Lagos, Ogbu, and Abuja — New president offers opposition amnesty
ECOWAS leaders deny recognition
The National Assembly yesterday condemned the usurpation of constitutional powers in Togo and urged the African Union (AU) chairman, President Olusegun Obasanjo, to use any means including military force to reverse the situation.
West African leaders also yesterday in Niamey, Niger Republic denied recognition to the new government. The Nigeria Bar Association (NBA) equally called on Obasanjo and other world leaders to severe relationship with Togo even as the new government offered the opposition amnesty.
Following the death of President Eyadema of Togo last Saturday the Army unilaterally declared his son, Faure Gnassigbe president and prevented the parliament speaker, Fanbare Outtarea Natchaba, who was in Ghana and should have constitutionally taken over pending an election, from returning to the country.
At different sittings yesterday both houses of the National Assembly passsed motions condemning the unconstitutional change of power in Togo.
The Senate decision was predicated upon a motion brought by Senator David Brigidi (PDP, Bayelsa Central) condemning the subversion of constitutional power in Togo and giving power to Eyadema's son, Faure.
The Senate also called on the ECOWAS Parliament to condemn the situation in Togo and dissociate itself from the development even as it directed the Senate President to write to the Togolese Parliament Speaker, who is currently exiled in Ghana, pledging the Senate's support.
Commending France for her opposition to the situation in Togo, the Senate urged Paris to support any action including the use of force against Faure's leadership.
In seconding the motion, the Deputy Senate Leader, Senator Jonathan Silas Zwingina, said Obasanjo should be commended for immediately condemning the coup in Togo.
Deputy Senate President Ibrahim Nasir Mantu described the Togo coup as "shocking and devastating because Togo is not a monarchy. Eyadema was a founding member of ECOWAS and for such to happen in Togo should be condemned.
"We have a role as the highest lawmaking body to lead and show the way to mount pressure to ensure reversal. We have to apply sanctions and make no government to recognise Togo so that it would become a Pariah nation because tomorrow another country might want to emulate them."
The Senate Committee on Commerce chairman, Senator Ibikunle Amosun (PDP, Ogun Central) stated that "if the situation is left unchecked, it would lead to a precedence," adding that "we should use all means including force in consultation with other countries, if necessary."
Other Senators who spoke in favour of the motion were C.K. Awoyelu (PDP, Ekiti State); Usman K. Umar (ANPP, Kano); Saidu Dansadau (ANPP, Zamfara); Mohammed Anka (ANPP, Zamfara); Ken Nnamani (PDP, Enugu); Isaiah Balat (PDP, Kaduna); Patrick Osakwe (PDP, Delta); Bob Ewa-Henshaw (PDP, Cross River); Ike Ekweremadu (PDP, Enugu); Musiliu Obanikoro (AD, Lagos); and, Bode Olowoporoku (PDP, Ekiti).
The House of Representatives equally called on Obasanjo to use his position as Chairman of the AU and a democrat to "vigorously champion the institutionalization of constitutional values in the Republic of Togo".
The lawmakers expressed displeasure that despite existing constitutional provisions on the succession of a Head of State in Togo, the military disregarded the process and got the son of the former president to take over from his late father.
They said such a negation of the country's constitution could no longer be tolerated especially with clauses in the African Union creed, which does not consider intervention in such a circumstance as interference.
They therefore called on Faure to step down and take the path of honour as well as abide by the provisions of the country's constitution regarding transfer of power.
The House further resolved to formally send a protest letter through the Togolese embassy and the ECOWAS Parliament to the Togolese parliament to express their disappointment at its collaboration with the country's military to subvert the Constitution.
They, however, commended the "swift" reaction of the International Community, especially the AU, Economic Community of West African States, the European Union (EU), the United Nations (UN) and the French Government in condemning Faure's action.
The motion, which was sponsored by Hon Halims Agoda and five others received wide acceptance on the floor by the lawmakers.
According to Agoda what happened in Togo was capable of sending a very dangerous signal to other countries and thereby subvert democratic growth.
Hon Ahmed Salik said intervening in such a situation should not be interpreted to mean interference in the internal matters of the country as the charter of the African Union made that very clear.
In the end of discussion the House unanimously agreed that the practice was unacceptable and that everything should be done at ensuring that the provisions of the country's constitution was adhered to.
