By Olugbenga Salami
Disturbed by the continued sealing of the Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly by the police, the Senate, yesterday insisted that the security agency must immediately vacate the Assembly complex to enable the state lawmakers perform their legislative functions.
This followed report by Senator Albert Akpan (PDP Akwa Ibom North East) during plenary that the Assembly still remains sealed by the police for over 24 hours without clear reasons, thus preventing the lawmakers access to their offices and the chamber.
The police had on Wednesday sealed off the Assembly premises barely 48 hours after angry members of the All Progressives Congress, APC, protested the sacking of a lawmaker, Hon. Idongesit Ituen by a Federal High Court for defecting from the ruling People’s Democratic Party, PDP to the APC.
Implementation of the court order by the Speaker of House, Hon. Onofiok Luke, who also declared the seats of other four defected lawmakers, however, contributed to the crisis.
But the Senate had on Wednesday mandated its Committee on Police Affairs to investigate the crisis and report back within two weeks.
Senator Akpan, however, rose again yesterday on the floor of the Red Chamber, lamenting that the police had not vacated the Assembly premises, preventing the lawmakers and other people from gaining entry into the complex.
He alleged that the invasion of the Assembly was aimed at impeaching the state governor, Mr. Udo Emmanuel from office.
Senator Akpan said: “We have it on good authority that the intention of this invasion is to impeach the governor of Akwa Ibom State.
“There is no way in our history of our democracy that a five-member Assembly can impeach a speaker and thereafter go ahead to impeach a governor. Despite the directive of the Senate yesterday, the police are still within the premises of the house of assembly.
“No member of staff, no indigene of the state, and no member of the assembly has been allowed entrance. We have it on good authority that the five members are on the verge of moving into the state House of Assembly to impeach the governor.
“I therefore call on my colleagues that what is morally wrong cannot be politically correct. We owe it as a duty to this country to ensure that the right thing gets done. An injury on Akwa Ibom state is an injury to Nigeria. I therefore call on the attention of this Senate that the police must be asked to vacate the state house of assembly forthwith – without any further delay”.
However, Senator Ahmed Babba-Kaita (APC, Katsina North), argued that the police are occupying the Assembly premises not to aid the alleged impeachment of the state governor, but to maintain peace, law and order.
“We all know that there was a fracas there. If the other lawmakers go in there with their supporters there is going to be fracas in that place. It has happened in so many assemblies, police are there to maintain peace.
“Let us find out what’s the real issue there. We have to be careful with what we are doing”, he stressed.
In his remark, the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, urged his colleagues not to trade the matter on a partisan level.
He said: “It is an action against the law that exists. The police can provide law and order without preventing lawmakers access to the chamber. It is bad for us to allow such to happen for police to seal for more than 24 hours. The police should vacate but still provide security.
“The Red Chamber thereafter resolves that the security agencies unseal the Assembly and allow lawmakers gain access to the chamber, while they provide security”