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Tight security over alleged plot to disrupt Buhari’s inauguration

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The Eagle Square, venue of the presidential inauguration ready in Abuja…yesterday. PHOTO: PHILIP OJISUA

To forestall an alleged plot to disrupt today’s inauguration of President Muhammadu Buhari for a second term in office, the service chiefs and heads of other security agencies have notched up security around him.

The service chiefs met with the president yesterday where they assured him of adequate security for the event.

The Nigerian Army recently alerted the Federal Government and Nigerians to an alleged plan by some groups and foreign interests to disrupt the handover and scuttle the democratic process.

In a statement by its Acting Director of Public Relations, Colonel Sagir Musa, the army said the “mischievous elements” had thought Nigeria would not have successful 2019 general elections but they were proved wrong.

After the meeting held at the Presidential Villa, the Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Ibok-Ete Ibas, told State House correspondents that the committee handling the inauguration of President Buhari had already been briefed on the readiness to deliver the programme safely.

“You will recall we met just about two weeks ago, but the president has to call for this meeting given that tomorrow (today) he will be sworn in. Of course basically the meeting was to further reappraise the actions taken after the last meeting.”

The naval chief stated that President Buhari, at the closed-door meeting, directed the heads of security agencies to strengthen efforts in checking inflow of illegal arms to the country.

“Another area of concern was the arms inflow into the nation. It is only God perhaps that can police such an expanse of border that we have. That is an area that Mr. President has directed that we do all that we can to ensure that we block the gaps and those security areas that we also need to address.”

Those present at the meeting included the outgoing Ministers of Defence, Mansur Dan-Ali and Interior, Gen. Abdulrahman Dambazzau; Chief of Defence Staff, General Abayomi Olonisakin; Chief of Army Staff, Lieutenant General Tukur Buratai and Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar.

Besides, ahead of today’s inauguration of new administrations in most states, some outgoing chief executive officers have since handed over the reins of government to the newly elected governors, an action which some observers have described as unconstitutional.

Normally, the handover and the inauguration take place the same day, lasting for several hours and characterised by exciting activities and displays, unlike the quiet and short ceremonies witnessed these days.

A lot more apparently go into inaugurations and democratic change of baton than cameras often capture.

In 2015 in Lagos State, the handover and the inauguration took place the same day at the Tafawa Balewa Square (TBS) ground. In the order of protocol, with five minutes interval, the last set of dignitaries to arrive at the venue of the swearing in ceremony were the deputy-governor elect, the governor-elect, then the outgoing deputy governor and finally, the outgoing governor. The arrival of the then governor, Babatunde Fashola signified the beginning of the colourful event.

But behind the scene was the real transition. Shortly after the outgoing governor alighted and mounted the podium, his official customised Range Rover car with registration number LASG01 continued the procession into a waiting parking lot, next only to a brand new BMW car that was soon to become the official car of the new governor.

As Fashola began his rather short valedictory speech, state officials went to work on the two cars parked side-by-side, to effect the change of baton. Some minutes later, the new BMW carried the LASG01 number plate and the Range Rover had a covered number plate, now downgraded to a VIP status. It then no longer matter how long other ceremonies took, the symbolic change of baton had been effected.

When it was time to leave, the BMW with LASG01 stepped forward to pick the new governor, Akinwunmi Ambode, and all other dignitaries, including the former governor, Fashola, took turn to follow.

In the same Lagos yesterday, Ambode handed over to the incoming Babajide Sanwo-Olu at a brief ceremony devoid of the activities and displays associated with political events.

The event held at the Lagos State House and lasted for about 30 minutes, was described by Sanwo-Olu, dressed in a brown jacket, as very private.

The new governor, who came in a motorcade, entered the State House around 12:15 and came out at about 12:55, after receiving the handover notes, to address journalists who were not part of the handover conversation but were only brought in to take shots of the presentation of the handover notes, after Ambode and Sanwo-Olu had concluded discussion.

