In what amounts to a state-sponsored mayhem, the Nigeria Police yesterday attempted to stop the speaker of House of Representatives Aminu Tambuwal and other lawmakers from entering the National Assembly to preside over a special session on the extension of emergency rule in three north-eastern states, a development that forced the legislators to scale the gate to gain entrance into the complex.
However, the ‘no entry’ plan backfired, leaving in its wake pandemonium as lawmakers, staff and visitors to the National Assembly were forced to inhale tear gas fired into the National Assembly premises by policemen after it became apparent to them that they had failed to stop the speaker and other legislators from gaining access to their chamber.
At exactly 10:50 am, security operatives led by the commissioner of police in charge of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Wilson Inalegwu, shut the gates and blocked Tambuwal’s convoy from gaining access into the National Assembly premises.
A statement issued later by the Force public relations officer, Ag. CP Emmanuel Ojukwu, claimed that the police were acting on an ‘intelligence report’ of a likely invasion of the House of Representatives by hoodlums.
LEADERSHIP reports that the only people that accompanied the speaker were fellow legislators and his aides.
Curiously, at 10:21am, the deputy speaker, Hon Emeka Ihedioha, with his full official protocol and convoy, was allowed access into the National Assembly unhindered.
At a point, Tambuwal came down from his official car, formally introduced himself to security operatives manning the locked gates and demanded to see the commanding officer.
‘’Gentlemen, my names are Aminu Waziri Tambuwal, and I am the speaker of the House of Representatives. I am here as our constitution demands to go in and preside over the sitting of the House. Officers, I would like to know who the commanding officer is here. Can you identify me as the speaker of this House?” he asked.
The police officers at the gate remained mute after he asked the question and the FCT police boss was seen muttering something and walking away from the gate.
When the response did not come, Tambuwal stepped back about five yards and stood in the sun surrounded by fellow lawmakers and aides.
After a 30-minute wait, he was tipped that a small gate was half open and he subsequently marched swiftly alongside a few lawmakers and made his way in before the police could realise what he was about to do.
Tambuwal forced to walk into the chambers on foot
Rising from the shock, the police quickly moved to close the entrance, leaving other lawmakers stranded outside. Faced with no other option to get access to the chambers, the lawmakers adjusted their clothes and resorted to climbing over the high metal gate. The lawmakers included the minority leader Femi Gbajabiamila (Lagos), his deputy Suleiman Abdulrahman Kawu (Kano), Bimbo Daramola (Ekiti), Samuel Adejare (Lagos) and a host of others.
Police Fire Tear gas Into Reps Chamber
But if the legislators thought they had beaten the police to their game and would now rest, they soon discovered they were wrong.
This time, the drama took a dangerous a turn as Tambuwal and other lawmakers approached the National Assembly lobby, popularly called ‘White House’. It connects both chambers of the National Assembly – the House and the Senate.
The police on sighting the speaker and his entourage fired three tear gas canisters at them. The security operatives also went into the lobby and fired more tear gas canisters into the lobby.
Amidst the commotion caused by the tear gas, Tambuwal’s aides rushed in and provided him with a handkerchief to cover his nostrils. But, unfortunately, two of his aides fainted after inhaling the noxious gas. Others scampered to safety as the speaker was shepherded into the chamber.
House minority leader, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, said: “What happened in the National Assembly today will forever live in infamy. I never thought I would see the day when I would be forced to climb over the assembly gates where I work, to gain access into the chambers.”
In the chamber, Senate president David Mark came in to intervene but his attempt was met with hostility from House members.
Hon. Aliyu Gebi (Bauchi/APC) made a threatening move towards the Senate president but he was quickly restrained. Another lawmaker, Abdulmalik Cheche (Niger/APC), grabbed the Senate president by the shoulder and shook him vigorously. Other lawmakers also booed and rained invectives on him, forcing him to leave the chamber.
Reps Decline Assent On Emergency Rule Extension
Ask Jonathan to exercise constitutional power to deploy troops.
Meanwhile, the House yesterday declined assent on the request by President Goodluck Jonathan for the extension of emergency rule for the fourth time in the north-eastern states of Adamawa, Borno and Yobe states.
After an executive session, the House, through its spokesman, Hon. Zakari Mohammed, told journalists at a briefing that the House concluded that there was no need for extension of emergency rule for the fourth time in a row since it had failed to produce the desired result of restoring peace in the troubled areas.
The House, however, advised the president to, instead, exercise his constitutional powers to deploy troops to any troubled part of the country whenever the need arises.
