•How sacked Daura plotted NASS takeover with hooded strike force
•NASS leadership meeting called off indefinitely
•Whereabouts of Daura unknown, as operatives withdraw from NASS
•Saraki, Dogara storm NASS amid jubilation by lawmakers, supporters
•UK govt, Atiku, Tambuwal, Dankwambo, Falana, Ohanaeze, Afenifere react
•APC exonerates Oshiomhole; why Osinbajo spared IGP Idris
By Soni Daniel, Henry Umoru, Emman Ovuakporie & Levinus Nwabughiogu
ABUJA—The face-off between the executive and legislative arms of the Federal Government which prompted an early morning blockade of the National Assembly by the Department of State Services, DSS, yesterday culminated in the sack of its Director-General, Lawal Daura.
The sack, Vanguard learned, is set to reset the shape and structure of Muhammadu Buhari’s Presidency, senior Presidency officials revealed yesterday.
Daura was sacked on the orders of Acting President, Yemi Osinbajo, who described his action in cordoning off the National Assembly with DSS operatives as unauthorised, unconstitutional and unacceptable to the rule of law.
Events leading to Daura’s sack were preceded by the early morning drama that saw scores of legislators on vacation and hundreds of legislative staff locked out of the assembly complex by masked DSS operatives.
The move was linked to continuing intrigues to forcibly remove the major presiding officers of the Senate, Senate President Bukola Saraki, and his deputy, Senator Ike Ekweremadu.
At the height of the lockout, the National Assembly leadership which had the day before scheduled a meeting for yesterday afternoon to consider proposals to reconvene for the purpose of deliberating on essential requests from the presidency cancelled the meeting indefinitely.
The developments in the National Assembly complex were shadowed by intrigues around Abuja, yesterday, with supporters of Saraki and his antagonists in subtle meetings around the federal capital.
How it started
The drama in Abuja opened early yesterday when supporters of the Senate President from the Senate and the House of Representatives thronged the National Assembly complex as early as 6.30 a.m.
Journalists had the previous night been tipped off that the continuing plot to remove Saraki and Ekweremadu would crystallise early yesterday. However, as they arrived as early as 7.00 a.m. the National Assembly complex was sealed off by veiled and heavily armed operatives of the DSS.
Senator Saraki’s supporters, many of who were outside Abuja, were also summoned the previous day to immediately return to Abuja and as early as 7.00 a.m. many of them were at the gate but refused entry by the armed security operatives.
The legislators said they were in the complex to frustrate Saraki’s antagonists who they described as the minority.
The anti-Saraki senators were, however, nowhere to be found. For most of the time, they were ensconced in a private building in Aso Drive, a posh area of the federal capital where they were meeting.
After about two hours of a stand-off, the senators and members were allowed to enter but were frisked before proceeding through the gate without their vehicles.
The lawmakers were forced to trek the about three hundred meters from the second gate to the foyer of the National Assembly where they congregated.
The Clerk to the National Assembly, CNA, Mr. Sani Omolori, equivalent to the Head of Service, who was subsequently allowed entrance, however, turned down the offer on the ground that he could not enter while his staff were refused entry.
The CNA, who arrived the second gate at about 9.58 a.m. simply told the DSS men: “I can’t enter here when my staff are outside, I am not a politician.”
One of the leading anti-Saraki senators, Senator Ali Ndume arrived at about the same time and sauntered past the DSS operatives.
Meeting called off
The Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yusuf Lasun, who arrived the scene at about 11.45 a.m. expressed his regrets over the blockade and said that on account of the development, the planned meeting of the National Assembly leadership to consider the reconvening of the two chambers would be called off.
He, nevertheless, affirmed to reporters that whatever plot there was to remove the Senate President or deputy would be an herculean task.
“Don’t forget that it is difficult to impeach a presiding officer of the National Assembly because no matter the method you are going to use, you need the two-third majority. And not two-third of the sitting members, you need the two-third of the totality of members of the legislature before you can impeach anybody,” Lasun told legislative Correspondents.
On the scheduled meeting by the National Assembly leadership, he said: “We were supposed to meet by 12 o’clock this afternoon but the meeting was called by the Senate President.
“Until I reached here this afternoon, I didn’t know there were other issues,” he said.
