The Presidency on Wednesday clarified the status of the former Director-General of the Department of State Service (DSS), Mr. Lawal Daura, who was dismissed last week, saying he was being debriefed contrary to reports that he was under detention.
Making this disclosure while appearing on ARISE NEWS television programme, Morning Show, anchored by former presidential spokesman, Mr. Reuben Abati, the president’s media adviser, Mr. Femi Adesina, explained that given the sensitive nature of Daura’s schedule, it was necessary for him to interact more with his replacement, Mr. Matthew Seiyefa, in order to do proper handover of his former office.
Daura was fired last week by Acting President Yemi Osinbajo, following the siege to the National Assembly by hooded and heavily armed operatives of the DSS, reportedly on his orders.
Osinbajo said the siege was an unauthorised assault on the rule of law that gravely embarrassed the federal government.
He ordered an enquiry into the incidence, necessitating the interrogation of Daura by the police, which took him into custody.
But Adesina told Abati on Arise TV that somebody of the status of Daura with a lot of security matters at his disposal has to be properly debriefed before he can be totally freed, revealing, for instance, that before Daura’s sack, the government was already inching towards a breakthrough on the release of Leah Sharibu.
He also disagreed with Abati that Daura is intentionally being detained instead of being charged to court if found culpable in any act, saying denying him freedom for now is rather a necessary move not only to debrief him but also to ensure that he properly hands over to his successor.
He disclosed that the level of progress made so far by the sacked DG on Leah Sharibu’s case, for instance, needs to be handed over to his successor, adding that Daura recorded some levels of progress before his ill-fated exit.
Leah was one of the 110 Dapchi schoolgirls kidnapped earlier in the year by Boko Haram.
She was held back by the terrorist group when her peers were freed, following her refusal to renounce her Christian faith.
But Adesina said, “I wouldn’t call that detention really. You know that a person of that caliber (Daura) needed to be debriefed and he needs to hand over properly. This is security. On security at that level, you don’t ask the man to go. No. There must be proper debriefing and handing over. Whether we like it or not, there were some milestone achievements under Daura – the Chibok girls’ kidnap, which happened under the government you (Abati) served, on which there was no headway (the release of some of them happened under Daura).
“There is this problem that it is not everything that the hunter sees in the forest that he talks about. But at the risk of revealing something, l know that a breakthrough was about being achieved about Leah Sharibu before what happened to the DG, DSS happened.
“Then, do you think he should walk away without handing over to whoever is succeeding him? That is why there has to be that interface between him and his former subordinates who are now running the show for awhile.”
Asked to reveal the untold story behind the ill-fated take-over of the National Assembly on August 7, by the DSS, Adesina who said the story was not a secret, added that the DSS move on that day had the tendency to harm democracy, portray the government in bad light and consequently, Daura was fired.
He affirmed that the presidency was not consulted before that decision was taken, pointing out that even if consultation had been made on the matter, the presidency might still not have approved it.
He added, “People always want to hear what they think is the story. The story has been told that there was a blockade at the National Assembly, which was not authorised and it had the tendency of hurting democracy. It had the tendency of making government look bad and the person, who was behind that blockade, faced the music. If there was consultation, the presidency might not have authorised it.”
Jonathan Secretly Got Release of Some Chibok Girls
During the interview, Abati revealed for the first time that the administration of former President Goodluck Jonathan, in which he served, successfully secured the release of some of the Chibok schoolgirls kidnapped on April 14, 2014.
According to Abati, unlike the current administration of Buhari, which he said celebrated the release of some of the girls with fanfare, the then National Security Adviser (NSA), Col. Sambo Dasuki (rtd.), advised the government of Jonathan not to make the release public with a view to safeguarding the identities of the freed girls.
In his drive to authenticate his disclosure, Abati asked Adesina to cross-check the information with the DSS and National Intelligence Agency (NIA).
Abati said, “There was headway. We rescued many of the girls but the advice from the National Security Adviser at the time was that we should not publicise it because of the identities of those girls. I witnessed it on many occasions. Those girls were brought to the president.
