By Adetutu Folasade-Koyi, Rotimi Akinwumi and Innocent Oweh:
• SNG Demands End To President’s Invisibility
• Urges Dissolution Of EXCOF, Adoption Of Uwais Report
SENATORS on Wednesday told former Head of State, Muhammadu Buhari, that they are not contemplating the impeachment of President Umaru Yar’Adua who has been ill for over three months.
In response to Buhari’s call the previous day that the National Assembly (NASS) should commence impeachment proceedings against Yar’Adua, the Senate restated its resolution on February 9 proclaiming Goodluck Jonathan Acting President.
Information and Media Committee Vice Chairman, Anthony Manzo, informed journalists after plenary that the Senate “has already spoken,” citing the resolution “which is working, the one that enabled the Vice President to become Acting President.”
He said the Senate believes that “the situation is stable,” and “as for impeachment, it is a process, but that is not something that we are contemplating at this time.”
However, the Save Nigeria Group (SNG) took its rally to the streets of Abuja, insisting that the Federal Government should end Yar’Adua’s “invisible” Presidency.
It sought the invocation of Section 144 of the Constitution by the Executive Council of the Federation (EXCOF) to solve the political impasse.
A petition the SNG addressed to Aso Rock urged Acting President Goodluck Jonathan to immediately dissolve the EXCOF for allegedly collaborating with Yar’Adua’s aides to keep the public ignorant of his health condition for the past 100 days.
The SNG said the EXCOF ought to have declared Yar’Adua incapacitated due to his ill health rather than keeping Nigerians in the dark.
The peaceful procession began from the Unity Fountain, near Transcorp Hilton Hotel, at about 10:30 a.m. and went on to the Villa junction where it was stopped by hundreds of armed policemen.
When the protesters insisted on going to Aso Rock to register their grievances, Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Police Commissioner, John Haruna, personally went to bring the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Yayale Ahmed, to the spot to receive the petition on behalf of Jonathan.
The petition handed to him by SNG Convener, Tunde Bakare, the Pastor of Latter Rain Assembly, demanded the entrenchment of “a truly democratic and accountable governance” and expressed concern over “certain developments” that can truncate democracy and security in Nigeria.
The SNG stated its determination to fight to save the country from the control of groups and individuals that profit from the failure of the Nigerian system.
It added: “For more than 100 days Nigerians have not seen or heard from (Yar’Adua), since he was evacuated to Saudi Arabia for treatment, for the three months he stayed in an intensive care unit of a Saudi hospital, several of his aids continued to claim that he was getting better.
“Although it is now more than two weeks since he was brought back to Nigeria in the dead of the night; we have not still heard from or seen (him).
“His refusal to resign on account of his deteriorating ill health and failure to transmit a letter of vacation in time as required by the Constitution have resulted in a severe but avoidable constitutional crisis.”
The SNG said the invocation of Section 144 provides a platform for those holding power to be accountable.
It sough a “quick and thorough implementation” of the Uwais Report on electoral reform, “starting with the immediate removal of Maurice Iwu as Chairman and the reconstitution of the INEC (Independent National Electoral Commission) with persons of impeccable integrity and competence.”
Ahmed told the protesters that he found it “very easy and natural” to come and receive the letter because their action demonstrates democracy in Nigeria.
“Democracy cannot survive if we do not hear the voices of everybody, what you are pursuing in your own perception, may be the right thing to do.
“In democracy you may have others who may have opposing views but usually the superior reasoning is the best for democracy. I urge you to bring this democracy to the fore,” he implored.
Human rights lawyer, Femi Falana, noted that the world’s great democracies came through civil protest, stressing that Nigerian leaders who take pride in betraying the public will not be allowed to continue in office.
Said he: “I must congratulate you for this protest because this is the way freedom and democracy have been won all over the world. We do not need two Presidents, we only need one. If they cannot give us one on account of ill health, let them substitute the other.”
After handing the petition to Ahmed, the protesters proceeded to the National Assembly (NASS) but were denied entry by policemen who mounted a barricade at the gate.
Some of the placards carried by the protesters read: “Ministers are serving only the cabal, sack them now,” “On Uwais Report we stand,” “Jonathan be decisive,” “Greedy Governors want to destroy Nigeria.”
Police stoutly refused to allow the SNG entry into the NASS, and anti-riot officers cordoned off all entry points to the Three Arms Zone
Besides, all the three entry points to the Villa from the Federal Secretariat Asokoro and from the Millennium Park were mounted by the security forces.
Motorists who could proffer no valid reason to enter the restricted zone were turned back.
Assistant Commissioner of Police, J. H Amodu, who led the anti-riot mobile police, told reporters that the barricade of the entrance to the NASS was based on “order from above.”
However, Manzo, the Deputy Senate Spokesman, insisted that Senate President David Mark has no reason to shun protesters who came to the NASS to exercise their democratic rights.
His words: “I am not aware the protesters were barred from entering the National Assembly, because we are ready to receive anybody who engages in any meaningful protest. provided that it is not violent.
“Why I used the word ‘meaningful’ is because what is meaningful to a group may not be meaningful to another. It is the beauty of our democracy; we are growing and I hope that time will come when we will have a Speaker’s Corner as in London where people can protest on anything.
“Non violent protest, that is what we encourage and it is good; it is part and parcel of democracy and is very good for us.”
When pressed by reporters that the SNG was deliberately prevented from entering the NASS, Manzo replied: “They were prevented? Hope you know that it is not by Senators. Are you telling me that they were prevented by the security services?
“The Senate President can never issue such a directive, we are very open to receive any peaceful demonstration. That is why this is the Parliament, and it is regrettable if that happened.”
He reiterated that Mark always receives any group of people, “but if you are saying that whether he would receive them tomorrow, I can’t make a categorical statement on that.
“However, I don’t think (he) will have any objection, whatsoever, to receiving any group of Nigerians because we are a lawmaking Chamber. This the centre of democracy and certainly Wole Soyinka and his group are welcome any time.”
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