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MILITARY INVOLVEMENT IN PRESIDENT'S RETURN THREAT TO DEMOCRACY

By AMOS DUNIA, Abuja

The Nigeria Unity Group has condemned in the strongest terms the alleged attempt by overzealous military officers to endanger the nation's democracy with the return of President Umaru Yar'Adua.

A statement issued in Abuja on Sunday by the National Coordinator of the group, Mr. Ed Malik noted that the commando-like manner in which ailing PresidentYar'Adua was smuggled into the country last week without the knowledge of the Acting President, Dr Goodluck Jonathan was a direct threat to Nigeria's democracy.

Malik said that while it was soothing to know that President Yar'Adua was alive and recuperating, his group, however, expressed grave displeasure in the surreptitious manner that the President was returned to the country without recourse to the protocols where state officers were received or escorted in or out of the country when travelling.

The NUG noted that the discordant tunes being sung by the actors of this public relations debacle has further eroded the goodwill of Nigerians, which, it noted, had been praying for the healing of the President, stressing that the entire matter was an affront to the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

According to the group. 'What has now been established is that the Acting President and Commander-in-Chief, Dr Goodluck Jonathan was completely unaware of the President's return and the manner in which soldiers were called out to take -over Abuja over-night was worrisome.'

The NUG further stated that the Constitution was very clear on how the armed forces would be deployed under any circumstances, stressing that it was only the President or the Acting President as in the present case that has powers to authorize the deployment of military troops for any reason, whatsoever.

It therefore want Nigerians and the world to know that what happened pre-dawn of the President's arrival from Saudi Arabia where he had been receiving treatment since November last year was an affront to the office of the President, and is capable of undermining the constitution, adding that it should be noted that Nigeria's democracy is still burgeoning thus must be protected from abuse of process particularly against the backdrop of the fact that President Yar'Adua is a major voice for respect for 'The Rule of Law'

'For the benefit of enlightenment on constitutionalism, when both chambers of the National Assembly passed the resolution to empower the Vice President to commence acting as President, it became a law.

'If actually the President has returned, he has to indicate his desire to resume office by informing the National Assembly that will equally have to transfer the powers it granted to the Acting President back to him. Until this is done, the Acting President has to exercise the full powers of the President,' it said NUG urged the National Assembly Defence Committees to summon the Chief of Army Staff and other Military top brass to explain the role played by any officer or officers in the undemocratic move, stressing that in spite of desperate denials by the Chief of Army Staff, there are questions begging for answers.