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ARREST OF ACN MEMBERS: AREGBESOLA SNUBS JONATHAN

By NBF News
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BY JIDE AJANI, LEKE ADESERI, EMMANUEL AZIKEN &  GBENGA OLARINOYE

LAGOS - Governor Rauf Aregbesola of Osun State yesterday refused to recognise President Goodluck Jonathan represented by Vice President Namadi Sambo at an event in Oshogbo, the state capital.

Aregbesola who conspicuously left out the President in the 'Order of Precedence' (recognition) in his welcome address, stated that 'the President was deliberately skipped while recognizing other government officials present at the occasion in order to protest the arrest and detention of 29 members of Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) by the Commissioner of Police in Kogi state without any justifiable reason.'

'The arrest of the 29 ACN members in Kogi State was unwarranted as it is a dangerous trend in our democracy and must be reversed in the interest of justice, fairness, equity and sustenance of our democracy,' the Governor said.

From Left: The Ataoja of Osogbo,Oba Jimoh Olanipekun, 0sun State Deputy Governor, Otunba Grace Laoye Tomori, Vice President Namadi Sambo and Chief Judge of the Federal High Court, Justice Ibraheem Auta at the Commissioning of the new Federal High Court, Osogbo,on Thursday 27-10-11.

The Governor would have shown his anger personally if not for his engagement in Abuja.

Media aide to the governor Semiu Okanlowan said: 'His Excellency, Aregbesola, would have loved to make the presentation himself if not for the engagement he had in Abuja. But he was ably represented by his deputy, Mrs Grace Laoye Tomori.'

Speaking at the official commissioning of the Federal High Court, Osogbo, Aregbesola protested the detention of his supporters by the Police, saying it was an insult to his office and infringement on the fundamental human rights of the members.

However, the President who was represented by his vice, Architect Namadi Sambo advised the Governor to seek redress in court if there was any security threat to the lives of the ACN members and infringement on their fundamental rights.

Vanguard could not confirm at press time if the governor will take the advice as he was said to be on his way back to Oshogbo from Abuja.

Aregbesola in a speech titled: 'Justice is beyond the court room', said the federal government needed to address some issues that affect the administration of justice in the country, saying that reckless disregard and disrespect for the principle of fundamental human rights in the country is a serious concern.'

He enumerated some of the issues affecting administration of justice in the country to include impartiality, inefficiency, delays and prison reforms among others.

In his address, President Jonathan urged Judges in the country to pursue judicial codes that is the hall mark of the judiciary, adding that they should strive to erase the unsavory perception about the judiciary in the minds of the public.

The Governor's grouse
Governor Rauf Aregbesola had on Wednesday expressed displeasure over the arrest, detention and consequent 'deportation' of 29 Osun State leaders of Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) from Lokoja, Kogi State by the police.

The governor's spokesman, Mr. Semiu Okanlawon said in a statement: 'The ACN leaders were travelling in a bus belonging to the Office of the Governor, Osun State. They were arrested on the Niger Bridge in Lokoja, allegedly on the orders of Kogi State Commissioner of Police Mr. Amanana Abakasanga. The ACN men were travelling to Abuja.

Abakasanga allegedly detained the 29 ACN leaders in Lokoja till yesterday when he dispatched an armed escort to deport them to Okene to ensure that they did not make their trip.

The men were then directed by Governor Aregbesola to insist on their fundamental right of freedom of movement by resuming their Abuja bound journey.

According to him, as soon as the ACN men got to Niger Bridge the second time, they were again stopped by the Police.

When the news of the arrest was received by Aregbesola, he contacted the Inspector-General of Police, Mr. Hafiz Ringim, who denied issuing the order to arrest, detain and 'deport' the ACN leaders from Kogi State.

The statement reads: 'When news reached Governor Aregbesola in Abuja on Tuesday that the men were still prevented from embarking on their onward journey to Abuja, he called the Kogi Police Commissioner to complain on the infringement on the rights of these men to move freely in their country and demanded that the Police Commissioner respect the law without further delay.

Aregbesola spoke to the Kogi state police commissioner, he promised to release the men and allow them to proceed on their journey but he refused to honour his words by detailing a police team led by Mr. James Otai, an Assistant Commissioner of Police, to prevent them from passing through the Niger Bridge to Abuja.

The Osun State government, according to the statement, 'takes serious exception at this flagrant violation of the 1999 Constitution by a police officer who is paid and commissioned to enforce the same law but has now chosen to flout it with recklessness.'

'The ACN leaders were not found with anything to suggest criminality while they committed no offence to warrant the shabby treatment they received from the police in Kogi State.

'We wonder where the police commissioner got the power to carry out the unlawful arrest of law abiding citizens, curtail their movement and deport them illegally from one part of their country to another.