“Based on Hon Leo Ogor’s motion, we have not extended the emergency rule, rather we have asked the president to rely on the Section 8 of the Armed Forces Act which empowers him to deploy the military to troubled spots of the country. We relied on that, bearing in mind that if we had approved this today, it would have been the fourth in the series.
“You remember the request for emergency rule started in May 2013; therefore, we have done three extensions. If we had extended today, that would have been the fourth in the series, and in anything you are doing, you should be able to take stock to see whether or not that action you are taking is yielding results.
“We would be doing more good if Mr President relies on that more because if we are adopting a particular stand and is not giving us desired result, we should be able to change course. And the armed forces are to be empowered to deploy soldiers or members of the armed forces to any troubled point of this country, to take necessary action.
“So, all these are ancillary. That is, they are the fortress on which that motion was moved by Hon. Leo Ogor, at least for him to explore constitutional provisions rather than emergency rule,” Mohammed said.
Reps Gather Signatures To Impeach Jonathan
Meanwhile, some members of the House yesterday began gathering signatures to impeach President Jonathan.
The lawmakers listed ‘gross misconduct’ and ‘several constitutional breaches’ as grounds to remove the president, as well as his inability to contain the Boko Haram insurgency.
It was disclosed to LEADERSHIP that the number of House members who signed Jonathan’s impeachment notice was “above 120” by yesterday.
One of the lawmakers, who disclosed the move, said the impeachment process was supposed to commence at yesterday’s plenary but for the intervention of Tambuwal who prevented them from going ahead.
When asked to confirm the veracity or otherwise of the claim, House spokesman, Hon Zakari Mohammed, said that “there is nothing like that officially, but we are not foreclosing other things.”
Meanwhile, House deputy leader, Leo Ogor (Delta/PDP), described any move against the president as “totally inconsequential,” adding that the president should be isolated from the turmoil that engulfed the House yesterday.
“If for any reason anybody wants to talk about impeachment, that person should come out and address the issue. But I can tell you categorically that an attempt to raise the issue of impeachment in respect of the House is going be a very difficult one because the president has not committed any offence against anybody in that House; neither has he violated any constitutional provision.
“The issue of impeachment is inconsequential because he who is alleging must be ready to prove. You can’t just come and say you want to impeach without having anything to prove against the president,” Ogor said.
Ogor, however, condemned the police blockade of the National Assembly and attack on Tambuwal, describing the incident as “unexpected.” He went on to apologise to the people of Nigeria for the unfortunate incidents, include g the House members’ heckling of the Senate president.
Mark Shuts Down National Assembly
Following the invasion of the National Assembly by policemen and the firing of tear gas in the chamber of the House of Representatives yesterday, the Senate president David Mark has ordered the shutdown of the National Assembly and suspension of plenary activities till Tuesday next week.
LEADERSHIP FRIDAY recalls that service chiefs were scheduled to appear before the Senate to brief the lawmakers on the emergency rule extension in the states of Adamawa, Borno and Yobe.
In the last two days, the Senate had been trying to arrive at a compromise in approving President Jonathan’s request for emergency rule extension as northern senators kicked vehemently against the extension on the grounds that previous extension had not yielded the desired results.
However, after policemen invaded the National Assembly in a bid to stop Speaker Tambuwal from presiding over House plenary session, Mark immediately ordered for suspension of plenary session in both chambers of the National Assembly till Tuesday next week.
He further condemned the use of tear gas on senators and members of the House of Representatives by the police, describing the action as “barbaric.”
An embarrassed Mark, who had rushed out to the House of Representatives chamber ostensibly to address the situation on hearing the development, was thoroughly gassed along with his colleagues while returning to his office after conferring with the speaker and his deputy, Emeka Ihedioha.
After a brief meeting with principal officers of the National Assembly, Senator Mark said, “After due consultation with my colleagues in both chambers of National Assembly on this ugly development, we have therefore agreed that today’s session be suspended forthwith.”
He condemned the application of maximum force on parliamentarians and civil servants who were in their respective offices to do their duties.
Reacting to the incident, Senator Olusola Adeyeye (Osun central) said, “The truth is, we are in a mess,” adding that he hopes that the citizens of Nigeria react to this incident and show their wrath.
“Can you imagine teargasing the chambers of the people? This parliament represents the sovereignty of the people; when you teargas it, you are teargasing the Nigerian people.”
Also condemning the action, Senator Adamu Abdullahi (Nasarawa West) described the action of the police as barbaric and a bad omen for democracy in the country.
