Senate to police: Vacate Akwa Ibom Assembly now
The Senate on Thursday directed policemen deployed in the Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly to vacate the complex immediately to enable the lawmakers to perform their legislative functions.
This followed a point of order raised by Senator Albert Akpan (PDP Akwa Ibom North-East) at plenary.
He stated that the Assembly had been under lock and key for over 24 hours without clear reasons.
But in defiance of the Senate’s directive, the policemen were still at the House of Assembly as of the time of sending this report at 7pm on Thursday.
The police had on Wednesday sealed off the House of Assembly without giving any justification. The House was sealed off 48 hours after the All Progressives Congress youths protested the sack of a lawmaker, Idongesit Ituen.
Ituen, who represents the Itu State Constituency, was sacked by a Federal High Court for defecting from the ruling Peoples Democratic Party to the APC.
At the sitting of the House on Monday morning, the Speaker, Onofiok Luke, declared the seats of four other lawmakers, who defected from the PDP to the APC, vacant.
But the five sacked lawmakers later met to remove Luke as speaker. They elected one of them, Nse Ntuen (Essien Udim State Constituency) to replace him.
Senator Albert Akpan (PDP Akwa Ibom North East) at the plenary on Thursday said the closure of the House of Assembly was preventing the lawmakers from accessing their offices and the chamber.
The Senate had on Wednesday mandated its Committee on Police Affairs to investigate the crisis and report back within two days.
Senator raises the alarm over plot to impeach Emmanuel
Akpan insisted that the invasion of the Assembly was aimed at impeaching the state Governor, Mr Udom Emmanuel.
He stated, “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 the 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 on the premises of the House of Assembly.
“No member of staff, no indigene of the state, 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.”
He added, “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 to 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.”
Ahmed Kaita (APC, Katsina North) argued that the police were invited to maintain the peace, adding that the police were occupying the Assembly premises not to aid the alleged impeachment of the state governor, but to maintain the peace, law and order.
He said, “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.”
But the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, urged his colleagues against reducing the matter to a political issue.
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 to allow such to happen that the police would seal off a state legislature for more than 24 hours. The police should vacate the premises immediately.”
The senate thereafter resolved that the security agencies must reopen the assembly complex and allow lawmakers to gain access to the chamber, while they provide security and prevent anarchy.
PDP, APC lawmakers in a war of words
Meanwhile, in Akwa Ibom State, the APC lawmakers and their PDP counterparts on Thursday engaged in a war of words.
While the PDP lawmakers alleged there was a plot by the Federal Government to take over the state, their APC counterparts said the sacked legislators were not given fair hearing.
Nse Ntuen, in an interview with The PUNCH, faulted the claim that there was a plot by the APC government to take control of the state.
He asked, “Why should the Speaker declare the seats of the five affected lawmakers who defected to the All Progressives Congress vacant? Why did he not do the same to the member who defected from the All Progressives party to the Peoples Democratic party last year?”
Responding to the allegations that their action was being sponsored by some APC chieftains, Ntuen asked, “What has President Muhammadu Buhari or Senator Godswill Akpabio got in connection with the issues in the state Assembly.”
The House Committee Chairman on Information, Mr Ime Bassey Okon, alleged that there was a conspiracy to take over Akwa Ibom State at all costs.
He said the manner in which the five members broke into the chambers to conduct their affairs had grave consequences for the sanctity of the House.
Describing their action as illegality, the spokesperson said the House would meet to review what happened and take necessary actions.
Reacting to the happenings in the state, the state Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Mr Charles Udo, described the incident as a mockery of Nigerian democracy and desperation to take over the state at all costs.
Attempts to speak with the outgoing Commissioner of Police in the state, John Bassey Abang, or the command’s Police Public Relations Officer, Odiko Macdon, proved abortive as neither the commissioner nor the spokesman picked his calls. They also failed to respond to text messages sent to them.Punch