By Emman Ovuakporie
Last Thursday in the history of the 7th Assembly is one day members of the House of Representatives will not be in a hurry to forget.
The previous Thursday, the Inspector General of Police, Mr Suleiman Abba, had ordered his men to seal off the National Assembly Complex under the guise that he received intelligence report of likely breakdown of law and order.
The Speaker of the House, Rt Hon Aminu Tambuwal, and many other lawmakers were teargassed as they made to enter the complex.
The IGP at a public hearing, last Thursday, did not defend himself on the incident; rather he chose to interpret the law to the shocked lawmakers.
The House Committee on Police Affairs, headed by Hon Usman Kumho, had summoned the IGP to answer questions relating to the invasion. The IGP sent his deputy, Mr Sotonoye Nwakama, who was advised to produce his boss or there would be no deal. Abba finally showed up that Thursday and stunned the world when he declared Tambuwal’s seat vacant without any court pronouncement.
The public hearing started at about 2.30pm when five Deputy Inspectors General of Police accompanied Abba into Committee Room 1.07 for the public hearing.
The Chairman of the Committee gave the IGP ample opportunity to defend himself but he,in his opening remarks, addressed the number 4 citizen as “Alhaji Aminu Tambuwal.”
“And at the gate there, a tear gas exploded when “Alhaji Aminu Tambuwal” was being asked to identify himself. We still don’t know the circumstances surrounding the explosion and we are investigating it”, Abba told the lawmakers.
His reference to Tambuwal as “Alhaji” infuriated some of the lawmakers who immediately demanded that Abba should withdraw what he said and address the Speaker appropriately.
Hon Akeem Muniru, APC, Lagos, said: “If the IGP can’t withdraw what he just said by addressing the Speaker accordingly, then this meeting is illegal.
“The IGP must retract his statement calling the Speaker, ‘Alhaji Aminu Tambuwal’ or I take my leave as I would deem this sitting as illegal. Because I can’t participate in a hearing where the office of the Speaker through whose authority we are having this meeting is not even recognised by an appointee of the Executive”.
Other lawmakers wanted to take the IGP up, but the Committee Chairman calmed them. Continuing, Abba said,” My deep sympathy goes to those who sustained injuries in what happened on the 20th of November and let me say here that it hurts my own person as the events of that day traumatised me.
“What transpired on that day was unprecedented world wide as policemen were disobeyed, beaten and many things followed.
“In the process of safeguarding the security of the National Assembly on that day, we collaborated with the Sergeant-at-Arms according to laid down procedures where members were being asked to identify themselves before they could be allowed into the premises.
“Considering what happened in Burkina Faso on the 30th of October where the presidency palace was invaded, we had no choice than to go for reinforcement to curb the situation”. The IGP insisted that there were reports that those who scaled the fence on that day were thugs who came with some of the lawmakers.
On whether the alleged thugs include the lawmakers who resorted to scaling the fence after being locked out by the police, he said that actions taken were based on the need to forestall breakdown of law and order as witnessed in Bukina Faso. “We acted on credible information about suspected thugs who wanted to invade the Assembly, and, because we didn’t want what happened in Bukina Faso to repeat itself here, we had to take stringent security measures”, Abba said.
Kumho explained to the IGP that until a court of law had declared Tambuwal’s office vacant, he couldn’t be referred to simply as ‘Alhaji’.
But Abba stood his ground saying”the matter was in court and anything I say now will be subjudice.”
The Committee Chair told his colleagues that he would report back to the House what transpired and therefore adjourned the hearing sine die.