*Why Jonathan is misunderstood
By Jide Ajani, Deputy Editor, Kingsley Omonobi, Ben Agande and Ikechukwu Nnochiri
Just a few days before the National Assembly went on recess President Goodluck Ebele Azikiwe Jonathan wrote a letter to the legislative arm, a copy each for the Senate and the House of Representatives, specifically the Senate President, David Mark, and Mr. Speaker, Dimeji Bankole.
In that letter, Jonathan admonished the law makers to expedite action on the Anti-Terrorism Bill before them. Late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua had presented a bill to the National Assembly with a view to pre-empting terror in the land. Jonathan,. Having worked and worked well with Yar’Adua, just wanted the National Assembly to expedite action.
But had Jonathan been properly briefed, Nigeria’s President would have discovered that he was merely embarking on a fool’s errand, a wasted effort.
The reason is simple.
While Jonathan was in the dingy back town of Bayelsa State as deputy governor to Diepreye Solomon Peter Alamieyeseigha, one senator Benjamin Ndi Obi, who had just won his legal battles to assume duties as a senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria was sponsoring the two bills on the floor of the Senate.
The bills were SB 192 and SB 193. Titled Nigerian Anti-Terrorism Agency Bill and Anti-Terrorism Bill, respectively, they were meant to signal Nigeria’s giant leap into the comity of nations with good intentions and actions to back them up, in its war on terror.
But the bills were never to see the light of day.
In fact, what President Jonathan’s letter was meant to achieve was to tell the world that Nigeria was ready to reposition as a nation with demonstrable commitment to and serious involvement in the war against terror.
But that opportunity was to be bungled and lost in the morass of self-serving interests. This act of ignominy has even become more relevant now at a time when the Nigerian state suffered a global embarrassment on its 50th independence anniversary celebrations.
How did this happen?
Sunday Vanguard was able to piece together some interesting developments which occurred in the Senate between the month of February, 2005, and sometime in 2006.
Documents in the Senate showed that Senator Ben Obi, sponsored two bills. The first signs that Obi’s bills were bound to hit a brick wall started when some of his colleagues in the senate, though of northern extraction began grumbling and asking questions. Their apprehension was hinged on the fact that the age-old syndrome of Al-majiri was the primary target of the bill. The concern of majority of the northern senators was also that the northern region may be singled out as a major sponsor of terrorism, with the Al-majiri’s serving as feed mill for future terrorists.
After discussions between the Senators and Obi, matters were resolved. At some point after that first reading, there was a second reading of the bill. Then, something happened.
The President Olusegun Obasanjo-led executive was monitoring activities in the senate and had decided to present its own anti-terrorism bill. It did by 2006.
Records made available to Sunday Vanguard suggests that a letter exists in the Office of The President of the Senate from Senator Obi, dated 30th June, 2006.
The letter was said to have been written just after Obasanjo sent his bill through Bayo Ojo, then Attorney General of the federation and Minister of Justice.
The bill sent by Obasanjo was tagged Prevention of Terrorism Act, 2006.
In the letter, Obi wrote:
“Specifically speaking, the two bills which are SB 192 Nigerian Anti-Terrorism Agency Bill, 2005 and SB 193 Anti-Terrorism Bill, 2005 were read for the first time on 31st May, 2005 and were slated for Second reading on 27th, October, 2005 during which the senate decided to stand down the second reading for some time to enable senators from some parts of the country go through it properly and convince themselves that the bills were not targeted to some sections or religion.
“Against the background of an executive bill – Prevention of Terrorism Act, 2006, submitted by the presidency for the consideration of the senate, I write therefore, to remind Your Excellency that the two senate bills sponsored by me are already undergoing legislative considerations with a view to fashioning out a counter terrorism outfit in Nigeria, which will manage and enforce the anti-terrorism act when passed”.
Not done, Obi then reminded the Senate President of legislative conventions all over thye world:
“Furthermore, my understanding of legislative conventions all over the world is that executive bills do not take precedence over members’ bill, more so, when the said member’s bill has advanced in the processes of bills maturation and production. Your Excellency, this is for your information, intervention and necessary directives”.
But what were the contents or key points of the two bills Obi sent to the Senate?
The four key elements of the anti-terrorism bill, according to what Sunday vanguard discovered were to “Prevent, Pursue, Protect and Prepare”.
The primary aim of the bill was for an “Act to Prohibit Terrorism” and it sought to:
* “Prohibit all forms of terrorism
* “Prohibit all forms of financial transactions aimed at aiding terrorism
* “Prohibit conspiracies in Nigeria to commit terrorism abroad
* “Provide federal jurisdiction to prosecute acts of terrorism carried out within Nigeria
* “Provide for appropriate penalties for offenders, etc.”
The Anti-Terrorism Agency Bill sought to reduce the risks of terrorism by:
* “Preventing terrorism through actions to tackle the factors which encourage and facilitate recruitment, and
* “Pursuing terrorists and those that sponsor them by better understanding terrorists’ networks in order to track and disrupt and, where we can bring justice and
* “Enhancing Nigeria’s ability to withstand terrorist attack by: Protecting Nigerians and preparing thoroughly to respond to any attack so that we can reduce the consequences if one occurs”.
