RECAP: June 12 Declaration Sparks Debate As Senate/Police Face-off Deepens
The previous week – June 3 to 9 – was full of events that will keep Nigerians talking for the next couple of days, even weeks.
Highlights of the week were the declaration of June 12 as Nigeria’s new Democracy Day, in honour of late MKO Abiola, the presumed winner of the 1993 presidential election, as well as the lingering disagreement between the police and the Senate.
Nigerians were caught by surprise when the police invited the Senate President, Dr Bukola Saraki, allegedly over the Offa bank robbery which claimed many lives, including that of some police personnel in Kwara State. Senator Saraki, in a swift response, denied any connection with the incident. He described the allegations as “baseless” and “another ploy by the Police to implicate him by all means”. Meanwhile, Kwara State Governor, Abdulfatah Ahmed, was also indicted by the police in their allegations. Governor Ahmed, however, denied sponsoring, funding and supporting political thuggery in the state.
Elsewhere, the All Progressives Congress (APC) – led Federal Government has continued to score itself high in its performance in the past three years of ruling. The Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Mr Garba Shehu, said the government has done well in fulfilling its campaign promises to the people. On a sad note, Nigeria mourned the pioneer Chairman of Independence Corrupt Practice and other related Offences Commission (ICPC), Justice Mustapha Akanbi. Justice Akanbi died at the age of 85 after a brief illness at a private hospital in Ilorin.
In preparation for Russia 2018 World Cup, Super Eagles Coach Gernot Rohr released his 23-man squad for the tournament, dropping two players. Following the defeats suffered by the team recently, Captain John Obi Mikel admitted that Eagles have to improve quickly if they are to make an impact at the World Cup.
210 Inmates Escape
As part of further efforts towards tackling insecurity in the country, President Muhammadu Buhari and Vice President Yemi Osinbajo held separate meetings with the security chiefs at the State House in Abuja. The Federal Government also commenced the implementation of the new excise duties for alcohol and tobacco. The implementation came three months after the President approved an increase in excise duties for tobacco, beer, wine, and spirits brought into the country.
In Niger State, two persons – a prison warder and a commercial motorcyclist – were killed when some inmates broke out of the Minna Maximum Prison, following an invasion of the facility by some gunmen. Speaking during a visit to the facility, the Minister of Interior, Abdulrahman Dambazau, confirmed that 210 inmates escaped. The police asked Senate President Bukola Saraki to respond to the allegations linking him to the Offa bank robbery within 48 hours, rather than appearing in person. This followed a meeting between Vice President Osinbajo and the Inspector General of Police, Mr Ibrahim Idris, as well as the Director-General of the Department of State Services, Mr Lawal Daura.
Meanwhile, Former President Olusegun Obasanjo mourned the late ICPC Chairman. He described Justice Akanbi as one that oozed with honesty and integrity, saying those were the qualities he saw before appointing Akanbi as the pioneer boss of the anti-corruption agency.
An Impromptu Session
Barely 24 hours after convening a security meeting, President Buhari held another meeting with the Service Chiefs. Also in attendance were the National Security Adviser, Babagana Monguno, and Minister of Defence, Mansur Dan-Ali, among others. After the meeting, Dan-Ali called for the suspension of the implementation of the anti-grazing law. He explained that such step would help to reduce the tension of farmers-herdsmen crisis in troubled states.
Elsewhere, lawmakers at the National Assembly convened an emergency joint session over the nation’s insecurity among other burning issues. They reaffirmed their vote of no confidence on the police boss and warned the President to address the “systematic harassment and humiliation by the Executive of perceived political opponents”.
Hours later, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) declared its support for the resolutions of the National Assembly. In a statement issued Tuesday by the party’s National Publicity Secretary, Mr Kola Ologbondiyan, they also accused President Buhari of misruling Nigerians. Also reacting to the outcomes of the joint session of the lawmakers, former member of the House of Representatives, Mr West Idahosa, believes the National Assembly’s message to the Executive and specifically, the President, was clear.
However, some lawmakers under the aegis of the Parliamentary Support Group of the Senate and House of Representatives faulted the resolutions of the National Assembly. They said the resolutions were just the opinions of a few lawmakers.
A Historic Declaration
President Buhari made a history on Wednesday when he announced June 12 as Nigeria’s new Democracy Day, in honour of MKO Abiola. He also conferred a posthumous GCFR title on the late business mogul, the highest national award in the land. Just a few minutes after the declaration, Nigerians could not hide their joy as they took to Twitter to commend the decision of the President which many described as a historic feat and a dream come true.
