The premises of the National Assembly that houses the hallowed chambers of the Senate and House of Representatives was like a war-zone yesterday when a combined team of security operatives barricaded the entrance to the main complex apparently to prevent the Speaker of the House, Aminu Waziri Tambuwal, from gaining access to the floor of the chamber to preside over the day’s proceedings.
It resulted in a melee as human and vehicular traffic competed for access to the premises, a situation that led to long queues and frayed nerves both from the legislators, Assembly staff and others including key members of the Supreme Court who were victims of the lock out.
Peoples Daily Newspaper learnt that the plot had been to impeach the Speaker in his absence, but it was not to be as Tambuwal defied barricades by scaling over the fence of the third and final entrance to the premises.
Mark allegedly slapped, as Reps move to impeach Jonathan, Ihedioha
The blockade led to a free-for- all between the lawmakers loyal to the Speaker and security operatives even as the confusion and reign of anarchy spread to the floor of the House where the Senate President, David Mark, was reportedly slapped by an aggrieved member of the House.
It also provoked counter impeachment plots as some 120 members also collected signatures to begin the processes of impeachment of President Goodluck Jonathan and Deputy Speaker, Emeka Ihedioha, whose group was to lead the impeachment of Tambuwal. The Speaker only last month defected from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to the opposition All Progressives Congress (APC).
The House had in response to President Jonathan’s request for extension of Emergency Rule in the three North East states of Adamawa, Borno and Yobe reconvened to consider the proposal.
Lawmakers tear-gassed, scale fence
Tambuwal, and some of his colleagues in the House of Representatives yesterday defied barricades by heavily armed and masked security operatives to gain entrance into the National Assembly.
The police along men of the State Security Service had laid siege to the entrance to the National Assembly Complex apparently to prevent the lawmakers from the lower chamber from gaining access to the complex to consider President Goodluck Jonathan’s request for extension of emergency rule in the three Northern states of Adamawa, Borno and Yobe.
The security cordon, it was learnt, had begun at about 8:00pm on Wednesday night, and increased in intensity yesterday when members of the House were expected to reconvene to consider the request.
However, there was no access. Tambuwal, who had arrived in his official Mercedes Benz car, had trouble accessing the entrance as the operatives had cordoned off the main entrance causing considerable human and vehicular traffic down to the Federal Secretariat area (Cadastral Zone).
Though he successfully scaled the first and second entrances Cadastral Zone, he was however stopped at the third and final entrance to the Complex.
The Speaker calmly walked to the gate to introduce himself to the stern-looking regular policemen, led by the Commissioner of Police for the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Mr. Wilson Inalegwu but was rebuffed by security operatives who bluntly refused to clear the way for his passage as is usually done.
Though he called out to the CP and introduced himself, the former ignored his call pretending to be responding to a telephone call but later directed that the Speaker alone be admitted into the premises.
This did not go down well with his colleagues, private security personnel and his aides who suddenly opted to force their way through by violently shaking the gate but when it proved difficult they decided to scale the 12.2ft gate.
This was the conversation that ensued between the Speaker and the CP.
Speaker: “Excuse me please, can I get access into the premises. I am going to the House of Representatives to go and preside over the House. My name is Aminu Waziri Tambuwal, the Speaker of this House. Can anyone answer me please?
“Vice Chairman, House Committee on Aviation, Are you true citizens of this country?”
Speaker: Officer how are you? Approach me please. Have you identified me? Mr Wilson please come.”
“Vice Chairman, call everyone to come out here,” but the CP shunned the Speaker even as the VC replied, “The officers on duty have refused to answer to our ‘phone calls.”
Piqued by the situation, members started chanting war songs, pulled hard and forced their way through. However, those who were unable decided to scale the war even as the song continued.
They sang out, “PDP must go’, “Kill us. We want to die. Kill us. We want to die”, as they marched into the premises determined to get to the chambers.
After forcing their way through, the police resorted to harsher means to deter the lawmaker they pelted the Speaker and his colleagues with tear-gas canisters. Four landed directly in front of the Speaker the first of which was at 10.58am while the three consequent canisters of tear-gas followed simultaneously.
Nonetheless, the Speaker was shielded to the premises by the Spokesman of the House, Zakari Mohammed (APC-kwara), Hon. Victor Afam Ogene (APGA-Anambra) and the Speaker’s aides, Messrs Mohammed Isa and Andrew Oota, and a former member of the House and Special Assistant to the Speaker on Special Duties, Hon. Yemi Arokodare from Ekiti State and the Speaker’s Special Adviser on Media, Mr. Imam Imam.
