess it created in composition of the leadership of the Minority Caucus of the Senate by unilaterally replacing Senator Clifford Ordia (Edo) with Senator Sahabi Yau as Deputy Minority Whip.
It is apposite to advice the PDP leadership to work with the popularly elected House minority leadership. It is already bad enough that the party is now in opposition and those who led had into this painful strait are still at the helms of affairs. It is bad enough that there is rising discontent with the leadership as the House Caucus “rebellion” shows. Therefore the party has two choices: be democratic, muster, and grow its forces or watch them disperse.
–––Chibu writes from Abuja