The bill then goes ahead to list 13 responsibilities for the agency.
Now, this was the bill that the Obasanjo-sponsored Prevention of Terrorism Act, 2006, sought to undermine.
It did. For, by the end of the last senate, the issue of tenure elongation had become the main issue and, therefore, Senator Obi’s SB 192 and SB 193 bills, as well as the one Obasanjo sought to replace them with, never became acts.
And just sometime in the life of the Yar’Adua/Jonathan administration, a brain wave occurred which led it to send another anti-terrorism bill before the national assembly.
That was the bill President Jonathan admonished the legislators to quickly pass.
Enter Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab and his attempted suicide bombing of December last year.
For those who did not see the handwriting on the wall, the American government was bound to act. Nigeria became a nation of interest in the war against terror but has mercifully been de-listed.
Therefore, when President Goodluck Jonathan who is the Commander in Chief of the armed forces, and one with unfettered access to all the security information as regards happenings and intended or intending happenings, concerning the nation whether within or outside Nigeria’s shores came out swiftly to announce that the twin bombing incidents in Abuja on Friday, October 1, 2010, during Nigeria’s 50th golden jubilee was the handiwork of terrorists, that all eyes should not be focused on the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, MEND, he knew what he was driving at but his statement quickly developed its own life: It became politicized.
Political opponents for the 2011 elections, particularly of the PDP stock, like General Ibrahim Babangida, Atiku Abubakar, Bukola Saraki and the Northern Political Leaders Forum, NPLF, group quickly pounced on the President, condemning his statement and interpreting it to mean that he had exonerated MEND, which had, in fact, claimed responsibility.
Babangida had said that the response of President Goodluck Jonathan to the Abuja bomb blasts exposes the lack of co-ordination of the Jonathan-led government saying he has also exposed a breakdown in the security of the country.
His words, “On an issue as serious as bombing, the government must not jump into conclusion by exonerating the group that has claimed responsibility, but must take a decisive step to arrest this ugly trend in our society by commencing full investigation into the incident”.
The condemnation was further given impetus with a purported interview granted AL Jazeera by militant leader, Henry Okah, in far away South Africa during which he allegedly said that an aide of President Jonathan asked him to get MEND to retract its claim of responsibility for the bombings, as well as implicate northern political leaders.
However, security agencies of government who indeed disclosed that they got a forewarning from British intelligence before the October 1st twin bomb blasts, are now questioning the authenticity of the Henry Okah’s interview with investigations showing the interview may have been faked.
Besides, it was learnt that Henry Okah had requested the Judge before whom he was arraigned on terrorist charges in South Africa, to remand him in a secluded cell for security reasons. The question, therefore, is, since he was supposed to be in solitary confinement, how was he able to grant such an extensive telephone interview to Al Jazeera?
Meanwhile, following the shock disclosure that some lapses may have occurred on the side of security agencies, the Inspector General of Police, Hafiz Ringim was directed by Mr. President to take over investigations of the bombing incidents
Consequently, a team comprising crack senior officers with experience in investigation of cases including the CP Special Investigations unit, and the CP Bomb disposal unit, CP Anti-Terrorist unit, were tasked to work hand-in-gloves with operatives of the SSS in the investigations.
The Defence Intelligence Agency and the National Intelligence Agency were also ordered to network with the IG’s committee towards unraveling those behind the national calamity.
These measures immediately yielded fruits as both the Police and the SSS made arrests in connection with the blasts.
Firstly, the police declared two persons, Chima Orlu and Ben Jessey wanted while a suspect whose name was not given is in Police custody.
Forensic experts have carried out scientific checks on about 100 vehicles trapped in the vicinity of the blasts with a view to ascertaining the make, composition and origin of the explosives. The police action was followed with the arrests of nine persons by the SSS in connection with the blasts.
Sunday Vanguard gathered that two weeks before the blasts, President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan had weighed the idea of appointing a new National Security Adviser to take over from General Aliyu Gusau, who was allowed to step down because of his interest in politics.
The deputy to General Gusau, Colonel Kayode Are, who was formerly the Director of State Security during the tenure of former President Obasanjo had stepped into the exalted office of the NSA which oversees all security outfits including the armed forces.
Two candidates, General Andrew Owoye Azazi, a former Director of Military Intelligence, former GOC, former Army Chief and former Chief of Defence Staff and Major General Musa Sa’id, former PGSO, former Defence Adviser, London, and former Chief of Defence Intelligence had been penciled down for the position but the President delayed the appointment, obviously not expecting a bomb blast.
These were part of the total security efforts the President had planned to put in place, to check intelligence reports of planned attacks, sponsored mayhem, organized and structured instability plots that made the President order the Army Chief, Lt. General Azubuike Ihejirika to redeploy the former General Officers Commanding the Army divisions and some strategic positions.
