The impasse between the executive arm and the legislature took a new turn on Wednesday when the Inspector General of Police (IG), Suleiman Abba, insisted that he does not recognise Hon. Aminu Waziri Tambuwal as the Speaker of the House of Representatives.
Abba told the House Committee on Police Affairs that Tambuwal’s position was still unclear as the case was before the court and it would be subjudice for him to comment on it.
The IG also referred to the legislators and their aides who jumped the 12-foot gate of the parliament last Thursday, as thugs.
Abba’s face-off with the lawmakers started when he simply referred to the speaker as “Alhaji Aminu Tambuwal”.
When he was requested to retract his statement and address the Office of the Speaker properly, Abba responded: “A tear gas exploded when Alhaji Aminu Tambuwal was being asked to identify himself. We still don’t know the circumstances surrounding the explosion and we are investigating it.”
He said: “In the process of safeguarding the security of the National Assembly on the 20th of November, we collaborated with the National Assembly’s Sergeant-at-Arms, according to laid down procedures, where members were being asked to identify themselves before they could be allowed into the premises.”
Abba added that he had drafted his men to the National Assembly complex on that day based on credible information that what had happened the day before when the Rivers State Governor, Chibuike Amaechi and other members of the All Progressives Congress (APC) had stormed the Police Force headquarters and pledged to storm the federal legislature the next day with worse consequences.
He said those who scaled the fence on that day were thugs who came with some of the lawmakers.
Some of the persons who climbed the fence to gain entry were some principal officers of the House, including Minority Leader, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila; Deputy Minority Leader, Hon. Abdulrahman Suleiman Kawu; and Deputy Minority Whip, Hon. Datti Ahmed.
“We acted on credible information about suspected thugs who wanted to invade the assembly, and because we didn’t want what happened in Burkina Faso to repeat itself here, we had to take stringent security measures,” the IG informed the committee.
He revealed that following an intelligence report of a likely invasion of the House by hoodlums and thugs, the police promptly deployed its personnel to the premises to prevent a breakdown of law and order.
He added: “Some of the principal officers called me to confirm the strengthening of the security around the vicinity of the National Assembly and I told them that it was based on credible information that there was a plan to disrupt the parliament, especially with what happened in Burkina Faso.
“That is why the issue of identifying yourself was enforced and some of the lawmakers complied until Alhaji Aminu Waziri Tambuwal arrived with thugs and disrupted all the arrangements.”
Having listened to him, the lawmakers did not conceal their anger with IG for what they saw as refusal to recognise the Speaker’s status by the police chief.
Chairman of the Committee, Hon. Usman Kumo called the IG to order, insisting that the Speaker and his office must be accorded respect and full compliment.
But Abba refused, prompting Hon. Hakeem Muniru (APC Lagos), to demand that the IG must retract his statement calling the Speaker, “Alhaji Aminu Tambuwal” or he would leave the sitting, as he would deem it an illegal one, adding, “I can’t participate in a hearing where the Office of the Speaker through whose authority we are having this meeting is not even recognised by an appointee of the executive.”
Also, Hon. Victor Nwokolo (PDP Delta) said: “I agree with the earlier speaker on the issues at stake which has to do with the IG retracting his disrespectful statement about the Office of the Speaker.”
Having failed to obtain compliance from the IG, the chairman of the committee told his colleagues that he would report back to the House on what had transpired and adjourned the hearing until further notice.
As the committee members fumed over the IG’s intransigence, the Senate yesterday also expressed dismay over last week’s invasion of the National Assembly by men of the Nigerian Police and Department of State Services (DSS) and constituted a seven-man ad hoc committee to investigate the matter and report its findings as soon as possible.
The committee, which is chaired by Senator Ahmed Makarfi (Kaduna North), also comprises Senators Atiku Bagudu (Kebbi Central); Adegbenga Kaka (Ogun East); Victor Lar (Plateau South), Paulinus Nwagwu (Ebonyi Central); Ehigie Uzamere (Edo South) and Bindowo Jubrilla (Adamawa North).
But Abba, who had been summoned last week to appear before the Senate to explain what informed the invasion, was absent and the Senate did not clarify whether it had withdrawn the summons or not.
The setting up of the probe committee followed a motion moved by the Senate Leader, Victor Ndoma-Egba, lamenting the invasion and describing it as nothing but “a breach of security, privileges and sanctity of the premises and precincts of the National Assembly”.
While setting up the committee, Senate President David Mark said the action of the police was condemnable, adding that the situation in which they found themselves as members of the National Assembly was beyond imagination.
He also described the assault on him by members of the House of Representatives, notably Hon. Abdulmalik Cheche (PDP, Niger), as the sacrifice he had to pay for democracy, saying whatever happened to others in the process should also be seen as a tool to strengthen democracy.
“Whatever price we have to pay is to strengthen democracy,” he said.
Speaking on the motion, Deputy Senate President Senator Ike Ekweremadu described the National Assembly as the temple of civil rule on whose platform democracy grows, adding that November 20 was a dark day in Nigeria.
He said the episode looked like a Hollywood scene and prayed that such an ugly event does not repeat itself in the country again.
Also speaking, Minority Leader, Senator George Akume, who lamented that the integrity and sanctity of the legislature was under siege, described the National Assembly as a strong pillar of democracy, warning that once members lose control of it, anarchy is imminent.
According to him, what the police did could not have been contemplated in South Africa, Ghana and even Cameroun, saying if the Senate failed to act promptly, what the police did to the Speaker of the House, would be done to Mark some day.
In his own contribution, Deputy Senate Leader, Abdul Ningi, described the invasion as a tragedy, lamenting that a situation whereby the police took over the National Assembly without the knowledge of the senate president, who is also the chairman of the National Assembly, was a bad omen which must not be allowed to go unchallenged.
Others who spoke on the matter were Senators Babajide Omoworare (Osun East), James Manager (Delta South), Kabiru Gaya (Kano South), Ahmed Makarfi (Kaduna North), Ali Ndume (Borno South), Ita Enang (Akwa Ibom North-east) and Bello Gwarzo (Kano North).
Source: This Day