From John Akubo (Dutse) and Njadvara Musa (Maiduguri)

ACN says avoiding Eagle Square is victory for MEND, Boko Haram

THE anniversary celebrations are over but the bickering over the venue continues.

While the Federal Government considers the celebration of the nation’s Independence Day inside Aso Rock as a cost-saving measure, the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) and other political leaders insist it was a serious error of judgment.

The opposition party said yesterday that the cancellation of the traditional parade and shifting of activities marking the nation’s 51st Independence anniversary from the Eagle Square to the relatively-secure Presidential Villa apparently followed threats posed by the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) and fundamentalist Islamic sect, Boko Haram.

In a statement issued in Lagos by its National Publicity Secretary, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, the party said the government missed a rare opportunity to show Nigerians that it could not be intimidated by such threats from the groups and that it was capable of tackling the security challenges facing the nation.

It said by scurrying away from the Eagle Square, ostensibly to cut costs in celebrating the independence anniversary, the government had wittingly or otherwise given moral victory of sorts to the groups that threatened to sabotage the anniversary, while leaving Nigerians in no doubt that even for their government, “the fear of Boko Haram or MEND is the beginning of wisdom.”

The party said: ‘’If the Federal Government, which controls all the instruments of state force, can allow itself to be so openly intimidated, then what happens to ordinary Nigerians who depend on the same government to protect them from these rampaging groups?

‘’In other climes, the government would have seized on such a rare chance to convince the people that it is not only capable of protecting them but that it would not give in to terror groups.

“One can only wonder what this Federal Government would do if Boko Haram were to threaten its weekly Federal Executive

Council meeting inside the Presidential Villa safe haven. Will the meeting be shifted to Dodan Barracks in Lagos under the pretext of saving costs?’’

It said the government’s excuse that it wanted a low-key anniversary so as to save costs rang hollow, especially coming just as the administration announced it would spend N30 billion on the national identity card project which had been carried out previously, without finding out what happened to the billions of naira expended on the first project.

“Even if the concern was cost-saving, it could not have trumped the fact that moving the activities away from the Eagle Square would send a wrong message: First, to those threatening the celebrations that they have indeed succeeded in cowing the government, and then to the citizenry that indeed, the same government they rely on for their security is itself succumbing to

fear!

“The symbolism of going ahead with the celebration at the Eagle Square would have been worth every naira spent, would not have been lost on the people, and would have shown that the government’s continuing assurances that it is capable of tackling the security challenges facing the nation are not mere posturing,” the party said.

The ACN advised the government to always weigh its actions carefully so as not to send “a wrong message to the already-frazzled citizenry.”

Also, a former House of Representatives member who represented Garki/Babura Federal Constituency of Jigawa State, Nasiru Dantiye, has indicated that President Goodluck Jonathan has clearly demonstrated that he is out of touch with solutions to the insecurity in the country having succumbed to threats from the militants by marking the 51st Independence anniversary in the Presidential Villa rather than the Eagle Square.

The former lawmaker, who spoke to The Guardian in Dutse via a telephone interview on Sunday, faulted the claim by President Jonathan that his administration had devised a strategy that would see to the end of bomb blasts, saying that he should have demonstrated that by staging the 51st Independence anniversary at the Eagle Square in spite of threats from militant groups.

He said Nigerians would have believed in the so-called strategy if nothing had happened after the celebration at the usual place.

Dantiye pointed out that it was a clear indication that the government could not protect itself let alone Nigerians.

According to him, “the strategy is that he ran away from having the 51st Independence anniversary at the Eagle Square to the Villa. Yesterday (Saturday), we were told that there was a bomb blast in Maiduguri. Tell me what strategy; Jonathan is not different from our former leaders who always think that beautiful talk without action would change anything. I don’t even listen to that man as far as the security situation is concerned.”

Meanwhile, police authorities say two days after killing two people at a wedding on the country’s Independence anniversary day, a tea seller, Malam Tumba, 39, patent medicine seller and another passersby, were killed on Sunday night and Monday in Zajiri ward of Maiduguri metropolis by two suspected Boko Haram gunmen.

The tea seller and passersby were shot dead on Monday at the teashop by the suspected Boko Haram gunmen with a rifle hidden

under their flowing robes.

Police Chief Simeone Midenda confirmed to The Guardian   yesterday: “I have received reports of the multiple attacks and killings, where a tea seller, Malam Tumba, was serving customers in the morning, when suspected Boko Haram gunmen fired several shots into the chest and head of Tumba, while a passersby was also shot dead by the stray bullets.”

Simeone further disclosed: “The other report I received was the killing of a patent medicine seller in the same Zajiri ward last night (Sunday), where the same number of suspects attacked the patent medicine store and killed the proprietor, without snatching any of the day’s sales from the cash register.”

Spokesman of the Joint Task Force (JTF), Lt.-Col. Hassan Mohammed, said in a telephone interview: “We just received reports of the attacks and killings this afternoon. Our men and officers have rushed to the affected area in Zajiri to ascertain whether or not there are casualties from the serial attacks and shootings by the suspected gunmen that attacked one of our patrol vehicles on Saturday.”

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