Masked operatives of the Department of State Services (DSS) stormed the premises of the National Assembly yesterday, causing tension among lawmakers, journalists and other workers.
There was a standing directive barring security men from entering the NASS premises with arms. They were to dump their arms and ammunition in the armory of the complex. But armed with Tavor assault rifles, the DSS operatives took up positions in parts of the building housing the two legislative chambers.
The scenario came barely two weeks after armed persons invaded the Senate chamber, overpowered security operatives, and fled with the mace.
Explaining the latest development a top security officer at the National Assembly told The Guardian: “There are issues within the security circles that you cannot understand. And because of the sensitivity of such, they cannot be divulged to the general public for now.”
Some of the masked men stood in front of the entrance to the Senate chamber, others at the route leading to the office of the Senate president, and at the entrance to the White House.
Armed men had, on April 18, forced their way into the Senate hall as Senator Ovie Omo-Agege (APC, Delta Central) showed up for the first time after his suspension. He had insisted that his sanction was illegal, and has not been seen at the complex since.
The embattled lawmaker received the backing of the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) Abubakar Malami, who faulted the suspension. The Senate, however, insisted its action was in order and irreversible.
Meanwhile, the upper legislative chamber yesterday resolved to petition the Presidency over failure by the Inspector-General of Police, Ibrahim Idris, to honor its invitations.
The Senate had sought answers on alleged inhuman treatment meted out to Senator Dino Melaye and killings across the country.
The Deputy Inspector-General of Police, Joshak Habila, waited at the office of the Special Assistant to the President on National Assembly Matters (Senate), Ita Enang, to represent his boss. Lawmakers, however, refused him entry into the chamber, insisting Idris must appear in person.
The Chairman, Senate Committee on Police Affairs, Abu Ibrahim, disclosed he made several attempts to reach the IGP to no avail.
Senate President Bukola Saraki, therefore, mandated the Senate Majority Leader, Ahmad Lawan, and Ibrahim to engage with the Executive on the matter and report back within one week.
The development could escalate the rift between Saraki and President Muhammadu Buhari. The IGP had, last week, asked Habila to represent him at the Senate, while he accompanied Buhari to Bauchi State on a two-day official visit.
Saraki urged the Senate to approach the matter with maturity and statesmanship. He insisted the IGP’s conduct “cannot be right.” According to him, “We are not a Senate in committee; we are a Senate in plenary. Our constitutional powers require the IG to come and give a report on an incident involving a colleague, and more importantly, on the incessant killings in the country. And he felt he would not come but wants to delegate a junior to come to appear before us.”
He warned that the action could “endanger our democracy”, stressing Idris is “doing this not to us only, because the president told him to go to Benue and he refused. And he’s still there.”
He told the senators: “Let us approach this in two ways. One way, give him another period of time for him to reflect on the enormity of the action. Because whatever happens today, this sets a precedent for the future. And as such, it is important that we do not allow issues like this. We must ensure that the right thing is done. Give him time to ensure that he is well guided.”
He added: “There is great disrespect to the institution. But let the (Senate Majority) Leader and the Chairman of Police Affairs (Abu Ibrahim) engage with the Executive and state our position on this. There are powers we can exercise, which are not in the interest of us making progress in this country.
This year alone, over 500 people have been killed. And if we believe that a man who is in charge of enforcing law and order should not sit down and engage with us that have the powers to represent the people, then there’s something wrong somewhere.
“I will like us to hold our comments until then. And I’m pretty confident that the right thing and sanity will prevail. This is a country that will lead as an example to other countries. I don’t think we want to go so low by this kind of action.”
Earlier, Deputy Senate Majority Leader, Bala Ibn N’Allah, suggested a delegation led by Saraki should visit Buhari to register the Senate’s displeasure.