DSS operatives lay siege to National Assembly
Presidency sacks DG Lawal Daura over ‘unlawful invasion’
Masked operatives of the Department of State Services (DSS) yesterday barricaded the gates to the National Assembly complex, shutting out lawmakers.The drama happened amid concern by some legislators, especially those in the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) that their All Progressives Congress (APC) counterparts were plotting to forcefully re-open the premises and impeach the Senate President, Bukola Saraki and his deputy, Ike Ekweremadu.
The apprehension intensified on Monday when it emerged that a meeting of the leadership had been scheduled.But as early as 5:00 a.m., DSS personnel took up positions.When lawmakers attempted to enter, the security men barked they had orders not to allow anybody in.
For hours, the lawmakers kept up the pressure, with a climactic show of defiance by House of Representatives member Boma Goodhead (PDP, Rivers), who dared the operatives to shoot her.
While many watched from a distance, she walked up close to the men and lectured them on how not to assault democratic institutions. “I am a member of the National Assembly and I am here to access my office,” she shouted, pointing at the face of one of the officers.
She eventually succeeded in pushing her way through the gate. Other lawmakers followed quickly. But journalists and legislative staff remained barred.The PDP senators denied access included Rafiu Ibrahim, Ben Murray-Bruce, Biodun Olujimi, Isah Misau and Shabba Lafiagi. The party’s House of Representatives members included Mark Gbillah, Tope Olauonu, Razaq Atunwa, Chris Azubogu and Frederick Agbedi.
Not even the Clerk to the National Assembly, Mohammad Ataba Sani Omolori, was spared.He confronted the operatives on his arrival, asking why the staff and others were denied access. Again, the men replied they were acting on orders. He turned back furiously, saying he could not work without his staff.
While the siege lasted, Senator Rafiu Ibrahim (Kwara South) alleged that APC lawmakers of the Parliamentary Support Group received $1 million each to impeach Saraki and Ekweremadu.Ibrahim, who belongs to a pro-Saraki group, said: “You can quote me anywhere on this.”
Also, Senator Dino Melaye, another prominent member of the pro-Saraki group, alleged: “The chairman of APC is currently meeting with some APC senators. As I speak, we understand he is collecting signatures for the Senate president’s impeachment. We understand that after collecting the signatures, they will be proceeding to the National Assembly to carry out their plan. We are waiting for them.”
But the deputy speaker of the House of Representatives, Sulaimon Yusuff Lasun, said he was unaware of any impeachment plot.Fielding questions from reporters after forcing his way into the complex, he condemned the blockade and confirmed that the meeting for the day had been called off due to the incident.Irked by the development, the Presidency promptly announced the sack of DSS Director General, Lawal Musa Daura.
Acting President Yemi Osinbajo said the dismissal took immediate effect.Daura has been directed to hand over to the most senior officer of the agency.The former DG was reportedly arrested and detained thereafter.At 2:15 p.m., Daura’s plain-clothed aides were seen driving out of the presidential villa without him, looking downcast.
Osinbajo earlier also held a closed-door meeting with Inspector General of Police Ibrahim Idris (IGP).The Acting President had reportedly sought to know on whose orders Daura acted, since President Muhammadu Buhari was already on a 10-day holiday in the United Kingdom. With no convincing response, he was swiftly relieved of his appointment.
Osinbajo’s spokesman, Laolu Akande, in a statement, said: “Acting President Yemi Osinbajo has described the unauthorised takeover of the National Assembly complex earlier today as a gross violation of constitutional order, rule of law and all accepted 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.“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.”
The APC, however, denied it was behind the barricade. Its acting national publicity secretary, Yekini Nabena, said: “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 attempts to blame the APC national chairman for the development there. It is strictly a legislative matter.”
But unconvinced, the PDP insisted the invasion had the approval of Buhari, Osinbajo and the ruling party, noting that Daura’s sack was diversionary, deceitful and an afterthought.“The presidency’s sack of Daura was a damage control stunt and a knee-jerk gimmick, which came as a response to the national and international outcry against the armed invasion directed by the Buhari presidency,” the party said.
It wondered why, like the DSS, the police high command has not received any sanction “for its serial acts of impunity” and called for “an immediate investigation by an independent panel of inquiry headed by a retired Chief Justice of Nigeria to examine the remote and immediate cause of the invasion.”
Saraki and the House of Representatives Speaker, Yakubu Dogara, jointly condemned the DSS operation, saying it could not be justified in a democracy.In a statement, they re-echoed the allegation: “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 then be forced open to enable an illegal change of leadership take place.
“It should be clear that these senators who are camped somewhere know the procedure for changing the leadership of the senate. The leadership of the APC and the presidency officials masterminding this illegality know that they do not have the numbers to lawfully carry out this action.”Both leaders urged Nigerians and the international community to condemn the “illegal invasion and the attempt to asphyxiate the legislature as undemocratic, uncivilised and irresponsible.”The United Labour Congress (ULC) meanwhile condemned the DSS action, saying the agency might have acted on orders by government to truncate the will of the legislature.
The union described the siege as shameful and a huge threat to the country’s democracy.“We want Nigerians to hold the men that sponsored the invasion responsible for any dire consequences that may arise out of this misadventure. This continued despoliation of our nation by desperate politicians must stop and it is our collective duty to make them stop,” the ULC said in a statement by its president, Comrade Joe Ajaero.
It added: “Nigeria is a democracy and the beauty of democracy is when all of its tenets are strictly observed by all parties, especially the principles of the Rule of Law and Separation of Powers between the three arms of government. We, therefore, strongly condemn the harassment, intimidation and hounding of political opponents across the nation using the instruments of state and other forms of terror.”