In Niamey, Niger Republic yesterday, an emergency summit of West African leaders refused to recognise the new leadership of Togo, condemning the transfer of power as a coup.
Regional body, ECOWAS has threatened to impose sanctions unless Togo returns to its original constitution and starts planning presidential elections.
Faure, the son of the late president, was installed as leader after the constitution was changed.
"The heads of states strongly condemn the intervention of the military which resulted in the appointment as president of the son of the deceased president," said ECOWAS leaders at their meeting in Niger Republic.
The group also planned to send a high-level delegation to go to Togo's capital, Lome, to express their objections in person.
The AU, whose chairman, Obasanjo led the ECOWAS summit, has also said it would consider imposing sanctions on Togo unless it restores "constitutional legality".
Also, the NBA has asked Obasanjo and other world leaders to severe relationship with Togo until it toes the path of democracy.
NBA in a statement signed by its president, Bayo Ojo (SAN) condemned and decried the "undemocratic mode of selecting the president," adding that such transition can no longer be accepted in Africa.
The NBA stated that acceptable transition should only be in accordance with the provisions of the country's constitution and that Africans are tired of sit tight and military dictators.
"Only a true democratic transition will be acceptable to the Nigerian Bar Association, failing which we urge President Olusegun Obasanjo and other well meaning world leaders including France to break diplomatic relationship with Togo and isolate it completely from the comity of nations until it is ready to return to the path of democracy."
In his first address to the nation, Faure yesterday offered amnesty to that country's exiled opposition, and promised legislative elections as soon as possible.
Faure speech on state TV and radio yesterday came as a partial strike against his appointment entered a second day in the capital, and as West African leaders prepared to hold an emergency summit yesterday in Niger to discuss the tiny West African country's fate.
The 53-nation African Union has threatened to slap sanctions on Togo after the army declared Faure president Saturday hours after the death of his father.
"We have ordered the release of all common law prisoners and granted amnesty to all political exiled leaders to enable them to join the effort of national reconstruction if they so wish," Faure said in a 10-minute address.
A Togolese opposition leader who lives in Paris, Gilchrist Olympio, is among the most vocal critics of Togo's new government. Olympio's father, Sylvanus Olympio, was the country's first post-independence president, serving for three years before being killed in a 1963 coup that Eyadema was believed to have helped orchestrate.
In his speech, Faure also said, "We have asked the head of government to pursue, in spite of all the difficulties we are going through, the implementation of the pledge and commitment given to the European Union for democratic reform to be pursued ... in order to hold legislative elections as early as possible."
No date was however set for the ballot, and no mention of holding new presidential elections.
The opposition, complaining about the lack of democracy, boycotted the last legislative elections, in 2002, as well as the previous vote, in 1999. Presidential votes in 1993, 1999 and 2003 were reportedly marred by fraud and violence -- and won by Eyadema.
Faure pledged his doors would "remain wide open to all the Togolese opposition leaders for consultation and the holding of dialogue in order to move Togo forward.
"We promise that we will uphold human rights and individual liberties and maintain relations with all international organizations, including ECOWAS and the European Union."
The constitution had stipulated the parliament speaker should take over as president for 60 days until new presidential elections can be called.
After the army unilaterally declared Faure president Saturday, drawing international condemnation, the national assembly on Sunday approved him as speaker, then voted to change the constitution to allow him to fulfill his father's term, which expires in 2008.
The summit in Niger, held by ECOWAS, is expected to identify ways to "restore the constitutional order and organize elections in Togo," the 15-nation regional bloc said in a statement.
At least 10 heads of states, including Obasanjo, Mathieu Kerekou of Benin and Blaise Compaore of Burkina Faso, were to attend the emergency meeting in Niamey, Niger, called by Niger's President Mamadou Tandja, current chairman of ECOWAS.
Faure, has also been invited to the summit, an ECOWAS chief said on condition of anonymity, but it was unclear if he would attend.
Opposition leaders and the African Union likened the irregular move to a military coup. France and Britain also denounced the hand-over of power, urging Togolese authorities to call quick and democratic presidential elections.
Opposition parties called on supporters to strike and stay home to protest for two days starting Tuesday, a day after Faure was officially sworn in as president. The strike call was only heeded in southern districts of the capital where opposition support is strong.
On Wednesday, shops, schools and markets remained closed and streets were deserted in southern Lome. Government offices and banks remained open, however, and life was normal in the northern part of the capital.