Akpabio: Mace theft a failed coup, I mistook invaders for terrorists

* Akpabio 

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The last is yet to be heard about last week’s theft of Senate mace by armed thugs suspected to be loyalists of the suspended senator representing Delta Central Senatorial District, Ovie Omo-Agege.

Senate Minority Leader, Godswill Akpabio, has disclosed that he mistook the invaders for members of the dreaded Islamic sect, Boko Haram.

The development comes as a lawmaker has revealed why they were mostly clad in Babaringa (flowing gown) to plenary on Thursday, a day after the incident.

Speaking in Abuja at the just-concluded Emergency National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), the former Governor of Akwa Ibom State described the incident as a failed coup.

In a daring move on Wednesday last week, thugs suspected to be loyalists of the suspended All Progressives Congress (APC) senator had invaded the hallowed chambers of the Senate, disrupted plenary and stole the mace in broad daylight.

The thugs barged their way through the door of the chamber, overpowered the security agents including sergeant-at-arms, carted away the mace, ran into three waiting vehicles and zoomed off.

Akpabio, who commended the heroism displayed by PDP senators, told party members that something untoward could have happened had lawmakers not exhausted everything on the Order Paper for that day.

According to him, the master-stroke was insistence of lawmakers to continue plenary and emergence of spare mace to salvage the situation.

He said: “If we (Pro-Saraki lawmakers) had walked out of the Senate without sitting, I don’t know what would have happened because the entirety of the whole thing looked like a coup.

“It is possible that the mace could have dropped from the roof after we left. And there could have been another sitting because the reality is that we had already formed a quorum and we had not yet adjourned and so everybody decided that there was no need to leave.

“We all sat down there until the former Deputy Senate President’s second mace, Senator (Ibrahim) Mantu, was brought.

“And that was classic because I was taken aback by the statesmanship. I did not know that in every situation, there is always redundancy and a game plan. It was fantastic.

“If you notice, I am still suffering from the trauma. I have not yet recovered because the way they came, we don’t know if they were Boko Haram, militants from Niger Delta looking for me or herdsmen.

“The situation was very frightful and it was unfortunate that it was captured live. So the entire world was watching”.

A source at the National Assembly revealed that the invasion was meant to cow Pro-Saraki senators to run away, for the eventual impeachment of Senate President Bukola Saraki and his Deputy, Ike Ekweremadu and election of new Presiding Officers.

Saraki was attending the Spring Meeting of the World Bank/International Monetary Fund (IMF) in Washington, United States of America when the incident occurred.

The source in Saraki’s office who did not want his mentioned because he was not authorised to do so, said the plot to disrupt Senate proceedings had been on for some time.

“The Pro-Buhari senators actually planned to execute their plan last month when the Senate President was on his way to the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) meeting in Geneva, Switzerland from Lagos.

“Pro-Saraki senators immediate discovered that there was a plan to arrest Ekweremadu on trumped up charges. And ensure the election of their own Presiding Officers.

“The flight was already on its way from the Murtala Mohammed International Airport, Lagos when they communicated with the aircraft to land in Abuja and the trip was eventually aborted,” the source said.

Also speaking on the development, a lawmaker who witnessed the invasion told our correspondent that most of them wore Babaringa (flowing gown) to plenary on Thursday, a day after the incident, concealing arms.

This, he said, was for self-defence in the light of the daring attack and the embattled lawmaker’s insistence to force his way to the Senate chamber.

“We came prepared on Thursday. We hid our arms in Babaringa to match the thugs fire-for-fire. We didn’t want to be taken unawares,” the South-South PDP senator who was clad in a flowing gown and spoke on condition of anonymity, told our correspondent.

In an exclusive interview with Business Day SUNDAY, Yusuf Abubakar Yusuf (APC, Taraba State) called for proper investigation into the matter.

He said: “I am embarrassed. It is an abuse of democracy and democracy is based on rule of law. So, my suggestion is that the leadership of the Senate should sit down, have a meeting and come out with resolutions that they can put to us at the Senate.

“But my personal opinion is that it shouldn’t have happened at all. I suggest we do a thorough investigation on why it happened and then take a decision”.

On his part, Deputy President of the Senate, Ike Ekweremadu, who presided over plenary when the incident occurred, regretted that the development could have serious impact on foreign direct investments into the country.

According to him, the attack on the Senate on Wednesday was another lesson on the need to rethink the nation’s security structure.

Ekweremadu spoke when he received the leadership of the Nigerian Political Science Association (NPSA) which paid a solidarity visit to the Senate.

He said: “It is an embarrassment to Nigeria before the international community for someone to drive all the way into the National Assembly Complex, enter the hallowed chamber, and cart away its symbol of authority.

“It shows a breakdown of security and it is a setback to Nigeria’s drive for foreign investment because no one would be ready to invest money in such a system. So, it is a lesson that we cannot keep doing the same thing with our security system and expect a different result.

“It is also an irony that the people involved would organise armed bandits to rob the Senate of its mace since they understand the implication of what they have done.

“As a parliament, we will ensure that this does not happen again and insist that all the actors behind the drama are brought to book”.

He enjoined the Association to help the nation to rethink its governance and security structures in line with other federal systems.

As the 2019 general elections draw near, political analysts hope that the National Assembly Management and security men guarding the institution would draw from the lessons of the attack and prevent a repeat.

BusinessDay

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