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PUNCH HEADLINE: National Assembly invasion: Saraki, APC Reps demand full probe

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The Senate President, Dr Bukola Saraki, and the All Progressives Congress caucus in the House of Representatives have called for a full investigation into the invasion of the National Assembly on Tuesday by the operatives of the Department of State Services.

Saraki, who made the call at a press conference in Abuja on Wednesday, also dared the APC senators to carry out their impeachment threat against him, stressing that only two-thirds of members of the Senate could remove him and other leaders of the National Assembly

Saraki said he and his colleagues in the National Assembly leadership were prepared to step down the day two-thirds of members lose confidence in them.

He explained that the process of election and removal of principal officers in the National Assembly were clearly stipulated in the relevant sections of the laws guiding the operations of the legislature.

He said, “The day two-thirds of our members no longer have confidence in us, we will leave this place.”

The Senate President described Tuesday’s invasion of the National Assembly by officials of the DSS as a show of shame.

He claimed the invasion was part of a plot to force a change in leadership and that the plotters had been at it for months.

Calling for a probe into the invasion, the Senate President said, “This is an incident concerning which we have it on good authority that it has been in the planning for months, and yet it was allowed to happen. How is it that such an atrocity was not prevented?

“How is it that the masterminds were not deterred? Very serious questions remain that can only be answered by a full investigation. We call for an investigation, and we demand that all perpetrators are brought to book.

“We owe it to ourselves to ensure that such a situation never occurs again. Many agencies have abused their powers and acted outside the ambit of the law. Where abuses occur, similar actions must be taken immediately and full investigation instituted.”

He maintained that the invasion of the assembly complex should not have happened in the first place, noting that Nigeria reaped the bitter fruits instantaneously as “evident in media images relayed around the world, images that shame us as a democratic nation.”

He added, “The siege was also an act of cowardice by those seeking to carry out an illegal impeachment of the leadership of the Senate in flagrant disregard of the law. People who seek control at all costs, by whatever means, never minding the injury to democratic norms.

“I have to say that this is not about me, Abubakar Bukola Saraki, as an individual. It is not about Ike Ekweremadu, nor is it about Yakubu Dogara. I am speaking for my colleagues when I say that this is about the soul of Nigeria, what we represent as a country and our standing in the comity of nations.

“This is a country where so much is expected of us. So many rungs of the ladder that we are supposed to have ascended as a nation; instead we are wallowing in impunity and illegal show of force, all of which retard our progress.”

He explained that he didn’t derive joy in saying he warned the nation about two years ago that there was a government within the President Muhammadu Buhari government and that its interest was at variance with the interests of Nigerians who voted this administration into power.

Saraki said, “I said it then, and now we are beginning to see the manifestations of that government within a government. It beats one’s imagination how the head of an agency could have authorised the brazen assault on the legislature that we saw yesterday. Despite the threat to our lives, we shall continue to fight impunity and injustice in this country.”

He expressed gratitude to Nigerians for standing to defend democracy with the actions they took to end the siege, noting that the efforts of Nigerians put the aggressors to shame.

According to him, the resistance mounted by the staff of the National Assembly, legislators and Civil Society Organisations who refused to leave the entrance of the complex until the siege was broken, strengthened his faith in the people of Nigeria.

“The rain fell, the sun rose, but Nigerians stood their ground in defence of democracy. With the strength of will demonstrated by everyone against unwarranted and unconstitutional militaristic might, the siege could not stand.

“By this, we have shown that Nigerians can resist government within government in whatever guise and this is humbling for me. Those who sought to attack the National Assembly under my leadership for their selfish ends have only affirmed my belief in this country.

“They attempted to execute an illegal impeachment of the leadership of the Senate without the backing of the law, but they faltered. I am confident that, together, we shall always defeat acts of unconstitutionality. The rule of law shall always prevail,” he said.

While expressing gratitude to Nigerians for standing up for their action, he singled out Boma Goodhead, the female member of the House of Representatives, for standing up to the masked security men and daring them to shoot as she demanded an end to the siege.

He expressed gratitude to the acting President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, over his handling of the situation. Saraki explained that his decisive action went a long way towards restoring public confidence.

