•Osinbajo embarrassed, reaches out to Buhari; Daura falls
By Johnbosco Agbakwuru, Abuja
August 7, 2018, will remain a memorable day in the history of President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration and particularly in the character of Professor Yemi Osinbajo, the Vice President. It is a day Osinbajo, as the Acting President after Buhari had transmitted power to him ahead of a ten-working day vacation to London, the United Kingdom, wielded the big stick against one of the most powerful men in the administration, the Director General of the Department of State Service, DSS, Lawal Daura, who, on that fateful day, had authorised his operatives to lay a siege to the National Assembly without informing the Acting President.
The sacked DG of the secret police had deployed masked operatives to the National Assembly as early as 6am to prevent lawmakers from gaining access to the parliament. Meanwhile, it was a day the leadership of the National Assembly had fixed to meet with the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, to consider the supplementary budget of N242 billion for the 2019 general elections scheduled to take place in the first quarter of next year.
Although there has been a frosty relationship between the executive and the legislature, which became worse after the gale of defections that hit the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, after Senate President Bukola Saraki and his loyalists joined the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, the action had not gone down well with the leadership of the APC and members of the party in the National Assembly who insisted that Saraki should step down as Senate President, especially as the APC senators argued that their party remained in the majority.
The invasion of the National Assembly apparently ridiculed Nigeria’s democracy before the international community and, to redress the situation, Osinbajo summoned some security chiefs to find out how the parliament siege happened.
Ahead of siege
Before the siege, it had been rumoured that APC senators were perfecting plans to change the leadership of the upper legislative chamber and were allegedly working with some security agencies to execute the plan.
Amid the rumour, the Senate Minority Leader, Ahmad Lawan, and the Senior Special Assistant to the President on National Assembly Matters, Senator Ita Enang, met with the Acting President behind closed-doors at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
Briefing State House correspondents after the meeting, the Senate Leader stated that the National Assembly must reconvene as quickly as possible to consider Buhari’s supplementary budget request for the 2019 elections which was before the lawmakers before they proceeded on annual recess on July 24.
Lawan explained that if the supplementary budget for the elections was not passed, it could stall preparations for the polls.
He said, “I have come to visit the Acting President. You know this is our administration. I have come to brief him on the situation in the Senate and the discussion also considered the need for the National Assembly to convene immediately for us to pass the virement and the supplementary budget request by Mr. President.
“You know that the budget for 2018, the capital aspect, will be largely funded by foreign facilities, loans. Now we need to approve that. We also need to approve other important and essential requests especially that of INEC and other security agencies for our security to be improved.
“It is therefore very essential that we reconvene immediately to look into those issues because our government is almost stalled and, I believe that if we are able to pass the supplementary budget and virement request from Mr. President, this will enable our administration to provide the various infrastructure that we have planned to provide for Nigerians and also all the other aspects of national development.
“To do otherwise will lead to the sabotage of this administration and democracy itself because, if we cannot provide essential things for Nigerians, if we cannot provide funds for INEC to plan for the 2019 elections, what do we call ourselves?
“Certainly, in the case of INEC for example, INEC could pick some items on the shelves but there are so many important and essential items that INEC will have to place order that could take about two to three months.
“So it is very imperative that we do the needful. We should convene the National Assembly immediately and, as legislators, as representatives of Nigerians, we will do what is best in the national interest.
“If we don’t reconvene and pass the request, what that means is that we have turned against this country, we are stalling the administration and invariably, fighting the people because the people want us to do those things that will make them happy. So I believe that my colleagues are listening and we should be able to reconvene in the next few days for us to pass the budget request of Mr. President as quickly as possible.”
Speaking on the allegation that some members of the APC in the Senate tried to force themselves into the parliament to impeach the Senate President, he said he was not aware of any such attempt.
“Did you use the word that some senators attempted to break into the Senate chamber? I am hearing it for the first time. There is a process going into that chamber. I didn’t hear it before that some senators attempted to break into that chamber.
“Possibly, you must have the names of such senators but I want to tell you that we are law abiding and that we will do everything possible in the national interest but we will try to keep within our processes and our procedures.”
On what could happen if the presiding officers didn’t heed to the request to reconvene the Senate, he said that the presiding offers were Nigerians that have the ears to listen to the demands of the people.
He said, “The presiding officers are people like you and I. They are Nigerians, they listen or they should listen. So I don’t even want to contemplate that the presiding officers will say they will not reconvene the chambers of the National Assembly based on the fundamental and primary request of Mr President to pass the budget.”
Also speaking, Enang raised the alarm that if the National Assembly failed to reconvene immediately to consider the foreign loan request and supplementary budget, it could lead to a complete shutdown of government.
Enang said, “We are still appealing to the National Assembly to reconvene. You remember that we passed the budget with the understanding that the greater amount of it would come from foreign loans.
“Although this was approved that there would be loans, the amount to be gotten was not approved. The Fiscal Responsibility Act requires that the President should specifically state the amount government wants to get from foreign loans and present it before the National Assembly.
