By Emeka Ejere
Reactions dominated by condemnations have continued to trail the blockade of the National Assembly premises in the early hours of Tuesday by men of the Department of State Services (DSS), who claimed that they acted on order from above.
Officers of the DSS stormed the Assembly complex, preventing lawmakers and staff from entry.
However, the leadership of the National Assembly have condemned the situation in a statement jointly signed by them.
Senate President, Bukola Saraki, and the Speaker House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, blamed the leadership of the All Progressives Congress (APC), and officials of the Presidency for the barricade at the National Assembly.
Below is the full statement:
Following the on-going invasion of the National Assembly complex by men of the Department of State Services (DSS) in which legislators and members of staff, including the Clerk of the National Assembly, Alhaji Mohammed Sani Omolori, who is the administrative head of the Federal legislature, were harassed and prevented from accessing their offices, Senate President, Dr. Abubakar Bukola Saraki and Speaker, House of Representatives, Rt. Hon. Yakubu Dogara has condemned the action of the security agents and described it as another attempt to subvert the nation’s democracy.
In a statement jointly signed by the two presiding officers of both Chambers of the National Assembly, Saraki and Dogara stated that the heavy presence of armed security men who unnecessarily militarized 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 today was a sad day for democracy as very early in the morning, they got reports backed by video and pictures, from members of staff of the National Assembly, their colleagues from both chambers and other individuals, about the heavy presence of the security personnel who insisted that nobody would enter the complex except certain Senators who were to be conveyed into the complex in a Coaster bus.
“By 6.30 am, the reports started coming in and by 7 am, there were pictures and video online showing armed security men preventing Senators and Honourable members from coming into the Complex. Some of our colleagues then mobilized other members in both chambers from their respective abode so that they could pressurize the Security men from allowing 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 takes 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 willfully 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.
“We also thank members of the press, local and international, and all Nigerians whose support for the cause of democracy have sustained us this far. 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.
Meanwhile the Northern Leaders and Stakeholders Assembly (NLSA) has described as `destructive’ Tuesday’s siege on National Assembly by operatives of the DSS.
Dr Umar Ardo, Secretary, NLSA, in a statement in Abuja, said the National Assembly incident constituted a huge threat to Nigeria’s democracy.
He urged the leadership of the National Assembly to as a matter of urgency reconvene and summon the leadership of the executive to explain the DSS’ action.
Ardo said that disciplinary actions should be applied where necessary as provided for by the constitution.
He said that the position of NLSA was that all Nigerians should protect the nation’s democracy.
Meanwhile, Acting President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, had in a swift reaction, sacked the Lawal Daura, the Director-General, DSS over the unathorised blockage on the National Assembly.
Osinbajo directed him to hand over to the most senior director in the services.
In his reaction, former Vice President Atiku Abubakar condemned the blockade, describing the action as “illegal and undemocratic’’.
In a statement issued by his media aide, Mr Paul Ibe, in Abuja, Abubakar said that the purpose of the blockade was to force a change in the leadership of the Senate.
He condemned “completely, this atrocity and called on all those involved to put Nigeria first and abandon this madness.
“The Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, as amended, guarantees both the independence of the legislature and Separation of Powers.
“Nigeria is a democracy not a military dictatorship and we, the people will never return to tyranny.”
The former vice president also urged President Muhammadu Buhari and Acting President Yemi Osinbajo to uphold the Constitution and law and order, which they swore to uphold on May 29, 2015.
“We warned that if what occurred in Benue last week was not checked on time, it would escalate to the federal level. Today we are seeing that warning in play.
“The Acting President, being himself, a professor of law, ought to know that setting such a precedent is an invitation to anarchy’’.
He said that there were better uses of the security forces at this time than to block the country’s legislature.
“Our people are languishing in the midst of unprecedented insecurity and nationwide killings.