Saraki observed that the acting President’s action sent a powerful message “that the DSS cannot be recklessly deployed against institutions of our democracy. The path of leadership is not by party and we must commend it wherever it is found. Mr acting President did the right thing. However, the damage control so far does not address the question of how this atrocity happened in the first place.”

The lawmaker reiterated that when he joined other Nigerians about four years ago to fight for change, no one envisaged a scenario such as the one that unfolded on Tuesday.

He noted that there were many lessons to be drawn from the ugly incident which played out on Tuesday, adding, “For one, government must ensure that security agencies remain neutral and act in line with the position of the constitution as well as their enabling laws. Heads of agencies should be accountable, and those who step out of line must be held responsible for their actions. Enough with impunity, enough with the reckless and senseless deployment of militaristic force. Enough.”

He assured Nigerians of the commitment of the National Assembly to a country governed by the rule of law. He pointed out that legislators had a desire to have a society where there would be equity and justice, not oppression.

The Senate President urged President Muhammadu Buhari to sign the 2018 Electoral Act Amendment Bill which has been sent for his assent. In response to a question on his reaction to the defection of Senator Godswill Akpabio from the Peoples Democratic Party, Saraki dismissed it as “a local issue” and that the issues he was addressing were national. He however alluded to the fact that there was freedom of association.

Investigation must uncover truth —APC Reps

On its part, the APC caucus at the House of Representatives called for a full investigation into the Tuesday’s siege laid to the National Assembly by operatives of the DSS.

The House Leader and leader of the APC caucus, Mr Femi Gbajabiamila, who gave its position in Abuja on Wednesday, stated that while the lockdown must be condemned, a full investigation would unearth the whole truth behind the action of the security operatives.

The caucus applauded the immediate step taken by the Presidency in firing the Director-General of the DSS, Mr Lawal Daura.

It added that the APC members were still reviewing the incident and would come out with a detailed statement.

It stated further, “The siege to the National Assembly by the DSS operatives must be condemned by all men and women of goodwill.

“We must however tarry a while until investigations are completed and facts of what actually happened emerge.

“We must act responsibly and no one must be allowed to bring down our hard earned democracy. The Presidency has done what needs to be done at a time like this and the APC caucus of the House will make a full statement in the next couple of days.”

APC makes a U-turn, defends DSS’ action

The APC, which had on Tuesday absolved itself from the invasion, on Wednesday defended the action of the DSS operatives.

The APC claimed that the action of the DSS officers was taken to prevent a plot by Saraki to incite violence.

This was contained in a statement signed by its National Publicity Secretary, Mr Yekini Nabena, in Abuja.

The APC’s new position is in sharp contrast to the position it took soon after the invasion on Tuesday, when it condemned the DSS action and dissociated itself from it.

The APC said on Wednesday that the “timely intervention” of the security operatives averted a potential loss of lives, injuries and destruction of property.

Nabena alleged that Saraki mobilised thugs to the National Assembly adding that the new position was the product of an investigation.

The statement read, “Following Tuesday’s incident at the National Assembly, our investigations have now uncovered the sinister plot hatched by the Senate President, Dr Bukola Saraki, to foment violence in the legislative chamber all in a bid to stop his impeachment,” the statement read.

“Our investigations uncovered and noted the following: We are now aware that the timely intervention of the security operatives forestalled the planned violence which could have led to possible deaths, injuries and destruction of property in the National Assembly on Tuesday.

“Why did the Senate President mobilise thugs to the National Assembly who almost lynched Hon. E.J. Agbonayinma, the only APC federal lawmaker present but for the timely intervention of security operatives.”

He added, “Why did the Senate President reconvene the National Assembly? Ostensibly as a pre-emptive move to frustrate federal lawmakers’ move to remove him.

“Is it not curious that only the Peoples Democratic Party federal lawmakers were present in their numbers, some as early as 7am, while the majority APC federal lawmakers were elsewhere holding a caucus meeting on the state of the nation.”

Nabena called on security agencies to probe the incident and take necessary action.

