The Senate President, Bukola Saraki has called for an investigation into yesterday’s invasion and blockade of the National Assembly complex by men of the Department of State Security(DSS), which culminated in the sack of the DSS Director, Lawal Daura.
Saraki made the demand while addressing a World News Conference in Abuja on Wednesday. He said that to forestall a recurrence of the incident, an investigation should be carried out and perpetrators brought to book.
“As a nation, we reaped the bitter fruits instantaneously as evident in media images relayed around the world, images that brought us shame 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 mind the injury to democratic norms.”
“This is most disheartening. Some of you may recall that about two years ago, I stated that there was a government within this government.
“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.
“In spite of the threat to our lives, we shall continue to fight impunity and injustice in this country.”
Saraki commended the staff of the assembly and all Nigerians for standing against the siege, adding that it was a demonstration of the people’s strong resolve not to give heed to oppression.
He stressed that “the legislature, more than any other institution in this country, more than any other arm of government, represents the will of the people.
“We are elected by the people, and an assault on the legislature is an assault on the people of Nigeria.
“The forcible shutdown of the legislature was an unconscionable assault on a national institution, and thanks to all your efforts, the aggressors have been put to shame.
“The resistance mounted by the staff of National Assembly, my colleagues in both chambers and Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) who refused to leave the entrance of this complex until the siege was broken, strengthens my faith in the people.
“The rain fell, the sun rose, but Nigerians stood their ground in defence of democracy. With the strength of will demonstrated by everyone against unwarranted and unconstitutional militaristic might, the siege could not stand.
“By this, we have shown that Nigerians can resist government within government in whatever guise, and this is humbling for me.”
Saraki said that those who sought to attack the National Assembly under his leadership had only affirmed his belief in Nigeria.
According to him, they attempted to execute an illegal impeachment of the leadership of the Senate without the backing of the law, but faltered.
“I am confident that together, we shall always defeat acts of unconstitutionality. The rule of law shall always prevail.
“I want to thank Nigerians, senators, members of House of Representatives and National Assembly staff, for standing up to be counted for democracy during yesterday’s siege.
“I thank the thousands who monitored the situation on radio, television and social media, voicing their outrage at the siege.
“The action sent a clear message to those that hatched the plot that the Nigerian public would not buy this act of gangster action using instruments of state such as the DSS.
“I also thank the international community, particularly the European Union and the international press, for their prompt reactions to the invasion of the National Assembly.
“CSOs and Socio-cultural groups were emphatic in their statements during the crisis, and we very much appreciate their vigilance.
“Among the many that come up for special mention, I believe that Hon. Boma Goodhead, a member of the House of Representatives, stands out.
“She looked a masked security operative in the eye and dared him to shoot. She let it be known that Nigerians would not stand for the barricade at the National Assembly and that we would not be cowed.
“It was another pointer to what is possible in this country when women take their place in leadership.
“I laud 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,” he said.
Saraki thanked the Acting President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, for handling the situation the way he did.
He said, “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.
“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.
“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 that the legislature could be undermined and subjected to this onslaught.”
Saraki, however, stated that there were many lessons to be drawn from the incident.
He urged the Federal Government to ensure that security agencies remained neutral and acted 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.
“After this dark cloud, we can see the silver lining, and that silver lining is the commitment of Nigerians to defending their hard-won democracy.
“I am more than encouraged by the strength, the determination and the resolve of ordinary Nigerians to see to it that democracy survives and thrives in this country.
“I am also strengthened by the determination of the media to report and analyse the truth as they see it.
“I want to reassure Nigerians that, on our part, we remain committed to working for a country governed by the rule of law.
“Our desire is to have a society where there will be equity and justice, not oppression. We stand committed to doing our utmost as lawmakers to ensure that the responsibility and functionality of governance are met.
“Although we are on annual break, we are daily reviewing the situation and are alive to the responsibility to take action as necessary,” Saraki said.
On the aborted meeting of the National Assembly leadership with the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), he said it was unfortunate.
“Yesterday’s shutdown prevented us from meeting with INEC as scheduled, to address funding concerns. We will continue to look into the matter.
“In the spirit of that, we appeal to the President to sign the 2018 Electoral Act Amendment Bill which has been sent for his assent.
“I remain confident in the support of my colleagues and their focus on the job at hand, which is to serve the Nigerian people. My confidence is unshaken.”
Saraki reaffirmed his commitment to the success of the 8th National Assembly and the continued progress of Nigeria.