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Police stop protesters at Aso Rock

By Ben Agande, Umoru Henry & Shuaibu Inalegwu

ABUJA—ARMED policemen in their hundreds, yesterday, stopped demonstrators organized by the Save Nigeria Group from marching to the Aso Presidential Villa as the Federal Government promised to urgently look into the three-point demand of the group which was submitted to the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, SGF, Alhaji Yayale Ahmed for onward transmission to Acting President, Goodluck Jonathan.

Alhaji Ahmed who met the demonstrators at the Federal Secretariat, few metres away from the Aso Rock Presidential Villa Gate, thanked leaders of the group for their interest in affairs of the country, but however enjoined them to form political parties to contest and implement their lofty ideas for the country.

Ahmed said: “When we received your request that you would like to send a letter to the Acting President, Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, GCON, the Acting President directed the Secretary to the Government in my own person to come and receive it. I found it very easy and natural to come and face you because yours is a demonstration of democracy in action in Nigeria.

“Democracy cannot survive if we do not hear the voices of everyday. What you are pursuing, in my perception, is the right thing to do. In democracy, you may have others with opposing voices, but usually the superior voice takes effect in democracy. I will like to urge you to know that in the machinery of democracy and instruments of government, political parties are very important. You mobilize people like yourself to join political parties, be elected and come so that we can change Nigeria.”

Nigerians at the Save Nigeria rally in Abuja yesterday.

On demands by the group, the SGF said: “What I will like to say is that your three basic demands are noted. One you want to know the status of your President, first it is because you love your President that is why you want to know his status. Secondly, you will want us to follow constitutional way of dealing with this.

This government is a creation of the constitution and we will do what the constitution says. Thirdly, we are aware of your demand regarding credible election in this country. Only two weeks ago, the Acting President handed over Uwais Committee report unedited to the National Assembly.

“We want to assure you that the National Assembly will do the necessary legislation in terms of reviewing the electoral act and the Constitution in order to have a better election. The Acting President has asked me to assure you that every of your demand will be looked into with immediate effect. I am the messenger; I have received your letter and will tell you that on my honour, I will deliver the letter.”

Hordes of demonstrators who had gathered at the Unity Fountain close to the Transcorp Hilton Hotel had marched through the federal secretariat, and were headed to the Aso Rock Presidential Villa when policemen, led by a deputy inspector general of police and the commissioner of police in charge of the Federal Capital Territory approached the leaders to inform them that a Federal Government delegation was coming to receive them.

Pastor Tunde Bakare who spoke on behalf of the group said the SNG’s request was the ‘barest minimum’stressing that the group would continue to “mobilize Nigerians from the east, west, north and south, Muslims, Christians and other religious people to engage in public protest until these demands are fully implemented in the interest of peace, justice, democracy in Nigeria.”

Other SNG leaders who addressed the crowd at yesterday’s demonstration included, Femi Falana, Hajia Na’Ajatu Mohammed, Hon. Faruk Adamu Aliyu, Dr Goodnews Agbi, Gen. Alani Akinrinade, Chief Ayo Opadokun, Dr Joe Odumakin, Chief Solomon Asemota and Osita Okechukwu.

Part of the letter submitted to the SGF for onward transmission to the Acting President reads:
*We, the Save Nigeria Group, SNG, a coalition of pro-democracy and human rights organizations and patriotic Nigerians who desire the entrenchment of a truly democratic and accountable governance hereby petition you on certain developments that can truncate democracy and security in Nigeria. We believe in Nigeria and are determined to fight to save the country from the control of groups and individuals that profit from the failure of the Nigerian system.

*For more than 100 days, Nigerians have not seen or heard from President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua since he was evacuated to Saudi Arabia for treatment. For the three months he reportedly stayed in an intensive care unit of a Saudi hospital, several of his aides continued to claim that the President was getting better.

Some claimed he had started intense physical exercises. It is now more than two weeks since he was brought back to Nigeria in the dead of the night. We have not still heard from or seen President Yar’Adua.


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