Airforce stops southern leaders from Meddle Belt Summit
Some leaders of the south said yesterday they were prevented from flying to Makurdi, the Benus State capital, to attend a meeting of the Southern and Middle Belt regions on restructuring.
They told reporters in Abuja that they were told they could not fly to Makurdi on a charetred aircraft for security reasons.
President-General of Ohaneze Ndigbo Chief John Nwodo, who spoke on their behalf, said they spent about five hours at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja trying to obtain clearance for the journey but were refused, by the Commandant of the Makurdi Airport.
Nwodo said: “We arrived on time for our flight today (yesterday) at 12 noon. The airport commandant disallowed us from flying and said we needed to get permission to land in Makurdi.
“We consider this a 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 treatment prevented us from physical 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.” he said
Mr. Yinka Odumakin added: “As we were about to make payments, they said there was landing permit issues. They called the commandant in Makurdi, who said they should send an application.
“The Chief of Staff to the Benue State governor said we should fax the application to him and to the commandant. We waited at the airport for hours. Eventually, the Chief of Staff had to contact the commandant in Makurdi and was told that the landing permit requested by the first airline was still on their table.”
Some of the leaders later watched the live transmission of the conference in Chief Edwin Clark’s residence.
The group also faulted the Executive Order 6, signed by President Muhammadu Buhari.
Nwodo said: “Secondly, 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 responsibility 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.
“The right to property is a fundamental right in a democracy. It cannot be expropriated here without decision of the court. What has happened to us today shows a continuing tendency to slide into a dictatorship in a democratic government. That is condemnable.”