Some members of Southern and Middle Belt forum, chaired by Chief Edwin Clark, on Monday, July 17, in Abuja claimed that they were prevented from travelling to Makurdi, Benue state capital, to attend the Middle Belt Summit that was centred on restructuring. The group expressed regret over the development, claiming that Nigeria is fast becoming militarised.
Chief John Nwodo, who is also the president of general Ohaneze Ndigbo, alleged that after waiting for about five hours, the group's flight to Benue was cancelled by the commandant of the Makurdi Airport, Lieutenant A. Audu, on the grounds that they did not have clearance for the trip.
Regretting that the clearance was not given, Nwodo said it was sad that the country was becoming a military state. He said: “We arrived in time for our flight today at 12 noon, the airport commandant disallowed us from flying and said we needed to go and get permission to land in Makurdi, Punch reports.
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“We consider this fundamental infringement on our democratic rights of freedom of movement and freedom of association. There is nothing in our law precluding us from moving to wherever we like, from holding an opinion in so far as we do not breach any law in Nigeria.
“What has happened to us today expresses a lot of doom for fundamental human rights in our country, for the free exchange of ideas as unavoidable instruments of achieving growth and development of our polity.
“We deprecate the treatment that we were given today, which prevented us from physically joining our brethren in the Middle Belt in a common view which we all hold, a very patriotic view, which we think will be the only way to guarantee the future of our country.”
Speaking in the company of other members of the group at the Abuja residence of Clark, he said that they needed to show solidarity with the middle belt people, who he said had supported the forum.
Nwodo revealed that he and other members of the forum who could not attend the event watched the live telecast on television.
He said: “Please publicise this for many reasons. One, the people that you saw on the television in the Middle Belt are our brethren who showed us solidarity in other zonal summits. The fact that we were barred from showing them this solidarity is bound to hurt them.
“Through this press conference, we want to express our solidarity with them. We want them to know that we are one and the same in our views of the restructuring of the federation
“Secondly, (we need) to deprecate this new tendency. Not too long ago, the President signed into law an Executive order, which gives him the right to seize people’s assets. This is almost like a military government. And we think that this is an intrusion into the principles of separation of powers in our country.
“It is the responsibilities of the legislature to make law, of the executive to implement the law and the judiciary to interpret the law. I do not think that Section 5 of the Constitution gives the President such executive authority to make laws.”
Meanwhile, NAIJ.com reported that Senate president, Bukola Saraki and the principal officers of the Senate had met with leaders from the southern and middle belt parts of the country.
Officers in attendance include Chiefs Ayo Adebanjo, Edwin Clark, Obong Victor Attah, Chukwuemeka Ezeife, John Nwodo, and Yinka Odumakin.
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