What happened last Thursday at the entrance of the National Assembly and inside the House of Representatives chamber must have shocked Nigerians, particularly democracy stakeholders who suffered persecution and almost gave their lives to enthrone democracy in this country. That day, the new IGP, Mr. Suleiman Abba, ordered his men to barricade the main entrance to the NASS complex in order to prevent the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Aminu Tambuwal, from taking his seat. He had recalled the 365 members of the House from recess to consider President Goodluck Jonathan’s request that the lawmakers approve an extension of the 18-month emergency rule in Borno, Adamawa and Yobe states gripped by the Boko Haram insurgency.
The police authorities claimed that they received intelligence that warned of a planned attack on the lawmakers by hired hoodlums. Suleiman personally spoke those words, not the Force spokesman, CP Emmanuel Ojokwu. But that explanation did not sit well with shocked onlookers. Developments before that day and the role the police played in them said it all: the police acted on ‘orders from above’, which can only be the Presidency. Weeks earlier, the same police authorities had withdrawn the security detail of the Speaker because he decamped from the PDP which gave him the platform on which he was elected to the House to the opposition APC.
Even on the day policemen literally invaded the NASS and teargased lawmakers who tried to jump the security fence, they had earlier allowed PDP lawmakers, House Deputy Speaker, Emeka Ihedioha, in to take their seats. Apparently, the plot was to let in only PDP House members so that they would impeach the Speaker. But this time they failed. However, they succeeded in another way. The uproar IG Suleiman created that day stopped both the House and Senate from sitting to consider the Presidential request for emergency rule extension. As it is, technically the military campaign to put down the insurgency has come to a halt because its time has lapsed. The lull created has given Boko Haram space to roam, and they haven’t wasted time in taking advantage of that. Just two days ago its militants slaughtered 48 fish vendors in Borno state.
Secondly, it was not only Speaker Tambuwal that got on the shot end of the police’s stick of impunity. Senate President David Mark, who was working in his office in the Red Chamber, was attracted to the pandemonium on the Assembly grounds and in the House. As chairman of the National Assembly, he was concerned and he walked into the House to try to calm the situation. He was however attacked by an irate PDP lawmaker. But he stood his ground and ordered the House shut until the time normalcy will have been restored.
As we did in an earlier editorial on the Tambuwal/police saga, we deplore the sordid show the police put up at the National Assembly. They assumed a role not known in our laws. As part of the executive arm of government, the police have interfered with the work of another arm government – the legislature – which is constitutionally independent. This is abuse of powers and the heart of executive impunity. Again, we find the excuse of the police for acting the way they did laughable because the intelligence it has been receiving over the years has not helped to bring down the crime rate in the country. Boko Haram is always two steps ahead of the security forces in spite of the intelligence they receive or lack of it.
Our bigger worry is that the police may take this partisanship and executive impunity into the elections coming up next February. If they do, the country will be in big trouble indeed.