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ACN TO PRESIDENCY: YOUR CREDIBILITY AT STAKE OVER OKAH'S ALLEGATION

By NBF News

The Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) has said the allegation by MEND leader, Henry Okah, that a presidential aide called to pressure him to ask the group to withdraw its claim of responsibility for the Abuja blasts so the government can blame it on northerners, has put the credibility of the presidency at stake.

'We have read the presidency's reaction to Okah's claim, but it has to go beyond that to convince Nigerians and the world that Okah was merely jiving,' the party said in a statement issued yesterday by its National Publicity Secretary, Alhaji Lai Mohammed.

'Because the allegation is so grave and has dire implication for the country's stability, we ask the presidency to use diplomatic means to request and obtain from South Africa the call log for Okah in the past week, as a first step in what should be a thorough investigation of the claim. Dismissing it as an 'outright lie' by a 'drowning man' may not be that effective.

'Also, we challenge Okah to identify the presidential aide who called him, if indeed he is not just trying to get back at the presidency with such weighty allegation,' the party said. 'If all these efforts fail, there may be need to appoint an independent commission of inquiry to investigate the claim, in view of its potentially-destabilising implication.' It reiterated its earlier call on the president not to jump to conclusion on the condemnable blasts, and to allow the investigators to do a thorough job.

'We are reiterating this call because the presidency seems to be insisting that the bombings were not perpetrated by MEND, which sent a message to say the bombs will go off (as they did) and later claimed responsibility, though expressing regret at the loss of lives. 'With due respect, the visit to the presidency by some former militant leaders, including repentant MEND commanders, on Tuesday, during which they exonerated MEND, seems to have been choreographed to support the president's earlier claim.

'But we beg to differ and we have a number of questions to ask: If these men are no longer in MEND, how will they know what is happening in the organisation? If MEND has claimed responsibility, why is the president so eager to exonerate them? Does the President know what the nation does not? If so, at what point did the president know what he knows? If it is before the blasts, why did he not ensure that they were prevented? If it is after, why is he not telling the nation what he knows?

'These questions have become pertinent in view of the claim by Okah. There is no doubt that providing answers to the posers will go a long way in shedding more light on the whole issue,' ACN said. In the meantime, the party appealed to Nigerians to keep an open mind while investigators work to unravel the cause and perpetrators of the blasts and to ensure that passions were not inflamed by the claims and counter-claims, in the interest of the nation's stability.