•Alleges they’ve armed Boko Haram, others to attack 10 northern states
•Says Nigerien mercenaries contracted to attack govs, others in North West
•It’s plot to foment trouble, blame and clampdown on opposition – PDP
•Buhari’s incompetence worsened Boko Haram insurgency – CUPP
By Emma Ujah, Abuja Bureau Chief, By Dirisu Yakubu, Emmanuel Elebeke & Joseph Erunke
ABUJA—THE Federal Government has alleged of plans by opposition politicians to frustrate the forthcoming elections, with a view to establishing an interim government.
The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, told journalists, in Abuja, yesterday, that bandits and Boko Haram elements have been armed to undertake massive attacks in 10 states of northern Nigeria.
However, the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, disagreed with the minister’s allegations, which it described as desperation by the ruling party to hold on to power at all cost, and clampdown on the opposition, adding that Nigerians would hold President Muhammadu Buhari responsible for any security breach in the country.
The Coalition of United Political Parties, CUPP, which shared the PDP’s views, attributed what it described as worsening Boko Haram insurgency and insecurity to Buhari’s incompetence.
Lai Mohammed claimed that the opposition resorted to arming merchants of death because of their perceived inability to match President Buhari’s popularity and expected victory at the forthcoming polls.
He said: “You have definitely seen the massive and warm reception that President Buhari has been receiving across the country, compared to the thinning crowds that have been attending the opposition rallies.
‘’Having realized that their fortunes have dwindled badly ahead of the polls, the desperate opposition is orchestrating widespread violence, with a view to truncating the elections, thus triggering a constitutional crisis that could snowball into the establishment of an interim government.”
Massive attacks planned in 10 states
Lai Mohammed continued: “Before you accuse the government of crying wolf, let me tell you, gentlemen, that we have credible intelligence that armed bandits and Boko Haram insurgents have been mobilized to engage in massive attacks and other acts of violence in several states across the country, including Adamawa, Bauchi, Borno, Benue, Kano, Kaduna, Nasarawa, Plateau, Taraba and Zamfara.
“The Benue-based armed criminal group, led by Terwase Akwaza, also known as Gana, has been commissioned to strike soft targets in Benue, Nasarawa, and Taraba states.
‘’In Kano State, a group of notorious miscreants have been mobilized by some prominent opposition leaders to provoke massive chaos before, during and after the elections.”
Asked if the allegation was not an attempt to frame the opposition, the minister said, “that will amount to trivializing the whole issue.”
Mercenaries from Niger Republic contracted to attack govs, others
Mohammed also said that there was an international angle to the alleged plot, claiming that some mercenaries had been hired from neighbouring Niger Republic to unleash mayhem on Nigeria.
“There is also an international dimension to the evil plan. Some armed mercenaries from Niger Republic have been contracted to attack top government functionaries, including state governors, across the North-West, between now and the elections.”
Responding to a question on the credibility of the intelligence, the minister said: “We have intelligent reports and we have an obligation to protect lives and property, we also have obligation to ensure there is stability in the country.
“On whether the Federal Government has opened dialogue with Niger Republic on the threats, for the fact that we are aware of the threats, we have to alert the public to take right actions. The matter is being looked into in collaboration with other member nations within the Lake Chad Basin.”
We will ensure peaceful polls
The minister said the federal government had taken steps to ensure peaceful elections, in spite of the threats.
“Every election year, Boko Haram always issue threats to attack people but this time around what makes this threat more worrisome is that some opposition elements have resolved to use Boko Haram to unleash attacks.
‘’But I can assure you that the federal government is not going to allow that, we will ensure that elections hold. We are aware of these threats.
“The Federal Government is taking every possible measure to counter these evil plans by unpatriotic anarchists and ensure the success of the 2019 general elections. The administration’s commitment to a credible, free, fair and peaceful elections is unshaken,” he said.
Nigerians to be vigilant
He urged Nigerians to remain vigilant and refuse to to yield to the antics of those he described as enemies of the nation.
“We appeal to all Nigerians to be vigilant in the days ahead. We also appeal to the media to help in sensitizing members of the public on these observed threats, which are capable of disrupting the elections.
‘’The punchline of our long running campaign on security if you see something, say something – remains relevant, perhaps even more, at this time,” he said.
Nigerians will hold Buhari responsible for any escalation of violence – PDP
Reacting to Lai Mohammed’s allegations, the PDP said Nigerians will hold President Buhari responsible in the event of escalation of violence during the 2019 elections.
The PDP National Publicity Secretary, Mr. Kola Ologbondoyan, said the address by the minister was nothing short of desperation by the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, to hold on to power at all cost.
