April 21, 2018

Senate Invasion: How security was compromised


Thugs going with the Mace Photo by Gbemiga Olamikan

…Plot to remove Saraki, reinstate Omo-Agege

…Dino, Abaribe’s absence aborted ‘impeachment’

…There will not be change of leadership—Saraki

…It was an attempted coup – Ahman Aliyu Pategi

…We’ll hold Executive responsible for any harm on lawmakers —Ohaneze

…Invasion a threat to democracy – Ekweremadu

…NLC calls for probe

…NLC calls for probe

…Embarrassment on our security structure— Ekweremadu

By Emmanuel Aziken, Political Editor, Levinus, Emeka Mamah, Victor Ahiuma-Young, Henry Umoru Nwabughiogu, Marie-Therese Nanlong & Gabriel Olawale

INVESTIGATIONS by Saturday Vanguard have revealed that last Wednesday’s invasion of the National Assembly was a scripted plot to force the reinstatement of Senator Ovie Omo-Agege and instigate the removal of the Senator Bukola Saraki leadership of the Senate.


Thugs going with the Mace Photo by Gbemiga Olamikan

It was learned that the conspiracy stirred by 15 senators was directed at provoking a confrontation that would have led to a pandemonium.

Three vocal senators, who the dissenting senators hoped to trigger a fight that would have led to the pandemonium, were, however, absent at the sitting.

Residence of a former governor

Senate sources privy to the development told Saturday Vanguard that the 15 senators, who planned the insurrection at the Abuja residence of a former governor presently serving in the Senate had hoped that Senators Dino Melaye, APC, Kogi West, Enyinnanya Abaribe, PDP, Abia South or Obinna Ogba, PDP, Ebonyi would have engaged the invaders and thus triggered a commotion that would have led to the invasion of the Senate chambers by security services.

That meeting in the night followed an earlier evening meeting at the National Assembly complex, Senate sources said.

However, by happen stance, the three senators, who the group of 15 hoped to trigger the crisis were absent that Wednesday, thereby preventing the envisaged crisis.

“To achieve the dual purpose of removing the Senate leadership, especially with the absence of the President of the Senate, Dr. Bukola Saraki, who is on an official trip to Washington, USA, and the reinstatement of Senator Omo-Agege, it was concluded that the mace should be forcefully taken away,” a source revealed.

Calculation of the plotters

The source added that: “The calculation of the plotters was that some hot-blooded Senators like Senator Dino Melaye and Senator Obinna Ogba would not allow the mace to go without making serious trouble. In the process, there would be fisticuffs and pandemonium in the red chambers,” the source close to the Senate leadership added.

“The mace would not only be taken away, but the armed invaders would use the opportunity to deal with some ‘heady’ Senators’, including the presiding officer, Ike Ekweremadu. However, it happened that Senators Dino, Ogba, and Enyinnaya Abaribe were not on in the chamber when the assailants came.”

It was further gathered that the expectation was that following the mayhem a motion  for adjournment of the sitting to allow heads to cool would have followed.

The plan was that after the adjournment, the group of 15 senators would return to the Senate chambers with the mace earlier grabbed and hold a sitting during which they would have suspended the Senate leadership and elected another leadership.

The first task after that would have been to lift the suspension on Senator Omo-Agege.

“I am thanking God that Dino was not around because by the time he came he was so angry that the thugs were allowed to go away with the mace. He was saying that they would have killed him with the mace that Wednesday,” the source revealed to Saturday Vanguard.

Despite insinuations of the alleged role of security services in the plot, Saturday Vanguard has not been able to lay a direct connection between any of the security services and the 15 senators involved.

Divisional Police Officer

It was nevertheless gathered that the Divisional Police Officer of the National Assembly was not taken into confidence of the plot to invade the National Assembly.

The DPO, it was learned, was sold the dummy that the Shiites who had been protesting in Abuja were coming to the National Assembly that day. It was when he went to organise reinforcement for the National Assembly that Senator Omo-Agege came in.

Before Omo-Agege came in, a senator from the North-Central and a key leader of the Buhari Parliamentary Support Group to which Omo-Agege belongs had stepped out to make a call.

“We suspected that he went to inform the group that the DPO had left and that they could come,” the source added.

