SSS siege: Saraki thanks Osinbajo, says plot on for months

Bukola Saraki, Senate President
Bukola Saraki, Senate President

Senate President, Bukola Saraki, has commended Acting President, Yemi Osinbajo, on his swift response to the blockade of the National Assembly by men of the State Security Services.

Mr Saraki however questioned the executive for its inaction on an incident he alleged was planned for months.

Many Nigerians on Tuesday woke up to the news of the siege by mask-wearing SSS operatives.

The officers first denied lawmakers entrance into the National Assembly, later allowed them, then left in the afternoon after the sack of their boss, Lawal Daura.

Mr Saraki addressing a press conference on Wednesday thanked Mr Osinbajo for the sack of Mr Daura but questioned the inability of the executive in preventing the situation.

“I thank the Acting President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, for his handling of the situation we were all confronted with yesterday. His decisive action went a long way towards restoring confidence. It sent a powerful message – that the DSS cannot be recklessly deployed against institutions of our democracy. The path of leadership is not by party, and we must commend it wherever it is found. Mr. Acting President did the right thing. However, the damage control so far does not address the question of how this atrocity happened in the first place.

“This is an incident concerning which we have it on good authority that it has been in the planning for months, and yet it was allowed to happen. How is it that such an atrocity was not prevented? How is it that the masterminds were not deterred?

“Very serious questions remain that can only be answered by a full investigation. We call for an investigation, and we demand that all perpetrators are brought to book. We owe it to ourselves to ensure that such a situation never occurs again. Many agencies have abused their powers and acted outside the ambit of the law on occasion. Where abuses occur, similar actions must be taken immediately and full investigation instituted.”

The Senate President described the siege as a show of shame reiterating the situation is not about him but his colleagues and Nigerians in general.

He added that he had warned of such situation since two years ago.

“The ensuring standoff was a show of shame that played itself out over several hours in full view of the country. In no circumstances should this have happened. And we as a nation reaped the bitter fruits instantaneously, as evident in media images relayed around the world, images that shame us as a democratic nation. The siege was also an act of cowardice by those seeking to carry out an illegal impeachment of the leadership of the Senate in flagrant disregard of the law. People who seek control at all costs, by whatever means, never minding the injury to democratic norms.

“I have to say that this is not about me – Abubakar Bukola Saraki as an individual. It is not about Ike Ekweremadu, nor is it about Yakubu Dogara. I am speaking for my colleagues when I say that this is about the soul of Nigeria, what we represent as a country, and our standing in the comity of nations. This is a country where so much is expected of us, so many rungs of the ladder that we are supposed to have ascended as a nation. Instead we are wallowing in impunity and illegal show of force, all of which retard our progress.

“This is most disheartening. I don’t get any joy in saying: I said so. I don’t. However, some of you may recall that about two years ago, I stated that there was a government within this government, to a purpose that was not in the interest of what the people voted for. I said it then, and now we are beginning to see the manifestations of that government within a government.

“It beats one’s imagination how the head of an agency could have authorised the brazen assault on the legislature that we saw yesterday. Despite the threat to our lives, we shall continue to fight impunity and injustice in this country.”

He thanked his lawmaker colleagues, Civil Society Organisations (CSOs), staff of the National Assembly, journalists and members of the public for their support and resistance.

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“By this, we have shown that Nigerians can resist government within government in whatever guise, and this is humbling for me. Those who sought to attack the National Assembly under my leadership for their selfish ends have only affirmed my belief in this country. They attempted to execute an illegal impeachment of the leadership of the Senate without the backing of the law, but they faltered. I am confident that, together, we shall always defeat acts of unconstitutionality. The rule of law shall always prevail.

“I applaud all who kicked against the atrocity and who stood firm until sanity prevailed. I am proud of how everyone conducted themselves in what was no doubt a tense standoff. The principled stance and defiant reactions to the ugly incident, proved crucial to the failure of the plot. This is what we have been saying about the power of the people. The role of the people in defending democracy is paramount.”

For Mr Saraki, the incident does not portray the promise of change he envisaged.

“I must say that when we fought for Change, we could not have envisaged a scenario such as unfolded yesterday – an atmosphere where people cannot tolerate dissent, or mere differences of opinion as to the future of our dear country. This is not the Change we fought for. We did not fight for instruments of state to be used to oppress Nigerians and their lawmakers. I know that I, certainly, did not fight just so the legislature could be undermined and subjected to this onslaught.

“There are many lessons to be drawn from the ugly incident we all witnessed yesterday. For one, government must ensure that security agencies remain neutral and act in line with the position of the constitution as well as their enabling laws. Heads of Agencies should be accountable, and those who step out of line must be held responsible for their actions. Enough with impunity. Enough with the reckless and senseless deployment of militaristic force. Enough.”

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