Addressing newsmen in Abuja yesterday, Minister of Defence, Dr. Bello Haliru Mohammed said that the deployment of soldiers became imperative following security reports that some persons had concluded plans to hijack the protests and rallies and make the government ungovernable for President Goodluck Jonathan even if the organised labour called off the strike. He explained that soldiers were deployed to give support to the Police.
Flanked by the Minister of State, Defence, Erelu Olusola Obada; the Permanent Secretary, Linus Awute; the minister who noted that the government took the decision to drive away those who were determined to bring down the government and cause crisis, stressed that it was the responsibility of government to stop violence and nip in the bud any plan of anarchy before it occurs.
The Minister said: â€œLet me emphasise that under no circumstances will the government stand aloof while some misguided elements unleash violence on the Nigerian society. As a responsive government, the Goodluck Jonathanâ€™s administration is irrevocably committed to promoting the greatest good for the greatest number of Nigerians irrespective of tribe, religion or political affiliation. As soon as the situation is brought to normal, the soldiers will be withdrawn.â€
It will be recalled that following the deployment of soldiers on the streets of Lagos, the State governor, Babatunde Fashola, on Monday kicked against the move and called for the immediate withdrawal of the military personnel from the streets, saying that there was no justification for it as the rallies in Lagos had been conducted peacefully.
Governor of Ekiti State, Dr. Kayode Fayemi; Nobel Laureate, Professor Wole Soyinka and a number of other Nigerians had also condemned the deployment of soldiers and called on the Federal government to withdraw them.
The Minister commended the efforts of the officers in the rank and file of the Nigerian Armed Forces, the Police and other Security agencies for displaying what he described as enviable maturity, understanding and professionalism in their conduct while the protests and rallies lasted.
Mohammed who said that Nigeria was at the cross road of insecurity, stressed that at the moment, the country does not face any external threat, but bombings which have become a new development in the nationâ€™s history are highly condemnable, even as he commended Nigerians for the peaceful protests and rallies carried out which was an indication that democracy has come to stay.
â€œOn the present insecurity in the country, which is our immediate concern, the bombings, shootings and killings going on in different parts of this country form a new dimension of security problem to this country. Prior to this period we never knew suicide bombing or bombing of any type as a form of protest, but now it has become the reality, it is totally condemnable by all our citizens and all civilized beings all over the world. Therefore it is the responsibility of this government and the Ministry of Defence is in support of this resolve, and we should not waver or get deterred in confronting this senseless act of few misguided elements of this country. We call on all Nigerians to remain calm and go about their lawful businesses while the government is determined to get to the bottom of the causes of this act of violence and remove them from the face of this country.â€
Withdraw soldiers from Lagos, Lawmakers tell Jonathan
Meanwhile members of Lagos State House of Assembly have called on President Goodluck Jonathan to, as a matter of urgency, withdraw the military from the streets of Lagos.
Addressing newsmen yesterday in Lagos, Chairman, House Committee on Information, Segun Olulade stated that the House condemned in strong terms the deployment of military personnel to disrupt peaceful protest in Lagos.
â€œWe view this action on the part of President as provocative and undemocratic particularly in a democratic dispensation. Due respect and courtesy ought to be extended to the deserving authority and failure to do this usually results in chaotic situationsâ€, he noted.
According to him: â€œThis is reminiscence of the sad period of military junta in Nigeria and must be erased completely in our national life. We recognise the right of every citizen to freely express himself and we therefore identify with every citizen engaging in peaceful protest against or in support of any policy of Governmentâ€.
President hid troops deployment from Governors
In a related development, more facts emerged yesterday that President Goodluck Jonathan may not have consulted the governors of the affected states before deploying troops to Lagos and other cities last Sunday ahead of the scheduled Monday rallies and protest called by Labour and Civil Society groups.
A very reliable source who attended a meeting the President held with the governors late Sunday night revealed that at no time did the President ever hint of his intention to deploy troops.
According to the source, the President only discussed the need to rally a nation-wide support for the removal of subsidy in order to boost national revenue and it was learnt that the governors were divided on the timing of the subsidy removal.
Some of the governors who were said to be opposed to the removal of the subsidy by the President were those from the South West states.
Osun State Governor Rauf Aregbesola was particularly said to have told the President of the need to tackle corruption at the Federal level so that monies being stolen by public office holders could be available for national development.
It was learnt that the governor told the meeting that once corruption has been tackled, the Federal and State Governments should then put concrete infrastructure on ground that would empower Nigerians to make economic choices.
His position was said to have been supported by the Ekiti State Governor Kayode Fayemi and Lagos Governor Babatunde Fashola.
It was learnt that the President assured the Governors that he would reduce the pump price of petroleum from N141 in order to get the strike called off.
â€œThis was the final agreement at the meeting before they left Abuja for their states late Sunday night by flight. By the time we got to Lagos around 3.15 am and we were on the road to our state, we were surprised to see soldiers deployed everywhere.
â€œOur convoy was stopped three times by the soldiers and the ADC had to explain who was in the vehicle before we were allowed to continue our journey. We were stopped three times. The decision to deploy the troops was a huge surprise for us as the President never mentioned this and certainly the governors would have been opposed to itâ€ the source said.