Saturday Vanguard further gathered that it was when the DPO returned from the gate where he went for mobilisation that he discovered what happened and directed that the main gate into the National Assembly be locked. However, the thugs had left the National Assembly premises unchallenged at the  time.

Waiting for the men to strike

A senator said: “If there was no compromise, how was it possible for a vehicle to park in front of the foyer, the entrance to the Senate, waiting for the men to strike without being questioned.

“Why was the gate which leads to the Presidential Villa where the President and Commander in Chief of the Federation do come from when entering the National Assembly opened?

“The gate which is always manned by men of the Department of State Services, DSS was manned by the operatives, and it was from there the thugs escaped. We will know the truth later.”

Reacting to the development, the Senate President, Sen Bukola Saraki,  cautioned those behind the saga, spoiling for  change of leadership.

Saraki, who was represented by Sen Ben Murray-Bruce at TheNiche 4th anniversary lecture, said this in Lagos yesterday:

“What happened was a disgrace and did not make any sense. Looking at it critically, they were working for change in Senate leadership, but they left what they were supposed to do and engaged in the undemocratic act.

“If you want to impeach a President all you need to do is to put it to vote and the majority will have their way instead of stealing the mace.

“Come to think of it, behind us is where President lives. So to escape through the back where the President leaves considering the presence of security agents gives room for many questions that need answers.

“There will be no regime change. They are only wasting time.

Similarly, a member of the House of Representatives, Mr. Ahmam Aliyu Pategi, said: “Those who invaded the National Assembly complex and stole the mace actually attempted to cow the legislators into abandoning the chambers so that they can take over.  It was an attempted coup.’’

A former President of Aka Ikenga, Mr. Goddy Uwazuruike, said: “The desecration of the hallowed chamber of the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria is a forewarning to those who believe in democracy. The antics of the anarchist is to intimidate the various arms of government.

“The arrest of Senator Omo-Agege may be a palliative but definitely not the answer to the question.’’

The Speaker of Plateau State House of Assembly, Mr. Peter Azi, said: “As a lawmaker and the leader of parliament, I will not give credence to what happened. It is very pathetic and politically unhealthy. Whatever happened, the mace is the symbol of authority. ‘’

Likewise, Chairman of Nigeria Union of Journalists, NUJ, Plateau State said: “It is a sad and unfortunate commentary on our democracy and a confirmation that everything is wrong with our security architecture.’’

Chairman, Plateau Youths Council, PYC, Dr. Jemchang Fabong, said: “What happened was a threat to democracy, not just that, it was a mockery of the system. All these didn’t start today. We have seen the practice of our democracy going down, no thanks to the people we voted to lead us.’’

Also speaking, a former member of the House of Representatives, Mr. Ehiogie West-Idahosa described the invasion as an act of treason.

He said:”It has never happened in the history of this country. It was a disruption of the Senate sitting.  If someone disrupts their (senators) right to sit, it means disruption of a government proceeding. It is against section 412 of the Penal Code.’’

Deputy National Chairman of Eastern Consultative Assembly, ECA, Mrs. Marie Okwo, said: “This is the beginning of chaos in the in the country. There is anarchy in the land. There is no leadership in this country; there is so much confusion and calamity.’’

The apex Igbo socio-cultural organisation, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, has condemned the invasion of the Senate by armed thugs, saying the entry of the National Assembly which was one of the “most-secured environment in Nigeria gives course for suspicion.”

Ohanaeze said it was even more worried because the attack was targeted at the Deputy Senate President, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, who was the only Igbo man occupying a top position in the country alongside other law makers.

President General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Chief Nnia Nwodo, made this known in a statement signed by his Media Aide, Emeka Attamah. According to Ohanaeze, the Igbo would hold the Executive arm of the Federal Government responsible, if anything ugly happened to Ekweremadu and other Nigerian law makers.

The statement entitled, “Senate Invasion: Ohanaeze Raises the Alarm Over Ekweremadu, Lawmakers’ Safety,” read in part, “The foremost Igbo socio-cultural organisation, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, has flayed the invasion of the Senate by armed men, saying it had genuine concerns over the life and safety of the Deputy President of the Senate, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, and other lawmakers and staff of the National Assembly.

“Ohanaeze said it was still at loss as to how armed men were able to break into the National Assembly situated in the most secured area in the country.