Before the handover, Ambode, in a farewell state broadcast to officially mark the end of his administration, said the driving force, with respect to programmes executed, was to lift more people out of poverty and make every part of the state economically viable and livable.

In Ogun, the Secretary to the State Government (SSG), Mr. Taiwo Adeoluwa, handed over documents containing details of the state of affairs to the Governor-elect, Dapo Abiodun before Governor Ibikunle Amosun’s eight-year tenure ended at midnight yesterday.

Amosun was conspicuously absent from the ceremony held at the Governor’s Office, Oke-Mosan, Abeokuta.

Adeoluwa handed over the documents, which included the state’s financial statement, last audited report as at 31st December 2018 and a report on the “Homeowners’ Charter” to the Deputy Governor-elect, Mrs. Noimot Salako-Oyedele, who represented Abiodun.

Apparently not satisfied with the details of the document submitted to her, the deputy governor-elect said: “I was expecting an interim report that we can examine now. But it is as if you want to give us some homework to do and I can assure you we are up to the task.

“Our pledge to the people of Ogun State is that they will continue to enjoy good governance. Our administration will review ongoing projects.”

Earlier in the day, Amosun told journalists: “We are leaving Ogun State better than we met it. Someone says I am running away yes, but I will be running to Mecca to say thank you to God and I will be away for like 14 days.”

Also, a few hours to the expiration of his tenure, Oyo State Governor Governor Abiola Ajimobi yesterday travelled out of the country.

Sources close to the government said he left for lesser hajj in Saudi Arabia and may not come back till next month.

With this development, Ajimobi will be absent from the inauguration of Seyi Makinde as the new governor.

Ajimobi was said to have instructed the transition and inauguration committee he set up to ensure handover of all necessary documents to the new administration and ensure its smooth takeoff.

Fielding question from The Guardian on why Ajimobi did not personally hand over to his successor as being done in other states, his media aide, Mr. Bolaji Tunji said: “There is no law that says he should personally do that, he has set up a committee to do that and that committee has been working for over a month now. Governor Ajimobi had to travel after commissioning some projects today (Tuesday) to meet up with lesser hajj in Saudi Arabia.”

In a reaction to the issue, a Lagos-based senior lawyer, Mr. Biriyai Dambo (SAN), said it was not in tandem with law for the incumbent governor to hand over power to incoming governor before his tenure elapses.

According to him, the provision of the constitution is very clear on the tenure of a person holding the office of governor of a state.

“It is also trite law that the handover date is the 29th of May of the fourth year from the date the occupant of the office was sworn in. So in my view, it will be unconstitutional to hand over power before the expiration of the constitutional tenure of four years as it specifically relates to the occupant of the seat, as the law does not condone a vacuum. So any act carried out by the new occupant before his tenure commences, in my humble reckoning, during the vacuum created, will be a nullity ab initio.

“However the fact that the handover was carried out before the commencement of the new tenure will not make it a nullity. So acts carried out by the new occupant after the commencement date are lawful provided he is sworn in on that date.”

Another Lagos lawyer, Mr. Oluwole Kehinde maintained that the constitution guarantees a four-year term, which cannot be reduced or extended.

“So the incoming cannot take over before the term of the outgoing elapses, just as the outgoing cannot donate it out before the incoming is sworn in. In either case, the option open to the governor is to hand over to the deputy, or in his absence, to the speaker. In that wise, there’s no vacuum.

“Therefore, what Governor Ambode did was illegal. But it could be no more than ceremonial, while he continues his assignment as dictated by law.”

But a constitutional lawyer and author, Chief Sebastian Hon (SAN) noted that even though it is not constitutional, it is not something to split hairs over.

According to him, constitutionally, the tenures of the outgoing governors end at 12 midnight of 28th May, hence if they hand over in the late hours of May 29th or in the afternoon of that same 29th, there will still be that technical breach.

Also, another constitutional lawyer, Solomon Ukhuegbe explained that technically, four years ended yesterday, since the inauguration of May 29, 2015. According to him, today will be four years and one day.

He, however, pointed out that it is awkward to relinquish power before 12 midnight of yesterday.


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