The Opposition party alleges that the supervising Minister of Defence is an interested party in the Nasarawa crisis.
The All Progressives Congress, APC, has demanded that Information Minister, Labaran Maku, be relieved of his new assignment as the Supervising Minister of Defence.
The opposition party alleged that Mr. Maku was an interested party in the spiraling crisis ravaging Nasarawa State, where the Federal Government ordered the deployment of troops to help end the violence that has claimed several lives and destroyed hundreds of houses.
In a statement by its National Publicity Secretary, Lai Mohammed, on Thursday, the party said the fact that Mr. Maku is of the Eggon ethnic group, to which the Ombatse cult/militia group behind the Nasarawa crisis had been linked made his new role as the Supervising Minister of Defence, untenable.
It added that even if the minister had no sympathy for the rampaging Ombatse, whatever action he would take in his new capacity – as far as the Nasarawa violence was concerned – would be open to
misinterpretation and allegation of bias, which could in turn aggravate the crisis.
Mr. Maku was directed by Mr. Jonathan to supervise the Defence Ministry following last week’s sack of the Minister of State for Defence, Olusola Obada.
Until Mrs. Obada was sacked alongside eight other ministers, the ministry had no senior minister.
”This is why we believe that the most prudent thing to do is for President Goodluck Jonathan to immediately take the Defence Ministry portfolio from Mr. Maku. This is in line with international best practice,” the APC said.
The party said the minister himself had not helped matters by the comments he made in an interview he granted the BBC on Thursday, in which he insinuated that the Nasarawa State Government had not initiated dialogue with stakeholders as a way of ending the crisis, and in which he tried to downplay the critical role that the state government had played in curtailing the activities of the Ombatse cult/ethnic militia that had been engaged in senseless killings and plundering in the state.
”In both instances, the minister has been economical with the truth,” the opposition party noted. “In the first instance, Minister Maku was invited to several meetings in the wake of the Ombatse attacks on Assakio and Agyaragu last year and the Alakyo massacre of security agents this year.
“He neither attended nor sent his apologies despite the invitations extended to him to be part of the meetings with traditional rulers, national and state legislators, as well as political and public office holders at federal and state levels, among others.
”At the instance of the State Government, several meetings have also been held with Eggon leaders and the Eggon Cultural and Development Association, ECDA, to no avail. It is therefore blatantly wrong for the minister, or anyone for that matter, to say the State Government has not initiated dialogue as a means of resolving the crisis.
”Also, the State Governor has been briefing the President, on a regular basis, over the crisis. He has requested for the deployment to the state of a Mobile Police Squadron as well as troops. While the requests were granted, the deployments are just about being carried
out, yet Minister Maku gave an erroneous impression concerning the role of the State Government in curtailing the crisis.
”Thirdly, the State Government has compiled and sent to the Federal Government, the names and addresses of the suspected leaders and major players in Ombatse, the perpetrator of the violence. The State Government has also instituted a Judicial Commission of Inquiry into the violence, while assisting the victims of the violence state-wide.
It is therefore an act of blatant mischief to try to belittle the role of the State Government in ending the needless crisis.”
The party said the fact that the minister and indeed any prominent Eggon citizen had yet to condemn Ombatse’s endless attacks on innocent citizens as well as security operatives, was enough evidence of where their sympathy lied.