Commotion as policemen, lawmakers exchange blows
Lawmakers from the House of Representatives and the mobile police officers attached to the complex engaged in free for all, over the alleged moves by the security operatives to lock out the Speaker Tambuwal, to prevent him from presiding over the reconvened session yesterday.
Trouble started when the security operatives refused to open the gate to the premises to the National Assembly to the Speaker and other lawmakers from the House.
When eventually the gate was opened to Tambuwal, other members attempted to force their way in but were denied, and failing to pull down the gate, they opted to scale it.
Following the confusion that ensued, the lawmakers sympathetic to the Speaker resisted the plans by the police to lock him out, one of the police officers opened a walk path to enable the Speaker alone enter the premises, from where he trekked several kilometres before he could reach the National Assembly lobby.
Immediately he entered the lobby, a police officer made straight to, probably, arrest the Speaker, before about 40 House members, including those of PDP and APC, rough handled the officer, hence another officer shut canister of teargas to disperse the crowd that was already becoming volatile and violent.
The lawmakers chanted war songs “kill us’ “are we not Nigerians, ‘dead to PDP”’.
A chairman of one of the key committees and closed allied to the Speaker aimed a punch at an officer even as his colleagues swooped on the officer before he was rescued by other officers who released more teargas canisters into the crowd.
Mark rough handled, shutdown NASS, summons IGP
Senate President, David Mark, was allegedly slapped by a member of the House when he went to seek audience with the Speaker over the ugly drama that transpired at the gate earlier in the day.
Mark, who was embarrassed by the ugly development, had ordered the closure of the National Assembly until Tuesdayto forestall a breakdown of law and order in the Complex.
The Senate President, who had gone to the chambers of the House of Representatives to hold meeting with Tambuwal also summoned the Inspector General of Police, Suleiman Abba, to appear before the senate today.
Though the Senate President was himself not locked out, he was subjected to some unpleasant encounter when he went to visit the Speaker in the House as members shouted at him and a member allegedly slapped him.
The members also accused him of being in the picture of the crisis in the National Assembly, even as they wondered why his convoy was allowed by the police to enter, while the Speaker was barred.
Sources hinted that as the Senate President walked in, some members challenged his presence stating that they knew the game plan being hatched by the leadership of the Senate: presumably to facilitate the processes of impeachment of the Speaker.
The members were said to have shouted invectives at the Senate President while a member was alleged to have walked up to stretched his hands against the face of the Senate President, who looked on stunned even as others rose in condemnation of the act.
It was alleged that the Deputy Speaker, Emeka Ihedioha, who had entered the parliament before the Speaker’s travail at the gate, met shortly with the Senate President, before the whole crisis erupted; hence he was attacked by House of Representative members.
The police officers in the National Assembly, had as early as 7 AM, barricaded and locked up the main entrance of the parliament, which forced the lawmakers to climb the gates one after the other, to gain access to the chambers.
However, in a swift reaction, the Speaker apologised to the Senate President over his experience in the House.
Presidency justifies police action
The Presidency has defended yesterday’s invasion of the National Assembly by combined team of security operatives, saying the Inspector General of Police, Mr. Suleiman Abba acted in defence of the Constitution.
Senior Special Assistant to President Goodluck Jonathan on Public Affairs, Dr. Doyin Okupe, said in response to criticism that trailed the lock out of Speaker Tambuwal, stating that there was no need to castigate the action of the police, which he said was aimed at making sure that the laws of the country are obeyed.
Okupe dismissed suggestions that the police had acted on the order of the presidency adding that the suggestion was mischievous and wrong.
“Assumption that the police boss was acting on instruction from the President should stop. The IGP is a very senior officer of the government and his duties are to enforce the law.
“He doesn’t need to get the villa to enforce the law. He is not a house boy. Though he works under the government but he is expected to defend the law. IGP has the duty to enforce the law.
“He acted in the discharge of his duty. The IGP didn’t invade the assembly. It is wrong to assume that,” even as he described the scenario at the National Assembly as unfortunate, and appealed to both the security operatives and the lawmakers to always put the interest of the nation first in whatever they do.
Okupe appealed to the members of the House of Representatives to quickly resolve soonest to enable them act on the request from the President concerning extension of emergency rule in North-East.
“We wish that at all times; national interest should supersede all other interests including personal and political interests.
“From Government perspective, the overriding concern today is the issue of insurgency which necessitated the request by Mr President that the National Assembly considers an extension of the State of Emergency to give the Security forces the needed legal framework and space for a successful prosecution of the war against Boko Haram terrorists,” the President’s aide said.
