Middle Belt and Southern Nigerian leaders yesterday called on President Muhammadu Buhari to relieve Chairman of the Independent Electoral Commission of Nigeria (INEC), Prof. Yakubu Mahmood, of his post, sighting the likelihood of bias in favour of the president as their reason for the call.
The leaders in a statement in Abuja also asked the president to among others, act on last week’s 12-point resolutions of the National Assembly on the state of the nation; call out the Inspector General of Police, Ibrahim Idris; uphold the powers of the states to enact laws on open grazing of livestock; reign the killer herdsmen and take urgent steps to make the country more secure for the citizenry.
In the statement signed by Dr. John Nwodo (South-east), Chief Ayo Adebanjo (South-west), Chief Edwin Clark (South-south) and Air Commodore Dan Suleiman (rtd) (Middle Belt), the leaders urged Buhari to re-enact the spirit of June 12 by ensuring the conduct of free, fair and peaceful elections in 2019.
Speaking on their behalf at a press briefing in Abuja yesterday, Chairman of Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF), Air Commodore Nkanga Indongesit, said Buhari should as a matter of priority, institutionalise credible elections in the country.
But he said this objective could not be achieved with Mahmood in charge of the affairs of the election management body, arguing that given his geographical origin, the INEC chairman was likely to favour the president, adding that there were fears that 2019 elections might be manipulated in favour of Buhari.
He said Buhari’s relationship with Mahmood and an INEC national commissioner, Amina Zakari, representing North-west and believed to be a relation of the president, was so strong that it could influence them to manipulate the elections in favour of the president.
According to Indongesit, “As we move towards the 2019 elections, there are accumulated indications that there are efforts to manipulate the result in forth coming election, which Nigerians must be vigilant to thwart.”
He said the president’s decision to keep the military Service Chiefs, whose tenures lapsed last year, was suspicious, claiming that it might be intended to get to do Buhari’s bidding during the polls.
“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,” he said.
Indongesit said the leaders were concerned that since independence, Buhari was the only president that had been audacious enough to pick only people who were either his relations or of the same ethnic stock with him to lead the electoral body.
He also expressed concern that the country was plunging into a complete state of anarchy, with continuous lawlessness and lack of professionalism on the part of the police that had failed to stem the incessant killings in the country.
Indongesit referred to what he described as high level of indiscipline exhibited by IGP Idris and advised Buhari to quickly deal with the issues raised in the resolutions by the joint executive session of the National Assembly
In their statement, the leaders said they were worried about the overheating of the polity as politics continued to overshadow governance in the country with its attendant national embarrassment as professionalism was fast becoming alien in many of our public institutions.
They said, “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.”
They criticised the police handling of the April 5, 2018 Offa bank robbery as it relates to Senate President Bukola Saraki and Governor Abdulfatah Ahmed of Kwara State, saying the conduct of the police was prejudicial.
“While we recognize and defend the right of the police to investigate crimes and interrogate anyone linked to such no matter their status,” they said, but added, “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.”
On the resolutions of the joint session of the National Assembly on the state of the country, they said, “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 major 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.”
The 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.
Noting that the Defence minister had always defended and shielded the herdsmen against arrests and prosecution in what they said had become a cardinal programme of the government, the leaders asked the federal government to recant Dan-Ali’s call.
“We 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.”