To ethno-cultural militant groups calling for the break-up of Nigeria, President Muhammadu Buhari has these words for them: Nigeria will not disintegrate.
President Buhari stated this on Thursday during a meeting with the South-East Council of Traditional Rulers at the Presidential Villa.
He said the question of carving another country out of Nigeria was misplaced.
According to a statement by his Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, the President insisted that efforts should be geared towards harnessing the potential of the country instead of calling for a division of the country.
“The question of having another country out of Nigeria is going to be very difficult. From 1914, we have more than 200 cultures living with one another. God had endowed this country with natural resources and talented people. We should concentrate on these and be very productive,” the President said.
Addressing specific issues raised in the address by the traditional rulers, the President gave assurance that the South-East would also benefit from the new railway system being put in place by his administration.
On their request for more representation for the South-East in his government, the President said that he was “very conscious of the sensitivities of the South-East”, on account of which, he gave the region’s four out of five states senior ranking ministers in the federal cabinet.
Buhari used the occasion to appreciate the good work of the ministers from the region, saying that they were doing very well for the country.
He appealed to the traditional rulers from the South-East to persuade their people to give his government a chance and to continue to serve as beacons of culture and tradition of their people.
The President assured the delegation that kidnapping and cattle rustling, which he described as “unfortunate,” would be the government’s next target, now that “we have managed to calm down the North-East.”
Taking note of the commendation for his administration’s war against corruption and insecurity by the traditional rulers, Buhari expressed frustration at the endless nature of some ongoing trials, citing some of the cases as going far back to the tenure of former President Olusegun Obasanjo.
“We are asking the judiciary to clean itself. Nigerians are tired of waiting. They want some actions,” he said.
The President said he hoped that the acting Chief Justice of Nigeria and the Attorney General of the Federation would come to some form of agreement by which specially designated courts would give accelerated hearing to some pending corruption cases, arguing that “we want Nigerians to know we are serious.”
Earlier in his address, the Chairman of the South-East Council of Traditional Rulers, Eze Eberechi Dick, dissociated the monarchs from the ongoing clamour for Biafra Republic.
Dick said they were committed to the nation’s unity.
He, however, called the President’s attention to some of the demands being made by the agitators.
He said, “On the issue of the agitation by some of our youths like IPOB and others for Biafran Republic, we have continued to engage and preach to them that every problem of the nation can be best resolved through peaceful dialogue and respect for the rule of law.
“While we assure Your Excellency of our total belief in one united and indivisible great nation of ours called Nigeria, we also want to call the attention of the Federal Government to some of their mentioned grievances for serious considerations.
“Their agitations include neglect of the South-East in the Amnesty Programme, deplorable state of federal roads and other infrastructure in the South-East, relegation of oil producing states of the South-East in NDDC projects and programmes, exclusion of the South-East in key federal appointments; and anti-nationalistic treatment of Igbo people by other Nigerians.”
They also called the President’s attention to the activities of kidnappers and cattle herdsmen posing serious security challenges to the people of the region.
Buhari’s comment on Nnamdi Kanu’s detention not binding on court –Judge
Meanwhile, Justice Binta Nyako of a Federal High Court in Abuja on Thursday said President Muhammadu Buhari was only expressing his personal opinion when he said last year December that the leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra, Nnamdi Kanu, could not be granted bail.
The judge said this in her ruling on the bail applications filed by Kanu and his co-accused persons.
President Buhari, had in his first presidential media chat, in December 2015, said the likes of Kanu and the immediate past National Security Adviser, Sambo Dasuki, who was accused of spearheading the diversion of over $2bn meant for arms procurement, could not be granted bail because of the gravity of the offences they had committed.
Though Justice Nyako refused to grant bail to Kanu and his co-accused persons, she pointed out while alluding to the issue of Buhari’s comment raised in the application filed by defence lawyers that the President was entitled to his personal opinion.
The judge said the President’s personal opinion was not binding on the court.
The judge said, “President Muhammadu Buhari is entitled to freedom of expression and his opinion.
“However, it does not necessarily have the force of law on the court.”
Kanu and his co-accused persons are being prosecuted by the Federal Government for offences including treasonable felony and an act bordering on terrorism.
The three other accused persons are National Coordinators of IPOB, Mr. Chidiebere Onwudiwe, Benjamin Madubugwu and David Nwawuisi.
The defendants were, in the 11 counts, accused of managing an unlawful society, publication of defamatory matter, illegal possession of firearms and improper importation of goods.
Onwudiwe was specifically accused in one of the counts of an act bordering on terrorism.
All the counts were in connection with the accused persons’ alleged broadcasts on Radio Biafra and the agitation for secession from Nigeria, states in the South-East and South-South zones and other communities in Kogi and Benue states to constitute a Republic of Biafra.
Ruling on the applications filed by the four defendants on Thursday, Justice Nyako held that the defendants were not deserving of being granted bail as most of the charges preferred against them were “ordinarily not bailable”.
Before the case was heard on Thursday, Justice John Tsoho, who was handling the case before Kanu accused him of bias, had some weeks ago, refused to grant bail to the accused persons.
The case was transferred to Justice Nyako on account of Kanu’s allegation and all the accused were re-arraigned before her on November 8.
The lawyers to the four accused persons filed fresh bail applications which were subsequently argued on November 17.
Ruling on Thursday, Justice Nyako held that she had no reason to “deviate” from the earlier “findings” of Justice Tsoho, who had refused to grant bail to the accused while presiding over the case.
Justice Nyako ruled on Thursday that though the case started de novo (afresh) before her, there were no new facts and circumstances that could warrant her to grant bail to the accused as the charges preferred against them were “serious offences”.
She said as an alternative to granting bail to the defendants, she preferred to order an accelerated hearing of the case.
The prosecuting counsel, Mr. Shuaibu Labaran, after the judge delivered her ruling on Thursday, moved his application for witness protection.
He sought an order of the court “granting leave to the prosecution witnesses to be protected by giving evidence behind screen to be provided by the court.”
All the four defence lawyers opposed the application.
The judge fixed December 13 for ruling.