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June 12: Middle Belt, Southern Leaders Urge Buhari to Sack INEC Chairman

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Reject directive against anti-grazing laws
•Carpet IGP, FG for overheating the polity
•Call for rejig of security chiefs

Godsgift Onyedinefu

Amidst the euphoria generated by the recognition of June 12 as Democracy day, a group made up of southern and middle belt leaders, have called on President Muhammadu Buhari to sack and replace the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Prof. Mahmood Yakubu .

The group in a statement signed by Dr. John Nwodo for South East, Chief Ayo Adebanjo for South West, Chief Edwin Clark for South South and Air Commodore Dan Suleiman (rtd) for the Middle Belt, urged Buhari to re-enact the true spirit of June 12 by holding free, fair and peaceful elections in 2019.

Speaking on behalf the group at a briefing in Abuja on Sunday, the Chairman of Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF), Air Commodore Nkanga Indongesit chairman the President to as a matter of priority, institutionalise credible elections in Nigeria.

Indongesit said the call for the replacement of Yakubu Mahmood as the INEC Chairman was based on observations that there are efforts to manipulate the result of the forth coming elections.

He noted that Buhari’s relationship the current chairman who is from the North East as well as with the former Acting Chairman and Commissioner from the North West, Hon. Amina Zakari, is so strong and capable of influencing the outcome of the 2019 elections.

He stated: “As we move towards the 2019 elections, there are accumulated indications that there are efforts to manipulate the result in forth coming election rig the elections which Nigerians must be vigilant to and thwart. Apart from keeping the current Service Chiefs who ought to have retired, retaining them in conjunction with the choice of INEC chairman is very suspicious an in tandem with the narrative that they are poised to play partisan roles in favour of the incumbent. We have fears that the Independent National Electoral Commission may not be able to deliver free and fair election as the bug of nepotism and sectionalism that this administration is renowned for has also eaten up the leadership of the commission.”

“Only recently we saw the scandal if underage voters during the Local Government elections held in the North West state of Kano. Responding to the public outcry if the saga, the INEC chairman set up a committee to look into the violation if our law which stipulates that only 18 years can be registered to vote, the chairman has refused to release the report of the committee .We strongly demand the replacement of the INEC chairman with a man or woman of integrity from another Zone in order to restore public confidence in the electoral body as it prepared for 2019 elections”.

The group stressed that since independence, only President Buhari that has been audacious to pick only people who are either his relationship or of the same ethnic stock with him to lead the electoral body.

He stated: “From 1960 till date only President Muhammadu Buhari has been audacious to pick only people who are either his relation or of the same ethnic stock with him to lead the Electoral a Body. The Balewa Government headed by a Northerner appointed Prof. Eyo Ita Esua from the South who was in charge of Federal Electoral Commission from 1960-66. Gen Olusegun Obasanjo, a Yorubaman set up the Federal Electoral Commission (FEDECO) under Michael Ani (1976- 1979).

“President Shehu Shagari from the North appointed Victor OvieWhiskey (1980-1983) from Bendel State as Electoral boss.

The National Electoral Commission (NEC) under Gen. Ibrahim Babangida (1987-1993) had Eme Awa (1987-1989), Humphrey Nwosu (1989-1993), Okon E. Uya (June 1993Nov. 19 1993), all from South as Chairmen.”

“The National Electoral Commission of Nigeria (NEC) under Gen Sani Abacha (1994-1998) had Chief Sumner Dagogo-Jack, from South-South, as Chairman.

“The Independent National Electoral Commission under Gen. Abubakar Abdusalami from the North West had Justice Ephraim Akpata (1998Jan. 2000) from South -South as Chairman. Chief Olusegun Obasanjo from the South West appointed Abel Guobadia from South South (2000-2005) and Prof Maurice Iwu (2005April 28, 2010).

“When Dr Goodluck Jonathan came in from South-South ,he appointed Prof. Attahiru Jega from North West (June 2010October 2015).

“It is only President Muhammadu Buhari who first appointed his relation from the North West ,Mrs Amina Zakari as Acting Chairman when he became President in 2015 before he appointed Prof Mahmood Yakubu from North East, as Substantive chairman. The relationship between the powerful Amina Zakari and the INEC chairman is so strong that it has the tendency to influence the outcome election in favour of the appointee.”

In a related development, the chairman of PANDEF said the continous retaining of the service chiefs who ought to have retired of which majority are from a session is suspicious, as they are poised to play partisan role to the favour if the incumbent.

He expressed concern that the country is plunging into a complete state of anarchy, with continous lawlessness, unprofessionalism on the part of the police and increased killings.

Indongesit singled out what he described as high level of indiscipline exhibited by the Inspector General of Police (IGP) Ibrahim Idris, and advised Buhari to quickly deal with the issues raised in the resolution by the joint executive session of the national assembly

Part of the statement read: “We are worried about the latest overheating of the polity as politics continues to overshadow governance in our country with its attendant national embarrassment as professionalism is fast becoming alien in many of our public institutions. The latest in the serial assaults on decency in public affairs is the audacious refusal of the police to submit to civil authority and the elastic tolerance of the growing impunity of its Inspector General .It is on record that the IGP has defied the authority of the President when he refused to relocate to Benue State to restore law and order. Since the President confessed that IGP ignored his directive, there has been no evidence of his compliance with the order and no sanction has been imposed on him for this. It is little wonder that the Nigerian police under him has become accumulated indication of a source of anarchy in the land. We are gradually rolling towards anarchy, as all sense of decency and order have been eroded. We have not forgotten how the police spokesman, taking a cue from his boss, declared a state governor ‘a drowning man’ and how the IGP has flagrantly refused to honour the Nigeria’s Senate invitation to explain why the authority has not been able to stop killings going on across the country and bring killers to book.

