BY AHURAKA ISAH, SOLOMON AYADO and Ejike Ejike, Abuja
The Senate yesterday moved in defense of President Muhammadu Buhari, saying there is no law that bars him from staying outside the country for medical checks beyond 90 days.
Specifically, the Red Chamber told sponsors and organizers of the protest by some Nigerians, who call themselves concerned citizens against the continued stay of the president in the United Kingdom on medical vacation, to leave Buhari alone because he has not violated any law of the land.
In a statement signed by the chairman, Senate committee on media and public affairs, Aliyu Sabi Abdullahi, the upper chamber condemned the action of the sponsors and participants of the protest.
The self-acclaimed concerned citizens, including a group operating under the aegis of #OurMumuDonDo, are protesting and demanding for President Buhari’s resignation for staying outside Nigeria on medical vacation beyond 90 days.
But the Senate warned the protesters to stop heating up the polity with their unreasonable demands, adding that they were only creating unnecessary tension in the country and seeking to divert the attention of the presidency from the economic and security issues that are being tackled with vigour.
President Buhari, Senate noted, had complied with the provisions of the nation’s grundnorm, the constitution, which stipulates that he must handover to the vice president and duly inform the two chambers of the legislature about his medical vacation.
In the statement made available to LEADERSHIP, the Senate’s spokesman said, “The president has broken no law and therefore we do not see any justification for this diversion and noise making. The sponsors are merely seeking cheap publicity at the expense of the peace of Nigeria.
“We, in the National Assembly, are satisfied that there is no vacuum. The Federal Government is working. Acting President Yemi Osinbajo is providing the required leadership. So, there is no reason for the protests.
“All Nigerians now should focus on praying for the safe return of the President. We in the Senate are happy about the report by the Governors and party leaders who recently visited President Buhari in London and we know he will soon return to continue to provide leadership to our people and the rest of Africa.
“We therefore call on the protesters to stop all these demonstrations and let their sense of patriotism overshadow the zeal for activism by joining other Nigerians to pray for the President, the acting President and Nigeria as a country at this critical period”.
Our sister publication, LEADERSHIP Sunday, had in its last edition trashed out the debate on the president’s continued absence when it engaged legal experts in the country on insinuations that because Buhari on Monday clocked 90 days since he left the shores of the country for medical vacation on May 7 this year, he may be flouting the provisions the 1999 constitution (as amended).
Constitutional lawyers and members of the inner bar who reacted to the development declared categorically that there is no constitutional provision mandating President Muhammad Buhari to return to the country from his current medical vacation in the United Kingdom before the end of 90 days.
In the said exclusive report, the National Assembly had also declared that contrary to speculations that the absence of President Buhari for about 90 days would trigger legislative actions, there is no vacuum in the presidency.
Members of the House of Representatives who spoke to LEADERSHIP Sunday explained that those expecting legislative actions against the president are ignorant of constitutional provisions. The lawmakers across party divides said they were not worried about the president’s absence.
The presidency on Monday towed the same line of argument when it warned that such calls being made by the group of protesters or any other group in the country was an assault on the constitution.
In a statement by the senior special assistant to the president on Media and publicity, Mallam Garba Shehu, the presidency said the protesters have overstepped their bounds, even as it urged well-meaning members of the public to ignore the call for the president to resign.
Why We Tear-gassed Protesters – Police
Meanwhile, the FCT Command of the Nigeria Police Force yesterday explained why its men poured teargas on the group of protesters pressing for the resignation of President Buhari over his continued stay in London, saying hoodlums hijacked the protest.
The police said, while it successfully protected the #OurMumuDondo group on its first protest on Monday, it had to disperse the group yesterday after noticing that hoodlums hijacked the protest.
Police PRO, FCT Command, DSP Anjuguri Manzah, said, “In the early hours of August 8, 2017, the Police intervened and prevented breakdown of law and order, and disturbance of public peace in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja by dispersing some miscreants, hoodlums and other criminal elements that have infiltrated the protest being carried out by a group of concerned Nigerians under the auspices of Our-Mumu-Don-do Movement at Unity Fountain, Maitama, Abuja.
“It would be recalled that #Our-Mumu-Don-do Movement carried out their protest on Monday 7th August, 2017 at the same venue and were accorded necessary Police presence to safe-guard public safety and public peace, and protect their rights to freedom of expression, rights to peaceful Assembly and Association, and right to freedom of movement as provided for in sections 39, 40, and 41 of the 1999 constitution as amended.
“However, today (yesterday), 8th August, 2017 the same group assembled at the same venue but allowed miscreants, hoodlums and other unruly individuals to infiltrate the protests, who started blocking the major roads adjoining the Unity fountain, obstructing traffic and preventing movements of other innocent citizens from going to their means of livelihood, and thereby exhibiting unruly behaviours and other violent acts very likely to cause the breakdown of law and order and disturbance of public peace.
“The Police personnel intervened at the point that the concerned Nigerians Group lost control of the crowd and prevented miscreants, hoodlums and other criminal elements from hijacking the protest to cause mayhem and chaos”.
The FCT Police command noted that, while it is fully aware and recognizes the constitutional rights of every citizen, including #Our Mumu Dondo group to assemble and move freely in any part of the Federal Capital Territory, it will not allow any protest under any guise to turn violent and jeopardise the prevailing peace, law and order currently being enjoyed in the FCT.
DSP Manzah continued: “The command wishes to assure all residents and visitors to the territory of adequate security and protection of lives and property of everyone including those who choose to express their constitutional rights of protest with decorum.
“Consequently, members of the public, parents and guardians, religious/opinion leaders and other interest groups are advised to prevail on their children and wards, followers and adherents not to allow themselves to be used by any group to cause disturbance of public peace and break down of law and order”.