November 17, 2008

Controversy trails Daniel, Iyabo-Obasanjo face-off

The Oyo State Governor, Chief Adebayo Alao-Akala, on Sunday described the clash between the Ogun State Governor, Otunba Gbenga Daniel and the Chairman, Senate Committee on Health, Senator Iyabo Obasanjo-Bello, in Ogbomoso on Saturday as most unfortunate.

Daniel and the daughter of the former President Olusegun Obasanjo were among hundreds of dignitaries who graced the wedding of the daughter of Alao-Akala, Olamide; and her husband, Mr. Olayode Alabi.

The incident drew the attention of guests at the First Baptist Church, Okelerin, Ogbomoso, venue of the wedding. This forced Alao-Akala to demand that the programme be rounded off on time to avoid a major clash.

Alao-Akala, who spoke through his Special Adviser on Public Communication, Mr. Dotun Oyelade, told our correspondent on the phone on Sunday afternoon that the governor viewed the incident as very embarrassing.

He insisted that the duo carried over the disagreement between them to his party and that the incident should have been avoided in the church.

He said, “The governor will not make further comments on the issue. I can assure you that the incident was an importation of a local politics that would not distract the governor from the sublime and profound joy of the occasion.”

However, a clearer picture of what actually happened during the church service between Daniel and Obasanjo-Bello emerged on Sunday when our correspondent learnt that the clash did not take place on the dancing floor.

Contrary to media reports, it was learnt that Obasanjo-Bello, who sat directly behind Daniel, was checked by a security aide of the governor that her movements was disturbing his boss.

Rather than taking the coreection in good faith, Obasanjo-Bello, allegedly hit the security man on the chest, a situation that drew the attention of everybody in the church.

Efforts by our correspondent to get a detailed account from the church authorities failed on Sunday. But a guest who sat close to the scene explained on a condition of anonymity, that the security man went to Obasanjo Bello when he discovered that his boss was feeling uncomfortable with the Senator’s head-gear and her body movements.

Meanwhile, the Senate has said it cannot do anything about the alleged physical assault on an aide of Daniel until it hears from Obasanjo-Bello.

The Chairman of the Senate Committee on Information and Media, Senator Ayogu Eze said this in a telephone interview with our Correspondent, on Sunday.

Panel to probe Rear Admiral, six naval ratings begins sitting today

The board of enquiry set up by the Naval Headquarters to investigate the assault on a lady, Miss Uzoma Okere, by some naval ratings will begin sitting in Lagos today.

Investigation revealed that the four-man board headed by the Flag Officer Commanding, Western Naval Command, Lagos, Rear Admiral Sylvester Umosen, has only a week to complete its assignment.

A top naval source, who made this known to one of our correspondents on Sunday, said the Chief of Naval Staff, Vice-Admiral Isaiah Ibrahim, inaugurated the committee in Abuja on Friday.

Uzoma, daughter of the Sergeant-At-Arms of the National Assembly, Col. Emmanuel Okere (rtd.), was assaulted and stripped in public by six naval ratings attached to the Flag Officer Commanding, Naval Logistic Command, Oghara, Delta State, Rear Admiral Harry Arogundade, in Lagos on November 3.

Arogundade was subsequently summoned to the Defence Headquarters in Abuja last week over the incident which had been widely condemned within and outside the country.

Our source told one of our correspondents in Warri that the Chief of Defence Staff, Air Chief Marshall Paul Dike, had on Saturday directed the panel to move to Lagos in order to facilitate its access to principal witnesses required for the thorough execution of its assignment.

He said that the panel was given seven terms of reference, which included ascertaining the culpability of Arogundade and his subordinates in the assault on the 27-year-old lady.

It was learnt on Sunday that Uzoma and other victims of the November 3 incident had also been invited to appear before the Umosen-led panel.

Our source said, “The board of enquiry set up the naval authorities to probe the incident of November 3 in Lagos in which a lady claimed that she was assaulted by the naval ratings attached to our FOC (Arogundade) will commence public sitting in Lagos on Monday, November 17.

“It is a four-man panel with the FOC in charge of the Western Naval Command, Lagos, Rear Admiral Umosen, as chairman.

“In view of the latest development, our FOC (Arogundade) and the six ratings attached to him are now in Lagos in readiness for the panel’s inaugural sitting tomorrow (today).

“The lady who claimed that she was assaulted by the naval men and eyewitnesses are expected to also appear before the panel apparently to provide useful information on the incident.”

When contacted on the telephone, Umosen confirmed that the panel would sit in Lagos from today.

He said, “I can confirm to you that I am the chairman of the board of enquiry on the incident (assault on Uzoma) and we are starting our assignment in Lagos tomorrow (today).

“But I am not prepared to speak further on the matter for now. You may wish to call back next week when we must have concluded our job for further clarification on the issue.”

Meanwhile, the Action Congress has warned that it will not allow the assault on Uzoma to be swept under the carpet.

It said in a statement by its National Publicity Secretary, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, that efforts must be made to stop such attacks by military personnel on civilians.

The party also expressed the hope that the investigation into the attack on Uzoma would lead to the prosecution of all those found culpable, irrespective of their ranks.

It added that the “brutal and barbaric attack” on the lady had highlighted a problem that was not limited to the Navy, the Army or the Air Force, but the Police.

The statement reads in part, ”Everyday across Nigeria, the police engage in senseless attacks and extra-judicial killings of the same citizens they are paid to protect, using the guns purchased for them through taxpayers‘ funds.

“The unfortunate case of Ms. Okere should be an opportunity to take a holistic look at these attacks and bring an end to them.‘‘

It said bullion vans escorted by the police across the country drive around “so recklessly, harassing, maiming and killing innocent citizens, yet they carry no number plates by which they could be identified.”

The AC said, ”This is illegal and we hereby call on the Inspector-General of Police to order the arrest of bullion van drivers whose vehicles do not have number plates.

“This is a serious issue, as offending bullion vans can never be traced under the present, inexplicable system whereby the menacing vans cruise around without number plates.”

Apart from the problem of bullion vans, the party said the police, especially in Lagos, had recently started targeting upwardly mobile young men and women around Ikoyi, Ikeja, Victoria Island, among others, under the guise of carrying out ‘stop and search.’

It said, “This harassment must stop before it snowballs into another deadly chain of extra-judicial killings. The police can carry out their important responsibility of ensuring the security of lives and property without killing and maiming the same people they are paid to protect.‘‘

The party commended Governor Babatunde Fashola of Lagos State for his pro-active efforts to stem the harassment and attacks on defenseless civilians by banning the use of sirens in the state.

AC also praised Fashola for backing Uzoma.