Abuja bombings: Senate carpets Northern leaders

THE PUNCH Newspaper- Oluwole Josiah

The Senate on Wednesday condemned the reaction of some prominent Northern leaders to the October 1 twin car bombings in Abuja.

The leaders had called on President Goodluck Jonathan to resign because they had lost confidence in his ability to lead the country.

The condemnation by the Senate followed a motion by Senator Anthony Manzo and 36 of his colleagues.

The lawmakers, who contributed to the debate on the motion, also condemned terrorism and urged the Federal Government to arrest and prosecute those behind the blasts that left 14 people dead and 66 others injured on a day Nigeria celebrated its 50 years of sovereignty.

The Northern leaders, under the aegis of the Northern Political Forum, had on Tuesday condemned the bombings, but wondered why they took place shortly after the recent changes in the leadership of the nation’s armed forces, the police and state security service.

They also said that ex-militants, who failed to accept Federal Government’s amnesty programme must not be allowed to hide behind unlawful agitation to take innocent lives.

The senators, who observed a minute silence for the victims of the bombings, said it was “unfortunate and disappointing,” that the “elder statesmen” could make such comments.

They condemned the incident and urged the security agencies to beef up their intelligence gathering machinery to avoid a reccurrence.

Nigerians, especially highly placed individuals, they added, should moderate their comments on the issue and other sensitive matters since the current situation in the country demanded unity among the people.

The senators resolved that the relevant committees of the Senate should monitor the activities of security agencies and return to brief the Senate in a closed door session.

The President of the Senate, Mr. David Mark, who spoke after contributions by his colleagues, said, “I must confess that I was a bit worried that this (Abuja incident) could really degenerate into the way our elder statesmen outside are handling it.

“Let me also express my total disappointment at the comments that are being made by very elderly statesmen, outside the chambers,” he added.

Mark said it was regrettable that the Northern leaders were politicising the blasts at a time that national unity was under threat.

He said, “We’ve lost lives, the nation’s unity is being threatened, and all they have succeeded in doing is to politicise it for their own personal gains and selfishness and I think that is rather unfortunate.

“We respect them as elders statesmen, and I think those comments are totally uncalled for; they are unwarranted. The issue before us is far more serious than the politics that they want to play with the lives of Nigerians and with the unity of this country.

“The fact of the matter is that this is a serious issue. When 9/11 happened in the United States, the whole nation came together and people put their political parties and ideologies aside.

“That is what we should be doing about this particular problem. I also would like to say that we should have at the back of our minds, Chapter 14 of our 1999 Constitution about security and governance.

“I completely endorse the statement of those who subscribed that all those found guilty, both the culprits and the security agents for lapses, must be adequately punished.

“This is not the time for us to go on a sentiment ride and then begin to find reasons why things have gone wrong.”

The President of the Senate added that he had met with the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Security and Intelligence, Senator Nuhu Aliyu, on the need to fast track the passage of the Anti-Terrorism Bill.

“I believe that apart from expediting the passage of the anti-terrorism bill, we will be in a position where we are in the full picture to design a legislative therapy that will ensure that we put this behind us permanently as a people,” he said.

While leading the debate on the motion, the Senate Leader, Mr. Teslim Folarin, had described the blasts as “serious and unprovoked.”

Folarin said that it was embarrassing that “terrorists chose that memorable day (October 1) to carry out twin-car bomb attacks which left (many) people dead and several others injured.’’

Other contributors included Senators James Manager, Mohammed Mana, Kabiru Gaya, and Kanti Bello.

While Mana said that the inability of the security agencies to track the attackers was as a result of the failure of government to adequately equip them, Gaya advised Jonathan to talk less on the issue in order not to polarise and politicise the issue.

On his part, Bello noted that Jonathan’s utterance exonerating the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, was uncalled for.

He said that MEND, which claimed responsibility for the blasts, had a penchant for planting bombs in the country.

But Manager urged that the debates on the motion should not be “prejudicial” since a judicial pronouncement was pending, but Mark clarified that the Senate was competent to discuss the issue.

Speaking after the session , the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Information and Media, Mr. Ayogu Eze, said the Senate would await the outcome of the investigations by the various security agencies before it would come in.

Eze also assured that the National Assembly would not renege on its promise to complete work on the amendment of the 1999 constitution to alter the Electoral Act for the 2011 elections.


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