“While we recognize and defend the right of the police to investigate crimes and interrogate anyone linked to such no matter their status, we are miffed at the conduct of the police throwing professionalism overboard by conducting media trial of the Senate President and a sitting Governor without having proper investigation of serious criminal allegations. The police makes itself a butt of practical joke when it flip-flops making three different statements within 72 hours on one case. First, it summoned via media, next it withdrew the summon and ask for a written response within 48 hours, and then restates the summon all over again. No serious police behave like this anywhere in the world. The police itself admitted that investigations were pending and that it had not even presented the allegations to those they publicly announced were suspects linked to the act.”

“We have looked at the career record of this lGP and we have not seen any outstanding performance that would make Mr President to keep such a man in such an esteemed office beyond the fact that he was the Commissioner of Police in Kano in 2015 where controversial polls took place and the Resident Electoral Commissioner who would have been questioned if there were challenge to the results was found dead with his wife and two children in a mysterious inferno. The then Commissioner of Police ,who was promoted IGP within a year with over 30 Senior officers to him having their career abruptly terminated, explained away the deaths within a few hours without any serious investigation.”

Speaking further, the group noted that “discipline has broken down under this IGP as we saw in a policeman who should be guarding a bank in Lagos getting recruited on illegal duty by a politician to Ekiti where he shot at people in a campaign rally .

“We have also noted the resolutions issued at the end of a joint executive session of both chambers of the National Assembly on the state of the nation calling on the president to take majors steps to stop the killings going on across Nigeria and protect the lives of our citizens. We believe that the presidency should even be more interested in this more than anyone else and we consider them patriotic demands on the presidency at a time the country’s neck is between the sword and the block .There is no patriot who would want the wanton killings that have become daily occurrence to continue unhinged .This country was engaged in a civil war for three years and there were days when there were no deaths recorded. Now that there is no war declared, we are packing
body bags on daily basis. This is why what is required at the moment is for the Presidency to quickly deal with the issues raised in the resolutions.”

Indongesit further explained that the growing intolerance of government to patriots who express contrary views to the state of governance in the country is another flashpoint for anarchy. He cited the case of Gen. T.Y Danjuma who exposed collision of military personnel with herdsmen and the recent attempt by the federal government to clamp former president Olusegun Obasanjo in order to curtail his freedom for holding contrary political views against Buhari’ s government.

“We also viewed the insensitive and provocative decision of the Kaduna state government to convert all chiefdoms in the state to Emirates as another potential source of anarchy if not nipped in the bud”.

Speaking further, the Southern and Middle Belt leaders condemned the call by the Minister of Defence, Brig-Gen. Mansur Dan-Ali (rtd), to ban the anti-grazing laws enacted by some states as guaranteed by the constitution.

According to the PANDEF chairman, one of the loudest encouragements given to killer Fulani herdsmen yet again was the call for the suspension of anti-grazing law in states where it has been passed and Operational so as to reduce the tension in states where herders clash with farmers.

The group noted that the Defence Minister has always defended and shielded the herdsmen against arrests and prosecution in what has become a cardinal program of this government and which has heightened the fear of conflict of interest between the constitutional role of the President to defend the lives of property of all Nigerians and his self-assigned duty of being the Grand Patron of Miyetti Allah.

According to the group, shielding of Fulani killer-herdsmen remains the strongest flashpoint of invitation to chaos and anarchy in our country as people would not continue to fold their arms forever as they are being killed with government unwilling to lift a finger in their defence.

They recalled that in January this year, the Minister of Defence blamed passage of the anti-grazing law in some states as the cause of killings by herdsmen, saying that “his latest statement is capable of being interpreted to mean that the herdsmen would not stop their killings until all states embrace once again the barbaric culture of open grazing of cows in this age and time”.

To this end, the Southern and Middle Belt leader “insist that under Federalism, the central government has no right to ask states to void laws validly made by the federating units. Any person or group that has any grouse with any such law can only proceed to the law court to seek redress”.

“It is our submission that the announcement by the Minister is an overreach and a further indictment of the Federal Government of aiding and abetting the terror being perpetrated against farmers by Fulani herdsmen in what has been mischievously tagged ‘farmers-herders clash”.

Against this backdrop, the group demanded “for the restructuring of Nigeria as the defective structure of the country is what the killers and their enablers rely on to make life unbearable for those who are vulnerable and unprotected, by a unitary state being deployed for the defence of parochial and primordial interest.”

They also called for the rejig of the security architecture of the country to reflect the diversities,sensitivities and sensibilities within the polity.

The group maintained that the current situation where 16 out of the 17 Service Chiefs are from a section is not healthy for inclusivity in a multi-ethnic state.

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