By Anthony Ogbonna
Northern elders under the aegis, North Elders’ Forum (NEF) have said that the President of the Senate, Dr. Bukola Saraki saved Nigeria’s President, Muhammadu Buhari from being embarrassed in court by the secessionist group, the Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, over its proscription and categorisation as a terrorist group by the Nigerian government.
Barely 24 hours after the Nigerian army pronounced IPOB a terrorist organisation, the President of the Nigerian 8th Senate, Dr. Saraki condemned the categorisation of IPOB as a terrorist organisation, saying it was unconstitutional. Saraki had said that only a legislation from the Nigerian National Assembly could make such a pronouncement valid.
But Saraki’s statement was countered by the presidency, in a statement made by Special Assistant to President Muhammadu Buhari on prosecution, Okoi Obono-Obla, who said the pronouncement of IPOB as a terrorist organisation, contrary to Senator Saraki’s statement, was in order.
The northern Elders, however, said that there was no cause for alarm in what the Senate President had said, adding that, instead, Saraki should be praised for putting the Nigerian Government on the right track in its quest to proscribe IPOB.
Chairman of the Northern Elders’ Forum, Dr. Paul Unongo who made the statement during a press conference on Thursday said that Dr. Saraki saved President Buhari from being embarrassed in court for not earlier following due process towards proscribing a group in the country.
According to him, but for Saraki’s intervention, Buhari would have been taken to court and embarrassed over the proscribtion of the group.
“We wish to reiterate our consistent position that there are no issues of disagreement and demands by individuals and groups in the country or anywhere in the world that dialogue cannot resolve.
“The NEF acknowledges that we, the citizens of Nigeria, are capable of resolving our issues internally.
“The North recognizes and acknowledges that there are demanding and legitimate questions on the current operations of the Nigerian State.
“The North has very clear ideas on all issues and positions that the nation sees as challenges and is willing to dialogue on all of them,” he said.
According to him, the north is not averse to negotiation, but said the region would not succumb to intimidation.
“What the North will not allow, however, is to be stampeded into adopting an agenda and grand designs from other parts of Nigeria which will hurt its basic interests.
“The North will demand a respectful and responsible approach to its participation in the search for answers to the many questions confronting our country.
“We will also insist that the Constitution and our national institutions, such as the National Assembly be accorded due and appropriate recognition in all initiatives and efforts towards addressing our challenges,” Unongo stated.
He called for investigation into reported cases of illegal arms importation into the country and to bring those found culpable to justice.
The NEF Chairman advised state and federal governments to be firm and decisive in handling national security challenges.
“In the interest of peace, unity and stability of our great country and the wellbeing of her people, we hereby call upon the Attorney-General of the Federation and the relevant judicial authorities to continue to uphold the rule of law without fear or favour,” he added.