Mace stealing: Reps describe incident as terrorist attack, failed coup d’etat

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APRIL 18, 2018

*give IGP 24 hours to recover stolen mace *fear complicity with security agencies

ABUJA- In sheer move of solidarity, members of the House of Representatives on Wednesday adjourned sitting for 30 minutes to pay a special visit to the Senate. The Sargent at Arms officers of National Assembly struggling Senate Chamber MACE with some hoodlums who were allege to be sponsored by the Suspended Senator Omo-Agege that invaded Senate Chambers at National Assembly Abuja Wednesday. Photo by Gbemiga Olamikan. The visit was prompted by the unusual attack on the Senate at plenary early Wednesday morning by yet-to-be identified thugs who made away with the mace. A suspended Senator, Mr. Ovie Omo Agege from Delta State was thought to have brought the thugs. For emphasis, the mace is the symbol of authority of the Senate, without which no official duties could be held and recognized as such. The House condemned the act in its totality and mandated the Inspector General of Police, IGP, Ibrahim Idris to within 24 hours recover the mace. Reps in Solidarity visit Upon resumption of plenary on Wednesday, the Leader of the House of Representatives, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila brought the development to the notice of the House. The presiding Officer and Deputy Speaker, Hon. Yussuf Lasun asked him to formally subsume the issue and move it as a motion. Moving the motion, Gbaja told the House that thugs besieged the senate while in session and carted away the mace. He asked the House to condemn the development and also constitute a committee to investigate the matter. Gabaja said: “It affects the legislature in any democracy, this arm remains very vital. Thugs came into the senate chamber while senators were sitting and they took off the mace in a waiting vehicle. This is an anomaly. The assembly is porous “How did they get in? I think what we have to discuss today is how to beef up security. I think we should in solidarity send a delegation to the senate, identify with the senate and pick up some facts and get a committee to look into the security of the national assembly. They took the Mace and ran away. That’s sacrilegious.” Contributing to the motion, many of the already infuriated members who were eye witnesses to the incident upon their arrival for the day’s legislative business described it as a “terrorist attack” on the institution of legislature. Some also described it as a failed coup d’etat, insisting however that the institution of legislature cannot be intimidated. They however feared that their lives were in danger if the National Assembly could be attacked in such a commando style in broad day light and mace taken. In his contribution, Hon. Bode Ayorinde (Ondo) said that the sergeant-at-arms who tried to stop the thugs were beaten flat. He said: “The men that came to the national assembly constitute a security breach in which the hallowed chamber of the senate. One of the sergeant-at-arms was beaten down. The other one was beaten flat. Hon. Colleagues, this is a security breach. I move that we should as a House condemn the ugly incidence and we should set up an adhoc committee to investigate what has happened” Also Hon. Gabriel Onyewife (Anambra) in his debate the security apparatus in the national assembly had a credibility question. He said: “It is not only worrisome but shocking. Our people say if gold can rust what is the fate of other metal? The national assembly, institution of legislature is under a terrorism attack. If the legislature can be attacked, where lies the fate of the executive and judiciary. Today, it is a mace. Assuming it is a member or a Senate that the terrorists have come to attack, if it not unraveled, it is a serious security matter. The security in the national assembly has a lot of questions to answer. What were the security personnel doing? We have sergert-at-arms here. The security details should also explain.” On his part, Hon. Tajudeen Yusuf (Kogi) told the House that plenary should be temporarily halted to pay solidarity visit to the senate. “It is so unfortunate that we are discussing this kind if issue. I stand here this morning to say I doubt if the security agencies can be cleaned of guilt to what happened this morning. For anyone to work into the chamber, pick the mace and walk out, it is well planned and executed. I think it very important that we should pay a solidarity visit now”, he said Reps in rowdy session At this juncture, the Presiding office, Hon. Lasun intoned that a delegation which would be led by the Leader of the House would be sent to the Senate. But his suggestion prompted a thunderous shouts of ” no, no”, by the agitated