11 August 2017

Nigeria: The Assault On Kogi Assembly


Many lawmakers reportedly suffered injuries on Tuesday, August 1 when Hoodlums invaded the premises of the Kogi State House of Assembly in Lokoja. Friday Sani Makama, member representing Igalamela/Odolu State Constituency who was said to be the prime target of the attack, suffered grievous injuries and was admitted in hospital.

Makama, the Assembly's former Majority Leader, is said to be a vocal critic of the state administration. He was attacked soon after he resumed work at the Assembly after a High Court quashed a six months' suspension slammed on him by the Assembly on March 28 for alleged anti-party posturing. Makama's suspension was widely believed to have been masterminded because of his anti-government posture. In the judgement delivered on June 29, Kogi State High Court judge Justice Henry Olusuyi held that the suspension was an act of "legislative insolence."

Makama returned on the same day that the Assembly resumed from recess. The attackers forced their way into the gallery, destroyed chairs and used them as weapons to attack the legislators. The assailants reportedly arrived at the Assembly premises in 'official' vehicles. The police men at the Assembly premises failed to stop the attackers. Even the arrival of the state's Police Commissioner Wilson Inalegwu did not save the situation as the thugs had virtually unfettered access to the Assembly. Soon after the attack, Speaker Umar Ahmed Imam announced the indefinite suspension of legislative activities.

Police Commissioner Inalegwu has since denied that he or Governor Yahaya Bello had a hand in the attack. The state's Police Public Relations Officer Willy Aya said, "This report is not only false but unarguably from the figment of the writer's imagination calculated to manipulate the mindset of the public against the Kogi State Police Command. The CP, as a proactive measure, deployed personnel to the state House of Assembly based on intelligence report received of threat of breakdown of law and order. The CP further reached out to the Speaker of the House to ensure that there was no threat to public peace at the State House of Assembly. Those who know the CP will never associate him with such unprofessional behaviour."

The whole saga took another dimension the next day, August 2 following the abrupt resignation of the Speaker after he reconvened the Assembly. He was replaced by Mr Matthew Kolawole representing Kabba/Bunu State Constituency. Most of the principal officers in the Assembly were also reshuffled and the House immediately adjourned till August 15. The Kogi Assembly has never known peace since its inauguration after the 2015 gubernatorial election. That election was equally plagued with controversy following the death of APC's candidate Prince Abubakar Audu, who died while the polls were inconclusive and APC chose Alhaji Yahaya Bello to replace him. Soon after Bello emerged as governor, he forced the Assembly's Speaker Momoh Jimoh Lawal to resign on July 26, 2016 because they came from the same senatorial district. It is not surprising that Ahmed Imam had to suffer the same fortune as his predecessor. Those behind the latest crisis reportedly felt Imam was being "too pro-people" and supporting civil servants' agitation in the state.

Prior to the incident, the State Assembly had on Thursday, July 28 directed the state's Accountant General, acting Head of Service, Commissioner for Finance and the Chairperson of the State Universal Basic Education Board (SUBEB) to appear before it and explain the accurate numbers of the state's workforce that have been cleared and paid salaries from June 2015 till date. This followed a motion by Musa Jimoh Omiata (APC Yagba East), who observed that despite bailout and Paris Club refund, most Kogi workers claimed they were being owed as much as 15 months' salaries.

So far, none of the miscreants that attacked the Kogi Assembly has been arrested. We urge the police to speedily apprehend and punish the culprits and charge them to court while we urge state governors to respect the sanctity and independence of legislative arms of government.


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