“What has happened today, partisan interest aside, it is very bad and embarrassing not only to us the parliamentarians but to Nigerians generally
“This is clear desecration of the symbol of democracy in the democracy in the country and, in fact, democracy itself, but let it be said very loudly to whoever is behind this shameful action that the federal lawmakers will not bow to intimidation from any quarters and that both chambers shall be made by us to carry out thorough investigation of motive and those behind it.”
Jonathan is playing politics with security challenges – APC
The opposition All Progressives Congress (APC) has accused President Jonathan of sabotaging the war against insurgency on the altar of personal vindictiveness and political desperation, an action that is unbecoming of a self-respecting national leader.
In a statement issued in Abuja yesterday by its national publicity secretary, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, the party noted that the president’s desperation to oust Tambuwal as the Speaker caused him to derail the House of Reps scheduled meeting yesterday where they were to consider his request for an extension of emergency rule in Adamawa, Borno and Yobe states.
‘’For a president who has several times stated his administration’s commitment to the battle against the insurgency in the north east, is it not a cruel irony that he allowed his personal ego and political desperation to override his sense of propriety, by moving to have Rt. Hon. Tambuwal removed instead of having the House of Representatives sit to consider his request?
‘’Does anyone need any more evidence that the president’s sole preoccupation is how to win the 2015 elections, rather than the fate of the hundreds of Nigerians who are daily being killed and maimed at the epicentre of the insurgency?” it queried.
Lagos Assembly Flays Police Action
For its part, the Lagos State House of Assembly has condemned the illegal sealing of the House of Representatives complex and the use of tear gas against federal lawmakers.
Spokesperson of the Lagos Assembly, Hon Segun Olulade described the incident as pure anarchy.
He accused the IGP acting on the order of the PDP-led federal government to cause the illegality and insisted that police boss “must explain to Nigerians and indeed the whole world the circumstance behind withdrawal of Mr Speaker’s security aides and subsequent security threat on his life as evident in today’s (yesterday) ugly development.”
The legislators said rather than the federal government moving sporadically to fix the present economic degradation, it was engaging in a battle against the rule of law and fighting the legislature.
Lawyers divided over incident
Also, prominent lawyers in the country have described the blockage of Tambuwal from entering the National Assembly and the purported removal of the Ekiti State House of Assembly speaker by only seven members of the House as shameful.
A Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Malam Abubakar Malami, described the two acts as the height of impunity.
“We are operating a presidential system of government. The Constitution provides a way the Speaker should be removed. It is the high point of impunity for anybody to stop the Speaker from sitting.
“As for the drama in Ekiti, the seven lawmakers did not meet the required process. What they have done amounts to nullity since they did not comply with the laid-down procedure,” he said.
For his part, Malam Yusuf Ali (SAN) expressed fear that the incidence could lead to anarchy, and contended that it was impossible to obey rule of law partially, adding that the federal government did not need to add any more controversies current national problems.
“It is impunity that leads to chaos and anarchy. You can’t obey the rule of law partially. We don’t need this show of shame since we already have security challenges in the country,” Ali said.
Another legal luminary, Chief Mike Ozekhome (SAN), however condemned the House lawmakers for jumping the fence.
“The honourable members of the House do not have the right to scale the fence to gain access into the House. The action of the members of the House must be condemned in the strongest terms.
“I commend the Nigeria Police for not allowing the situation to degenerate into violence. They should have staged a peaceful protest to Senator David Mark, who is the chairman of the National Assembly.” Ozekhome said.
Count Us, Presidency Out Of NASS Fracas – PDP
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) yesterday described as embarrassing what it described as the violence by some lawmakers, which led to the closure of the National Assembly.
The party further distanced itself and the presidency from the development.
PDP national publicity secretary, Olisa Metuh, in a statement noted that lawmakers were responsible adults elected by their constituencies and wondered what could have happened if the law enforcement agencies were not there to maintain law and order.
The PDP described the incident as unfortunate and cautioned that the parliament, being the nucleus of democracy, its members should be above board as Nigerians expect the best of behaviour from them.
On the statement by Rivers State governor Rotimi Amaechi that the opposition would form a parallel government if the PDP wons the 2015 general election, the PDP said it was shocked and stunned by the statement, especially coming from an elected person. It cautioned
Governor Amaechi against unduly overheating the system and urged him to concentrate on his duties in his state, noting that the governor had become a changed man since joining the opposition.
“He (Amaechi) is a different person from who he was when he was in the PDP. When he was in PDP, he was much more guarded in his statements. We urge him to desist from utterances capable of derailing our democracy”, the PDP stated.
