By Jonathan Nda- Isaiah, ADEBIYI ADEDAPO, Abuja and ANAYO ONUKWUGHA, Port Harcourt
The presidency said yesterday that the leader of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN), Sheikh Ibrahim El-Zakzaky, was not being detained in prison as being speculated, but was rather being kept by government in public interest.
According to it, the detention of the Shi’ite leader is also in his own interest, adding that it is duty bound on government to ensure the safety of all its citizens.
The special adviser to the president on media and publicity, Mr. Femi Adesina; the Senior Special assistant media to the president on media and publicity, Mallam Garba Shehu and the senior special assistant assistant to the vice president on media and publicity, Mr. Laolu Akande stated this at a press briefing ahead of the Democracy Day celebration billed to hold on Monday May 29.
Shehu said, “On the issue of El-Zakzaky, the information we have is that he is being kept more for his own safety than the offences he committed.
“If you set him free today, what do you think will likely be the reaction out there on the streets of Kaduna or on the street of Zazzau where he comes from’’.
On the continued detention of former National Security Adviser, Col. Sambo Dasuki (rtd), Shehu noted that Dasuki was still being held because he has other criminal cases to answer, pointing out that his release might affect ongoing investigation of cases against him.
“It is a common thing in all nations of the world that there are matters of public safety. The Attorney General and Minister of Justice, I think has made his points here in the State House, against individuals’ interests. And in all cases, public good should override individual interest”, the presidential spokesman declared.
Shehu also declared that should President Muhammadu Buhari contest another presidential election today, he will still win.
He hinged his assertion on the premise that the president has paid his dues and his popularity is climbing the chart of the great mass of Nigerians who are his primary constituency.
Noting that the masses were happy with Buhari, the presidency also observed that it was too early to judge the All Progressives Congress (APC) administration, which is just two years old in office.
Specifically, Shehu listed the successes recorded in the war against Boko Haram and the whistle-blower policy as pointers to the achievements of President Buhari.
He said, “Look, the ordinary Nigerian is the most important pillar of the Buhari administration; it is not the rich, and their confidence in the president has remained unshaken all the while. This thing we talk about whistle-blower, Nigerians have seen it and Nigerians are happy that their monies that were stolen are being recovered.
“Look at what we used to have. Boko Haram was active in Abuja. In Kaduna, 20 Okada riders were blown up in one day. These were ordinary people. Those who could buy protection for themselves, who could buy bullet proof cars for themselves were not the targets of Boko Haram. It is you and l. Ordinary people who went to church on Sundays were blown up with bombs.
“In Kano where l come from, we have one of the biggest markets in West Africa. People come from all over the region to buy and sell. They won’t come if there is no safety. But safety has been restored now. 300 people were blown up one day in the mosque. So, Buhari has paid his dues for Nigeria. If election is held today, we will win. This administration will win resoundingly.There is happiness in the land”.
On allegations that the human rights record of the Buhari administration is weak, he said, “The Human rights records of this administration are impeccable; they are unimpeachable. I think we should avoid speaking in general terms. The thing to do is to pin point specific cases to buttered assertions that people make and then we can tackle them.
“As we speak to you now, we are not aware that the administration of Muhammadu Buhari is in breach of the constitution of Nigeria with regards to the protection of the rights of Nigerians.
“Journalists in this country ought to bear testimony on this. There is no single journalist who has been expelled from his duty because he has reported or failed to report. There is no single journalist who is in government detention because they have expressed some views that the government does not like.
“This administration is complying with the decision of the courts of the land. I can assure that if anybody tries to do otherwise, the president will not allow him to get away with it”.
On power deterioration, Shehu said it was also a mistake to say power has deteriorated under the current administration because when the administration came in 2015, power generation was 3,324MW, but increased to 4,357MW as at August 2015, barely three months after President Buhari assumed office and rose to the peak of 5,077MW in 2016.
According to him, it was the highest power generated in the country as presently, the average generation is about 3,000.
This, he added, is as a result of vandalism of gas pipeline infrastructure and also low water in dams.
He continued: “The power sector is also gaining gradually from the peace in the NigeriaDelta. Usually, we experience low generation of power during dry season and this is not because of Buhari’s administration.
“Government is investing heavily in power and has been licensing a lot of renewable energy projects, which is the future. We are doing what is called energy mix, we are not just doing gas power, we are doing hydro, etc. you cover some of these decisions from FEC”.
On his part, the special adviser to the president on media and publicity, Adesina, who said it was too early to judge the APC administration argued that the administration has not failed.
According to him, the APC government still has two years left of its mandate, even as he assured that the administration will deliver on its promise to Nigerians.
The presidential spokesman said, “The person that asked the question said there is a buzz in town. I am sure that you have not conducted a scientific survey that shows you that is a popular position.
“People can always expresses their opinions. There is liberty on that but you don’t have a scientific survey that has given you the percentage of people that believe that the APC has failed.
“The second point is that when a government via a party is voted into office, it is voted for a four-year term under our own democratic arrangement. When you have spent two years which is like a midterm, the first half of a game, you don’t then determine that it has succeeded or it has failed. No”.
Adesina contended that it was impossible to write the report card of the current administration when it is just hitting the half way mark, saying that will not be fair.
According to him, while the term is for four years, the promises are going to be stretched over that four-year period.
He added: “Like the minister of Transportation said recently, APC did not promise to solve all the country’s problems in one year or two years. The mandate of the party is four years and it is pacing itself as it goes along and I am sure that by the end of those four years we will have a lot more to record. It is not by a sudden flight. It will not come by a snap of a finger but will the promises be fulfilled? Yes, I believe it will be fulfilled.
“This administration will take Nigeria far beyond how it met it. So if anybody says APC has failed just tell them it is too early in the day because it is a four year-term and this is just two years. You don’t reach definitive conclusions in two years”.
On the alleged coup plot which has been generating heated debates, Adesina said, “The Army has spoken and let us take that position. What the Chief of Army Staff said was a routine warning that goes to military officers, ‘don’t hobnob with politicians’ and the army has explained the position. Let’s take that position and not stretch it beyond what the military has said because they are the ones that can give us the definitive position and they have spoken on it”.
On his part, the spokesman of the acting president, Akande, admitted that the country’s criminal justice system was weak and needed reforms.
According to him, Osinbajo is putting together a national coordination prosecution team for all the prosecution in trying to see how in the medium term they can bring some progress in the criminal justice system.
He said, “The truth of the matter is that our criminal justice system does need a profound and deep reform. The important thing is that this government is working on it. As a matter of fact now, the acting president has put together a national coordination prosecution team for all the prosecution, trying to see how in the medium term we can bring some progress.
“But also, we are working on justice sector reforms on the long term on criminal justice system to strengthen both investigation and prosecution at the courts. And I know it is going to take a while for us to address it”.
PDP Leaders Acting Like Paid Agents – Mark
Meanwhile, former Senate President, Senator David Mark, has said some leaders of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) are acting like paid agents, working against the interest of the party.
Mark who spoke yesterday at Government House, Port Harcourt, during the commissioning of the Remodelled Brick House, the former seat of power, noted that these paid agents have appointed a new chairman to ensure that PDP loses in the forthcoming local government election in Benue State.
He said, “At the moment, there are elements within the party who are just bent on making sure that PDP doesn’t win in any state. There are certain elements within PDP who are behaving like paid agents”.