BY Chuks Okocha and Imam Imam:
Support for Acting President Goodluck Jonathan to step into the shoes of President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua in the wake of his continued absence on health ground came from another quarter yesterday: the Coalition of Northern Professionals.
Similarly, the Save Nigeria Group (SNG) has given the Executive Council of the Federation (EXCOF) up to March 3 to invoke Section 144 of the 1999 Constitution and declare Yar’Adua incapacitated, to pave the way for Jonathan to be sworn in as President.
Rising from its meeting in Kaduna, the Northern Professionals threatened to institute legal action at the Federal High Court in Abuja in order to compel the National Assembly to act.
The group said Yar’Adua is incapacitated; is not expected to function effectively as provided by the constitution; and urged the National Assembly “to bail this country out of its present leadership quagmire”.
Two medical experts in the group doubted President Yar’Adua’s ability to continue in office.
In a statement jointly signed by the group’s coordinators – Vincent Dogo, Ahmed Naibi and Suleiman Aliyu – the group said empowering Jonathan to be President is imperative given the challenges facing the country.
The group urged the Acting President to scale the seven point agenda down to four, with emphasis on power sector reform, security, infrastructure development especially roads and electoral reform.
“We believe that once the issue of power, roads and security are addressed, Nigeria, considering its vast resources in oil and solid minerals will begin to see the inflow of foreign investments,” it said.
The group requested that Jonathan pay attention to past efforts in Northern Nigeria such as the search for oil in Sokoto and Chad Basins, development of hydropower plants and exploration of large deposits of solid minerals especially in Zamfara, Nasarawa and Plateau states.
“We also urge the Acting President to, as a matter of urgency, remove some ministers from the cabinet for non-performance and lying to Nigerians in addition to misleading President Yar’Adua in the power sector, agriculture and infrastructure.
“Our grouse stems from cases of wasted projects like the construction of silos across the country considering that over 50 of the constructed silos are now empty as well as many contracts in the agricultural sector that do not necessarily improve productivity. Other areas are the inability to attain the widely publicized 6000mw as well as numerous roads contracts that were poorly executed or not executed at all,” it added.
The group wished the President quick recovery and thanked Jonathan for the way he had handled the political crisis in the country. It also praised the Nigerian military for staying away from politics.
Meanwhile, one of the members of the SNG, Salihu Lukman, had in a press briefing at Ikeja, Lagos yesterday, said the group was fully convinced that Yar’Adua could no longer continue to discharge the duties of President on account of ill-health.
Consequently, EXCOF should “declare him permanently incapacitated to pave way for the Vice-President to take over as President,” said the group.
“The Federal Executive Council dithered on its constitutional responsibility. The National Assembly failed for many weeks to exercise its oversight powers under Section 80 of the Constitution to ask critical questions about the health status, even physical safety of President Yar’Adua,” SNG added.
SNG argued that the crisis arising from the President’s health was capable of destroying the country’s democracy.
“We have therefore resolved to call out the Nigerian people to defend democracy which they secured with the blood of compatriots. Consequently, we give the Federal Executive Council up to Wednesday 3rd March 2010 to declare President Yar’Adua permanently incapacitated,” it declared.
SNG said it received with guarded optimism news that a team of EXCOF members had been mandated to visit the President in Saudi Arabia. It expressed hope that the team would gain access to Yar’Adua and return to Nigeria to activate Section 144 of the constitution.
“If they fail to see the President, it will be conclusive evidence that he is permanently incapacitated and can no longer act as President. The Acting President should then be sworn in as President,” it concluded.
If Jonathan is sworn in as President, fresh politicking for a Vice-President would begin. Northern elements hope they would be able to fill the spot and then contest for Presidency in 2011 to complete Yar’Adua’s tenure.
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