Five important things to note before visiting Nigeria’s National Assembly

Chinenye Ugonna

I am sure many of you wonder what it is like to visit the National Assembly. Before I started working at PREMIUM TIMES, I never thought I would have any cause to visit the National Assembly, let alone know what the inside might look like. I envisioned it to be a tall building where anyone could walk in without harassment or protocols; more like a regular office environment.

But that was not the case.

After I had a cause to visit the National Assembly occasionally, I realised the very many protocols that goes on there. If I knew the protocols, I would have saved myself a lot of trouble. So these are five tips you should know before visiting the National Assembly.

1. Dress code: This aspect is very important so you need to take note. When going to the National Assembly, make sure your outfit is not sleeveless or even half an inch above your knee. Yes I said half an inch above your knee! The security guards do not want to see your knee cap in any way, when approaching them. I have been sent back a few times myself. Two weeks ago, I wore a pair of three quarter pants and a long sleeve shirt, all tucked in. In my head I thought I looked descent and corporate but I was wrong. I got turned back when I got to the entrance. Although there is no formal dress code to gain entry into the National Assembly, you can even wear jeans all week if you want to but make sure they reach your ankle. Make sure your shirts and dresses have sleeves and are ‘decent’ to avoid the stress of being asked to go home to change.

2. Invitation: Always ensure you call whomever you want to visit first before going to the National Assembly complex. You can’t play peek-a-boo or surprise visits in NASS because you need the person’s consent before you are allowed in. The individual you want to see has to send a message to the security guards at the gate to give you a tag or else you would be denied entry. Only NASS staff and journalists get to have ID cards. You are also expected to know where exactly you are going because the passes are restricted.

3. No taking of pictures: This is solely for professional photographers and tourists. NASS is not exactly a tourist friendly place. You are not allowed to bring out a huge camera to take pictures. They have accredited professional photographers. You would be stopped by the security. The only place I see people really taking pictures are outside the building. Even as a NASS correspondent, I was told to specifically add photography to my job description letter and submit because I was not accredited to take pictures. So if you are just visiting, take note of this.

4. Painted Taxis not allowed: Whenever you want to go to NASS, avoid the painted taxis because you will be stopped by the police officers at the gate and asked to turn around. No amount of begging would get you in. Sometimes, unpainted taxis are harassed as well but that is rarely the case. Sincerely, to avoid odd questions, try all means to use a personal car. Even if you get dropped off at the gate, you would have to join the long queue for a shuttle bus which usually takes a while. In this case, patience is the key.

5. Car park: There are two entrances into NASS. They let everyone who wants to drive in through the first gate but the second gate is a no go area for visitors. The second gate is only for a few staff and journalists who have a licence to access that area. As a visitor, you would be diverted to a car park close to the second gate. Ladies, flat shoes are advisable to wear to NASS because it’s a long walk to the main building. Lord help you if the sun is scorching hot because it’s a long walk from the second gate to the main building. You can do it my way. Suck it up, plug in your earphone, wear your flat shoes, ignore the sun and keep walking. You would not even know when you get to your destination. Well, it works for me.

These are a few tips I thought you should know before visiting the National Assembly to avoid stress and time wasting. If I knew this before I went to NASS, I won’t have been sent home the number of times I did. Thank me later!

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