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Nigerian elders forum berates executive over harassment of Senate leadership



•Lai Mohammed calls for calm in Kwara over defection of senators
The Nigerian Elders and Leaders Forum has indicted the presidency over the harassment of the leadership of the legislative arm by the police.

The forum warned that clandestine attempts by the executive arm to muzzle the legislative arm of government, particularly the undemocratic manner in which the police force is currently being deployed to harass the leadership of the Senate was unacceptable and dangerous to democratic rule and principle.

The group, which comprises leaders of Yoruba socio-cultural organisation, Afenifere; Igbo apex group, Ohanaeze; Middle Belt; Northern elders and Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF), expressed shock that the police authorities could attempt to prevent the president of the Senate, Dr. Bukola Saraki and his deputy, Ike Ekweremadu, from leaving their residences to attend to their constitutional responsibilities last Tuesday.

The spokesmen of the forum, Dr. Junaid Mohammed, for the northern elders; Prof. Chigozie Ogbu, for Ohanaeze; Dr. Isuwa Dogo, for Middle Belt; Mr. Yinka Odumakin for Afenifere and Senator Bassey Henshaw for PANDEF said the action represents the highest level of irresponsible high-handedness and an assault on the democratic foundations of the nation.

The forum said it was alarmed at the degeneration in the levels of responsibility of agencies of the state vested with the duty to protect the people and democratic institutions and those leaders who should hold them responsible.

“The action of the police is condemned in its entirety by the forum because it shows clearly an attempt to muzzle the legislative arm of government by the executive arm,” it stressed.

They said it would no longer be a democracy, where any of the three arms of government is emasculated by strong-arm tactics by another arm, stressing that the moral turpitude and irresponsibility of the agencies of state invested with maintenance of law and order was embarrassing.

The forum said it regarded the affront against the legislature as an affront against the people who elected them and called on Nigerians to be vigilant. “It is an established fact that the Inspector General of Police (IGP), Ibrahim Kpotun Idris, takes directives from the President or his minister,” it claimed.

Citing Section 215(3) of the 1999 Constitution, the forum added that the president or such other minister of the government of the federation as he may authorise in that behalf may give to the IGP such lawful directions with respect to the maintenance and securing of public safety and public order as he may consider necessary, and the police boss shall comply with those directions or cause them to be compiled with.

It also cited Section 9 of the Police Act, which provides for a Police Council that the IGP reports to, of which the president is the chairman. The forum, therefore, said President Muhammadu Buhari should be held responsible for the actions of the police as he or his assignee are the only people who can authorise the IG to carry out any directive. It stressed: “If the police boss did not take instruction from Mr. President to carry out this major infraction, he should be sacked immediately.”

The forum went on: “It is unacceptable for the presidency to pretend not to know about the action of the police, stressing the executive cannot pretend to keep its hands behind its back while the police rode roughshod over the fundamentals of Nigeria’s constitutional democracy.

“We urge the leadership of the National Assembly to remain focused and steadfast in the discharge of their responsibilities and defend the democratic space, as the legislature is the only organ that makes a difference between military rule and democratic regime.”

The forum also urged Nigerians to be watchful as the nation enters challenging times, saying the citizens should be ready to prevent any attempt by any power to drag us to the route this country once travelled with attendant unpleasant consequences. “It is time we all say no to this festering full-blown dictatorship threatening the democratic project in Nigeria,” they concluded.

Meanwhile, Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, has thanked members All Progressives Congress (APC) in Kwara State for their commitment to ensure the ruling party emerges stronger than ever.

In a statement against the backdrop of the defection of some senators from APC on Tuesday, he said the commitment exhibited to the party by the Kwara faithful was reflected in the “overwhelming support and solidarity that we have received, not just from our party members but also from other parties and stakeholders across the state, since the melodrama at the National Assembly on Tuesday.”

He said: “In particular, there has been an expression of overwhelming love and support for President Buhari from across Kwara, in the wake of the defections by federal legislators from Kwara.”

The minister, however, urged members and supporters in Kwara to remain calm, saying there was no cause for alarm.

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