By FRIDAY OLOKOR AND ADE ADESOMOJU
There was outrage on Sunday over an alleged plot by President Goodluck Jonathan and the Peoples Democratic Party to freeze the bank accounts of All Progressives Congress leaders.
The APC had on Saturday alleged that the President planned to freeze the accounts of Asiwaju Bola Tinubu and Governor Rotimi Amaechi of Rivers State as part of efforts to cripple the campaigns of its presidential candidate, Maj.-Gen. Muhammadu Buhari (retd.).
Prominent Nigeria, including some Senior Advocates of Nigeria, in separate interviews with The PUNCH on Sunday, condemned the alleged plot.
The lawyers – Emeka Ngige, Yusuf Ali and Mahmud Magaji – said if the allegation was true, it would send a bad signal to the international community about the nation’s commitment to deepening democracy.
Ngige said the action could spell doom for the nation and might actualise the prediction that Nigeria was already on the path of disintegration.
He said, “My view is that such a move is unthinkable but if true is a sure road to the much predicted disintegration of Nigeria.
“Any clampdown on the opposition at this time because the ruling party is afraid of defeat in the coming election will spell doom for the country. Whoever is contemplating such actions should have a re-think.”
Ali said the plot to freeze the accounts of individuals was a matter of law and not a matter that was subject to arbitrariness.
He said, “Luckily, we are all Nigerians; luckily we have our constitution; luckily we all know our rights. There are steps that can be taken before anybody can freeze the accounts of X, Y or Z.
“If anybody has committed any offence for which you want to freeze his account, there are legal steps you must take. You cannot just wake up and say you want to freeze people’s accounts.
“There must be legal reasons and if anybody’s rights are trampled upon, the person knows what to do.
“But if this is true, it will send a wrong signal to the world ahead of the general elections.It will be unfortunate if temporary holders of power decide to ride roughshod on others. They should remember that what goes around comes around.”
Magaji, who described the development as unfortunate, said it would portray Nigeria to the outside world as an unserious nation that is not committed to the development of democracy.
He said, “Though I have not read about it (the alleged plot by the Federal Government to freeze the account of opposition leaders), if it is true, it portends a great danger to our democracy. When government acts in such a manner, what is it trying to tell the international community?
“It simply means that that government is reluctant to deepen democracy or that Nigeria is not a serious nation after going through thick and thin to return to democracy. I only hope it is not true. But if it is true, it will be highly unfortunate.”
On his part, the Director of Research and Documentation, Citizens Arise Movement of Nigeria, Mr. Ebenezer Oyetakin, said it was evident that the government was doing everything to frustrate and intimidate the opposition.
According to him, the campaign of hate, personal attacks, invasions of campaign grounds, postponement of elections using military chiefs and attempt to sack Prof. Jega are all the glaring misbehaviour of the government.
Also, a group, the Muslim Rights Concern, warned the PDP against freezing the bank accounts of the financiers of the APC.
In a statement on Sunday by its Director, MURIC said freezing the bank accounts and grounding their private jets would expose the PDP as intolerant.
The group said, “We cannot envision a free and fair election in an atmosphere of suppression. There can be no true democracy if the opposition cannot enjoy a level playing field, nay, if the opposition is being strangulated.
“If the ruling party cannot sow seeds of nobility in its political path, it should not break the pot of integrity from where others can water a new, purer and safer political culture.”
MURIC urged the Federal Government to consider the serious implications of freezing the accounts of members of the opposition for no justifiable reason.
“This will amount to abuse of power. It is illegal, unconstitutional and therefore unacceptable. It is an invitation to anarchy.”
According to the group, democracy is a farce when government pursues a policy of exclusiveness.
It added, “No section of the community must be alienated in a democracy. Equal participation, liberty, justice and fair play are the key words in any democracy worth its salt.”
“Any attempt to turn governance into the right of only one political party will be a declaration of hostilities on the citizens of Nigeria. We therefore warn against freezing the accounts of known financiers of the opposition or tampering with the flights arranged by them.”
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