By Henry Umoru
FOR fear of any impending attack by terrorists or Boko Haram Insurgents, President of the Senate, Senator Ahmad Lawan yesterday raised the alarm that top security officials should as a matter of urgency beef up security measures at the National Assembly to avert any threat.
Speaking yesterday in Abuja at an emergency meeting the leadership of the Senate had with top security officials, Lawan, who is also the chairman of the National Assembly who noted that he has received report of security threat to the Assembly, said, “Personally, I had a report from the DSS that we had a security threat. Many unknown and uninvited people came or are coming into the National Assembly complex and we felt we shouldn’t take this lightly.
“From today, we have to find temporary solution to support the security arrangement here. We will find a more permanent solution by the time the entire environment is remodeled,” Lawan said.
In attendance were the Director General of the Department of Security Service (DSS) and representatives of the Defence, Police, Civil Defence, Fire Service and other security agencies.
Lawan who noted that the responsibility for ensuring security for all Nigerians is a collective responsibility for both the legislative and executive arms of government, said, “We are working hard, we are working round the clock. We have a very active ad hoc Committee that is already engaging with the security agencies.
“As principal officers of the National Assembly, or let me say in the Senate in this respect, our responsibility and obligation is to ensure that our Senators, members of the House of Representatives, workers of the National Assembly, our visitors and indeed anyone who has a lawful business to do in this National Assembly are safe.
“For a very long time, this National Assembly will always have people who have no business coming here.
“With the heightening insecurity in the country, the time has come for this National Assembly to be properly secured for members of the National Assembly to carry out their legislative and other functions, under a very safe atmosphere.
“And of course, our workers, our visitors. What that means is that, if someone has no business here, that person shouldn’t be in the National Assembly.
“Because we are a parliament, we are a place or an institution where our constituents who feel very strongly about any issue can come and express their opinions.
“Some will come for protests. Some will attend public hearings in the committee rooms. Some will visit the gallery or in some cases even enter the chamber when allowed to do so.
“So we want everybody, as far as the security of this National Assembly complex is concerned, to be at his place. Those who work here directly with us, the security agencies, know what we are talking about.
“From the gate, people who shouldn’t be here at all, find themselves in. And then people come in, moving from one office to another, looking for nothing because they have no appointment with anyone. Yet they pass through all the security systems that we have in place.
“Even our chamber. When we close from the chamber, you see a line-up of people. You wonder how these people have come in and what is their business there.
“And when you take security for granted, sometimes you may have a bitter experience. We don’t want to take for granted the safe corridor that we have had. At least nothing has happened.
“We don’t want to wait until something happened. This kind of discussions had taken place in the past. This is the ninth Senate, we want to do it differently.
The Senate President who disclosed that plans were underway for a better and permanent security architecture for the National Assembly, said, “We want to secure the environment with the necessary security gadgets and technologies to ensure that our parliament is like other parliaments in other clime where you have no business in the parliament, you cannot go in and when you have a business on the first floor, you can only go to the first floor. You can’t go to any other floor.”
Lawan who clarified that nobody was advocating a blanket ban on the people with genuine reasons from visiting the National Assembly, said, “Let me say clearly that what we are trying to do is not to prevent people who have lawful reasons to be here.
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“When you are coming for protests, you are free to do so. Our people know where they do their protests and we normally go out to address them because we sit here on behalf of the people of Nigeria.
“It is legitimate, it is lawful, it is legal for people to come and show either their support for something or their objection to something that has to do with the National Assembly.
“We have maintained this for as far as I can remember in this National Assembly and we are going to continue to receive Nigerians who feel strongly about any issue.
“We are also at home with anyone who is attending public hearing….Nobody who has a reason to come should be stopped. We will still have visitors.”
The Senate President who vowed that any security officials found wanting in the line of duty will not be spared, said, “Any Security person who is given the job to ensure compliance and he’s found involved, we will not hesitate to get that person prosecuted for any wrongdoing. Because it is not enough for somebody to do a terrible thing and what you do is transfer him so that he can go and continue somewhere.
“We believe now we have to work together if it means the agencies talking to their people who are supposed to work here, they should do so because truly, we are under invasion. Anytime you come to the National Assembly, it’s full like market with all manners of people.”