Teddy Nwanunobi, Abuja
Senate on Wednesday refused to condemn the invasion of the Ekiti State House of Assembly by the Department of State Services (DSS), and arrested four parliamentarians for offences yet unknown.
This was sequel to a motion sponsored by Senator Biodun Olujimi, and entitled: the invasion of Ekiti State House of Assembly by armed men of the DSS on Friday, March 4.
The motion, in its first prayer, had urged the Senate to: condemn in the strongest terms the illegal and unlawful invasion of the Ekiti State House of Assembly by armed men of the DSS.
But the second prayer, seeking investigation of the action by relevant committees of the Senate was, however, upheld.
During the debates, the Senate opted to tread on the side of caution by distinctively differing with that of the House of Representatives, which had, on Tuesday, in adopting a motion on same subject, condemned the DSS for the action.
However, party loyalty played a major role in deciding the fate of the motion as the debate, especially its first prayer was truncated by the actions of the senators, who showed party loyalty in their arguments.
Olujimi had drawn the attention of the Senate to the arrests of the Ekiti State lawmakers right inside the State Assembly complex, a decision she described as an affront on the independence of the parliament in the practice of the nation’s democracy.
Explaining what transpired between the lawmakers and the DSS operatives, she told her colleagues that what happened at the Ekiti State House of Assembly was pure “invasion”, which she urged the Senate to condemn in clear terms.
According to her, the Ekiti parliament was invaded at a time various committees of the House were busy with their legislative duties.
She averred that the men of the DSS threw the State Assembly complex into chaos when they allegedly shot into the air sporadically in a bid to carry out the planned arrests of the lawmakers.
Olujimi, who expressed worries that four members of the House of Assembly could not be found, after the incident, however, added that information available to her showed that Hon. Afolabi Akanni, the member representing Efon Constituency, was abducted and taken to Abuja.
She berated the DSS for refusing to make public the reasons why the Ekiti lawmakers were arrested, even after five days of their arrests.
She insisted that: “the action is not only unconstitutional, illegal and unlawful, but is a plot calculated to harass, intimidate and embarrass the people and government of Ekiti State”.
Olujimi brought to the remembrance of the Senate that such issue had taken place in September 2015, when “the Akwa Ibom State Government House was invaded by armed men of the same Department of State Security (DSS) without any formal explanation as to the reason for the invasion.”
Blaming the Federal Government led by the All Progressives Congress (APC) for the action of the security operatives, she noted that what the DSS did was a mere “political vendetta and muzzling of the opposition” which she noted was dangerous to the survival of democracy in the country.
But the Senate witnessed arguments based on party line when the Senate President threw it out for debate.
In his submission, Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe regretted that an outside agency is taking over the functions of the Sargent-at-Arms within legislative houses as established by the laws.
“I wish to second this motion and also note that we have taken something of this nature in the 6th Senate, and we resolved in this Chamber that we cannot also condone the breaking of the laws that actually give us our powers that we are using today, and that is the legislative houses powers and privileges act, it was a law passed in 1953 and is still subsisting up till date.
“We must also ask a question, and that question is: who is in charge of security in a legislative house? We have never answered that question because that question continues to reoccur. For each and everyone of us, we have to make it abundantly clear to the people that are in charge of security within our precincts is the Sargent-at-Arms, which means that we must take a look again at the laws establishing the Sargent-at-Arms within legislative houses showed that an outside agency will not take over the functions because I know that sometimes about a year ago, we also had an incidence in which the police invaded the National Assembly, seeking the Speaker of the House of Representatives, and it happened here. We must take a stand according to the laws of this land, and that is the legislative house’s privileges Act,” he said.
But the APC senators, who dominated the debate, though, argued that the action on face value looks condemnable, but urged restraints in condemning the DSS without carrying out proper investigation.
The Senate Majority Leader, Senator Ali Ndume, who dribbled through his submission, recalled how the government of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) carried out similar actions.
“This motion is coming at a critical time. This motion is coming when this Senate is supposed to standout to be Senate. This motion or the event or the unfortunate one is coming at the time that we should clearly stand by truth and the truth is that in a democracy there are three arms of government, legislature, judiciary and the executive.
“The rights and privileges of each arm of government is clearly defined and that of the National Assembly as specified in the rights and privileges as they say. What happened was wrong, and we really need to say it like that; but what goes round comes around. What you did in Rivers State and this National Assembly. We tried as much as possible because we are government of change.
“If something is wrong, we will say it is wrong. What happened was not right, even though it happened to the right people. We have to as this Senate tell whoever is involved that this thing was wrong, and we have to correct it so that it does not happen again because we are going to be the ones that would be here. So, we would not allow this thing to happen,” Ndume said.
The Deputy Majority Leader, Senator Bala Ibn Na’allah, in his comments, urged the Senate to tread with caution, especially as it concerns the first prayer.
Na’allah argued that Ekiti State is a peculiar state, where acts of recklessness have been perpetrated in the past allegedly by people in position of authority.
He drew inference from the beating up of a judge in the State by thugs allegedly on the order of the State Governor, Mr. Ayodele Fayose, and so many other instances of unlawful acts, which had taken place in the practice of democracy in the State from 1999 to date.
His comments drew sighs and applause from the divided sittings as PDP members showed their resentment to his line of argument, while his APC colleagues supported him.
When the motion was put to voice vote, the first prayer seeking condemnation of the action of the DSS was killed by the senators, who voted “nays” in a louder voice than the “ayes”.
In his remarks, the Senate President, Senator Abubakar Bukola Saraki, said that the Red Chamber would wait until after the investigation.
“This matter is a very serious matter. But I think, as they say, the principle which is being raised is that before we jump to conclusion we should find exactly what happened, and I think in going forward, the Committee on National Security and Intelligence should investigate this matter and come back within two weeks with a very clear detailed report of exactly what happened because.
“If it is true, then it is a very serious and unwelcome development and we hope for the interest of our democracy it is not true; but as a Senate, we will wait and let the people submit their report,” he said.
Addressing the Senate correspondents, after the day’s Plenary, Olujimi expressed disappointment that the senators treated the motion the way they did.
She warned that the harassment of the lower parliaments in the state might someday embolden the security apparatus to extend same to the National Assembly in the nearest future.