Senate warns of military coup over political violence

The Senate warned yesterday that allegations of state-sponsored violence in Kaduna, Kano and Kogi States, could create conditions that would undermine democracy in the country.It also set up a panel to look into the allegations in Kogi, and to report back to it in two weeks.Senator Ahmed Salau Ogembe, representing Kogi Central, yesterday, sought the upper chamber’s intervention following his ordeal at the hands of hoodlums in Okene during an empowerment programme he organised for his constituents.

The lawmaker regretted that political violence, kidnappings, killings and assassinations have become commonplace in his state, while the police “choose to turn a blind eye.” He said: “The Nigeria Police Force Area Commander and the Divisional Police Officers of Okene, Okehi and Adavi, which are Local Government Areas under Kogi Central senatorial district, seem to be under undue influence and strong control of the local government area administrator. This political intimidation and violence has seemingly increased because of the 2019 general elections, which is less than a year away.”Ogembe claimed that many of his supporters who participated in the programme were beaten and that others were kidnapped and dumped in bushes and uncompleted buildings.

Some senators highlighted violent political situations in Kaduna and Kano states, recalling how they could not visit or organise meetings for fear of attacks. Deputy Senate President Ike Ekweremadu said: “Last two weeks, we were talking about the house of a senator which was destroyed in Kaduna State. We were talking about how security operatives laid siege on Dino Melaye. We are talking about Kwankwaso, who was stopped from going to his state, which he had ruled for eight years.

“In Kaduna, Shehu Sani cannot organise a meeting, and we are talking of democracy. And somebody says this democracy is going to continue this way. It is not. People are holding meetings everyday on how to deal with each and every one of us here.“There is the need for the international community to know this because they helped restore democracy to Nigeria. Some people are trying to truncate that entire democracy. We are now second-class citizens, not just in Africa but also in West Africa.”

He said further: “The problem in Nigeria now is that our democracy is receding and the international community needs to know this. Who says that the army cannot take over in Nigeria? It is possible. So, let us not joke with our democracy, especially with the way things are going.”

Senate President Abubakar Bukola Saraki who presided over the session, said: “It is not really just about Kogi State. It is clear from what we are seeing that Kogi is coming to a point where it is becoming a threat to our democracy. And we are going to be very serious about it. It cannot be seen to be defying our democracy because this is not what our democracy is about.

“For the role that we continue to make in the comity of nations, we must be seen as making good examples for other parts of the world. We must get to the bottom of this. We must take actions to stop these things from happening. This cannot be the democracy that we should be talking about after 20 years. It is totally unacceptable.”

Besides, the Rivers State House of Assembly has said a directive by the police, barring vigilance groups from using firearms, could hamper the state’s efforts at enhancing security. The legislature, which recently passed into law the Rivers State Neighbourhood Safety Corps Bill 2018, urged the police to reconsider their stance.

The Chairman of the House Committee on Information and Communications, Sam Ogeh, said the order smacked of attempt to preempt the efficacy of the law.He stated this while reacting to the constitution of a task force by Rivers State Commissioner of Police Zaki Ahmed. The task force is expected to enforce a directive by the Inspector General of Police requiring vigilance groups to surrender their arms within 21 days.

Section Two of the Neighbourhood Safety Corps Bill permits the groups to bear arms in the discharge of their duties.Ogeh said: “I have not quite come to terms with the rationale. If the police say they want to carry out their right to mop up arms in the society and they think it is the best for them, so be it. We have considered that with the way things are going, we would need additional hands to assist the police in securing our communities. But the police do not see it that way and have chosen to sabotage it. There is nothing we can do about it.”

He said if the executive arm of government thinks the law is not good enough, it should have approached a court of competent jurisdiction to declare it null and void or make the court declare that the law is not in the best interest of the society.Police Public Relations Officer, Omoni Nnamdi, said the task force has been mandated to embark on raids and cordon and search operations on premises where prohibited firearms are kept. He said anybody found with such weapons after the expiration of the ultimatum would be prosecuted.