LIVE UPDATES: SSS blocks National Assembly as plot to remove Saraki thickens

Rivers Rep, Boma Goodhead, dares DSS
Rivers Rep, Boma Goodhead, dares DSS

The National Assembly was in the early hours of Tuesday cordoned off by officers of the State Security Services in an alleged move by some senators to remove the Senate President, Bukola Saraki.

The officers. who said their actions are ‘order from above’ initially denied lawmakers entrance into the National Assembly.

The lawmakers were later allowed to enter the chamber.

For days, speculation have been on, on the appropriateness of Mr Saraki as Senate President, having defected from the ruling APC to the PDP.

Some APC senators are of the opinion that Mr Saraki should resign his position on the argument that the Senate should be presided over by a lawmaker from majority party. The APC is still believed to have a slight majority in the Senate.

However, PDP senators and others loyal to Mr Saraki vowed to resist any attempt to remove him.

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At 8.28a.m., Atai Aidoko Ali, a Kogi East senator arrived at the National Assembly premises and he was allowed to enter.


8.40a.m., No news of happenings in the Senate chamber yet as journalists and staff of the assembly are still locked out.


8.46a.m., Edo South senator, Matthew Uroghide, arrived National Assembly. He was allowed in.


Earlier, the leader of the masked SSS team at the National Assembly entrance said the siege was “an order from above”.

“We need more guns, send us more guns,” the officer, who wore no name tag, was heard shouting openly as National Assembly staff and journalists at the gate watched.

As early as 7 a.m. Tuesday morning, the main entrance of the building was blocked by the security operatives.

A police officer who spoke with PREMIUM TIMES, said he had no details about the situation.

“I don’t know what is happening. I’m seeing it just like you and I’m surprised, ” he said.



At 9:00 a.m., more senators and House of Representatives members are entering the National Assembly.

Senators Philip Aruwa Gyunka and Bassey Akpan arrived and entered the National Assembly.

A source told PREMIUM TIMES APC senators are entering the National Assembly through the back gate where a list has been submitted to security operatives. That has not been independently.


Some senators earlier spoke on on the siege by the masked operatives on the National Assembly. They spoke at the time they were not yet allowed into the chamber.

“We got here this morning to go into our office as usual; I work very early. During recess we do committee works and our own writings. I’m writing a book, so I go in there almost every day,” Rafiu Ibrahim, a senator from Kwara State said.

“We got here and DSS has taken over all the gates, all entrances to the National Assembly and they said it’s order from above. We asked them why, they said there is no reason. As it is today, it means Nigeria is under siege.”

Ben Murray-Bruce, PDP-Bayelsa, also condemned the situation.

“It has come to out attention that our colleagues cannot go to work after we adjourned for recess.

“I have contacted the UK and US Embassy to revoke the visa of Senator Akpabio or anybody leading this assault on this institution. We will ask them to revoke the visas of their wives and that of their children. They will not be allowed to leave Nigeria to travel to any nation in western Europe and North America,” he said.

Both senators, like others, were late allowed into the Senate.


After about an hour inside, Ben Murray-Bruce came out to address journalists.

He said the chamber is still locked because National Assembly staff are denied entrance.

He added that only PDP Senators are inside the Senate chamber thus confirming that APC senators are yet to converge at the chamber.


Some senators earlier spoke on on the siege by the masked operatives on the National Assembly. They spoke at the time they were not yet allowed into the chamber.

“We got here this morning to go into our office as usual; I work very early. During recess we do committee works and our own writings. I’m writing a book, so I go in there almost every day,” Rafiu Ibrahim, a senator from Kwara State said.

“We got here and DSS has taken over all the gates, all entrances to the National Assembly and they said it’s order from above. We asked them why, they said there is no reason. As it is today, it means Nigeria is under siege.”

Ben Murray-Bruce, PDP-Bayelsa, also condemned the situation.

“It has come to out attention that our colleagues cannot go to work after we adjourned for recess.

“I have contacted the UK and US Embassy to revoke the visa of Senator Akpabio or anybody leading this assault on this institution. We will ask them to revoke the visas of their wives and that of their children. They will not be allowed to leave Nigeria to travel to any nation in western Europe and North America,” he said.

