Security agencies are reportedly laying siege on the homes of Senate President Bukola Saraki and Deputy Senate President Ike Ekweremadu in Abuja.
The move is said to be an apparent ploy to prevent them from making it to the National Assembly today because of an alleged plan by many lawmakers to decamp en masse from the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC).
Mr Saraki was summoned to appear at police department for further investigation into alleged killings in Kwara State at 8:00 a.m. today. It remained unclear why the police blocked his residence at dawn.
Mr Ekweremadu had no prior police invitation.
The planned cross carpeting, if allowed to take place, would render the APC a minority party before the end of Tuesday, a fact attested to by the Peoples Democratic Party leader in the House of Representatives on Monday.
Mr Saraki’s spokesperson, Yusuph Olaniyonu, confirmed the siege to PREMIUM TIMES.
“As I am talking to you, I cannot access the street. They have barricaded the road and I cannot say his whereabouts now,” Mr Olaniyonu told PREMIUM TIMES.
“I hear they are doing the same thing at the Deputy Senate President’s house,” Mr Olaniyonu said.
He said he suspects that the police want to stop Messers Saraki and Ekweremadu from presiding over the Senate sitting.
The media aide to Mr Ekweremadu, Uche Anichukwu, also confirmed the siege to PREMIUM TIMES Tuesday morning.
“The house is currently surrounded by security agencies,” Mr Anichukwu said “since early in the morning.”
Mr Anichukwu is not sure if his boss will be allowed to attend today’s plenary.
“That I cannot say. When you attack a man’s house, how is he supposed to be at plenary?” he questioned.
Kola Ologbondiyan, a spokesperson for the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), said Nigeria’s democracy was under assault, a development he said would be resisted.
“Democracy has been placed under a jackboot. We are now in a totalitarian government,” Mr Ologbondiyan told PREMIUM TIMES by telephone Tuesday morning. “You can not stop the National Assembly, which is a key element of a constitutional republic.”
“We will resist this.”
A spokesperson for the APC did not immediately answer calls seeking comments.
The police are yet to provide reasons for the apparent siege. However, Mr Saraki was summoned by the police and asked to report by 8:00 a.m. today in connection to the Offa robbery incident in Kwara State for which the police said some suspects mentioned Mr Saraki as a sponsor.
Mr Anichukwu said Mr Ekweremadu was scheduled to preside over today’s plenary following police’s invitation to Mr Saraki last night.
Some of the security officers said to be present at Mr Ekweremadu’s residence at Apo Legislative Quarters were those from the State Security Service and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
A spokesperson for the EFCC, Wilson Uwujaren, said he could not immediately speak about the role of his agency in the siege.
“I will get back to you,” he told PREMIUM TIMES by telephone shortly before 9:00 a.m. Tuesday.
Mr Ekweremadu was previously investigated and arraigned by the police on allegations he forged Senate rules in June 2015 to pave way for the emergence of Mr Saraki as Senate President against the dictates of the APC. Those charges were eventually dropped by the federal government.
He was also investigated on allegations of owing questionable properties abroad. But it was widely doubted whether today’s development had anything to do with past investigations into his activities.
By 8:50 a.m. when PREMIUM TIMES arrived Mr Saraki’s residence in Maitama, Abuja, the siege appeared to have been lifted and the situation normalised. About 10 security operatives, mainly police officers, were, however, seen lined up at the junction by the house with observers saying that was a normal occurrence.
It was not clear whether Mr Saraki was still holed up in the house, or had maneuvered his way out, reportedly to the National Assembly as rumoured at his residence. His aides kept mum about it when asked.
As at 9:35 a.m., the siege on Mr Ekweremadu’s house at the Apo Legislative Quarters was still on.
When PREMIUM TIMES visited, two police vehicles – a Toyota coaster bus and another Toyota Hiace bus – as well as a Toyota Hilux, were used to block two ends of the road to the house.
One of the several police officers, stationed at the blockade, politely told our reporter to leave the area.
“Journalists are not allowed here for now,” he said as he walked the reporter away from the scene.
Although Mr Saraki arrived the Senate and presided over plenary, the whereabouts of Mr Ekweremadu is uncertain.
As at 11:10 a.m. officials of the Nigerian police were still seen at all the entrances to the residence of deputy Senate president.
One of the police officers who spoke to PREMIUM TIMES in confidence said they will be there till they receive an order from their superior.
The three access roads to the house were blocked with a Toyota Coaster bus, two Toyota Hiace buses and a hilux van.
Some of the police officers also blocked an exit gate at the back of Mr Ekweremadu’s house that leads to a stream.
Asked if Mr. Ekweremadu will be arrested when he comes out, the officer declined to comment.
However, sources in the legislative quarters said Mr. Ekweremadu was not in the house.
His supporters were seen trooping into the legislative quarters in droves.
More details later…