$496m withdrawal: Buhari has violated constitution —Southern, Middle Belt Forum

THE Southern and Middle Belt Leaders Forum made up of South South, South East, South and North Central leaders of thought came together in Abuja, on Wednesday, to observe and express shock that President Muhammadu Buhari has breached the constitution of the country by paying out the sum of $496 million without authorization from the National Assembly.

The money was paid to the United State Government for the purchase of 12 Tucano Aircrafts.

But the leaders said they were shocked that the president could get involved in such flagrant violation of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

They have therefore called on the National Assembly do the needful by sanctioning him.

They also called on the United States government to as a matter of urgency, return the money paid to the treasury of the government because the money paid was not authorized.

The leaders have also thrown their support behind calls by former Chief of Army Staff, Lt. General Theophilus Danjuma for Nigerians to defend themselves against marauding herdsmen since the military can no longer be trusted to defend them.

They met at the Asokoro, Abuja residence of South-South Leader and former federal Commissioner for information, Chief Edwin Clark on Wednesday.

The also advised that as part of measures to address killings in the country, the Police Service Commission should as a matter of urgency, deploy all Divisional Police Officers )DPOs) to their places of origin for a more effective policing while the country awaits the much desired, State Police.

They similarly warned the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) against plans to create new polling units or voting points at this time as it was capable of bringing contention as well as overheat the polity.

They maintained that the Commission should conduct the 2019 elections on the basis of the existing polling units so that exercise will be credible and the outcome acceptable.

The communique which was read at the end of the meeting by the President General of Ohanaeze Ndi Igbo, Chief John Nnia Nwodo was signed by Chief Clark on behalf of Pan Niger Delta, PANDEF; Chief Ayo Adebanjo for Afenifere and Dr. Bala Takaya, President, Middle Belt Forum.

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Also present at the meeting were Chief Olu Falae; former governor Olusegun Mimiko; General Zamani Lekwot, retd; Alaowei Broderick Bozimo; Senator Femi Okorounmu; Senator Aniete Okon; Ambassador Godknows Igali; Idongesit Nkanga; Air Commodore Dan Suleiman; Chief Chukwuemeka Ezeife, Senator Chris Anyanwu, Senator Jonah Jang, Ambassador Nkem Wadibia Anyanwu, Yinka Odumakin, Senator Bassey Henshaw, Professor G. G. Darah, Solomon Asemota, Col. Tony Nyam,retd, Mac Emakpore, Maj. General Collins Ihekire, retd, Dr. Obadiah Mailafia, among others.

Nwodo said while reading the communique: “It is with shock that we note the flagrant violation of the Constitution by the President by paying a whopping sum of $496 million to the U. S. Government for the purchase of Tucano Aircrafts.

“Section 80 (3) and (4) of the 1999 Constitution is very clear on how the President could spend Nigerian’s fund. The provision states; “No money shall be withdrawn from the Consolidated Revenue Fund or any other public fund of the Federation, except in the manner prescribed by the National Assembly.

“As it is, the President has violated the provision of the highest law in the land. Nigeria is a Republic founded on rule of law, where each arm of government is bound to be guided by the dictates of the constitution, this flagrant violation and unapproved spending must be abated as well as sanctioned.

“We, therefore, call on the National Assembly to do the needful as well as call on the United States Government to return the money paid to its treasury as the money paid is not authorized.

“The unauthorized expenditure by the President came amidst non-fulfilment of legitimate promises to spend money in the Niger Delta, for instance, to ameliorate environmental degradation, even when Senators are expressing doubts on the transparency and honesty in the disbursement of social security funds. It was this kind of disregard for the Constitution that made Mr. President approve one billion US Dollars for military expenditure before approaching the National Assembly.”

“We have deemed it very urgent and important to address you on some issues of national importance that pose serious challenges to democratic governance in our dear country Nigeria and threaten the peace, unity and well being of our beloved polity.

“As Nigerian patriots, we believe these issues must be addressed and resolved in order to restore faith in the Nigerian project from all constituent units of the country and preserve democratic governance.

On T. Y. Danjuma’s call for self-defence, the group said, “It has come to our attention that former Chief of Army Staff, retired, Lt. Gen. T. Y. Danjuma has come under subtle harassments to his person and Community over his call for Nigerians to defend themselves in the face of failure and unwillingness of the State to protect them.

“We as a group, endorse the call made by Gen. Danjuma as the right call in the face of the mass killings going on in the country. The right to self-defence is guaranteed by the following procedures:

“The Right to Legitimate self-defence

“The right to legitimate self-defence is a fundamental human right. It is a well-established norm in municipal and International Law, that any group of people that faces an existential threat to its very survival has right to legitimate self-defence.

“Section 33 of our 1999 Constitution accords the right to legitimate self-defence as a Constitutional right of all citizens. In the case of the United States of America, they have carried it to the extent that the right to self-defence and even pre-emptive self-defence, is a fundamental right of all Americans.

“Natural Law, Just War Theory, and International Law and Ethics, equally recognizes the right of all peoples to defend themselves against violation of their lives and those of their families and Communities. Article 51 of the United Nations Charter authorizes people whose existence is threatened to defend themselves. We, therefore, support General T. Y. Danjuma; he said the obvious.