He said: “The PDP has noted the address today by the Minister of Information, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, acting on behalf of the Presidency, that some groups are being mobilized to stage violent attacks in various parts of our country.
‘’We have noted the detailing of awareness of the said plots by Alhaji Lai Mohammed, which exposes manifest complicity at very high level.
“In the light of this and the already displayed desperation by the APC ahead of the general elections, the PDP calls on Nigerians to hold President Buhari directly responsible for any escalation of violence in our nation.
“It is imperative to state that the PDP finds the claims of Mohammed, irresponsible and ludicrous. It is just a measure for building the ground to frame up and arrest leading members of the opposition as he has just confirmed our concerns.
“Severally, we have alerted the nation that the APC and the Presidency, having come to the reality of their imminent and disgraceful loss at the polls, have embarked on a strategy to foment crisis in our dear nation and blame the opposition.”
The PDP, he said, is “known to all Nigerians and the world as a party that preaches and function by peace. We have conducted rallies in many states and geo-political zones without a record of violence. The APC cannot make a similar claim of a peaceful rally in its few attempts at interacting with its members and the public.
“Its primaries ended in violence and multiple deaths. Its rally in Lagos State ended in a fiasco and recorded fatalities. Its Presidential candidate is known all over the world for inciting supporters against peace-loving Nigerians, when he said that baboon and dogs will soak in their blood.’’
On allegation that the opposition was working to foist an interim government, Ologbonbdiyan described same as the idea of the ruling party, saying “on behalf of Nigerians, we thank Alhaji Lai Mohammed for mustering the courage to bring the nefarious plans of the APC to the public. The PDP and Nigerians are prepared for a peaceful election in defence of our democracy.”
Buhari’s incompetence worsened Boko Haram insurgency – CUPP
Also reacting, the Coalition of United Political Parties, CUPP, picked holes in Mohammed’s allegations, denying the claims that opposition leaders were arming Boko Haram terrorists and bandits to disrupt the forth coming general elections.
The coalition, at a press conference in Abuja, yesterday, described the allegation as not only outrageous but also laughable.
First National Spokesperson of of the CUPP, Ikenga Ugochinyere, said the government was looking for a way to frame opposition leaders and arrest them ahead of the elections.
He said: “This accusation is outrageous and clear signs of mental disorientation. The Presidency is plotting to frame opposition leaders with fake allegations, using one of its vessels who is intellectually empty as he is.
“Opposition did not and will not engage in the act of supporting bandits or terror related activities aimed at disrupting an election that we are destined to win landslide.
‘’The fear of defeat has now made the Buhari government to be running from pillar to post and throwing baseless allegation with no facts to substantiate, all in a bid to frame the leaders of opposition.
“Let it be known that on February 16, the opposition coalition candidate, Atiku Abubakar, will crack Buhari like crackers at the election and no amount of fake news or stupid accusation of sponsoring bandits can stop that.
‘’From Bank PHB allegation to sponsoring bandits, it’s obvious the government has run out of ideas and is suffering from mental disorientation.
“Every allegation the opposition has made against the APC was backed up with facts and evidence that it actually happened. Lai Mohammed and the APC are making baseless accusations. They should provide the evidence or shut up.
‘’Just as the former President Olusegun Obasanjo said in his 16-page address titled, “Points for concern and actions” issued on Sunday, it is a clear evidence that Boko Haram and other security issues worsened under this administration.
“The Boko Haram terrorists attacks, farmers and herdsmen clashes, kidnappings and so on deteriorated under the APC administration. In 2018 alone, thousands of Nigerians across the country were slaughtered through Boko Haram attacks.
‘’The security situation has deteriorated with kidnapping everywhere and Boko Haram terrorists are more in action under this administration and nobody should deceive Nigerians about this.
‘’The APC recent rally of blood in Lagos State is a clear indication that they are the ones planning to disrupt the polls with violence, by wreaking mayhem on innocent citizens using bandits and Boko Haram.
‘’It’s now clear that opposition’s consensus candidate, Atiku Abubakar, will win, so Lai Mohammed and Buhari are already suffering from defeat phobia. They are scared, that is why they are spreading fake news.
“The rise in Boko Haram activities was caused by Buhari’s incompetence and misappropriation of security money. We urge Nigerians to give deaf ear to the noise of this fake news carrier called Lai Mohammed and heed the advise of former President Obasanjo.
“Just like he said, if Nigerians fail to take a definitive step by voting Mr Buhari out of power in next month’s general election, Boko Haram and its Islamic State’s West Africa Province, ISWAP, may soon take over the entire West African region and make life unsafe not only for Nigerians but also Africans in general.”