March 11 – 17 In Summary
The week was accompanied by activities that triggered mixed reactions, including fresh attacks, the continuation of Senator Dino Melaye’s recall process, and the resumption of the suspended lawmaker, Abdulmumin Jibrin, among other issues.
Call For Military Takeover?
The death of several persons from the herdsmen-farmers crisis and other security issues in parts of the country has continued to trigger mixed reactions in the country. The Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Mr Garba Shehu, however, said although President Muhammadu Buhari is committed to ending the killings, he would not have promised an absolute crime-free Nigeria while campaigning for Presidency in 2015. Meanwhile, the Presidency revealed in a statement that President Buhari has approved an amendment to the excise duty rates for alcoholic beverages and tobacco. The President also granted a grace period of 90 days to all manufacturers before the commencement of the new excise duty regime.
In another development, the Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, denied reports and statements insinuating that he called for a military intervention in the country. In a statement by his spokesman Uche Anichukwu, the lawmaker noted that his comments on the floor of the Senate were either being twisted or misconstrued by some persons. A Senior Advocate of Nigeria Mr Femi Falana, reacted to the recent disclosure by the senator representing Kaduna Central, Shehu Sani, that a member of the Senate receives more than N13million monthly as running cost. Mr Falana lauded the lawmaker, saying he “blew the lid off federal legislators’ salary secrecy.” However, the Red Chamber noted that there was nothing new in the statements made by Senator Sani. The spokesman for the Senate, Senator Aliyu Abdullahi, said the figures are contained in various line items and expenditure of the budget of the National Assembly which have since been made public.
In Anambra State, the marriage between two siblings in Ekwulobia community in Agwata Local Government Area has generated more reactions from the people of the community and other concerned parties. The 23-year-old groom, who seemed unperturbed by what he has done, noted that his decision to wed his 17-year-old sister followed an encounter their brother had with God.
Presidential Order Allegedly Flouted
On Monday, President Buhari continued his condolence visit to states affected by Boko Haram attacks and herdsmen-crisis. Addressing leaders of various groups in Benue State, the President appealed to them to convince their constituents that the Federal Government is doing its best to end the recurring attacks by armed herdsmen in various parts of the country. President Buhari also said he is not aware that the Inspector General of Police (IGP), Ibrahim Idris, left Benue for Nasarawa State after he had ordered him to relocate to the state. He told the Benue leaders that he was just learning of the alleged noncompliance with his directive by the police boss.
On his part, Governor Samuel Ortom urged the President to upgrade Exercise Cat Race to a full military operation in order to tackle the killings of innocent citizens in Benue. He noted said the attacks by armed herdsmen predated the current administration, adding that the recent attacks have displaced 170,000 people with children of school age constituting 60 per cent. The governor also called for compensation for victims of the attacks and rebuilding of destroyed houses and farms. Back in Abuja, President Buhari received the U.S. Secretary of State, Mr Rex Tillerson, at State House in the Federal Capital Territory. During a meeting with his visitor, the Nigerian leader explained why the Federal Government opted for negotiation rather than the military option to secure the release of the abducted Dapchi schoolgirls and the remaining Chibok girls in the custody of Boko Haram terrorists.
Elsewhere, Nigerians celebrated the emergence of Imo State-born Judge Chile Eboe-Osuji as President of the International Criminal Court (ICC). Eboe-Osuji was elected president during a plenary session by the ICC judges and his tenure is expected to last for three years.
Amended Election Sequence Saga
On Tuesday morning, President Buhari finally reacted to the proposed change of election sequence by the National Assembly as he withheld assent to the amendment of the 2010 Electoral Act. He stated in a letter to the lawmakers that part of the reasons for his decision was that an amendment to the sequence of the election in section 25 of the Principal Act might infringe on the constitutionally guaranteed discretion of INEC to organise, undertake and supervise all elections provided in section 16(a) of the constitution.
In another development, the President summoned the Inspector General of Police over his reported failure to comply with his directive after the killings in Benue State. Channels Television gathered that the police boss was the first caller to the Presidential Villa on Tuesday and he met in private with President Buhari for about 30 minutes. In its reaction to the development, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) took a swipe at the President, describing his administration as incompetent, disorganised and uncoordinated. The opposition party alleged that President Buhari’s explanation was an admission that he has handed over power to a cabal that neither sought for votes nor were they elected by Nigerians.
But the Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Mr Femi Adesina, said his principal is a leader who gives no room for incompetence. Contrary to reports that the President is slow to make decisions, he noted that President Buhari seeks justice diligently and doesn’t allow innocent people to be sacrificed unjustly. Despite the government’s effort to stop the killings of innocent people in the country, suspected herdsmen killed at least 25 persons in a fresh attack in Plateau State. Authorities confirmed that 19 men, three women and three children were murdered in the incident which occurred in Dundu village in Bassa Local Government Area of the state.
