SENATE ORDERS SECURITY AGENTS TO BLOCK OMO-AGEGE FROM CHAMBER

Mace theft: Senate orders security officials to block Omo-Agege from chamber

Punch Newspapers / Abdulfatai Ayobami Ibrahim / 2 hours ago

Leke Baiyewu and Adelani Adepegba

The Senate has directed security agencies to prevent the suspended Senator Ovie Omo-Agege from further gaining entrance into its chamber, Saturday PUNCH learnt on Friday.

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Omo-Agege, who was last week suspended by the Senate for dragging the upper legislative chamber to court on the amendment to the Electoral Act 2010, had attended plenary on Wednesday. He was, however, absent on Thursday.

The lawmaker’s emergence at the chamber had occurred same time when suspected thugs invaded the Senate chamber while plenary was ongoing and made away with the mace.

Speaking to one of our correspondents on Friday, the Vice-Chairman of the Senate Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Senator Ben Murray-Bruce, disclosed that the sergeants-at-arm and security personnel had been ordered to block the lawmaker whenever he tries to enter the chamber.

When reminded that Omo-Agege was at the chamber for Wednesday’s plenary, Murray-Bruce said the lawmaker was prevented from entering the chamber on Wednesday but that the embattled legislator allegedly forced his way in.

He said, “What kind of question is that? He brought thugs and the thugs broke the door down, broke the leg of one of our staff (members) and forced himself in. We didn’t let him in. He broke in and the thugs led him into the chamber. How can you ask why we let him in? We were not supposed to fight with him. We are no children.”

“He was not there the next day because we told the police that he was not allowed in. We have informed them officially that he is suspended. But that day, we didn’t let him in. He was stopped from going in, but the thugs beat up our staff (sergeants-at-arm) and broke the door down; that was how he got in.”

Murray-Bruce was also informed that Omo-Agege had dismissed his suspension as illegal and that he would continue to participate in legislative activities.

The Senate’s spokesman said, “The law enforcement officials have been informed about that already.”

Meanwhile, the Deputy President of the Senate, Ike Ekweremadu, has said the attack on the Senate on Wednesday called for a “rethink” of Nigeria’s security structure.

He pointed out that the invasion and theft showed that the country’s security had broken down, describing the attack as an embarrassment to Nigeria before the international community.

Ekweremadu said this when he received the leadership of the Nigerian Political Science Association which paid a solidarity visit to the Senate, according to a statement issued in Abuja on Friday by his Special Adviser on Media, Mr. Uche Anichukwu.

He said, “It is an embarrassment to Nigeria before the international community, for someone to drive all the way into the National Assembly Complex, enter the hallowed chamber, and cart away its symbol of authority.

“It shows a breakdown of security and it is a setback to Nigeria’s drive for foreign investment, because no one would be ready to invest money in such a system. So, it is a lesson that we cannot keep doing the same thing with our security system and expect a different result.

“It is also an irony that the people involved would organise armed bandits to rob the Senate of its mace since they understand the implication of what they have done. As a parliament, we will ensure that this does not happen again and insist that all the actors behind the drama are brought to book.”

The Deputy Senate President enjoined the association to help the nation to rethink its governance and security structures in line with other federal systems.

President of the NPSA, Prof. Aloysius-Michaels Okolie, who led the delegation, said the association was at the National Assembly to solidarise with the Senate and condemn the incident.

He said, “Our association is non-partisan. But we must speak the truth, stand by the truth and protect the truth. Any group or person that perpetrated what we saw live on national television needs to have his head examined.

“A normal person cannot come here and desecrate the National Assembly, let alone infringe on the mace. It was not really an assault on the National Assembly, but the entire people you have been mandated to represent.

“The desecration of this hallowed chamber is so grave an event that it calls for an immediate national action to avert a repeat and to bring the culprits, who we regard as bandits, to book.”

Okolie stated that the association joined other progressive forces in the country to demand justice.

“We demand the immediate prosecution of the actors involved. This matter goes beyond the cliché of being on top of the situation.

“We want to see people we put in this place as our representatives conduct their affairs in a manner devoid of any intimidation or any fear so that the best will come out of this hallowed chamber,” he said.

Omo-Agege had exclusively told The PUNCHon Wednesday that he would continue to work as a senator.

He had said, “What happened is this: the jurisprudence in this area is very settled. The Court of Appeal in the Bauchi State House of Assembly’s case, the Dino Melaye’s case in the House of Representatives and the Ali Ndume’s case in the Senate; the courts made it clear and settled the issue, that a legislative house cannot suspend a member even for a day.

“That is the law and it has not been set aside. And this kind of judgment is for everybody. Even though I was not a party in those cases, the pronouncements are for the benefit of everybody. It is only the reliefs that are personal to those who went to court. Therefore, you don’t have to go to court to re-litigate these issues.

“If the issue was settled, it means that whatever suspension they issued is illegal, null and void. That is why I said I would go to work. I went in and took my seat.”

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The lawmaker had also denied having a link with the gunmen who carted away the mace in the Senate chamber.

“All the talk about mace, what is my business with it? I don’t know where that came from,” Omo-Agege stated.

Again on Thursday, the senator insisted on his earlier positions when he spoke to our correspondent.

“It (his absence on Thursday) was deliberate but I have resumed. Like you rightly reported, I was never arrested; I was only taken away for security reason, from being mobbed. As far as I am concerned, I am not suspended. The purported suspension is illegal, null and void.”

Denying the allegation that he led the attackers into the chamber, Omo-Agege had said, “That is arrant nonsense. I never did anything like that. I don’t even know who they are. Beyond that, I won’t say anything. I came on my own and I left on my own.”

NLC condemns invasion, seeks probe of security agencies

Meanwhile, the Nigeria Labour Congress described the Wednesday invasion of the senate and the theft of the mace as a threat to the nation’s democracy.

The incident, it noted, represented “a throw-back to those dark old days we are better off without,” adding that the development is equally a sad commentary on the quality of representation in the senate chambers.

The NLC President, Ayuba Wabba, said in a statement in Abuja on Friday, that the roles and complicity of the National Assembly security operatives should be investigated.

He said, “The invasion of the hallowed chamber of the Senate on Wednesday by hoodlums and miscreants who carted away the mace and other paraphernalia of authority is a violation of the sanctity of the Senate and constitutes a threat to our democracy.

“We do also believe that the National Assembly security apparatus should be called to question for laxity or compromise,” Wabba insisted.

The union boss noted that there was bound to be differences of opinion and even conflict in the legislature, but this, he said, could be resolved in a dignified manner.

The Senate, from the  days of the Greeks and Romans from whom the world borrowed this  concept of democracy, Wabba said, had always been a sacred arena for the  nobility, the best and the brightest, and the gifted in oratory.

“Whereas they (Senators) have often distinguished themselves by keeping at bay constituents and peaceful protesters from the precincts of the National Assembly, these thugs seem to have walked on a laid red carpet.

“Could these agencies have been acting alone? What is the degree of their complicity? Whichever way, we condemn this primitive conduct and demand sanctions. Let it never happen again. There are better methods no matter the issues,” the congress stated.

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