The Presidency has asked Nigerians to ignore those calling for secession, saying President Muhammadu Buhari cannot be intimidated and bullied for their selfish interests.
The seat of power also ruled out the calls for another National Conference to discuss the much-talked about unity of Nigeria, saying the elected lawmakers were best suited to perform the role of reviewing the nation’s constitution.
Speaking Tuesday at the national secretariat of APC during a media interface organised by the APC Professional Group, Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity Malam Garba Shehu, also declared that the president was not ready to give any monetary reward as settlement to ethnic agitators.
Shehu said: “The presidency has been talking. And our position is clear that this country is one, it’s united, by the grace of God, it will continue to be united.
“Look, one thing with this President is that you can’t intimidate Buhari. You can’t bully him. A lot of these people who are calling for secession are the problem of this country, and I’m happy that reasonable voices are now rising. Is it not only yesterday we were reading Afenifere, the most credible faction of Afenifere, saying we’re not for secession? The Ohanaeze Ndigbo said this over and over again.
“So this thing about secession is; they had used it in the past. You create secession and break up Nigeria and then you intimidate the sitting leader and then he opens the booth and he brings money to settle people.
“President Buhari will pay no one. He is not going to pay and now it is clear that having ignored all of that, reasonable opinions are coming from those states and from those regions. The governors in the South-west, we have all heard them, they have denounced all of these things.
“So it’s a sham, Nigerians want to be one, they want to continue. Yes, there are problems and we are hoping that as people united and loving of one another, we will come together and solve our problems.”
When asked whether President Buhari will convene another National Conference to discuss the nation’s unity, the presidential spokesman urged those calling for it to understand the functions of the parliaments in a democratic system of government.
“What National Conference could be more than a parliament? Anyone who is a democrat in heart, in practice in their beliefs, should believe in the tripartite structure of government. Governments that are democratic, there must be a parliament, the Executive arm of the government and the Judiciary, each one being independent and cooperating with each other.
“We have an elected parliament, which mandate is to be the custodian of the sovereignty of the Nigerian people.
“Look, a lot of these people were crying for this secession, they are unelectable. If you think you are electable go and contest for a parliamentary seat whether House of Representatives or Senate and come and table an amendment for the constitution.
“The process is ongoing as we speak now under the Deputy Senate President. They are calling for memoranda, why can’t you present what you want? So the issue is that people who are not democrats want a parallel parliament to be set up and this Constitution does not recognise two parliaments in this country.
“We have one parliament that is sovereign, that is, the custodian of the sovereignty of the Nigerian people. If your member representing you has failed to present this request that you want whether it is change of structure at state, local government or national level, pull him out four years after, don’t vote for him. Put another representative who will do what you want. This is how democracy works, periodic elections,” Shehu said.
While reeling out the achievements of the Buhari-led administration, Shehu said the president had done well, especially in infrastructure and poverty alleviation and others.
“In 2016, President Buhari launched the National Social Investment Programme, currently the largest of such programmes in Africa and one of the largest in the world. Currently, the National Social Register of poor and vulnerable Nigerians (NSR) has 32.6 million persons from more than 7 million poor and vulnerable households, identified across 708 local government areas, 8,723 wards and 86,610 communities across the 36 states of the country and the FCT.
“From this number, 1.6 million poor and vulnerable households, comprising more than 8 million individuals, in 45,744 communities from 5,483 Wards of 557 LGAs in 35 states and the FCT are currently benefiting from the Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) program, which pays a bimonthly stipend of N10, 000 per household.
“In January 2019, President Buhari launched Nigeria’s Micro-Pension Scheme – which allows self-employed persons and persons working in organisations with less than 3 employees to save for the provision of pension at retirement or incapacitation.
“Establishment of Survival Fund, National Youth Investment Fund, and National Special Public Works Program, and the Covid-19 Targeted Credit Facility (TCF), to support millions of small businesses, households and young people, with federal grants, loans and stipends.”
APC accuses PDP
Speaking earlier, National Secretary of APC Caretaker Committee, Senator James Akpanudoedehe, accused opposition parties of playing politics with Buhari’s achievements.
“They want to downgrade the government. There have not been a government like this in the history of the nation. And I am not playing politics. Show me any government that has done much than President Buhari that has direct link with the masses?”
FG slams UK
Meanwhile, the Nigerian government has condemned the decision of the United Kingdom to grant asylum to “persecuted” members of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) and Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB).
Minister of Information and Culture Lai Mohammed called it a disrespect to Nigeria, sabotage on the fight against terrorism and an undermining of Nigeria’s security.
He officially spoke Tuesday at News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) interview program, NAN Forum.
Mohammed said the problem was under the purview of the foreign affairs minister whom he believes would handle it properly.
“As the spokesman for the Federal Government of Nigeria, I will say that if indeed the report that the UK will grant asylum to supposedly persecuted IPOB and MASSOB members is true, then something is wrong somewhere.
“Against the background of the fact that IPOB is not only proscribed but also designated as a terrorist organisation here in Nigeria, the UK’s decision is disrespectful of Nigeria as a nation.
“The decision amounts to sabotaging the fight against terrorism and generally undermining Nigeria’s security. It is not only unconscionable, it is inexplicable,” he said.
“If we could go down the memory lane, what the UK has done is like Nigeria offering asylum to members of the IRA before the 1998 Good Friday Peace Agreement,” he said.
UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) has provided new guidance to its decision-makers on how to consider and award asylum applications from members of Biafran separatist groups.
IPOB and MASSOB members who have been “persecuted” will be granted asylum.