“He met with them. In fact, some of them were sent to schools in the United States and United Kingdom. There were strict instructions not to publicise it because government thought that the identities of those girls should not be exposed. But l saw you guys making a dance out of the ones you rescued. In our time, we rescued some girls but we were under strict instruction not to publicise it. Check the records. The DSS, the intelligence agency, you should ask them. They will have the records.”
But in a swift reaction, Adesina said if some of the girls were rescued by Jonathan’s administration, that implied that the number of the girls reportedly kidnapped in view of those released so far and the ones said to be outstanding was inaccurate.
“That will mean that the number of the girls that is outstanding now is not correct because under this government, 106 [he later confirmed in a telephone conversation with THISDAY that it was 110 that secured freedom under this government and not 106] of them have returned and it was publicised, and that 106 (110), if subtracted from 276 (bearing in mind that 52 escaped), what is on record is that about 114 of them are outstanding. If some of them were recovered under the Jonathan presidency and the public did not know, then it means that the figure outstanding is not 114,” Adesina insisted.
He also used the platform to clarify the comment earlier ascribed to him that it was better for people to surrender their land or get killed, saying those who circulated the story only chose a small part of the video to justify their intentions.
According to him, giving out land for ranching is not a compulsion, explaining that he only drew that comment from a statement made earlier by former President Olusegun Obasanjo that it was better to farm on the soil than to be under the soil.
Against that background, Adesina who said he stood by his comment, explained further that he only meant that it was better to be alive on one’s land than to die while holding on to it.
He explained, “Twist and slams. You know you can take a small part of a video to also justify what you want to achieve. You won’t take the totality of what the speaker said. There is the totality of what l said which l stand by and that was, ‘anybody that has land, talking of states not even individuals – any state that has land and offers it, the federal government will take it and build tranches.’
“It is a coalition of willing people but anybody that says ‘we don’t have land,’ as Benue had said, some other states also said ‘we don’t have land,’ it is not by compulsion. It is not by force. But then, l now recalled what Obasanjo said when he came out of jail.
He said ‘it’s better to be a farmer on the soil than under the soil’ and l then said, ‘okay, those who said we don’t have land, is it not better to be alive on your land than to be dead because you chose to hold on to land?’ So, that is the totality of what l said and l stand by it today, tomorrow and any day.’
Told that many Nigerians were unhappy with that comment, Adesina said that was so “because some people took the latter part of what l said and began to share it out of malice and ill will.”
On why the government opts to be silent on the alleged certificate scandal involving the Minister of Finance, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun, Adesina disagreed, saying, “When you said the government has done nothing, that is not quite right because nothing means nothing.
“Something had been done, which the Minister of Information told the country. NYSC is looking into it. NYSC is the relevant agency to look into it and when it has concluded its investigations, it will come out and tell us its findings.”
On the freezing of Benue and Akwa Ibom States’ accounts, the media adviser said, “That one, l won’t be able to speak on it. The EFCC purportedly did it. EFCC spokesman is the one that can speak on that, and when it happened, the president has not been around.”
Buhari Returns Weekend
Adesina also said Buhari would certainly return to the country this weekend from his current 10-day working vacation in London.
Probing him further if Buhari would not return to London soon after arriving Nigeria this weekend, Abati told Adesina that some Nigerians were already insinuating that the president would yet return there because he is believed to like London. But responding, Adesina said: “Some Nigerians can say anything.”
The president’s spokesman, who also said he could freely communicate with the president despite being far away, added that he could speak with Buhari two to three times a day if necessary.
The president had embarked on a vacation to London on August 3 after transmitting power to his deputy, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo.
Shehu: Buhari Considering Third Electoral Act Amendment Bill
Meanwhile, Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Malam Garba Shehu, last night in Abuja denied media reports that Buhari vetoed the 2018 Electoral Act (Amendment) Bill because he was opposed to the use of permanent voter cards and card readers, explaining that a third amendment bill on the same subject was being considered by the president.