Also in the nation’s capital, the Federal Executive Council (FEC) held a valedictory service for the former Minister of Solid Minerals Development, Kayode Fayemi. Dr Fayemi, the APC candidate in the Ekiti governorship election, was commended by the council for his contribution to the development of the sector.
Again, the police said two more suspects involved in the Offa bank robbery have indicted the Senate President. The Force Public Relations Officer, Jimoh Moshood, claimed that both suspects confessed to being political thugs for Dr Saraki. In the House of Representatives, the lawmakers resolved to investigate two of their colleagues, Abdulmumin Jibrin and Muhammed Kazaure, for their purported comments on an alleged plot to impeach President Buhari.
June 12 Sparks Debate
President Buhari began his official duty with a meeting with the security chiefs – the third in less than five days. The defence minister told State House correspondents that the meeting was only a review of issues discussed in the previous one. In furtherance to his declaration, President Buhari directed the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, to gazette his order on June 12 and some heroes of democracy.
Still in Abuja, Senate President Saraki said he has responded to the allegations levelled against him by the suspects arrested in connection with the Offa bank robbery. Saraki confirmed that he sent his written response to the police on Thursday, four days after he was invited to react to questions based on claims by the suspects.
In reaction to the June 12 declaration, the Senate has asked the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to declare the results of the 1993 presidential election. It also asked the Federal Government to ensure that all the entitlements due to the Late MKO Abiola and Baba Gana Kingigbe, as president and vice president, are paid to them.
On the other hand, the development threw the House of Representatives into a rowdy session. The plenary turned rowdy on Thursday when the lawmakers debated the powers of the Executive to make such pronunciation.
On its part, the PDP has asked President Buhari to respect the laws of the country if he truly wants to honour Abiola. The party made the demand in a statement by their National Publicity Secretary, Mr Kola Ologbondiyan.
Two years down the line, the football world remembered a legend and former Super Eagles Head Coach, Stephen Keshi. The ‘Big Boss’, as fondly called, died in Benin City, the Edo State capital, at the age of 54 in June 2016.
June 12 Misinterpreted?
President Buhari granted financial autonomy to state judiciaries and Houses of Assembly. He also assented to a total of four bills, as part of amendments to the 1999 Constitution.
Meanwhile, the Federal Government clarified that June 12 this year will not be marked as a public holiday. It noted, however, that while it will not be marked this year, “in future years, (it) will replace May 29 as a national public holiday in celebration of Nigeria’s Democracy Day.”
President Buhari also invited key players of June 12 struggle to the conferment of a posthumous Grand Commander of the Order of the Niger (GCON) on MKO Abiola. Among them are Nobel laureate, Professor Wole Soyinka; APC national leader, Bola Tinubu, and a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Femi Falana.
While the APC commended President Buhari for honouring Abiola, they asked him to honour Mrs Kudirat Abiola as a martyr of democracy in the country. The party made the request in a statement by their National Publicity Secretary, Mr Bolaji Abdullahi. Also, Ekiti State governor, Ayodele Fayose, threw away his political difference to commend President Buhari for declaring June 12 as the new Democracy Day. He told Channels Television that although he believes it has political undertones, it is a welcome development.
Far from the June 12 saga, former President Obasanjo raised an alarm over his safety. The elder statesman, in a statement, accused the Federal Government of planning to have him indicted through a series of plans allegedly to silence him from expressing his concerns over the state of the nation. Responding, the Minister of Information and Culture, Mr Lai Mohammed, described the allegations as frivolous, saying they were aimed at distracting the government.
Presidential Order Ignored?
President Buhari finally broke the silence on the allegations of former President Obasanjo. He said he had stopped his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Mr Femi Adesina, from responding. He added that he told Mr Lai Mohammed not to respond to the allegations.
He, however, said, “When Lai Mohammed came I said he shouldn’t, he insisted, he disobeyed me. He said he was going to remind Nigerians where we find ourselves when we came in as a government, where we are now and what we have done with the resources available to us. And I understand he did a good job because a number of people rang me and said Lai Mohammed has done a good job.”
Also reacting, Governor Fayose asked the former president not to raise any alarm but come forward and clear his name from the allegations against him. He said, “There is no need to raise alarm. Obasanjo at a time said President Buhari is best for Nigeria.”