The nation’s temple of democracy, the National Assembly, on Tuesday, came under siege as heavy detachment of armed and fierce-looking security operatives from the Department of State Services (DSS) and the Nigeria Police Force barricaded the main gate and other gates of the legislative complex.
This was happening exactly two weeks after similar siege was laid to the residences of the President of the Senate and the Deputy President of the Senate, Dr. Bukola Saraki and Dr. Ike Ekweremadu respectively.
The development had provoked a widespread insinuation that the senators of the All Progressives Congress (APC), under the authorisation of the Presidency and the party hierarchy, wanted to change the leadership of the Senate by hook or crook.
As early as 7a.m. on Tuesday, operatives of DSS and Police had constituted themselves into thick blockades at the main gate of the Assembly complex, opposite the Eagle Square and other gates surrounding the complex.
Initially, the operatives prevented lawmakers, journalists, National Assembly staff, business operators and visitors from entering into the premises, including the Clerk to the National Assembly (CNA), Mr. Mohammed Sani-Omolori.
When the CNA confronted the DSS operatives on why his staff and others were being denied access to NASS, they replied that they were acting on “orders from above.”
Sani-Omolori turned back and left after telling the Parliamentary Staff Association of Nigeria (PASAN) chairman to remain calm, saying that he was not aware of what was going on.
He noted that he could not work without his staff and told the PASAN chairman that they should not take laws into their hands, stressing that he was not a party to the siege.
Some of the security operatives donned masks, thereby making it difficult for anyone to identify them as well as sending fears down the spines of people aiming to enter the premises for different reasons.
Following this situation, there were insinuations that APC senators, allegedly with the mastermind of the national chairman of the ruling party, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole and perhaps the backing of the Presidency, were desperately strategizing to remove Senate Pesident, Bukola Saraki, from office.
Some lawmakers who arrived at the scene were disallowed from going beyond the gate including Senator Rafiu Ibrahim (PDP, Kwara South), a situation that created gridlock on the route to the National Assembly.
However, a female member of the House of Representatives, Hon. Boma Goodhead (PDP/Rivers) arrived on the scene to salvage the situation as she dared the security operatives, berating them for desecrating democracy.
Goodhead confronted the security operatives and insisted that their barricade could not stop her from gaining access into the premises of the National Assembly because she was legitimately elected to represent her people and, therefore, has the right to go to her office and to work.
She dared the masked armed security men to shoot her if they cared as she forced her way through the barricade.
It was after this act that the legislator beckoned on her colleagues who were earlier stopped from entering to join her. Although the security operatives relaxed the barricade to allow the lawmakers go in, they were not allowed to drive in their cars.
It was observed that most of the lawmakers who gained entry were members elected on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), but there were reports that their colleagues from APC were meeting at a highbrow hotel in the city.
Inside the White House of the National Assembly, all the offices of the senators were sealed off by the security operatives, thereby preventing them from gaining access.
However, members of the PDP Senate caucus, who finally found their ways in, took chairs from the House of Representatives wing and sat at the lobby of the complex, keeping vigil ostensibly because of the alleged plot by their APC colleagues to unlawfully unseat Saraki and Ekweremadu.
Also, many members of PDP House caucus came and joined their Senate counterparts in a show of solidarity and to ensure that nothing happened to the embattled leadership of the Senate.
The legislators later ordered snacks and soft drinks while Senator Dino Melaye intermittently sang songs indicating that their enemies had failed in their plot to bring them down.
Meanwhile, the PDP senators have urged the Acting President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, to sack the Inspector-General of Police, Ibrahim Idris, for misusing the Police to harass, intimidate and desecrate the National Assembly.
Deputy Minority Whip of the Senate, Biodun Olujimi, made the call at the lobby of the National Assembly while they kept vigil to prevent the alleged impeachment plot against Senate leadership.
The lawmakers left the complex at about 3p.m. when it was obvious that the APC lawmakers could no longer carry out their plot to effect leadership change, with some of them saying that the vigil would continue as long as APC would not allow them rest.
Shortly before the departure of the lawmakers, Saraki, who was all the while absent from the scene, walked into the National Assembly lobby into the waiting hands of a cheering crowd.
Some senators also reacted to the DSS siege to the National Assembly yesterday, expressing great concerns for the constant attacks on the parliament, describing the frequent invasion of the people’s assembly as undemocratic.
Senator Sulieman Adokwe (PDP, Nasarawa South) condemned the situation, describing it as a shame to the nation’s democracy and ridicule to the country in the international community.
On his part, Senator Ben Murray-Bruce (Bayelsa-East) said: “We are waiting for the invasion that has to take place. We are calling on Senator Godswill Akpabio that has not taken place and we call on him to hurry up; it is taking too much time. I don’t know if it’s taken too much time to overthrow government.
“…I spoke to the British Ambassador. The protest letters have been sent to the American and British governments so that their visas can be revoked. There is no single APC senator in our midst here in the National Assembly complex.”
Reacting, Senator Isa Hamma Misau (Bauchi North) noted: “Even during military regime, this kind of thing never happened. It is unfortunate and it will not stand. Whatever happened today will be null and void because all the people that are trying to perpetuate this illegality were part of the lawmakers that passed the votes and proceeding of July 24 that the National Assembly formally adjourned till September 26.”
Meanwhile, about 49 PDP senators who signed in support of Saraki’s leadership were at the National Assembly complex yesterday to show their unflinching solidarity for his administration, just as there was no single member of APC senator in the premises yesterday.
Meanwhile, Senator Rafiu Adebayo Ibrahim representing Kwara South, yesterday, alleged that lawmakers of the Parliamentary Support Group for Buhari received the sum of $1 million each to impeach Saraki and Ekweremadu.
Ibrahim said: “I can authoritatively tell you that those senators behind the desecration of the National Assembly collected $1 million each to impeach the Senate president and his deputy. You can quote me anywhere on this.”
Melaye accused Oshiomhole of collecting signatures of lawmakers with the aim of effecting a leadership change in the upper chamber of the National Assembly.