The national assembly witnessed significant events in the year 2018. Some of these occurrences were also unprecedented following the tides of political happenings during the year. No one ever thought that a senate president would defect from a ruling to an opposition party. It was quite an interesting year and here are some highlights of major events brought to you by TheCable.
On August 7, armed DSS operatives wearing scary ski masks blocked the entrance of the national assembly. The siege came shortly after Senate President Bukola Saraki defected from All Progressives Congress (APC) to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
A legislative source had said Ahmad Lawan, senate leader, and some senators elected on the APC had met with Lawal Daura, the then director-general of the DSS, a day before the siege. No explanation was given as to why the DSS operatives prevented lawmakers from going into the assembly even though they were on recess at the time.
After a dramatic protest by Boma Goodhead, a house of representatives member, alongside some others, the lawmakers were eventually let in. Some members of the national assembly alleged that the DSS blockade was a ploy to enable APC senators remove Saraki.
Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo who was acting president at the time sacked Daura over the siege.
ATTEMPTED ARREST OF SARAKI, EKWEREMADU
On July 24, the police prevented the convoy of Saraki from leaving his residence in Abuja. On that day, Nigerians woke up to statements of Saraki’s aides alleging that there was an attempt to prevent the senate president from honouring an invitation by the police.
Ibrahim Idris, inspector-general of police (IGP), had asked the senate president to appear at the office of intelligence response team (IRT) to make statements on a robbery incident in Offa, Kwara state. Over 20 people were killed in the incident in April. The police alleged that some loyalists of Saraki carried out the heist that saw the attack of five commercial banks in the state.
However, Saraki evaded the police and presided over plenary that day but Ike Ekweremadu, deputy senate president, was not that lucky. After preventing him from leaving his home, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) invited Ekweremadu for questioning over alleged money laundering. The deputy senate president who later honoured the invitation of the anti-graft agency has constantly denied any wrongdoing.
On the day that there was an attempt to arrest Saraki and Ekweremadu (or prevent them from leaving their homes), 14 senators dumped the APC for other political parties.
Some of the senators that defected from the ruling party were allies of Saraki. Before the formal defection, lawmakers like Dino Melaye, senator representing Kogi west, and Isah Misau, senator representing Bauchi central, had been constantly criticising the way the government of the day conducted its business.
That same day, 37 lawmakers in the lower legislative chamber dumped the APC.
On December 4, the Parliamentary Staff Association of Nigeria (PASAN) picketed the premises of the national assembly. The angry workers were protesting over outstanding salaries and allowances.
Armed with placards which read: ‘Omolori must go now’, ‘Pass our conditions of service now’ and ‘Probe NASS MGT Now’, among others, the workers prevented the lawmakers of both chambers of the national assembly from sitting.
They discontinued the protest after Saraki and Dogara intervened but that did not last for long. When they resumed, it was with a four-day warning strike which commenced on December 17. They cut off water and power supply, and blocked major entrances to the assembly.
Following the wave of defections that hit the national assembly, the APC leadership began plotting the removal of Saraki. And what was their grouse? Saraki had left the APC believed to still have the majority number in the senate and as a result, they have to give way.
Adams Oshiomhole, APC national chairman, was one of those who insisted on Saraki’s removal. He had said Saraki will not only be impeached but “we will work hard to have him defeated as a senator come 2019.”
The purported plot gained momentum such that on August 1, some lawmakers spent the night at the legislative complex, keeping wake in wait of unnamed senators who they said were planning to sit overnight to effect the impeachment.
Although the events surrounding the plot have waned, it is still being re-echoed, even when the current national assembly has few months left.
Melaye hit the headlines on several occasions, including a foiled escape from police custody and a failed recall process.
The senator was implicated by armed robbery suspects arrested in Kogi, according to the police. Jimoh Moshood, police spokesman, had said the senator was mentioned by the suspects as supplying them with arms. But Melaye denied the allegations – and he was not going to have any of those.
On April 24, the senator attempted to escape custody and jumped out of a moving police vehicle conveying him to court in Kogi state. The foiled escape landed him in more trouble as the police charged him for attempted suicide after re-arresting him. He was also said to have been kidnapped on one of the occasions he was to appear in court. Melaye and the police are back in the news again. Are they going into the new year on this note?
It had to be the most dramatic budget presentation in the nation’s history. On December 19, President Muhammadu Buhari presented the 2019 appropriation bill of N8.83 trillion to a joint session of the national assembly amid jeers and – you wouldn’t believe it – fights.
Before the president arrived at the national assembly, the house of representatives members in the PDP had concluded a plot to protest what they described as the president’s failing administration and non-performance of the 2018 budget.
Unfortunately, some of their colleagues in the APC were not going to allow that and so, they ended up confronting one another. Blows were exchanged but that wasn’t the end of it.
Buhari eventually arrived to present the budget but while he spoke, his speech was frequently punctuated with jeering and cheering from the two sides of the divide at the joint sitting. A speech which would have ordinarily taken 40 minutes ended up lasting for well over an hour.
The situation was so chaotic the presiding officers could not deliver their speeches while the president left hurriedly at the end. Terrible.
The world will not forget in a hurry how thugs allegedly led by Ovie Omo-Agege, senator representing Delta central, stormed the national assembly complex and ran away with the senate mace. Both lawmakers, staff of the national assembly and visitors were awestruck during the operation that didn’t last for up to ten minutes.
Thugs invading the legislative complex located in the three arms zone, the most secure part of the country, sounds just unbelievable. How did it happen? The thugs arrived in a Hilux van that waited at the main entrance while they walked in reportedly with the senator into the building.
They were said to have then hurried off to the senate chamber, overpowering the sergeant-at-arms stationed at the entrance and running down to where the mace was kept. Footage from the scene showed how they overpowered whoever that came their way and subsequently ran away into the waiting van.
There is no official statement on who was behind the invasion but as God may have it, the mace was recovered under a bridge within Abuja metropolis. Unbelievable.
No doubt, it’s been a dramatic year indeed.