Both senators, like others, were late allowed into the Senate.


9.31a.m., Suleiman Nafiz, one of the senators that left APC for PDP, entered the National Assembly.


9.34a.m., Senator Forster Ogola joined his other colleagues in the assembly. Mr Ogola parades a fake Ph. D certificate as revealed in a joint investigation by PREMIUM TIMES and other Nigerian media.


9:45


An aide to Senate President Bukola Saraki alleges that anti-Saraki senators are currently meeting at Sheraton hotel.

The senators loyal to the government are now convening in Sheraton Hotel where the illegal impeachment exercise will be commencing. You can quote me on this, Olu Onemola said.


Bauchi senator, Isa Misau, came out to address journalists some moments ago.

He said he does not know the whereabouts of APC senators.

“There is a rumour that 30 of them want to perpetrate the evil act (remove Saraki).”

He vowed he and his colleagues would not allow the plan to hatch.

He emphasised that any decision taken by APC lawmakers will be null and void.


The clerk of the National Assembly, Mohammed Sani-Omolori, could not enter the assembly Tuesday Morning.

Mr Sani-Omolori retreated at the National Assembly gate after a moment conversation with officials of the State Security Service

It is not clear whether the officers outrightly denied him entrance or he decided to turn back on his own.

Mr Sani-Omolori however told journalists he would not have entered even if he was granted access as many of his staff are stranded outside.

“He’s (DSS officer) telling me they have security issues. I don’t know why this is.

“Even if I enter, how will I work without my staff?” he questioned.

The clerk left in his Peugeot vehicle thereafter.

Officials of the SSS in the early hours of Tuesday blocked the entrance of the National Assembly.

Some lawmakers were later allowed in by the security operative while journalists and other staff were still barred.


A video has emerged showing SSS operatives carrying arms inside the National Assembly rotunda, moments after lawmakers were finally allowed entry into the parliament.

The video was taken by the lawmakers who were inside and circulated on social media. Most of the details coming out of the premises are being sent out by lawmakers as journalists and other non-members of the parliament are denied access.

The video also captured a warning sign that prohibited carrying of arms into the building, including by security agents.

No statement has come from either the president or the acting-president, despite repeated efforts by PREMIUM TIMES. The president is away from the country, but his two spokespersons, Garba Shehu and Femi Adesina, are typically available to comment on urgent national issues.

Laolu Akande, a spokesperson for Mr Osinbajo who has been acting as president since Mr Buhari departed for London last week, has declined comments to PREMIUM TIMES about what is going on at the National Assembly.

The SSS is directly under the control of the president. The agency has not named a spokesperson since September 2015, but officials like Mr Shehu regularly defends the agency’s actions.

Lai Mohammed, the information minister who is also known to defend the SSS, did not return PREMIUM TIMES’ requests for the government’s position on security agencies’ action today.

While the government has not spoken about today’s development, which is an escalation of bitter confrontation between mostly-PDP lawmakers and the executive in recent weeks, it distanced itself from what transpired in the past.

The president said he would never condone any repressive actions by security agencies, much less sanction such. He also regularly reinstates his commitments to the rule of law and respect for separation of powers.


Based on the claim by Olu Onemola, aide to Senate President Bukola Saraki, PREMIUM TIMES visited the Sheraton Hotel Abuja to see if a meeting of APC senators was ongoing there. No such evidence was found.

The Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yusuf Lasun, just arrived the National Assembly. He was allowed to go in with his convoy.

A member of the House of Representatives, Johnson Agbonayinma (Edo, APC) who just came out of the Assembly told journalists the SSS siege was a plan by the PDP members to sideline the APC in taking decisions.


More photos:



Benue, Rivers Governors condemn SSS siege on NASS

Governor Samuel Ortom has condemned today’s development at the National Assembly, charging Nigerians to reject impunity.

“I condemn police invasion of the National Assembly and urge patriotic Nigerians to reject this impunity which is an assault on our democracy. We cannot afford to remain the laughing stock of the world,” Mr Ortom said in a statement by his spokesperson Terver Akase.

