The Senate President, Bukola Saraki, has said the declaration by the Nigerian military that the Indigenous People of Biafra is a terrorist organisation is unconstitutional.

He also said the ban placed on the group’s activities by the South-East governors did not follow due process.

However, the Chief Whip, House of Representatives, Alhassan Ado-Doguwa, has condemned Saraki, saying the Senate President’s declaration was “a mere political statement” that portrayed the nation’s Number Three citizen as “a controversial leader.”

In a statement on Monday, Saraki said the National Assembly would investigate the crisis in the South-East.

However, Saraki  commended the military for maintaining the peace in the South-East but added that their declaration of the group as a terrorist organisation was unconstitutional.

He said, “I also wish to state that the announcement of the proscription of the group known as the Indigenous People of Biafra by the governors of the South-East states and the categorisation of the group as a ‘terrorist organisation’ by the Nigerian military are unconstitutional and do 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 operates by laid down process under every circumstance. So, those who have been hammering on this point should maintain their cool.”

But Ado-Doguwa when asked to react to Saraki’s pro-IPOB’s position said, “I am sure the Senate President was only expressing his personal opinion, which I further believe was not a good one in the given circumstances.  The Nigerian Armed forces in my opinion are doing their best professionally and in the best interest of a united Nigeria. Even the south-eastern state governors have declared the activities of Kanu’s IPOB as illegal and therefore proscribed. He (Senate President) can’t cry more than the bereaved.

“For me, the recent comment made by the Senate President on this matter was a mere political statement that would only portray him as a controversial leader. Considering the attacks meted out to innocent Nigerians by the IPOB group in the South-East and indeed the nationalistic conduct of the northern governors and the prompt action they took to stop possible reprisals in the North, the Senate President’s statement was to say the least unnecessary.”

Also, the Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen. Tukur Buratai, in an apparent reaction to Saraki’s position insisted that the declaration of IPOB as a terrorist organisation was done in accordance with the nation’s constitution.

Buratai said this at the Nkwegu Military Cantonment Abakaliki, the Ebonyi State capital, on Monday while inaugurating the “Operation Python Dance11” exercise for the South-East geopolitical zone.

He said, “What the Defence Headquarters said was to make a pronouncement, it was not a declaration, but this has given room for the right step to be taken. I think the government is doing the right thing, it is not that we overstepped our bounds, we are still within the limits of the law.

“What the military said was to set the ball rolling and to bring to the awareness of the public that this is what this organisation is about. I am happy that the government has done the right thing rightly.”

Members of the Senate who spoke to The PUNCH in separate telephone interviews on Monday hailed the military operation in the South-East and categorisation of IPOB as a terrorist group.

Lawmaker representing Plateau South Senatorial District, Senator Jeremiah Useni, who is a retired Lieutenant General, backed the Operation Python Dance 11, alleging that IPOB members were terrorists.

When asked of his view on the military deployment and tagging of IPOB as terrorist group, he said, “They are terrorists. They should not criticise the military, they are terrorists; they are killing people and the government should deal with them.”

Also, lawmaker representing Kaduna Central, Senator Shehu Sani, said he was in support of those who opposed Saraki in the House of Representatives.

When told that some members of the lower chamber of the National Assembly were opposed to Saraki’s position on the matter, Sani said, “I am allying with those in the House of Representatives.”

But a former President of the Nigerian Bar Association, Chief Onueze Okocha (SAN), said no one except the court had the power to declare any organisation unlawful, adding that the nation’s constitution did not deal with the matter.

Also, a human rights advocacy group, Access to Justice, faulted the Nigerian Army’s declaration of IPOB as a terrorist group, contending that the army had no power to make the declaration.

In a statement on Monday by its Deputy Director, Dr. Adenike Aiyedun, A2J said, “The Nigerian military, however, does not have the right to declare any group a terrorist organisation and doing so usurps the powers and responsibility of political branches of government. These ones alone can make such a declaration.”

Bukola Saraki

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