Shehu said in a statement that the reports were incorrect.
According to him, the bill was sent to the president on June 28 by the National Assembly after which he said Buhari discovered a range of errors and inconsistencies in the bill and consequently contacted the National Assembly over the errors.
He said the president’s observations on the bill prompted the National Assembly’s decision to review it on July 24.
He said, “Our attention has been drawn to incorrect and misleading reporting in several newspapers regarding the status of the Electoral Act (Amendment) Bill, 2018.
“The Presidency would like to set out the true status of the bill. The Electoral Act (Amendment) Bill, 2018 was sent by the National Assembly to the presidency at the end of June 2018, for assent.
“Following extensive consideration, the Presidency engaged with the National Assembly to raise concerns regarding errors and inconsistencies found in the submitted version. Following this, the National Assembly, on July 24, 2018, met to review and correct the bill.
“The bill was given, on July 24, 2018, a ‘clause by clause consideration’ by the Senate.
“The Votes and Proceedings from the Senate on July 24, 2018, attest to this. The Senate resolved to rescind its decision on a number of clauses included in the version they had earlier sent for consideration by the president, and to reconsider these clauses.
“According to the Senate Votes and Proceedings of Tuesday July 24, 2018: ‘The Senate: … notes that in the course of final cleaning of the Bill as passed, some provisions were found to negate the essence of the amendment; [and] Resolves to: Rescind its decision on Clauses 3,5,8,11(2), 13(b), 14 (4), 15(3), 18,21,23,24,28,32 and 38 of the Bill as passed, and recommit same to Committee of the whole for reconsideration and passage.”
Furthermore, Shehu said the reviewed bill was passed same July 24 and the Senate adjourned plenary on the same day to September 25.
He said consequently the reviewed bill was transmitted to the president on August 2, a day before he proceeded on vacation in London, explaining that he has 30 days within which the bill must be signed and hence, it is still under consideration.
The presidential spokesman added that against this background, the report that the president withheld his assent to the bill in expression of his objection to the use of PVCs and card readers was baseless.
Instead, he described the president as a staunch advocate of the use of both PVCs and card readers.
He added, “The re-considered Bill was passed by the Senate on July 24, 2018 the same day that plenary was adjourned to September 25, 2018. “The revised Version of the Electoral Act (Amendment) Bill, 2018, with corrections by the National Assembly, and dated the 2nd of August, 2018, was received by the Presidency on the 3rd of August, 2018.
“The President has 30 days from the date of receipt, to assent to or decline the Bill. The Bill is therefore still under consideration by the Presidency.
“The allegations that the President declined assent to the Bill because of objections to the use of card readers are wild and baseless. President Buhari did not and has never raised any objections to the use of Card Readers for elections in Nigeria.
“On the contrary, he has always been a passionate advocate for the use of PVCs and Card Readers in elections in Nigeria, mindful of the role that Card Readers and PVCs played in the election that brought him into office. And he has repeatedly made this clear, and praised these technologies.”
To buttress his position, he recalled the recent words of the president, hailing the advent of card readers and PVCs into the nation’s electoral system.
He quoted him as saying, “I tried [running for President] three times, and ended up in court three times. The fourth time, I eventually made it, thanks to God and thanks to technology.
“These Permanent Voters Cards (PVCs) and Card Readers, they’re fantastic. Those who went to their polling booths in their constituencies, and put in their votes, their votes counted.
“Before, votes were disregarded, [results] were just written, and there was nothing you could do before the [Judiciary] to prove your case. But now with technology, it has been made easy.
“That is why I keep on appealing to the Governors, to please do voter education. Tell the people that their Voters Card is their national card, so to speak.
“Let them vote anybody they want across ethnicity and religion. I’m begging the Governors to please continue to do voter education, so that people will take their Permanent Voters Cards seriously, and make sure they don’t lose them.”
Shehu added that none of the clauses reviewed and revised by the National Assembly in the bill relates to the issue of electronic voting or the use of card readers.