Olusola Fabiyi, Abuja
Some members of Southern and Middle Belt Forum led by Chief Edwin Clark, said on Monday in Abuja, that they were stopped from travelling to Makurdi to attend the Middle Belt summit on restructuring.
They claimed that their chartered flight was stopped from flying to the Benue State capital under the pretence of security clearance.
They said that they were told that they needed a clearance before they could land at the Makurdi airport.
Spokesperson for the group, who is also the President General of Ohaneze Ndigbo, Chief John Nwodo, said the elders spent about five hours at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja, trying to obtain a clearance to make the journey but were refused by the Commandant of the Makurdi Airport, whose name was given as Lt. Commander A. Audu.
He regretted that the clearance was not given.
He said it was sad that the country was becoming a military state.
He said, “We arrived in time for our flight today at 12 noon, the airport commandant disallowed us from flying and said we needed to go and get permission to land in Makurdi.
“We consider this fundamental infringement on our democratic rights of freedom of movement and freedom of association. There is nothing in our law precluding us from moving to wherever we like, from holding an opinion in so far as we do not breach any law in Nigeria.
“What has happened to us today expresses a lot of doom for fundamental human rights in our country, for the free exchange of ideas as unavoidable instruments of achieving growth and development of our polity.
“We deprecate the treatment that we were given today, which prevented us from physically joining our brethren in the Middle Belt in a common view which we all hold, a very patriotic view, which we think will be the only way to guarantee the future of our country.”
Nwodo, who spoke in the company of other members of the group at the Abuja residence of Clark, said that they wanted to show solidarity with the Middle Belt people who he said had supported the forum.
He said he and other members of the forum who were denied access to the event watched the live telecast of the event on television.
He said, “Please publicise this for many reasons. One, the people that you saw on the television in the Middle Belt are our brethren who showed us solidarity in other zonal summits. The fact that we were barred from showing them this solidarity is bound to hurt them.
“Through this press conference, we want to express our solidarity with them. We want them to know that we are one and the same in our views of the restructuring of the federation.
“Secondly, (we need) to deprecate this new tendency. Not too long ago, the President signed into law an Executive order, which gives him the right to seize people’s assets. This is almost like a military government. And we think that this is an intrusion into the principles of separation of powers in our country.
“It is the responsibilities of the legislature to make law, of the executive to implement the law and the judiciary to interpret the law. I do not think that Section 5 of the Constitution gives the President such executive authority to make laws.”