Why We Barred Tambuwal From Entering NASS Complex – Police
The inspector-general of police Suleiman Abba has explained why police operatives prevented the Speaker Tambuwal from entering the National Assembly complex, saying that the speaker arrived the complex with hoodlums.
Spokesman of the police, CP Emmanuel Ojukwu, who made this known in a statement made available to LEADERSHIP Friday, said the police had earlier received intelligence report that hoodlums would invade the complex.
Ojukwu said the action of the police was aimed at preventing a breakdown of law and order.
“Following an intelligence report of a likely invasion of the House of Representatives by hoodlums and thugs, the Nigeria Police Force promptly deployed its personnel to the premises to prevent a breakdown of law and order.
“Consequently, the police condoned the area and began screening of all members and visitors alike. In the course of this lawful exercise, Alhaji Aminu Tambuwal arrived the venue with a motley crowd, who broke the cordon, assaulted the police and evaded due process; and the police had the duty to restore order and normalcy, using lawful means,” he said.
Ojukwu said the IGP warned all political actors and their followers to respect constituted authority and due process and to desist from the use of thugs to pursue their agenda.
NASS Crisis: An Indication Of Needed Change – Nda-Isaiah
The APC presidential aspirant and founder of the LEADERSHIP Group, Sam Nda-Isaiah, yesterday urged Nigerians to brace up for change, saying the brewing crisis in the National Assembly in which the Speaker and some lawmakers were prevented from entering the assembly complex yesterday was an indication that the country was seriously in need of change
Nda-Isaiah who made the call when he paid a courtesy visit to the Lagos State governor Babatunde Fashola at Lagos House, Alausa, Ikeja, added that the kind of brigandage displayed at the National Assembly was unprecedented.
“As the country moves toward the next general election, it is becoming increasingly clear to Nigerians that there is need for change. I am sure that many are aware of what happened in Abuja today: the kind of brigandage – very embarrassing situation; total breakdown of law and order; an impunity taken to a level that one could not imagine in this country. That is why there must be change in this country.
“As I have been saying, we are just three months away from change,by the grace of God. We must ensure that, for the sake of our country and the generation yet unborn, we have to rescue this country and that is what Nigerians are asking for,” the APC presidential aspirant said.
He lauded the Lagos State government for the efficient way it contained the Ebola Virus Disease, saying the country was lucky that it was in Lagos the disease first arrived, otherwise, the country would have been in big trouble.
“I have had cause to tell with sincerity that we had the opportunity of dealing with Ebola; what could have happened if Ebola had not entered through Lagos where we had effective leadership. We must commend you for working effectively to ensure that the Ebola virus didn’t wreak havoc on the state.”
Responding, Governor Fashola commended the publisher for standing up to be counted among those who want to take up the challenge of leadership at a troubled time like this, saying the nation would forever remember people like him.
Fashola said it was time for Nigerians to stand up against impunity by using their voting power to remove the current government with its record of underperformance.
While stressing that the Nigeria would not be the first country to sack incumbent leader, Fashola urged them to be courageous enough to make good decision in the 2015 general election.
He added that insecurity, impunity, corruption and other issues confronting the nation should be emphasised to enable Nigerians see reason why they must embrace change and vote out the ruling party in 2015.
The governor said: “This is the time that Nigerians must decide and demonstrate that they can take the destiny by changing what clearly doesn’t work for them. It is not the same thing as when we wait for eight years for a bad government to leave and then we elect something that will bring change.
“This is the time when it gives us the big opportunity to step up like other countries who can change their government because the person has performed below expectation. Choices will have consequences and if we fail to make the choices at this time, we may regret it.”
VP Sambo, PDP Reps Leaders In Closed-door Meeting
Hours after the commotion that ensued at the National Assembly, Vice President Namadi Sambo yesterday evening met behind closed-doors with principal officers of the House of Representatives elected on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
The meeting took place on the heels of the fracas which broke at the NASS complex when security operatives prevented the House of Representatives speaker, Aminu Tambuwal, from gaining access to the National Assembly.
A source told LEADERSHIP Friday that the vice president met with the lawmakers “for situation briefing” which lasted for an hour in the absence of President Goodluck Jonathan, who had travelled to London for official engagement.
The team was led to Aso Rock by the deputy speaker, Hon Emeka Ihedioha. Others in the delegation were the House leader, Hon Mulikat Adeola-Akande, deputy House leader, Hon Leo Ogor and the chief whip, Hon Ishaku Bawa.
[Culled from LEADERSHIP]