Security agencies are probing former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s claim that about 1,000 Nigerians have been placed under watch by the Federal Government.
The probe, which is being coordinated by the Office of the National Security Adviser (NSA), may be extended to similar allegations raised by Rivers State Governor Rotimi Amaechi and a former Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, Mallam Nasir El-Rufai, a source said.
Besides, members of the Governing Council of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) have started consultations on how to approach the petition sent to the commission by President Goodluck Jonathan.
A source said the commission would follow the rules of procedures in treating Jonathan’s petition.
All security agencies are involved in the probe of the allegation of training of snipers to deal with 1,000 Nigerians on a watch-list, it was learnt.
The security agencies were reportedly mandated to go deep into the veracity or otherwise of the allegations.
A top source said: “I can confirm that investigation of security issues in Obasanjo’s letter, especially the training of snipers, is ongoing.
“We have resorted to discreet investigation because of the sensitive matters raised in the letter. These are not what you put in the public domain at this initial stage because it might be prejudiced by political consideration.
“And if you look at the letter, it contained political issues mixed with security concerns. So, we decided to be careful not to play to the gallery because national security is at stake.
“The proper thing is to conduct an in-depth probe devoid of any political colour because Obasanjo might have some privileged information unknown to the government.
“And Obasanjo might also be acting on false reports. Yet, we must look at all angles knowing full well that whatever we do today will be on record for the succeeding administrations.”
Asked how long the investigation will take, the top source replied: “As soon as practicable, but I think within one month, we should go far.
“In the midst of this probe, some highly-placed Nigerians like Governor Rotimi Amaechi and a former Minister of FCT, Mallam Nasir El-Rufai, have declared that they are on the watch-list.
“We may ask them to oblige us information at their disposal in confidence as responsible citizens.”
The source said since the President, in a counter-letter, came up with allegation of subversion against Obasanjo, the probe will examine his claim.
Members of the Governing Council of the National Human Rights Commission following the “weighty” nature of Jonathan’s petition, have been calling for an early meeting this month.
A source in the Council said the Rules of Procedures would be strictly applied in treating Jonathan’s petition.
The source said: “Members are eager to meet on Jonathan’s petition because of the public interest attached to it. We have been consulting and we will meet this month.
“When we meet, we will decide whether or not to raise an adhoc committee to investigate his complaint. The assurance I can give you is that we will follow the Rules of Procedures put in place by the Commission.”
A copy of the Rules of Procedures was obtained last night by our correspondent.
Rule 65 of the procedures reads in part: “It shall be the responsibility and function of the Governing Council to decide on petitions, cases and complaints of violations of human rights received from individuals, or other persons, or communities.
“Council may delegate any of its roles with respect to the preparation, investigation or mediation of complaints to the Executive Secretary or any other person or expert designated by it.
“The Executive Secretary shall, at each session, present to the Council, a list of all complaints received, the procedures undertaken by the Secretariat, and the proposals or remedies for consideration or decision by the Commission.”
In his December 3 letter to the President, Obasanjo wrote:
“Allegation of keeping over 1000 people on political watch list rather than criminal or security watch list and training snipers and other armed personnel secretly and clandestinely acquiring weapons to match for political purposes like Abacha and training them where Abacha trained his own killers, if it is true, it cannot augur well for the initiator, the government and the people of Nigeria.
“Here again, there is the lesson of history to learn from anybody who cares to learn from history.
“Mr President would always remember that he was elected to maintain security for all Nigerians and protect them. And no one should prepare to kill or maim Nigerians for personal or political ambition or interest of anyone.
“The Yoruba adage says: ‘The man with whose head coconut is broken may not live to savour the taste of the succulent fruit.’
“Those who advise you to go hard on those who oppose you are your worst enemies. Democratic politics admits and is permissive of supporters and opponents.”
In his reponse on December 22, Dr. Jonathan wrote:
“The most invidious accusation in your letter is the allegation that I have placed over 1,000 Nigerians on a political watch list, and that I am training snipers and other militia to assassinate people. Baba, I don’t know where you got that from but you do me grave injustice in not only lending credence to such baseless rumours, but also publicising it. You mentioned God 17 times in your letter. Can you as a Christian hold the Bible and say that you truly believe this allegation?
“The allegation of training snipers to assassinate political opponents is particularly incomprehensible to me.
“Regarding the over 1,000 people you say are on a political watch list, I urge you to kindly tell Nigerians who they are and what agencies of government are “watching” them. Your allegation that I am using security operatives to harass people is also baseless. Nigerians are waiting for your evidence of proof. That was an accusation made against previous administrations, including yours, but it is certainly not my style and will never be. Again, if you insist on the spurious claim that some of your relatives and friends are being harassed, I urge you to name them and tell Nigerians what agencies of my administration are harassing them.”