President of the Senate, Senator Bukola Saraki, on Monday added a curious dimension to the crisis in the South-East when he unequivocally stated that the proscription of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) and its labelling as a terrorist group by the Defence headquarters as unconstitutional.
He also promised that the National Assembly will Investigate the crisis in, but called on all those who use all forms of media to exercise restraint in distributing information in these tense times.
A statement he personally signed reads in full:
1. Following the clash between the military and members of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), I hereby call for calm and restraint by all Nigerians so that we would all jointly find the right solution to the current problem rather than worsening the crisis.
2. Our brothers and sisters in the South-east, in particular, should continue to maintain peace and tranquility and go about their lawful business. This crisis will not benefit anybody but would only expose innocent people to unwarranted danger.
3. At this point, Nigerians outside the South-east who have worked to ensure that the crisis does not spread to other parts of the country deserve our commendation. I therefore call for continued efforts to sustain peace, unity and stability in all our communities so as to ensure that all residents, no matter their religion, tribe and creed remain protected and safe under the law.
4. It is also important that commentators and purveyors of information on all media platforms should be conscious of the need, at all times, to maintain the unity of the country. Therefore, they must refrain from circulating information that has the potential for aggravating the crisis. We should all realize, as individuals and as a collective, that Nigeria is all we have and it is in our individual and collective interests that we do not stoke the fire of crisis and fan the ember of discord through the message we are spreading. We must all protect and strengthen our country rather than contributing to her collapse and disintegration.
5. I also wish to state that the announcement of the proscription of the group known as Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) by Governors of the South-east states and the categorization of the group as a ‘terrorist organisation’ by the Nigerian military are unconstitutional and does not follow due process. Our laws make clear provisions for taking such actions and without the due process being followed, such declaration cannot have effect. I am sure the President will do the needful by initiating the right process. This will go a long way in demonstrating to the world at large that we are a country that operate by laid down process under every circumstance. So, those who have been hammering on this point should maintain their cool.
6. We must commend the military for their efforts in restoring peace to different parts of the country and sustaining the unity of the country. However, in the face of provocation, the military should allow themselves to be guided by their training which emphasizes respect for human rights, even in war. Also, giving the nature of this particular situation, the military has every reason to be hesitant in the use of force.
7. Also, it is my view that we should not over-stretch the military. We need to protect our military against dissipation of their fighting strength. And this means we need to strengthen the police and equip them with the capacity to deal with civil crisis. That is why we, in the National Assembly, are already reviewing the Police Act and also looking at the possibility of enabling other para-military agencies to help in curbing civil unrest and maintenance of law and order.
8. I want to also make it clear that the National Assembly intends to embark on a fact-finding investigation aimed at determining what actually happened during the period of the military exercise in the South-east. We want to be able to sift the facts from the fiction and determine who did what. It is quite clear that all the facts are not yet known. We assure Nigerians that there will be no cover up. We intend to lay the facts bare.
9. On a long term, we want to remind Nigerians that the reason for embarking on constitution review by the National Assembly was to enable us look into issues that are agitating the minds of Nigerians and creating tension among us. We have promised that the exercise would be continuous. We intend to keep that promise by further taking decisions that would strengthen and improve on our structures. The Eighth National Assembly, on resumption, will play its constitutional role by addressing all those issues that are agitating the minds of our people and over which they feel so strong. I appeal to all our people to always direct their grievances to the right channels.
10. Let me further reiterate the need for all leaders of thought – political, religious and traditional – to continue to engage with our people on the need to maintain peace and be our brothers’ keepers.