Reps reject emergency extension request
The House of Representatives may be putting finishing touches to impeachment processes against President Goodluck Jonathan over alleged sundry abuse of several constitutional provisions, even as it rejected the president’s proposal for the extension of emergency rule in the three states in Northern Eastern Nigeria.
Indication to this effect emerged yesterday as members sought to complete the collection of signatures of those favorably disposed to the impeachment moves. It was this information that the Presidency got wind off that led to the heavy security presence apparently to forestall the implementation of the processes of the impeachment exercise.
Sources hinted Peoples Daily Newspaper that members had sequel to the request for the proposal for Extension of Emergency Rule in the three Northern states of Adamawa, Borno and Yobe been infuriated with the rule which they said has so far yielded no positive results despite being granted similar request on three previous occasions.
Accordingly, members, who held a closed door session after forcing their way into the premises of the National Assembly Complex and subsequently into the Chamber, were said to have openly canvassed for, and obtained the signatures of many of their colleagues, who are allegedly piqued by the way the President has conducted matters, especially on security issues.
Further, it was learnt that the Senate President, David Mark, had sought to talk to the Speaker to rein in his members to ensure that no such matter was ever raised but to no avail.
This, it was revealed, was why the Senate President went to the House Chambers to hold a further private audience with the Speaker, but was allegedly embarrassed by an unnamed member of the House.
Spokesman of the House, Zakari Mohammed (APC, Kwara) yesterday neither confirmed nor denied such moves instead he said the House had a one-item agenda adding that it might have been possible for there to be collection of names.
“I am here talking about what was official. There may have been other items but officially we reconvened to deliberate on the Emergency Rule Extension request which the president made,” he said adding that whatever else took place was not official.
He equally declined to confirm moves that members were also in the processes of impeaching Deputy Speaker Emeka Ihedioha, who was jeered at and booed when he came into the chambers with the Senate President and equally left with him before returning to the floor of the House.
Meanwhile, Zakari said the House’s decision to jettison the extension of emergency rule in Adamawa, Borno and Yobe states respectively after one-hour of closed door session was because three previous exercises had failed to yield the desired results.
In a motion moved by the deputy Majority Leader, Leo Ogor, members could not accede to the request instead opted to urge the President to fall back on the provisions of the constitution that full armed forces be invoked to carry out full scale war against any side or group that attacked the sovereignty of Nigeria.
“The emergency rule is supposed to lapse today. But we have decided that if you are applying a particular tool and it is not working, you should change measures. Because this particular measure is not yielding results, then you should use another measure”, Hon. Muhammed said.
“Section 8 of theArmed Forces Act empowers him to deploy armed forces to troubled spot to quell any insurgency in any part of the country.
In the executive session, we urged the president to draw from section 217, 218, 210 (3)2, 14 (4) 2b, to act on the security matter.”
According to him, the House felt that the presidency should have taken stock of what had been achieved from previous exercise before requesting for approval for the same failed effort, noting the President should consider exercising his authority over the armed forces to quell the insecurity in the areas under attacks by the dreaded terror group, Boko Haram.
Meanwhile, the House has condemned in strong terms, the harassment of the Speaker by masked security people, Police officers and soldiers.
“We were prevented from entry into the National Assembly. At a point tear-gas canisters were thrown at us. We are not criminals. We are lawmakers, not criminals.
“We have sworn to protect the constitution. The National Assembly is not a State Assembly, so we forced ourselves into the National Assembly and tear-gas was thrown at the Speaker three times”.
Ihedioha group fails to impeach Tambuwal
Attempt by the group led by Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives to impeach the Speaker, Aminu Waziri Tambuwal, yesterday failed to materialize as the Speaker got wind of it and defied all odds to attend the reconvened session of the House.
Peoples Daily newspaper learnt that the plot had been to impeach the Speaker in his absence, hence the effort to use the police to stop the Speaker from gaining access to the chambers to preside over the proceedings.
Ihedioha had held a meeting with the Vice President, Namadi Sambo, where the plot was hatched to keep out the Speaker and ensure that the change in the leadership structure of the House was successfully effected.
The Deputy Speaker had arrived at the National Assembly Complex earlier than usual and met no barricade unlike the Speaker who was hindered and needed sheer determination to gain access to the chambers.
Members, who had collected no fewer than 120 signatories to begin the impeachment processes against the Deputy Speaker, we learnt, are already compiling impeachable offences and would wave it at Ihedioha when they reconvene.