'Nigerians should recall that this was how patriotic Nigerians who were on solidarity with the symbol of democracy then, were harassed and persecuted during the sham trial of M.K.O Abiola in 1993 in Abuja.

'It is equally noteworthy to draw attention to the fact that for over 100years that Lagos served as the seat of federal government this assault was never visited on any Nigerian.

'It is important for all citizens to note the totally appalling phenomenon of illegal prevention of citizen to freely visit Abuja which is a city of unity for all as enshrined in the 1999 Constitution.

'It is instructive to note that Vice President Namadi Sambo is visiting Osun State today while the same people whom he intends to meet have been treated as aliens in their own country by the Kogi State Police Commissioner. We wonder how the nation's number two citizen expects the people of Osun State to receive him in their home state,' the statement said.

Order of Precedence
Due recognition at state functions which Governor Rauf Aregbesola yesterday refused to give President Goodluck Jonathan is an important ingredient in protocol.

Following prolonged years of military rule when military ranking prevailed, the civilians in power initially struggled over precedence at state functions. Particularly concerned about the issue of ranking were members of the National Assembly who felt slighted that the powers that they wielded in Abuja almost amounted to nothing when they went home.

The 1999 set of legislators who won their seats with minimal support from their governors were peeved by what they saw as the domineering powers of the governors.

In an act of defiance the two chambers of the National Assembly sufficiently mustered the two third majority in October 2001 to bring the Order of Precedence into law. In the Senate, all 70 Senators present voted in support.

The Order of Precedence as enacted by the National Assembly puts the following at the top in any public or even social gathering:

1. President
2. Vice-President
3. Senate President
4. Speaker, House of Representatives
5. Chief Justice of the Federation
6. Former Presidents of the Federation
7. Former Vice-Presidents of the Federation
8. Deputy President of the Senate
9. Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives
10. Senators and members of the House of Representatives

11. Governors
The fact that Senators and members of the National Assembly were put ahead of Governors was a major point for the federal legislators.

They, however, conceded to Governors that wherever activities are held in the states that the host Governor would take his place immediately after the Chief Justice of the Federation.

Breach of order of precedence under military
It will be recalled that on the eve of Nigeria's 26th independence anniversary celebrations, what was considered by military authorities as a breach of the order of precedence occurred.

It had to do with the order of arrival of the military top hierarchy and the leadership of Nigeria at that time. It was 1986.

The three persons involved were then President Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida, General Domkat Yah Bali, then Minister of Defence, Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff; and Commodore Ebitu Ukiwe, then Chief of General Staff, CGS.

Information available in the public domain then had it that preparations for the October 1, 1986, celebrations had an order of precedence, a protocol that allegedly envisaged that Ukiwe would arrive at the parade ground before Bali, after which President Babangida would then arrive for the event of the day to commence.

The event was slated for the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, Abuja - though Dodan Barracks, Lagos, was the seat of power!

Politically, it was presumed that Ukiwe, as CGS, was the number two man in that administration which had the Armed Forces Ruling Council, AFRC, as the ruling body.

Militarily, virtually all the officers in the AFRC at that time deferred to General Bali who was reported to be the oldest serving military officer at that time, hence his twin position as Minister of Defence, Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff.

But the controversy surrounding that year's independence celebration was the seemingly blurred line of dichotomy, in distinguishing whether the event was a military event or a political one.

In any case, it was reported that Ukiwe, having made some calls to attempt to ascertain why the order of protocol was likely to be tampered with, decided not to travel to Abuja for the event.

The event went on as scheduled - Ukiwe did not attend.

At the meeting of the AFRC the following week, Ukiwe was excused from the meeting.

It was gathered that members of the AFRC had a heated debate over the propriety or otherwise of the conduct of the then CGS.

At the end of the meeting, what followed was that Ukiwe was eased out of the system.

Till date, Ukiwe has never been known to publicly explain the circumstances surrounding his exit from the military and government.

However, in an exclusive interview in 1991 with General Bali, this reporter was made to understand that the whole event 'was unnecessary'. In fact, what transpired at that time may have been the domination of the AFRC by Babangida.

According to Bali, when the government came to power in August 1985 and Babangida opted for the seemingly inconsequential post of President in a military administration, the military hierarchy did not read beyond the mere nomenclature 'PRESIDENT'.

In Bali's view, a military officer, with the alacrity and dispatch at his disposal, combining same with the executive powers of a President, would only be very domineering in every facet of such an administration, therefore, 'we played into IBB's hands', Bali explained.

Apart from the exit of Ukiwe, Babangida went on to single-handedly dissolve the AFRC.

Therefore, the order of precedence at that time may have been as dictated by the AFRC but largely influenced by Babangida.

Bali himself, in 1990, walked out on the administration with a resignation.