In Kaduna State, the Acting Secretary of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), Tony Ojukwu, decried the non-prosecution of perpetrators of hate speech and election violence in Nigeria. According to him, the non-prosecution of these perpetrators has largely encouraged the use of hate speech in election campaigns and other related social activities. Meanwhile, suspected kidnapper, Chukwudumeme Onwuamadike, popularly known as Evans, was in the news again as he filed a fresh suit against the police at a Federal High Court sitting in Lagos. Evans asked the court to compel the police to immediately and unconditionally release his two residential houses located in Magodo area of the state. He also urged the court to order the police and its leadership to severally and jointly tender an apology as well as pay him the sum of N1billion.
In the United States, President Donald Trump sacked U.S. Secretary of State Mr Rex Tillerson, barely 24 hours after he visited Nigeria. President Trump consequently appointed the Director of CIA, Mike Pompeo, as Tillerson’s successor. In the world of sports, it was a bad day for Manchester United fans as the Red Devils crashed out of the Champions League. Wissam Ben Yedder struck twice in four second-half minutes to send Sevilla into the quarter-finals for the first time in 60 years with a stunning 2-1 win at Old Trafford.
More Herdsmen Attacks
Two days after sympathising with the people of Benue, President Buhari continued his condolence visits as he met with parents of the abducted Dapchi schoolgirls in Yobe. He defended his administration’s response to the abduction of the girls, saying it was better than how the previous government responded to the abduction of the Chibok girls in 2014. The President also assured Nigerians that the Federal Government will not rest until all the Chibok and Dapchi schoolgirls in the Boko Haram custody are released and reunited with their families.
Meanwhile, lawmakers at the lower chamber welcomed their suspended colleague, Abdulmumin Jibrin, as he resumed plenary. Jibrin, who had been on a 17-month suspension, was pardoned on March 13 after apologising to the House and having met all conditions given to him. Suspected herdsmen launched a fresh attack on Rafiki and Dong communities in Bassa Local Government Area of Plateau State. Although the number of deaths was not confirmed, Channels Television gathered that at least seven persons were injured and one person feared killed. Reacting to the incident, the state government imposed a dusk to dawn curfew on the local government Area in statement hours after the attack. Security agencies in the local government were mandated to enforce the curfew while citizens were advised to go about their lawful business.
On legal matters, a Federal High Court in Abuja barred the National Assembly from taking further action or proceeding with the Electoral Act Amendment Bill. Justice Ahmed Mohammed issued the restraining order following an oral application made in a suit filed by the Accord Party against the National Assembly and others. In another development, a former PDP National Publicity Secretary, Olisa Metuh, asked a Federal High Court in Abuja to grant him permission to travel abroad for medical treatment. Metuh who arrived at the court in a wheelchair informed the court through his counsel that his health was fast failing and required a corrective surgery at a hospital in London.
Evans’ trial also continued at the Lagos High Court Sitting in Ikeja where the judge watched two videos showing the kidnap suspect confessing to criminal activities. The videos, obtained by the police, were played at the start of Evans’ trial alongside one Victor Aduba on charges of conspiracy, kidnapping of one Mr Sylvanus Hafia and unlawful possession of firearms. Here are some major global events that also occurred on Wednesday – Renowned British Scientist Stephen Hawking Is Dead; Merkel Elected To Fourth Term As German Chancellor; Bayern Sweep Aside Besiktas To Reach Quarter Finals; Messi Hits Champions League Century In Emphatic Barca Win Over Chelsea.
Another Mass Burial
On Thursday, President Buhari visited Niger State and commissioned the Sunti Golden Sugar Estate (SGSE). Addressing an audience during the inauguration ceremony, he said the policies of his administration towards improving Nigeria’s economy through diversification are on the right path. Back at the State House in Abuja, the President met with the leadership of the National Assembly led by the Senate President, Dr Bukola Saraki, as part of efforts to ensure the speedy passage of the 2018 Appropriation Bill. President Buhari ordered all ministers and heads of Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) to defend their budget estimates before the National Assembly.
Following the President’s veto of the Electoral Amendment Bill, the Senate faulted the order by a Federal High Court restraining the National Assembly from taking steps to pass the bill into law. The Upper House noted that the judiciary cannot stop the parliament from carrying out its constitutional duties. The lawmakers, however, during plenary directed the Senate Committee on Banking to screen some individuals for the appointment of members of the Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), as well as the nominee for the position of the CBN deputy governor. Ms Aisha Ahmad had been named the CBN deputy governor while Professor Adeola Adenikinju, Dr Aliyu Sanusi, Dr Robert Asogwa and Dr Asheikh Maidugu, were nominated as MPC members.