Security reports had warned of the happenings following the success of the President’s declaration to contest the 2011 presidency at Eagle Square last month.
After the bombings however, the President wasted little time in going for General Azazi who was said to have gotten the edge because of his greater experience, having been both Chief of Army Staff and Chief of Defence Staff.
Sunday Vanguard learnt that the manhunt for those responsible for the bombings was ‘decentralized’, owing to emergent signals from the different suspicious outposts.
Consequently, investigation is concentrating on MEND particularly since it has come to the fore that a sizeable number of militants were schemed out of the ongoing rehabilitation and training of ex-militants with the trainees going home with bumper packages to begin a new life, and the others who were schemed out seriously aggrieved. This issue of scheming out militants, according to a source, predates the ascension of President Jonathan as President. Until Jonathan’s ascendancy, the handling of the issue of the militants, a source volunteered, “was not too tidy as ministries and government departments jostled. There is a Special Adviser handling the matter now and there seems to be normalcy”.
The possibility that the aggrieved militants could fall prey to be used by opponents of the Jonathan presidency cannot be ruled out especially if in their present low financial status, Politicians with big financial incentives got through to them.
Checks are also being carried out regarding the aspect of known Muslim fundamentalist groups who in the past, were discovered to have links with terrorists groups outside the country but were hitherto ‘just’ placed on security watch obviously because this bombing phenomenon had not been associated with Nigeria.
Most of all, security agencies are said to be carrying out painstaking analysis of politicians in the country with a view to ascertaining their movements in and outside the country in the last 2 to 3 months, their destination, whom they met, where they met, what the person or persons they met do for a living, all in an attempt to put the pieces together.
Furthermore it was learnt that the investigations being carried out would apart from focusing on unraveling the October 1 bombings, culminate in the suspicions about the plots for the derailing of 2011 elections by persons who have sworn that over their dead bodies would President Jonathan become President other than a northerner.
Looking at the South African angle of the investigations, the arrest and trial of Henry Okah, the discovery and seizure of his diaries that revealed a lot including a vow to fight to the end, quotation for sophisticated armaments, his disclosure that his brother had been faking as Henry Okah, the subsequent arrest of Charles Okah in Lagos and his being charged to court with six others, the consensus is that for once, the SSS, the Police and other intelligence agencies are achieving results in the bid to unravel the culprits of October 1 Bombings:
The dairies seized by the South African authorities had such entries as discussions of guerrilla fighters, training discipline, the use of explosives, boats and night vision while one of the entries dated Sept. 19, 2010, revealed what Okah said thus, “God is with us. We will fight to the end,” and this was 11 days before the attacks.
It was also revealed during the court hearing that an invoice from a Chinese company dated Sept. 3 was found in his home showing the price of rocket launchers, rocket-propelled grenades, hand grenades, guns and heavy artillery.
Consequently, Nigeria ‘s attorney general Mohammed Bello Adoke sent a written affidavit pleading for the magistrate not to release Okah, calling him the mastermind of the militant group and charging he is engaged in warfare and “economic sabotage” against Nigeria. Following Henry Okah’s accusation that his brother had been impersonating him and security finding showing the said junior brother was indeed Jomo Gbomo, security operatives swooped on Charles Tombra Okah, immediate younger brother of Henry Okah, at his house located at 14, Oranmiyan close, Apapa, Lagos.
Henry Okah had said in a South African Court , “My brother Charles has faked my voice and has been collecting money and negotiating a ceasefire claiming to be me” and his diary had captured it thus,” What treachery is this?” Meanwhile, evidence found in his laptop, desktop, phone and diaries confirmed that Charles was having regular exchange of discussions with his elder bother in South Africa.
It was based on the cooperation of Charles Okah that SSS on Tuesday announced the arrest of five suspects believed to have coordinated and carried out the car bombings in Abuja and MEND fearing that the cat of who exactly was behind or sponsored the attack would be let out of the bag, threatened more attacks.
The SSS is pressing charges against five persons including Charles Okah, brother of Henry Okah, who is on trial in South Africa for conspiracy and terrorism over the bombings.
Also being tried are his son, and five other accused persons were on Thursday morning, dragged before a Chief Magistrate Court sitting in Abuja by heavily armed operatives of the State Security Services, SSS, over their alleged involvement in the October 1 twin-bomb blast that marred Nigeria’s independence day anniversary celebrations.
The SSS operatives who produced the 7 accused persons to court in commando style yesterday, chased lawyers, court clerks and journalists out of the court premises, even as they barricaded all the streets connecting to the court and forbade any form of movement by residents within the area.
Apart from Charles, his son, Boloebi Okah, Edmund Ebibare who is accused of exchanging text messages with Chief Raymond Dokpesi, Ernest Nwosu Olu who is the younger of one Chima Olu that was earlier declared wanted by the SSS, Shola Ladoja, Felix Kuffre said to be a security man for Charles as well as his unidentified visitor, were marshaled into the lower court complex around 8: 45 am after they arrived in two unmarked buses with tinted glasses.