The Senate President, Senator Bukola Saraki on Wednesday hosted a World Press Conference to address to the siege laid on the National Assembly by armed and masked officials of the Department of State Services (DSS).
The move is rumoured to be a ploy to remove Senator Saraki as Senate President following his defection to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) from the All Progressives Congress (APC).
“Despite the threat to our lives, we shall continue to fight impunity and injustice in this country. Happily, by the actions that Nigerians took yesterday, they demonstrated our strong resolve as a nation not to give ground to oppression”, Saraki said at the World Press Conference.
Read his full speech below:
It is a matter of record that yesterday, lawmakers and staff of the National Assembly were prevented from entering the National Assembly Complex by heavily armed security agents of the Department of State Services (DSS). All entries to the Complex were blocked.
The National Assembly, the seat of democracy in Nigeria, was under lockdown. Senators and Members of the House of Representatives were prevented from gaining access.
The ensuing standoff was a show of shame that played itself out over several hours in full view of the country. In no circumstances should this have happened. And we as a nation reaped the bitter fruits instantaneously as evident in media images relayed around the world, images that shame us as a democratic nation. 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 who 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. This is a country where so much is expected of us so many rungs of the ladder that we are supposed to have ascended as a nation. Instead we are wallowing in impunity and illegal show of force, all of which retard our progress. This is most disheartening. I don’t get any joy in saying: I said so. I don’t.
However, some of you may recall that about two years ago, I stated that there was a government within this government, to a purpose that was not in the interest of what the people voted for. I said it then, and now we are beginning to see the manifestations of that government within a government. It beats one’s imagination how the head of an agency could have authorized the brazen assault on the legislature that we saw yesterday.
Despite the threat to our lives, we shall continue to fight impunity and injustice in this country. Happily, by the actions that Nigerians took yesterday, they demonstrated our strong resolve as a nation not to give ground to oppression.
The legislature, more than any other institution in this country, more than any other arm of govt. represents the will of the people. We are elected by the people, & an assault on the legislature is an assault on the people of Nigeria.
The forcible shutdown of the legislature was an unconscionable assault on a national institution, and thanks to all your efforts, the aggressors have been put to shame. The resistance mounted by staff of the National Assembly my colleagues in both chambers and Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) who refused to leave the entrance of this Complex until the siege was broken, strengthens my faith in the people of this country.
The rain fell, the sun rose, but Nigerians stood their ground in defence of democracy. With the strength of will demonstrated by everyone against unwarranted and unconstitutional militaristic might, the siege could not stand.
By this, we have shown that Nigerians can resist government within government in whatever guise, and this is humbling for me. Those who sought to attack the National Assembly under my leadership for their selfish ends have only affirmed my belief in this country. They attempted to execute an illegal impeachment of the leadership of the Senate without the backing of the law, but they faltered.
I am confident that, together, we shall always defeat acts of unconstitutionality. The rule of law shall always prevail.
I thank the thousands who monitored the situation on radio, television & social media, voicing their outrage at the siege, thereby sending a clear message to those that hatched the plot that the Nigerian public would not buy this act of gangsterism using instruments of state such as the DSS. I also thank the international community-particularly the European Union-& the international press, for their prompt reactions to the invasion of the National Assembly.
CSOs and Socio-cultural groups were emphatic in their statements during the crisis, and we very much appreciate their vigilance. Among the many that come up for special mention. I believe that Honourable Boma Goodhead, a member of the House of Representatives, stands out. She looked a masked security operative in the eye and dared him to shoot. She let it be known that Nigerians would not stand for the barricade at the National Assembly, that we would not be cowed. It was another pointer to what is possible in this country when women take their place in leadership. I applaud all who kicked against the atrocity & who stood firm until sanity prevailed.
I am proud of how everyone conducted themselves in what was no doubt a tense standoff. The principled stance and defiant reactions to the ugly incident, proved crucial to the failure of the plot.
This is what we have been saying about the power of the people. The role of the people in defending democracy is paramount. I thank the Acting President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, for his handling of the situation we were all confronted with yesterday. His decisive action went a long way towards restoring confidence. It sent a powerful message – that the DSS cannot be recklessly deployed against institutions of our democracy.
The path of leadership is not by party, & we must commend it wherever it is found. Mr. Acting President did the right thing. However, the damage control so far does not address the question of how this atrocity happened in the first place.
This is an incident concerning which we have on good authority, has been in the planning for months, & yet it was allowed to happen. How is it that such an atrocity was not prevented? How is it that the masterminds were not deterred?
Many agencies have abused their powers and acted outside the ambit of the law on occasion. Where abuses occur, similar actions must be taken immediately and full investigation instituted.
I must say that when we fought for Change, we could not have envisaged a scenario such as unfolded yesterday – an atmosphere where people cannot tolerate dissent, or mere differences of opinion as to the future of our dear country.
This is not the Change we fought for. We did not fight for instruments of state to be used to oppress Nigerians & their lawmakers. I know that I, certainly, did not fight just so the legislature could be undermined & subjected to this onslaught.