“Indeed, two illustrious legal luminaries, Professors Itse Sagay and B. O. Nwabueze, have upheld general Danjuma’s assertion on purely legal grounds.

“The continuous spate of killing of innocent citizens of Nigeria especially from the Middle Belt is totally unacceptable. More disturbing is the ever increasing evidence that our Military and Police Forces are compromised in the manner they have conducted themselves by aiding and abetting the herdsmen.

“In the circumstance, we are left with no alternative than to call on Nigerians to employ SELF-DEFENCE, SELF-DEFENCE as permissible in law when any citizen is faced with the risk of imminent death in the circumstances we find ourselves now.

“We also call on the Police Service Commission to immediately deploy Divisional Police Officers (DPOs) to their places of origin for a more effective policing, while we await State Police.”

“A badly traumatized country was further assaulted on Wednesday, April 18, 2018, when some thugs made their way to the hallowed Chamber of the Senate to make away with the Mace, the symbol of legislative authority.

“It was shocking that five thugs made their way into the hallowed Chambers of the Senate while in Session, and made away with the Mace, without the security being able to apprehend any of them, only to tell the nation that they found the Mace somewhere near at the Abuja City Gate.

“It is a disgrace to our nation that such a disgraceful thing would happen in our National Assembly and portray us to the whole world in bad light and we would pretend that nothing happened.

“We condemn what happened in the strongest terms and demand a proper investigation to identify the culprits and bring them to book.

“INEC and Gerrymandering Plans. While we note the denial by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) that it is planning to resurrect the 30,000 additional lopsided new polling units Prof Attahiru Jega’s tenure was going to foist on the country in 2015, we have received compelling evidence to convince us that we cannot ignore the alleged sinister plot even when the personal commitment given by the INEC National Chairman, Prof Mahmood Yakubu has given temporary relief.

“It would be recalled that shortly before 2015 general elections, INEC had planned additional 30,000 polling units that would have created 5,291 new polling units in the North East, higher than South West which includes Lagos; North West with 7,906, almost equal to all polling units allocated to Southern Nigeria; South-South with 3.087 units, South West having 4,160,South East with 1,167 less than 1,200 allocated to the Federal Capital Territory. The plan was shot down then due to public outcry.

“The cat of the plan to resurrect the Polling Units as Voting Points Settlements was let out of the bag when the former INEC Chairman, Prof Jega, when he openly congratulated the new leadership of the electoral body on its reforms in the area of voting points when many insiders at the Commission were in the dark of what was going.

“Impeccable sources disclosed that the plot started last year November when a communication between those behind the plot was intercepted. It showed that some states in the northern part of the country except the Middle Belt Areas were put on notice quietly and Acting Administrative Secretaries/Commissioners of INEC in those states started working on the plan, whereas the rest of the country was put in the dark until the end of March.2018.

“A memo was issued on the matter dated March 20, 2018, and sent to Administrative Secretaries and Resident Electoral Commissioners, RECs, all of whom were mandated to submit the identified new settlements in their states on or before April 3, 2018. We stand opposed to any plan to introduce new Polling Units or Voting Points 10 months to elections for the following reasons:

“Such an exercise that was not done for over three years after the last elections and being introduced at this stage may just be an exercise in gerrymandering, a process of organizing political boundaries, voting areas or voting arrangements to give an electoral numeric advantage to a political group. We have had boasts of a particular candidate having 12 million votes before the cast of ballot lately. This could be a case of a blind man who throws a challenge of throwing stones either holding one or having his foot on some. To map Lagos alone requires more than 2 weeks that has been earmarked, not to talk of the entire country.

“Like the 36 states structure and 774 LGAs that were created without recourse to demographic reality and are now inserted in the constitution, the disproportionate creation of Voting Points will become a permanent feature of our political life. If there were new settlements, why were they not identified before April 27, 2017, commence of Continuous Voters registration exercise that is on-going?

“The policy of INEC to locate polling units in public buildings will be compromised as such are impracticable to have in many of the new polling settlements. If Voting Points are created for displaced persons now, what happens when the challenges are over and displaced persons return to their indigenous communities?

“The voting points are mostly going to become shells for inflating votes when the displaced persons they were created for becoming itinerant due to further security challenges which is unpredictable and may be used as a pretext to create voting points for partisan whims. It is clear that a genuine effort to address new communities of voters is not an exercise that you do in two weeks, it has to be over years and all stakeholders carried along in a very transparent manner.

“We ask INEC to conduct the 2019 elections on the basis of the existing polling units so that the exercise will be credible and the outcome acceptable. The only exception that can be granted is for the polling units where there are about 1,500 voters at present, for instance, to be split into three while they are all attached to the mother polling unit.

“The urgent business for INEC now is to retrieve all the illegal PVCs which fell into the hands of the underaged when INEC under Jega distributed PVCs to district heads and traditional rulers in some sections of the country while asking individuals to collect in other areas. In this regard, we demand the Report of INEC Investigation into the Kano Underage Voting Scandal. We say NO to creating new polling units or voting points at this point. It can only bring contention and heating.”

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