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Reps: Jonathan must go

Published by The Nation on Fri, 21 Nov 2014

Lawmakers open impeachment battle against PresidentPolice, SSS teargas Tambuwal, othersIt was like a scene from an action-packed movie.Lawmakers removed their shoes and climbed the iron fence to make their way inside the chamber. Teargas fumes choked the environment, drawing tears from the lawmakers eyes. Many were shouting and screaming. Chaos.That was the scene yesterday at the National Assembly complex in Abuja where the police and other security agents battled unsuccessfully to stop House of Representatives Speaker Aminu Tambuwal from entering the chamber.In anger, the lawmakers launched an impeachment battle against President Goodluck Jonathan.By evening, no fewer than 130 of them there are 360 members in the House had signed a register to back the Jonathan-must-go move.Policemen allegedly acting on the instructions of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Anyim Pius Anyim, and the National Security Adviser (NSA), Col. Sambo Dasuki, locked the gates to the National Assembly (NASS). There were no comments from Anyim and Col. Dasuki yesterday.Efforts by the Speaker to enter the complexwasresisted by security forces, mainly the police, led by Acting Police Commissioner Wilson Inalegwu.The policemen were in combat gears, fully armed. With them were hooded Department of State Service (DSS) personnel.Signs of a chaotic day came as early as7.00amwhen early callers were confronted by a new set of armed security personnel.No vehiclewasspared from being checked as drivers were made to alight from their cars to open their booths. Cars with tainted screens were asked to wind down the windows to ascertain the identity of the occupiers of the back seat.Construction trucks were not spared as policemen climbed inside the drivers cabins to check any for any hidden unapproved objects or persons.A Supreme Court Judge who used the road to access the Supreme Court complex could not hide his anger when he retorted after his driverwasasked to wind down the passenger sides windscreen.Why are you people disturbing everybody, arent you aware that people have work to go to' I am going to Supreme Court, he shouted angrily at the police officer.The policeman replied: Sorry for the inconvenience sir. The NSA is aware of why we are here.At about10.35am, Aminu Tambuwal arrived at the first entrance to the NASS in his official vehicle, with the House of Repesenatives crest and the Coat of Arms accompanied by a convoy of about 50 cars.The security men at the first gate made no attempt to stop him.At the second and final gate, the convoywasstopped for checking.After passing the second gate, the Speakers car could not pass the final gate as itwasfirmly locked. His convoy could not even go through the second gate.The Speaker alighted from his car to talk to the police officers on the other side of the gate.The Speaker called out to their leader, the FCT Acting CP, Inalegwu, who said hewason the telephone.Likewise, none of the policemen, mostly of junior ranks, responded to his introduction as the Speaker of the House.At a point, some of the lawmakers who accompanied the Speaker, began banging on the gate, pulling it and threatening to force their ways in.The Speaker stepped away to make some calls.The pulling of the gate continued but the security men did not bulge, saying they hadan order from the office of the National Security Adviser (NSA) to lock the gate.At this point, caution took over as some lawmakers continued to talk with the policemen and by a stroke of luck, the gatewaspartially opened on the order of the FCT Acting CP.The Speakerand some lawmakers were pushed in before the gatewasshut again.The lawmakers began to scale the tall gate. One after the other, they scalde the gate, saying nothing will stop them from performing their duty.On arriving at the scene, just minutes after the Speaker had gone in, the Minority Leader, Femi Gbajabiamila, joined his compatriots in scaling the gate.The oldest member of the House, Hasan El Badawi, made for the 10 feet tall gate, climbed it and jumped into the complex - to the admiration of his colleagues and others.Other lawmakers who accompanied the Speaker include Deputy Minority Leader, Suleiman Kawu, Solomon Adeola, Mohammed Zakari, Samuel Adejare and Biodun Akinlade, among many others.The security men made no attempt to stop the lawmakers until they got to the entrance of the Parliament building (White House).Meanwhile, lawmakers within the National Assembly had received phone calls that the Speakerwasprevented from entering the complex.In anger, scores of lawmakers raced out of the White House in the direction of the main gate. But they met the Speaker at the arcadebeing led in by other lawmakers.Thatwaswhen the police started targeting him with shots of tear gas.Before Tambuwalwasmuscled into the chamber by his colleagues, teargas canisterswereshot at him three times at the entrance of the White House and twice inside the lobby.His colleagues rushed him into the Chamber and locked the door.For hours, the lobbywasfilled with teargas fumes. Lawmakers and others were coughing and clutching their noses with handkerchiefs. The fumes permeated offices and committee rooms in the White House.Senate President David Mark also got a dose of the security meltdown as he waslocked out for over 30 minutes. He entered the complex through the back gate.An angry Mark flayed the Divisional Police Officer in the National Assembly, who on allegedly said the SGF gave the order for the lockdown of the legislature.However, on gaining access, Mark got a raw deal when he made to see the Speaker on the Representatives wing.Hewasruffled up by the crowd milling around the Speaker. Hewas pushed and shoved by the crowd who claimed that he had foreknowledge of the attack on the Speaker but die nothing to stop it.After conferring with the Speaker, Mark returned to his office. Hewasseen off by Deputy Speaker Emeka Ihedioha.Afterwards, the House went into plenary to consider the only item on the order paper the Presidents request for extension of emergency rule in Adamawa, Borno and Yobe States.The matterwasdebated behind closed doors.On emerging from the plenary, the Speaker, the Deputy Speaker and a host of other Representatives made for the office of the Senate President.The Senate Presidents office, the Speaker and his team were denied entrance and, after a while, a warning boomed from the public address system, asking those around the entrance to return to their offices.The Deputy Speaker left, leaving the Speaker. After a while, the Speaker left. to be joined at the Senate car park by Ihedioha and over a hundred other members.The crowd swelled by the moment and the Speaker left in a motorcade of over 70 cars, with the convoy lined on the side by lawmakers, well-wishers and staff of the National Assembly.The Speaker drove out of the complex at about1.17pm.The House condemned the action of the police but promised that it will defend its territory (the National Assembly complex) with all its might.Spokesman Zakari Mohammed told journalists at the end of the special plenary that the action of the policewascapable of undermining the countrys democracy.He said: We are not criminals, we were sent here by Nigerians that elected us. How can the President give an assignment to the Speaker and at the same time lock him out and tear gassed'Though we see this drama as one of the hazards of democracy, but we have sworn to defend the constitution and our democracy.We refused to be cowered. The National Assembly is not a State Assembly where all kinds of illegalities are perpetrated and there wont be any response.We condemn the police action in all its entirely, we cannot turn this country into a banana republic; what is important to us is we must continue to uphold the constitution and continue to do what is constitutionally right.The National Assembly is our territory and we will defend it and resist all attempt to stop,us from doing our work.]]>
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