“That letter has been presented to the National Assembly and the National Assembly has to pass that amount before the money could be obtained from foreign financing institutions.
“This is what we are asking and, if it didn’t happen in the next few months, we may have a complete government shutdown.
“What we are receiving from the Federation Account as the Federal Government share of the capital component is not enough to sustain even the 15 or 20 per cent of the budget.
“So there may be a complete government shut down and I know that Nigerians are not going to like it. That is why we are still appealing.”
But as the duo spoke to journalists, there appeared to be a sort of apprehension among some aides and officials from the Acting President’s office who listened with rapt attention perhaps to find out whether their principal would be misrepresented on what transpired during the closed-door meeting.
Besides, the two men were talking with excitement which suggested that something positive on their side will soon happen in the troubled National Assembly, amidst cheers.
But as the drama of the siege to the National Assembly was going on, the Acting President, having been embarrassed by reactions from the international community, did not waste time to condemn the invasion, if not for anything, to restore confidence in the minds of the outside world that Nigeria still respects the tenets of democracy.
In a statement signed by his spokesman, Laolu Akande, Osinbajo described the unauthorized invasion as a gross violation of constitutional order and rule of law.
The statement read, “Acting President Yemi Osinbajo, SAN, has described the unauthorized takeover of the National Assembly complex earlier today as a gross violation of constitutional order, rule of law and all acceptable notions of law and order.
“According to him, the unlawful act which was done without the knowledge of the Presidency is condemnable and completely unacceptable.
“By this statement, Professor Osinbajo is consequently assuring Nigerians that all persons within the law enforcement apparatus who participated in this travesty will be identified and subjected to appropriate disciplinary action.”
His condemnation of the act of brigandage was followed immediately with the invitation of security agencies that were directly involved to his office to explain the circumstances surrounding the siege.
Those mainly involved to explain what happened were the Inspector General of Police, IGP, Ibrahim Idris, who arrived in the Acting President’s office about 12:30pm and then the sacked DSS boss who arrived about 30 minutes later.
Sources within the Presidency hinted that Osinbajo had sought to know why he was not informed about the siege before it took place. While Idris told the Acting President that the police were not part of the early morning invasion of the National Assembly, the DSS boss was said to have exhibited some sort of recalcitrant behaviour. The Acting President, according to an account, was surprised over the response of the sacked DSS boss who allegedly told him that he didn’t need to consult him before taking the action as already he had already been given a go-ahead order.
This, according to sources privy to the meeting, drew the ire of the Acting President who felt undermined and insulted and immediately put a call across to President Buhari with a threat to resign if the alleged act of insurbodination to his office and position was allowed to stand.
Instantly, the source hinted, Buhari gave him the go-ahead to sack Daura who, incidentally, has consanguinity with the President.
Without wasting time, Osinbajo directed the termination of the appointment of the DSS DG with immediate effect.
A statement signed by his spokesman, Laolu Akande immediately after the meeting, stated that Daura had been fired and was directed to hand over to the most senior officer of the DSS until further notice.
Then Daura was whisked away by a team of police officers through a back exit of the Acting President’s office to a place where he was placed under house arrest, even without the knowledge of Daura’s aides who were outside waiting for him.
A Presidency source who spoke on the condition of anonymity said that the fired DSS boss was arrested right inside the Presidential Villa by men of the Nigeria Police and detained in one of the presidential guest houses at Aso Rock.
He said, “He will remain there until several investigations over certain issues bordering on him are concluded.”
Briefing journalists when he came out of the meeting, the Inspector General of Police said that the police did not have any hand in the blockade of the National Assembly by security operatives.
He said the blockade was a surprise to him, saying the police would soon issue a statement on the incident.
Sources in the Presidency hinted that efforts had been made on several occasions to sack the former DSS boss over his actions that appeared to be in conflict with those of government, but that such efforts were in vain until last Tuesday when the Acting President booted him out of office.
Besides being one of the favourite appointees of Buhari, Daura was said to have carried out some controversial actions which government believed painted it in bad light.
Among such actions were the raid on the homes of some judges accused of corruption whom were later not found guilty and the damaging report against the confirmation of the Economic Financial and Crimes Commission, EFCC, boss, Ibrahim Magu, by the Senate.
Since Daura was fired, Magu has been meeting with the Acting President.His exit paved way for the assumption of office of the most senior director of the DSS, Matthew Seiyefa, from Bayelsa State, as the DSS Acting DG, who, immediately arrived the Presidential Villa in an official SUV at 4pm, clutching a file and was received at the entrance by the ADC to the Acting President.
Shortly after his arrival, the Acting Chairman of the EFCC also arrived and walked briskly into Osinbajo’s office.
Magu, who wore a face that suggested excitement, however was seen rushing out at about 4:40pm, but did not talk to State House correspondents who tried to catch up with him for a chat.
The Acting DSS DG left the Presidential Villa around 5pm and was escorted to a Peugeot 508 car by the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Office of the Vice President, Laolu Akande.
There was also an air of excitement among operatives of the DSS at the Villa following the sack of Daura.