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DSS invasion of the National Assembly - Tribune Editorial

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However, in a swift reaction, Acting President, Yemi Osinbajo, announced the sack of the DSS Director General, Lawal Daura. In a statement issued by his spokesman, Osinbajo claimed that the Daura-sanctioned siege on the National Assembly had no government imprimatur. This decision was hailed across the political spectrum. But the government’s statement, timely though it was, was actually insulting to the sensibilities of Nigerians. Even if the presidency did not authorise Daura’s latest act, it certainly could not claim ignorance of his litany of previous infractions, including the October 2016 invasion of the homes of judges, not leaving out those of justices of the Supreme Court, orchestrated in Gestapo style and in unholy hours; the DSS invasion of the Benue House of Assembly, together with operatives of the Nigeria Police Force, to give security cover to eight lawmakers who attempted to reconvene the House and start the  process to remove Governor Ortom from office, in the absence of their 22 other colleagues; and serial disobedience to court orders. Nor can the presidency claim to be unaware of the illegal detentions without trial of many other citizens, including journalists, for more than two years under Daura’s leadership of the DSS. How do you enable lawlessness through constant failure to rein in heads of security agencies committing crimes against the constitution and the people, only to turn around when their dictatorship reaches boiling point, and throw them under the bus? We want to affirm, without any fear of contradiction, that the lawlessness demonstrated by Daura, assuming that he actually acted alone, was fostered and nurtured by the government itself. 

On too many occasions, the current government did nothing while security agencies descended into the political arena, making a mockery of the democratic process. For instance, it did not sanction the Inspector General of Police, Mr. Ibrahim Idris, when he scoffed at Senate summons, and when, by the president’s own admission, he refused to relocate to Benue State as the president directed following the killings of January 1. The security agencies which enabled the theft of the mace at the Senate have not been sanctioned, and neither has the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) been queried for issuing a tweet targeted at the governor of Ekiti State, Ayodele Fayose, shortly after his party lost the recently concluded governorship election in the state.

In our previous editorials, we described the invasion of the Senate as an attempt to test the resolve of Nigeria’s sovereignty. We warned that if the affront to the country’s sovereignty was not decisively put down, there would be an open invitation to anarchy. Nigerians, we added, did not endure long years of jackboot repression and persecution only to have a gang of criminals treating them to the kind of sad episode enacted on live television at the National Assembly. Sadly, the government failed to take heed and, to our dismay, we have had our worst fears confirmed. Hoodlums masquerading as protectors of democracy, emboldened by their unholy connections to and support by a group of people in the seat of power, had the temerity to close down an entire arm of government with a view to overthrowing its leadership. They scoffed at a most important organ of the democratic institution, trampled on the law, and put the country to shame. We insist that as saddening and repulsive as the DSS’ action is, there is a logic, however perverse, running through it: if those who stormed the Senate and carted away the mace are still strutting the landscape instead of enjoying their just deserts in jail, just why shouldn’t they (DSS operatives) carry out another assault on democracy? After all, the Nigeria Police, ensconced in the quicksand of politics, told the nation that it would take 10 years to complete investigation into the mace theft. 

In a world press conference on Wednesday, the Senate President noted: “The National Assembly, the seat of democracy in Nigeria, was under lockdown.The ensuing standoff was a show of shame. 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 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.” We agree with the Senate President that the country was indeed put to shame by the sordid display and it must be emphasised that this was all an outgrowth of the Federal Government, the executive which has superintendence over all security agencies, not sufficiently appreciating the independence of the legislature.

Incidentally, as noted by a legal luminary, it is treasonable felony punishable with life imprisonment for anyone to device, by overt acts, to depose or levy war against the sovereign, or to compel changes of policy, or to intimidate or overawe Parliament. We cannot agree less. We, therefore, call for an independent investigation into this second assault on the National Assembly in four months. All those found to have enabled the act of treason must be prosecuted for same. President Buhari, Acting President Osinbajo and other members of the executive are only safe to the extent that the National Assembly and the courts are safe.


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