However, the vigil of the pro-Saraki legislators, who increased in their numbers over the hours, caused a distraction. It emerged, yesterday, that the pro-impeachment lobby had plotted to use an interpretation of Section 50(2)(c) of the Constitution stipulating the use of a two-third majority of members present in a sitting as a basis.
Ahead of the plot, some lawyers had gone on a circuit of some national television stations to sell the new interpretation of Section 50(2)(c) which based on precedence in the impeachment of past Senate Presidents had always meant two-third of all the members of the Senate.
How Daura deployed hooded DSS operatives
Vanguard learned exclusively that the sacked DSS boss, who hails from the same town with President Muhammadu Buhari, deployed no fewer than 100 heavily armed DSS operatives to cordon off the National Assembly premises a few hours to the meeting.
Vanguard also gathered that to make the operations fool-proof, Daura handed the 100-strong team over to the command of a senior operative, an Assistant Director, to lead the operation.
It was learned that most of the operatives, who were drawn from their locations at 1 a.m. on Tuesday, did not know why they were hurriedly relocated, where they were being deployed to and for what purpose until they arrived the precincts of the imposing National Assembly complex in the wee hours.
A top source told Vanguard that although embattled Daura had informed the Inspector General of Police, Ibrahim Idris, of the plan to effect massive deployment of DSS operatives to lay siege to the NASS, and actually pleaded with him to support the operation with his men, the police chief declined to contribute additional policemen for the ‘operation’.
Why IGP Idris was spared
“What the IGP told Daura was that he had enough police officers and men currently manning the NASS and did not need to deploy more personnel there,” the top official confirmed to Vanguard, yesterday.
“That was the explanation, which the IGP also tendered to the Acting President, Yemi Osinbajo, who summoned both Daura and Idris to the Villa to explain their roles in the siege to the National Assembly,” the source added.
“The Acting President was convinced that the IGP did not mobilize his men to the legislature and that was why he was not sacked along with the DG DSS,” the source explained.
Daura was sacked after he was summoned to the Presidential Villa by the Acting president alongside the Inspector General of Police, Ibrahim Idris.
Idris was the first to arrive at about 12.35 p.m. before Daura who came in at about 1.15 p.m.
Following his meeting with the Acting president, Idris while speaking with State House reporters, denied police involvement in the siege to the National Assembly complex.
The dismissal of Daura as the head of the DSS was conveyed in a press statement issued by the Senior Special Assistant to the Acting President on Media, Laolu Akande.
He said Daura was directed to handover to the most senior director in the service.
Once news of the sack of Daura came out from the Presidential Villa, the DSS operatives lifted the blockade around the National Assembly complex.
Their vehicles began withdrawing from about 2:51 pm when the gate into the National Assembly was thrown open.
Soon after the operatives left, the APC Senators, who all along had been huddled at a residence along Aso Drive, Asokoro from where they planned to move in to remove Saraki came in at 2.55 pm.
Saraki, Dogara’s arrival at NASS
Senator Saraki arrived at about at 3.39 p.m. stirring wide jubilation among many lawmakers who embraced him and shook hands with songs of praises. He went to meet the senators and members of the House of Representatives who had been keeping vigil at the foyer to prevent the pro-presidency legislators from gaining entrance to thank them.
Some members of the House of Representatives also went into wild jubilation upon the arrival of Speaker Yakubu Dogara to the National Assembly.
The Speaker entered the complex at exactly 5:08pm in the waiting hands of his colleagues who were waiting.
The developments in the National Assembly were condemned by Saraki and Dogara who in a joint statement described it as another attempt to subvert the nation’s democracy.
In the statement, Saraki and Dogara stated that the heavy presence of armed security men, who unnecessarily militarised the legislative complex and harassed legislators and the workers in the complex, could not be justified in a democracy.
The Senate President and Speaker further noted that yesterday was a sad day for democracy noting with regret that legislators and staff were locked out from parliament.
They said: “By 6.30 am, the reports started coming in and by 7am, there were pictures and video online showing armed security men preventing senators and members of the House of Representatives from coming into the complex.
‘’Some of our colleagues then mobilized other members in both chambers from their respective abode so that they could mount pressure on the Security men to allow them to gain entry.
“Obviously, the public outcry from Nigerians and members of the international community against this illegality, this desecration of the sanctity of the legislature and this flagrant abuse of powers forced the government to relax the directives given to the security men as they later allowed the legislators to walk from the main gate into the foyer.
