Senate Condemns Okorocha's Northerners Identification Parade


SAN FRANCISCO, July 04, (THEWILL) - The Senate on Thursday lampooned the Imo State Governor, Owelle Rochas Okorocha, over his plan to subject Northerners residing in his state to identification parade after which they will be issued with identification cards.

Okorocha had recently in a statement directed Northerners living in Imo State to submit themselves for identification by the state government as a way of curtailing the influx of Boko Haram insurgents into the State. The announcement has been causing ripples with the state government denying it made such move.

But Senators at plenary Thursday condemned the action, declaring that it contravenes the right of Nigerians even as it is unconstitutional. They warned the state government to jettison the plan immediately.

The Senate also urged President Goodluck Jonathan to direct security agencies not to partner with the state government in the implementation of the policy.

These resolutions were sequel to a motion sponsored by Deputy Senate Leader, Abdul Ningi, titled ” the issuance of identification card to Northerners residing in Imo State – Urgent call for policy reversal.'

Senator Ningi noted with serious concern the recent policy statement issued by the Imo State Government, directing all Northerners residing or staying in Imo to be issued with identification cards.

He argued that the policy contravenes the provisions of Section 41 (1) of the Nigerian Constitution which states that “A citizen of Nigerian is entitled to move freely throughout Nigeria and reside in any part thereof, and no citizen of Nigeria shall be expelled from Nigeria or refused entry thereto or exit therefrom.”

Senate Leader Victor Ndoma-Egba took a dig at the All Progressive Congress (APC) saying no PDP government anywhere will contemplate such a policy adding that the Imo state governor's plan was totally unacceptable as it would stigmatize northerners in the state.

“Let me acknowledge that our dear country Nigeria is a passing through the most difficult period of our history. What we are experiencing today is even worse than the civil war. As difficult as the situation is, it would be wrong, unconstitutional and disrespectful to target one group for segregation like the Imo State Governor is attempting to do. It would be wrong to stigmatise anybody just because of where you were born,” he said.

Senator Chris Anyanwu, who is rumoured to be eyeing Okorocha 's seat come 2015 took a swipe at the governor, saying he does not have an understanding of the constitution. She added that the people of Imo are liberal and apologised to the Hausa community in the state.

“We the people of Imo are good people and we believe in the constitution, which guarantees free movement and association. In Owerri, there are Hausa community and they have been there since I was a child. I join in the condemnation of this plan and apologise to the Hausa community in Imo state,” she said.

On his part, Senator Ita Enang stated that the action of the government should be condemned because as the security officer of the state, he should adopt all constitutional means of solving the problems of the state and whatever actions he wants to take should be guided by the constitution.

In his contribution, Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekwerenmadu, who presided over the plenary also kicked against the plan.

He said even though urgent steps must be taken to check the state of insecurity in the country at the moment, issuing identification cards to Northerners in any state would not help matters.

He lamented the major problem facing the country like ethnic profiling, warning that the sins of the guilt should not be meted on the innocent .

“I think we should be bothering ourselves with the solutions to our national challenges instead of expending energies and wasting our time on matters that would not address our security challenges. I think we need to focus more on how to beef up security and how to spend more money in the security sector. After all the primary purpose of government is the security of lives and property.

“The other worrisome thing here is that for over 300 to 400 years people have been moving from one part of the country to the other. But regrettably in this country, we have a strong sense of ethnic profiling. What happens in a situation where a politician loses election because he is protesting about people from other ethnic groups that are killed even those who know nothing about the election.

“Traders on their way to the markets who did not know about the election are killed. Or some people for religious reason would start a fight and those who don't even have a religion are killed because they are coming from a particular part of the country or a particular ethnic group. I think that our major problem is that we have the issue of ethnic profiling in this country.

'So it is regrettable that even those who are supposed to be in position of responsibility are part of this ethnic profiling. We must find a way of making sure that only the guilty suffer in this country. We should not bring them together and condemn them because of their ethnic group or because of their religion. One man's offence should not attract punishment for an innocent man who does not know anything about what happened,” he stated.

Concluding , Ekremadu said: “I am happy that today we have been able to address this matter not just because of what happened in Imo State but at least it showed that we are all concerned that we must continue to live as a united country loving one another and encouraging each other. And in terms of national challenge, we must have to come together and find a solution.”