Elsewhere, Benue State was thrown into mourning as the state government held a mass burial for another set of victims of herdsmen killings in the state. Family, relatives, and friends of those killed wailed uncontrollably over the loss of their loved ones while Governor Ortom decried the rate of bloodshed in the state. The state government also said although they thanked President Buhari for his visit to Benue, the visit did not rekindle any hope in the people. Special Adviser to the Governor on Media and ICT, Mr Tahaz Agerzua, stated this during his appearance on Sunrise Daily.
Condemning the spate of killings, Professor Wole Soyinka asked the Federal Government to declare the herdsmen responsible for attacks in states across the country as terrorists. The Nobel Laurette made the demand in Lagos while delivering a paper at the Ripples Nigeria Dialogue, an annual forum organised to broaden the conversation on issues troubling the nation. Also in Lagos, the state government announced a reduction its Land Use Charge after criticism from residents and concerned groups in the state. The government reduced commercial fee charge by 50 per cent while owner occupier third-party fee was reduced by 25 per cent. Months after the crisis that his the Abia State judiciary, the National Judicial Council (NJC) recommended the compulsory retirement of two judges to the state governor, Mr Okezie Ikpeazu. Those recommended by the judicial body are the Chief Judge of Abia State, Justice Theresa Uzokwe, and Justice Obisike Oji of the Abia State High Court.
Melaye’s Recall Process Continues
On Friday, President Buhari approved the constitution of membership for the National Food Security Council, days after he announced the intention of the Federal Government to establish the council. The Council is to be chaired by the President while its members will include the governors of Kebbi, Taraba, Plateau, Lagos, Ebonyi and Delta states. Meanwhile, the General Overseer of Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG), Pastor Enoch Adeboye, also called for an end to killings in the country by suspected herdsmen. Pastor Adeboye condemned the bloodshed when he visited Benue State alongside his wife, Folu.
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has now gotten a nod to continue with the recall process of the lawmaker representing Kogi West senatorial district, Senator Dino Melaye. The Court of Appeal in Abuja gave the order in a lead judgement read by Justice Tunde Awotoye. Hours later, Senator Melaye rejected the judgement and vowed to appeal the ruling in the Supreme Court. He noted that “Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil. Every lie has an expiry date. I shall overcome.” On its part, the electoral umpire vowed to proceed with the process for the recall of the lawmaker in line with the judgement of the Court of Appeal. INEC’s Director of Publicity and Voter Education, Mr Oluwole Osaze-Uzzi, said this in a telephone interview on Channels Television’s Politics Today.
On other legal issues, the Supreme Court adjourned the hearing of Olisa Metuh’s application seeking permission to travel abroad for urgent medical treatment. The trial judge, Justice Okon Abang, noted that even though the application was filed as urgent, the cases cited by the parties have just been forwarded to him. Elsewhere, the EFCC arraigned the Managing Director of FirstNation Airways, Mr Kayode Odukoya, before Justice Mojisola Dada of the Special Offences Court sitting in Ikeja. The defendant was charged with four counts bordering on forgery, use of false information, perjury and stealing to the tune of N1,741,994,962.04.
On a lighter note, Daughter of Africa’s richest man Aliko Dangote, Fatima, tied the knot with her soulmate, Jamil Abubakar, son of a former IGP Dikko Abubakar. Dignitaries who stormed Kano State for the event include President Buhari, Senate President Saraki, and Kano State Governor Abdullahi Ganduje, among others.
Nigeria Mourns Ali Wakili
Once again, the Federal Government assured Nigerians that all the Dapchi schoolgirls abducted by Boko Haram terrorists would regain their freedom soon. The Minister of Defence, Mansur Dan-Ali, who gave the assurance during a Channels Television’s programme which aired on Saturday, revealed that the military is already closing in on them. In the meantime, the President’s rejection of the Electoral Act Amendment Bill has continued to generate more reactions. However, Senate President Saraki and Speaker of the House of Representative, Yakubu Dogara, vowed to jointly give an appropriate response to the development. Contrary to reports that both National Assembly leaders are divided over the President’s position to the amended bill, Saraki and Dogara noted that they are working “in agreement on what to do”.
On the flip side, the death of the senator representing Bauchi South, Senator Ali Wakili, threw the National Assembly into mourning mood on Saturday. The lawmaker died at the age of 58 after he reportedly slumped at his Gwarimpa residence in Abuja. In separate condolence messages, President Buhari described Senator Wakil’s death as “an incalculable loss to Nigeria’s democracy”, while the Senate President said the deceased was a vibrant lawmaker and a public servant who was very passionate about his assignment and engagement in the Senate. Similarly, the Bauchi Government declared three days to mourn the senator while flags would be flown at half-mast. Governor Mohammed Abubakar, who gave the order, described Wakili as a vibrant lawmaker whose contributions would be missed by his colleagues.
At the Presidential Villa, President Buhari and some state governors were present as Vice President Yemi Osinbajo’s daughter, Damilola, took Oluseun Bakare as her husband. The event brought together leaders from different political backgrounds.