“We join other patriotic Nigerians in condemning this reprehensible gangsterism and attack on the parliament and our democracy.

“However, the breach of security in an otherwise most-secured environment in Nigeria gives course for suspicion. We know for certain that there are several security checks before one can access the National Assembly Complex.

“We are also aware that it takes the motion for the suspension of the Order 17 of the Senate Standing Rule before anybody outside the Senators and chamber staff is allowed access into the Senate Chamber.

“It is also common knowledge that the National Assembly Complex is surrounded by the Presidential Villa, headquarters of the Department of State Services, DSS and the Office of the National Security Adviser, NSA, among others. So, how on earth did the assailants escape with the mace?

“We watched on live television and the other footages of the incident, how the invaders moved menacingly towards the Deputy Senate President before he was whisked away to safety by his security guards.

“With a hindsight of the attempt on Senator Ekwremadu’s life in November 2015 but which  the security agencies refused to investigate or say a word about, we have genuine cause to believe that the attack on the Senate chamber by armed men on a day the Senate was in session and with the Senator Ekwremadu presiding had more sinister motives than met the eye

“The 1999 Constitution (as amended) is very clear that the primary purpose of government is the welfare of citizens and the protection of their lives and property.

“We wish to state unequivocally that with all the legitimate instruments for the protection of lives and property, including those of the lawmakers and the parliament, firmly in the hands of the executive

arm of government, Ndigbo and the world know whom to hold responsible should any harm befall the Senator or other lawmakers and parliamentary staff.

“Senator Ekweremadu is just the one eye with which Ndigbo are seeing in this administration that have unabashedly sidetracked the South East. He is the only Igbo man occupying a principal and non-appointive position in the top hierarchy of the Federal Government today and we believe that there should be limits to political rascality.”

Ohanaeze further stressed that although Ekweremadu was attacked in the media by some government functionaries and agencies when he warned a few weeks ago that the nation’s democracy was receding and derailing, the invasion of the National Assembly in broad daylight had further proved him right.

“Unfortunately, the Nigerian political class appears to have learnt nothing and forgotten nothing, Ohanaeze also stated.

Reacting to the invasion, the Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, yesterday said  the invasion was a violation of the sanctity of the Senate which constitutes a threat to our democracy, adding that the National Assembly Security apparatus should be probed for laxity or compromise.

According to the statement issued by the leadership of the union: “The invasion of the hallowed chamber of the Senate on Wednesday by hoodlums and miscreants who carted away the mace and other paraphernalia of authority is a violation of the sanctity of the Senate and constitutes a threat to our democracy. It represents a throw-back to those dark old days we are better off without.  It is equally a sad commentary on the quality of representation.

We do also believe that the National Assembly Security apparatus should be called to question for laxity or compromise. Whereas they have often distinguished themselves by keeping at bay constituents and peaceful protesters from the precincts of the National Assembly, these thugs seem to have walked on a laid red carpet. Could these agencies have been acting alone? What is the degree of their complicity? Whichever way, we condemn this primitive conduct and demand sanctions. Let it never happen again. There are better methods no matter the issues.”

We therefore condemn it in its entirety. We similarly invite all who love Nigeria to rise and condemn this crude and sordid act or conduct. Also, the deputy Senate President, Senator Ike Ekweremadu said the invasion was a total embarrassment on the entire security structure and another lesson on the need to rethink the nation’s security structure.

Ekweremadu stated this yesterday when the leadership of Nigerian Political Science Association, NPSA, led by its President, Prof. Aloysius-Michaels Okolie visited him over the incident.

He said: “It is an embarrassment to Nigeria before the international community for someone to drive all the way into the National Assembly Complex, enter the hallowed chamber, and cart away its symbol of authority.

“It shows a breakdown of security and it is a setback to Nigeria’s drive for foreign investment because no one would be ready to invest money in such a system. So, it is a lesson that we cannot keep doing the same thing with our security system and expect a different result.

“It is also an irony that the people involved would organise armed bandits to rob the Senate of its mace since they understand the implication of what they have done. As a parliament, we will ensure that this does not happen again and insist that all the actors behind the drama are brought to book”. He enjoined the Association to help the nation to rethink its governance and security structures in line with other federal systems.