“As espoused in our earlier statement, whilst our contention with the leadership of the National Assembly as currently constituted is a matter of public record, we still believe that the legislature as an independent arm of government must be allowed free reign for vibrant contestation of ideas and values amongst its members within the context of their constitutional mandate and for the benefit of the Nigerian people,” he said.

He called for the resignation of the Senate President, saying, “Finally, we reiterate our call for the Senate President to resign from the position immediately as he no longer has the moral and legitimate grounds to occupy that position as a member of the minority PDP.

“Going by the popular axiom, the majority will have their way, but the minority will have their say.”

Daura’s sacking, unanimous decision by Buhari, Osinbajo – Presidential aide

Also on Wednesday, the Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Mr Femi Adesina, said the Tuesday sacking of Mr Lawal Daura as the DSS DG was a unanimous decision.

He said there was no way the acting President, Yemi Osinbajo, would have taken the decision without the consent of President Muhammadu Buhari who is currently on vacation.

Adesina gave the explanation while answering questions from State House correspondents at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.

He said since there was no power tussle between the two leaders, he expected that the decision would be a unanimous one.

The presidential spokesman added that Osinbajo, being a decent man, would have done the needful before taking the decision.

He reiterated his position that the Presidency remained one.

Adesina said, “What we will like to say for the umpteenth time is that the Presidency is one.

“Whenever the President is proceeding on vacation, he transmits power to the vice-president, who then becomes the acting President. On this occasion he also did that. So, the acting President has all the powers of a President.

“Now, it is a matter of decency and we know that the acting President is a decent man. There is no tussle for power; there is no tough battle between him and the President.

“When something like what happened yesterday (Tuesday) will happen, there will be unanimity. There is no way there won’t be unanimity on that kind of decision. It is not something that will be discussed with the press but know that there was unanimity in the decision.”

Obasanjo, Jonathan, Buhari used force against NASS, alleges TI

The Transparency International, a global watchdog, on Wednesday condemned the siege to the National Assembly by operatives of the DSS.

It noted that the administrations of former Presidents, Olusegun Obasanjo and Goodluck Jonathan, also used force against the legislature.

The TI said the sack and subsequent arrest of the former Director-General of the DSS, Lawal Daura, were commendable, adding that the police must be thorough with the investigation.

The TI Nigeria Head, Musa Rafsanjani, in an exclusive interview with our correspondent, recalled that in November 2014, some members of the House of Representatives under the APC, which was then the party in opposition, were prevented by security agents from gaining access to the National Assembly Complex.

The action by the security men forced the lawmakers to scale the fence.

The TI Head, Rafsanjani, said, “We are seeing a repeat of this impunity and abuse of power that have been happening unfortunately since the return of democracy in 1999. We have seen it under Obasanjo where not less than four senate Presidents were forcefully removed and where about three state governors were also removed using the state instrumentality.

“We have also seen the repeat of this irresponsible attitude during Jonathan where the National Assembly members were also blocked and denied access into their offices. We have seen the DSS locking out the opposition parties at that time also.

“This time around, we are seeing a repeat of such culture of abuse of office by impunity and rascality demonstrated by leaders to suit their political interests. This is not the kind of democracy we fought for.

We cannot allow such harassment and intimidation of the so-called opposition parties. Politicians at all levels are not learning any lesson.

“The good thing at this time was the swift response from the Presidency. The first thing was for the head of such agency to be removed because he has abused his power.

His action amounted to undermining the responsibilities of the government. It is good that he is being investigated so that we can have a loaded response not only to the DSS but to other security agencies which may have plans to toe that line.”

Daura to remain under house arrest — Security source

The sacked Director General of the Department of State Services, Lawal Daura, will remain under house arrest.

A security source who spoke on condition of anonymity told newsmen on Wednesday.

Daura was sacked by Acting President Yemi Osinbajo, on Tuesday, for unauthorised invasion of the National Assembly and was promptly arrested right inside the Presidential Villa by men of the Nigeria Police Force.

The source also confirmed that Daura had been under house arrest in one of the presidential guest houses in Aso Rock.

“He will remain there until several investigations over certain issues bordering on him are concluded,” the source added.

CONTINUE READING….

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