Pro-democracy activists embarked on a protest at the National Assembly to seek the removal of the Minister of Defence, Bello Muhammad Matawalle, over the worsening insecurity in the nation.
The protesters carried several banners with inscriptions demanding Matawalle’s sack, over alleged complicity in the crisis especially in Zamfara state.
The protesters under the aegis of the Civil Society Advocacy Groups for Accountability and Probity also accused the defence Minister of links to bandits responsible for the loss of lives and property in northern Nigeria.
They called on the Senate President, Godswill Akpabio to exert his influence on President Bola Ahmed Tinubu to ensure Matawalle is relieved of his job.
Spokesperson for the group of protesters, Danesi Momoh, claimed that the Defence Minister has a lot of explanations to make especially with his recent indictment by a panel set up by the Zamfara State government.
In a petition read during the protest, Momoh said,”…For a Senate that has since inauguration, been preaching anti-corruption and socioeconomic hygiene, allowing a man of questionable character like Bello Matawalle pass your screening without you doing anything to remedy it when the facts are out is a direct mockery of your avowed legislative objectives.
“Your Excellency would recall that many well-meaning Nigerians were vehemently opposed to Matawelle’s appointment as a Minister of the Federal Republic following his antecedents as the Governor of Zamfara State.
“A Defence Portfolio to an inefficient and corrupt leader who allegedly romanced bandits was perhaps one of the biggest mistakes of this administration, but it can be corrected with the Senate giving a voice in that direction.
“Note that Bello Matawalle’s criminal hoarding of all utility vehicles belonging to the Zamfara State Government shortly after exiting power, and the hullabaloo that greeted his unsportsmanlike behaviour portray him as somebody who suffers kleptomania and also a direct enemy of progress and development.
“We are afraid this might be replicated in the Ministry of Defence at the detriment of our patriotic Military. Governor Dauda Lawal had to fight to recover those vehicles and save the impoverished people of Zamfara State from further depleting their meagre resources in the purchase of new vehicles when they already had many, but which were stolen.
“There are high standards expected of a Minister of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. They must be persons of unquestionable character and proven integrity. Unfortunately, the glaring revelations by the Zamfara State Government have shown Matawalle to be very deficit in character and lacking in integrity.
“On Friday, October 20, 2023, he spuriously denied the allegation of embezzling billions of Naira through the Zamfara Cargo Airport project; a development that pushed the State Government to reel out evidence backing the allegations.
“The evidence contained pictures and updates on financial records about the uncompleted Gusau International (Cargo) Airport project.
“If a barefaced liar like Matawelle is allowed to remain in power as the Minister of Defence or in any other capacity, the funds meant for fighting insecurity and indeed protecting our territorial integrity will not only be embezzled but end up in the hands of bandits and terrorists with no sense of accountability.
“Your Excellency, details of Matawalle’s financial malfeasance and administrative rascality as has now been made public is nauseating and frightening. Something urgent has to be done. And we call on the Senate to weigh in to ensure that he is immediately removed to restore some hope in good governance.
“Let us also assure you that we know how limited your role could be, but it is very important that in the national interest, you play that role. We shall also be mounting pressure on President Bola Ahmed Tinubu whose table the buck stops directly to replace him. All the Senate needs is to play its part.”
It further read, “Matawalle is a national security danger and a man of tainted personality. He is unfit to be a member of the Federal Executive Council. The Senate should help in easing him off the public office space”.
Malam Salihu Abdullahi, the Director Sergeant at Arms of the National Assembly who received the petition on behalf of the Senate President expressed satisfaction with the peaceful and orderly conduct of the protesters adding that he will convey their grievances to the appropriate quarters.