Mr Ortom himself recently escaped an attempt to remove him from office, after eight lawmakers took over the House of Assembly in Makurdi and served him impeachment notice. The action was condemned by many, including Mr Buhari.

The governor insists that the action of the security operatives has made the country a laughing stock and is capable of degenerating into lawlessness.

He says there are rules and procedures as well as constitutional provisions that govern the conduct of the business of the National Assembly.

Governor Ortom says a similar breach of democratic norms is also happening in the Benue State House of Assembly, and stresses that if it is tolerated at the highest level, the impunity would spread across the country.

He wonders why the federal government sees nothing wrong with those defecting from the PDP to the APC but is allegedly bent on persecuting those leaving the ruling party.

The governor describes the action of the security agencies as an infringement on the fundamental right of freedom of association of Nigerians, which must be resisted.

He notes that the presidency denied any role in the Benue saga but did not follow up with any sanctions for those responsible, making the denial suspect.

In his reaction, the Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, urged Nigerians to rise up against the “growing dictatorship of the APC federal government.”

Mr Wike on Tuesday declared that the assault on the National Assembly by security forces is condemnable and has the capacity to truncate the nation’s democracy.

He said: “All well meaning Nigerians should stand up against this dictatorship. All over the world this has never happened.

“Nigerians should not stand aloof and watch what is going on. This will consume so many people if we don’t rise against it.”

Mr Wike called on National Assembly members to stand firm in defence of the nation’s democracy.

“All members of the National Assembly should resist that anti-democratic attempt and stand-up to defend our democracy “.

The governor berated his colleagues who are happy with the anti-democratic plots of the APC federal government.

“Those governors happy with what is happening today should know that it will be their turn tomorrow. The same cabal will turn against these governors.

“This is condemnable and unacceptable to us. You must follow setdown rules.

“You cannot talk about fighting corruption and refuse to respect the rule of law.”


As at 1:05 p.m., lawmakers allowed in are still inside the National Assembly. No legislative functions have, however, started as staff members are prevented from entering into the premises.


At 1.00 p.m., INEC chairman, Mahmood Yakubu, arrived the National Assembly ahead of his planned meeting with leadership of the two houses.

PREMIUM TIMES on Monday reported that the INEC boss will meeting with the lawmakers to discuss the 2019 election supplementary budget.


The whereabouts of Senate President Bukola Saraki and his deputy Ike Ekweremadu, is yet to be ascertained.

Speaker Yakubu Dogara is also believed not to be in NASS.

Mr Saraki’s aides could not confirm his whereabouts.

None of the three passed through the main entrance of the National Assembly since 7a.m. when PREMIUM TIMES reporters arrived to observe the siege.

Mr Ekweremadu’s aide, Uche Anichukwu, confirmed his boss is not in the National Assembly.

Lawmakers who came out to speak after being granted access also said that majority of those inside are PDP lawmakers.


2.05p.m., officials of the State Security Service still man the National Assembly entrance.

Meanwhile, many journalists, activists and National Assembly staff have retreated. They moved further say from the National Assembly gate while some left.


OSINBAJO SACKS SSS DG DAURA

The Acting President, Yemi Osinbajo, has directed the termination of the appointment of the Director General, State Security Service, Lawal Daura, with immediate effect, the presidency has said.

“Mr. Daura has been directed to hand over to the most senior officer of the State Security Service until further notice,” Laolu Akande, Mr Osinbajo’s spokesperson said in a statement sent to PREMIUM TIMES.

Mr Akande also shared the statement on his Twitter handle.

The sack is believed to be related to Mr Daura’s role in the siege on the National Assembly on Tuesday.


2.40p.m., Some senators have started emerging from the National Assembly after what they described as a failed attempt to remove the Senate President, Bukola Saraki.

Dino Melaye vowed PDP senators will continue their vigilance until their APC colleagues back down on the plan.

He described Mr Daura’s sack as attempt to salvage the failed integrity of Mr Buhari’s government.

Ben Murray-Bruce and Forster Ogola also left the National Assembly.


 


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