members who wanted collectively pay the visit. For more the 20 minutes, the House remained uncontrollable as members stood up, formed different small groups, talking in hush tones. Not even the repeatedly hitting of the gavel and the pleas to resume their seats by the Speaker could calm down the House. Apparently noticing that he would not prevail on the members, Lasun asked the Leader to properly move a motion for adjournment to enable the entire House go for the solidarity visit. This was done and the House proceeded to the Senate wing. Debate continues After 30 minutes, the House reconvened and the debate on the substantive motion by Hon. Gbajabiamila continued. Baring her mind on the issue, Hon. Nnenna Ukaje(Abia) stated that irrespective of the perception of Nigerians on the National Assembly, the Parliament remained the doyen of democracy. She underscored the need for the members to carry out further enlightenment programmes in their various constituencies on the importance of the legislature in a democracy. “If we lose the National assembly, we have lost our democracy. I think it is time to talk to Nigerians in spite of the stories out there Nigerians should for one moment imagine what Nigeria should be without some people gathering here to speak their voice. Colleagues, today is a very sad day. We should go back to our constituencies and tell them that”, she said. Hon. Toby Okechukwu( Enugu) in his own remarks that no democratic government can survive without the legislature. “The absence of legislature presupposes that there is no democracy. When you remove the legislature, you find out that what you have is tyranny. For the House to move in there(Senate) to show solidarity is significant. We have firmly resolved to make sure that our voices are heard. Mr. Speaker, when you led us to the senator, we were further briefed that two senators were to be kidnapped”, he said. For Hon. Mojeed Alabi (Osun), it was a day of mourning for all lovers of democracy around the globe. He said: “Ordinarily, today is supposed to be a day of mourning for all lovers of democracy in Nigeria, Africa and everywhere. This is the first time I will be hearing about an external person coming into the chamber to forcefully take the mace. People are hell bent about truncating our democracy. There are provisions under the law to deal with such matters. We should treat it as a failed coup d’etat. This national assembly is too porous.” Also speaking, Hon. Aliyu Madaki (Kano) said that the government of All Progressives Congress, APC has failed Nigerians in terms of security. “What happened today is an assault on democracy. A situation where armed bandits were allowed into the chambers of the senate is bad to say the least. What do you call that? This government, our government came on the plank of security. There is no security as we speak anywhere in Nigeria. I am from Kano. I cannot drive my car from Abuja to Kano”, he said. Madaki’s position was the same with that of Hon. Karimi Sunday (Kogi) who further likened the act as a coup d’etat. “The primary responsibility of any government is the security of lives and property of the citizens. Today, they passed through the first fate, second gate and went into the chamber. That incident is not ordinary. Just as my colleague said, it was a failed coup d’etat. And when you are planning a coup, you plan it with the security. Things have fallen apart. The centre cannot hold. We must all stand up and defend democracy’, he said. Also Hon. Hassan Saleh (Benue) called the House to action, saying “We will be held more responsible if we don’t do anything about it. No body will take us serious.” But in all of these, Hon. Ahmad Patigi (Kwara) differed with his colleagues, saying that such an act couldn’t have been successfully carried out with the input of the security agencies. The lawmaker recalled the commando style with which the security operatives recently raided some Judges’ houses. “I don’t want to be believe that it was thugs that came into the chamber and accosted senators and made away with the mace. This is a planned work and it is done in conjunction with the security”, he said. Lending his voice, Hon. Abdurazak Atunwa (Kwara) bemoaned the security system in the country, saying that the attack on the senate must have taken the planners some times to hatch it. He said: ” Mr. Speaker, wither the security apparatus? Some people somewhere would have gathered not once, not twice over a period of time to hatch this plan.” Ruling on the matter, the Speaker said that “we should condemn in totality what happened in the senate chamber.”. Briefing correspondents after plenary, the House spokesman said that the House roundly condemned the attack and mandated the security agencies to immediately recover the mace within 24 hours.