Monday, September 23, 2013

New PDP, Presidency Trade Words Over Plans To Withdraw Lawmakers’ Diplomatic Passports

There was controversy in Abuja on Sunday over the alleged move by the Federal Government to withdraw the diplomatic passports of the Senate President, David Mark, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Aminu Tambuwal, and other members of the National Assembly.
A national newspaper, had on Sunday reported that President Goodluck Jonathan  had ordered that the diplomatic passports of all members of the National Assembly be withdrawn.

The  Peoples Democratic Party’s faction, known as the New PDP, condemned the alleged plan , accusing Jonathan of overheating the polity through some of his actions.
The New PDP claimed, in a statement by its National Publicity Secretary, Chukwuemeka Eze, that  the plan to withdraw the lawmakers’ passports was because of their sympathy for  it.
The statement reads in part, “We are worried about the dire implications of the reported directive by the Presidency for the withdrawal of the diplomatic passports of the Senate President,  David Mark,  the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Aminu Tambuwal, and all other members of the National Assembly.
“The directive, according to reports published  on (Sunday), is attributable to the Presidency’s anger over the lawmakers’ sympathy for the progressive faction of the ruling PDP, led by the Alhaji Baraje.
“The implication is that whenever they travel abroad, the 109 Senators and 360 members of the House   would no longer enjoy the special privileges the blue-coloured passport confers on its holder, meaning that they can be arrested like ordinary citizens.”
It  said the directive, if eventually carried out, would only end up unnecessarily overheating the polity. The faction  added that those encouraging the President in this direction were  his true enemies.
The group  therefore advised Jonathan  to consider the consequences of working against the legislators who have stood by him all these years and even introduced the ‘doctrine of necessity’ that brought him to power against the wish of the cabal that sought to exploit the sickness of   President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua(now late) to rule by proxy.
But The Presidency on Sunday faulted the claim by the Baraje faction  , saying the  President was not overheating the polity with some latest steps attributed to him.
In a telephone interview with one of our correspondents, the Special Adviser to the President on Political Matters, Ahmed Gulak, said members of the New PDP  whom  he referred to as “renegades,” were  on a mission to self-destruction.
“The allegation that the President is overheating the polity is not true.  Passports are categorised and diplomatic passports are only given to specific people,” he said.
When contacted, the Special Adviser to the Speaker on Media and Public Affairs, Mr. Imam Imam, told The PUNCH that he was not the competent authority to comment on such matters.
But a source close to the speaker said that his passport was intact.
Also,  the Special Adviser (Media) to the Senate President, Mr. Kola Ologbodiyan, said, “There is no truth in  the rumour.”
However, findings showed that Senators and members of the House of Representatives had already been notified by government that their passports would be withdrawn.
An authoritative   source in the National Assembly Service said  the lawmakers were originally not on the list of those approved to carry diplomatic passports.
According to him , only the Senate President, the Speaker of the House of Representatives and their deputies were listed.
He added that the  Nigerian Immigration Service included them on the list following a   directive by the late President  Yar’Adua.
The source said, “What is happening is that the passports of the Senate President and that of the Speaker are intact. Their own is statutory and the question of withdrawing or withholding them does not arise. Only the passports of Senators and members of the House  are  to be  withdrawn. “They are already  being notified  individually by the Immigration Service through a letter.”
A Senator, who spoke anonymously said he had yet to be notified of the plan. He however said he suspected that only lawmakers who did not return to the National Assembly were affected.

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