President Muhammadu Buhari on Thursday apologised for the way principal officers of the National Assembly were allegedly treated by security officials at the presidential villa.
He gave the apology when he met with the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, in his official residence after the incident.
Mr. Saraki, who also spoke briefly with reporters, said they had a fruitful discussion with the president, saying “that is what is important.”
The senate president said Nigerians should not be concerned with the minor incident earlier in the day.
PREMIUM TIMES reported the incident between the principal officers and security officials at the villa, with different officials narrating seemingly different versions of the incident.
The principal officers eventually returned to their homes without attending the dinner they were invited to have with the president.
An aide to one of the principal officers and a source at the villa had virtually blamed the security officials, saying they asked the lawmakers to come down from their vehicles at one of the gates, which the latter refused to.
However, a security official who witnessed the incident told PREMIUM TIMES that the principal officials were not denied access to the Villa.
“Their names had been submitted to the gate since afternoon and they were being expected,” the source said.
He also said when the lawmakers arrived, security agents at the Pilot gate told them that while the senate president, his deputy, as well the speaker of the House of Representatives and his deputy can go in with their vehicles, “others have to come down and do the normal biometric capture for tags.”
He said the lawmakers refused to alight from their vehicles and insisted to be allowed in alongside the four presiding officers.
The source said tagging all Villa visitors is normal practice and that even when the lawmakers insisted they will not come down for tags “the officer in charge decided to get in touch with his superiors and report about the situation for a possible advice when the lawmakers turned back and left.”
Asked if was true that the Chief Security Officer to President Buhari, Bashir Abubakar, gave the directive for the gates to be closed, the officer said, “On the contrary, the CSO called at about the time the lawmakers were expected to arrive and asked if all parties are already gathered at the New Banquet Hall, that was when he learned of their decision to turn back.”
It was after the lawmakers turned back and left that the president sent privately for Messrs. Saraki and Dogara and met both men.
A statement by Mr. Buhari’s spokesperson, Femi Adesina, later confirmed that the general dinner with the principal officers will now hold on Tuesday next week.
A statement by Mr. Buhari’s spokesperson, Femi Adesina, said the new date is occasioned by a “security mix up that attended the earlier scheduled meeting.”
Mr. Adesina indicated that the meeting held Thursday night with Messrs. Saraki and Dogara was a dinner meeting which was also attended by the Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo; Chief of Staff to the President, Abba Kyari; the Senior Special Assistant to the President on National Assembly (Senate), Ita Enang; and Senior Special Assistant to the President on National Assembly (House of Representatives), Sumaila Kawu.