‘’Still the lawmakers were not allowed to drive in, in their vehicles and were denied access into the main building housing their offices.
“It is not clear what the plan of the government is but information reaching us indicated that some senators, who are pro-executive arm, are being camped somewhere here in Abuja and they are being compelled to sign an impeachment notice that would later be brought to the Assembly complex.
‘’The Senate chamber will now be forced open to enable an illegal change of leadership take place in the Senate.
“It should be noted that the Senate formally adjourned on July 24, 2018 and it stands adjourned. To reconvene, there is a process which has to be followed. Also, it should be clear that these senators, who are camped somewhere know the procedure for changing the leadership of the Senate.
‘’Both the leadership of the All Progressives Congress, APC, and the Presidency officials masterminding this illegality know that they do not have the numbers to lawfully carry out this action.
“Therefore, we call on members of the international community to view this development as a coup against democracy.
‘’This is a throw-back to the inglorious days of military rule where dissent is not tolerated and freedom of association and other fundamental human rights are wilfully and carelessly violated.
“We urge Nigerians and the international community to condemn this illegal invasion of the National Assembly complex and the attempt to asphyxiate the legislature as undemocratic, uncivilized and irresponsible.
“Let us use this opportunity to thank our colleagues in the Senate and House of Representatives who immediately mobilized to resist this coup against democracy. Their action will be recorded as one taken at a time when the soul of this country is being imperilled.
‘’They have acted to avert the breakdown of constitutionalism and collapse of the rule of law. They have stood up to dictatorship and demonstrated that this country belongs to all of us.
‘’Following this unpleasant development, the joint leadership meeting slated for this afternoon has been postponed till further notice because under the prevailing circumstances, we cannot guarantee the safety of the 20 members from both chambers expected at the meeting”, Saraki and Dogara stated.
Oshiomhole not involved —APC
Following widespread assertions of the involvement of the APC national chairman, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole in the subtle moves to forcefully remove the Senate President, the party in a statement dissociated itself and the chairman from the plot.
Acting publicity secretary of the party, Mr. Yekini Nabena in a statement said: “Our attention has been drawn to mischievous attempts in some partisan quarters to link Tuesday’s(yesterday) developments in the National Assembly to the National Chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Comrade Adams Oshiomhole.
“While the Party is monitoring the developments in the National Assembly like every other concerned Nigerian and stakeholder, there is absolutely no basis for all the false allegations and attempt to blame the APC National Chairman for the development there. It is strictly a legislative matter.”
UK govt speaks on siege
The British High Commission also, yesterday, reacted to developments at the National Assembly, saying it would only accept a democratic process that recognises the rights of Nigerians to participate in election process.
“We are aware of media reports of a situation at the National Assembly this morning. We are closely monitoring the situation and other political developments in Nigeria.
“The United Kingdom supports a process whereby the people of Nigeria can exercise their democratic right to vote and be voted for. We favour a free, fair, credible and peaceful process and the independence of institutions, which allow for that,” Joe Abuku, a spokesperson for the UK Embassy in Abuja, said in a statement.
Seiyefa takes over at DSS
Following the directive from the acting president that the most senior officer in the DSS should take over from the sacked Daura, Mr. Matthew Seiyefa, a director in the service arrived the Presidential Villa in an official SUV at 4 p.m. clutching a file and was received at the entrance by the ADC to the Acting President.
Shortly after, the Acting Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC), Ibrahim Magu, also arrived, and walked briskly into Osinbajo’s office.
Magu, however, rushed out at about 4:40 pm.
We must protect our democracy – Dankwambo
Also reacting to the siege on the Senate yesterday, Governor of Gombe State and PDP presidential hopeful, Alhaji Ibrahim Dankwambo, said: ‘’The forceful take-over of the National Assembly complex by some renegade officials of some security agencies this morning (yesterday) was an ignominious assault on the rules of decency, a rude violation of the principles of separation of powers and, ultimately, a violent assault on our democracy.
‘’What happened should set alarm bells ringing in the heads of every patriotic Nigerian and every friend of Nigeria that our nation is being taken to the precipice and the agents of destruction are very much at work.
‘’It is just alright that Acting President, Yemi Osinbajo, has acted decisively by relieving the Director General of the State Security Service (Department of State Services, DSS) of his job with immediate effect. But it must be noted that this is not enough comfort.”