Nigerian senators have expressed worry over “undemocratic” moves by Kogi State Governor, Yahaya Bello, of victimising senators from the state.
The lawmakers who took turn to rebuke the governor set up an ad-hoc committee to investigate the governor’s latest action.
The senators’ reaction came as one of them, Ahmed Ogembe (Kogi-PDP), accused the governor of sponsoring thugs to attack his supporters after a failed attempt to disrupt an empowerment programme he organised for his constituents.
Daily Trust reported that many people were injured on Saturday at the event in Okene Local Government Area of Kogi State.
The newspaper reported that suspected thugs allegedly invaded the venue with dangerous weapons at about 8 12a.m., unleashing mayhem on constituents that turned out for the programme.
Mr. Ogembe in his account on Wednesday said he duly informed the police before embarking on the programme.
“Before the empowerment programme, I contacted the commissioner of police requesting for officers. I was told that the commissioner was not in the country so I was referred to DC OPS. I contacted him and he minuted on a letter to the Area Commander that controls Okenne/Okehi.
“He agreed to provide 20 men to secure the area of the empowerment. I was given his number, I called him and it was confirmed that 20 policemen will be there before 7a.m. By 7 a.m., I called him, the man switched off his phone. When he picked up, he said there is no way he could deploy policemen now, that there are other pressing issues,” Mr. Ogembe said.
He accused the governor of sending thugs to disrupt the programme. He added that the thugs were resisted by youth in the community as the programme was held successfully.
Mr. Ogembe alleged that the governor, using two local government chairmen in his constituency, attacked him and his supporters the night after the programme.
“The two caretaker chairmen went on (the) rampage with SARS at the state level and a special vigilante group. They destroyed everywhere, they destroyed every supporter of mine. My family house was also destroyed.”
The senators reacting to the incident called the governor several names while calling for an investigation.
Enyinnaya Abaribe said the governor is a bad example of youth in power.
“Mr President, people have been running around to say we need youth, the man in Kogi is a youth, why is it that this youth does not know what he’s doing? That does not give credence to the saying that we should hand over this country to the youth. So far we hand it over to them, what will now happen? We’ll now have a broken country that is thrown to the dogs. You can now see that it is not youth, it is the idea that you have that decides how you act.
“I don’t think we can continue in this way where senators will be afraid to go home to their constituents because somebody is sitting down there, deciding he would be a little Hitler.”
The Deputy Senate Leader, Bala Na’ Allah, in his contribution tagged Governor Bello a ‘threat’ to Nigeria’s democracy.
“Yesterday it was Dino, some people are saying it’s because Dino is creating problem, what problem is Ogembe creating? The issue of Kogi is a very serious matter. From what I have been reading, I have tried to restrain myself from commenting but it appears we can validly say that the Governor of Kogi is a threat to our democracy,” he said.
Recounting his ordeal at the hands of security operatives who he alleged were sent by the governor to arrest him last week, Dino Melaye (Kogi-APC) urged the senate to prevail on President Muhammadu Buhari to declare a state of emergency in Kogi State.
In similar fashion, Godswill Akpabio (Akwa Ibom-PDP) accused the governor of being ‘irresponsible’ to peace in his state.
Next was the Senate Chief Whip, Olusola Adeyeye, who described Mr. Bello as a ‘small mind’ occupying a great office.
He urged his colleagues to take an incremental approach in addressing the issue.
“When we see what has just been described to us in details, it describes to us the huge tragedy for so long has afflicted Nigeria and that is the tragedy of small minds occupying great offices. Unfortunately, this tragedy defies party affiliation because we have seen it with APC governors, we have also seen it with PDP governors.
“The Inspector-General of police must be asked to investigate and report back to the Senate within one week. If we are not satisfied with what we are told by the IG, we must summon the minister in charge of police to the Senate. If we are not satisfied, I believe we should go to the President and report all the abuses happening in every part of Nigeria.”
In his comment, Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, said the governor will never win a re-election if he continues in the manner he is acting.
“Today I am advising the governor that the road he is travelling will not lead him to anywhere. Ultimately, these people (senators) will be back here and he will leave the office. If he doesn’t stop, there is no way he will come back in Kogi State in 2019. Never, he will not!”
The lawmakers resolved to set up an ad-hoc committee to investigate the disruption of the poverty alleviation programme initiated by the Kogi Central senator.
The lawmakers, however, dropped a resolution that the Inspector-General of Police should be invited to plenary to answer questions on the issue. They resolved to first peruse the report from the ad-hoc committee before taking further steps.
Senate President, Bukola Saraki, in his comment after the debate condemned the series of conflicts between governors and senators across the country, describing it as undemocratic.
“It is not really about Kogi State, it is clear that Kogi is becoming the point where there is a threat to our democracy. This is not what democracy is all about. For the role we play in comity of nations, we need to be good examples to other parts of the world.
“These kind of actions are unacceptable, it starts with one state – many of us have been privileged to be governors and we are almost 20 years in democracy, this is not the democracy that we should be talking about. We saw the case in Kaduna State, how a governor would go and bulldoze a house, in Nigeria? At this time and we are all still keeping quiet. These are things we must condemn totally.”