Nigeria: How Saraki Waded Through Security Blockade

Nigerian Senate President Bukola Saraki
25 July 2018

Abuja — More facts emerged Tuesday night on how Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, escaped the plot by the security agencies to prevent him from making it to the National Assembly in order to abort the plan by many lawmakers to defect from the All Progressives Congress (APC).

Although Saraki told his colleagues at the Senate chambers Tuesday that "it was just by the intervention of the Almighty God" that he was able to make it to the National Assembly, his close aide told THISDAY that he made it because, "the Senate president was smarter than the security agencies".

The source, who pleaded anonymity, said Saraki was alerted about the "evil plans" by the security agencies, when on Monday, at about 8p.m., he received a letter, asking him to report to the police over the Offa robbery case, which was said to have been concluded before now.

Apparently acting on security report about the plans by security agencies to prevent him and his deputy, Ike Ekweremadu, from presiding over the sitting Tuesday, the Senate president was said to have left his Maitama residence late Monday night and moved to a "house very close to the National Assembly," even though another source said Saraki slept in the National Assembly.

To divert the security agents' attention, his aides, which included security men, were said to have left Saraki's residence in Maitama, Abuja about 8:30a.m. in a convoy, and apparently acting the script of their bosses, the police were said to have blocked the convoy, thinking the Senate president was inside his official car.

But they were wrong, as Saraki was said to have entered the National Assembly before then, and settled down in one of the offices, waiting for his colleagues to arrive the chambers.

When he was sure that many of the senators sympathetic to his political course were more in numbers in the chambers, the Senate president, spotting white flowing Agbada, entered his office about 10:35a.m. and later moved to the chambers at exactly 10:40a.m., the source said.

Saraki eventually presided over the Senate and announced the defection of 14 senators from the APC.

Relaying his experience in the hands of security operatives, who laid siege to his house Tuesday to his colleagues, the Senate president said the plenary would not have held if not for his preparation.

He said: "The road leading to my place was cordoned off and all cars coming in and out as early as 6:30 were being stopped and you have to come down. My convoy was stopped from moving. Given something that one was prepared for, I had my own car too. So the deputy senate president called me and said he could not come here.

"That's the situation why the DSP (Ekweremadu) could not come here and I was already going somewhere else. If not, this plenary would not have been able to hold today. So I had to come here."

Condemning the siege, he said it was God that made him escape it.

He added: "But as you all rightly said, if one of our colleagues cannot come out for no fault of his, I don't see how we can continue to sit and ignore the fact that a presiding officer cannot be here. And if it was by the plan, I too, would not be here.

"It was just by the intervention of the Almighty God that I was able to get myself here."

The security agencies early Tuesday morning laid siege to the homes of Saraki and Ekweremadu in Abuja, preventing both vehicular and human movement in and out of the roads leading to their houses.

As part of the security agencies' plot, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on its part, had also invited the Deputy Senate President over alleged money laundering.

The anti-graft agency, in a letter of invitation dated July 24 and signed by the Director of Operations, Mohammed Abba, had invited the Deputy Senate President to report to the commission's office same Tuesday for "clarification".

The EFCC claimed it was "investigating activities case of conspiracy, abuse of office and money laundering" in which his name featured prominently and the need to obtain certain clarifications from him.

The letter further stated: "In view of the above, you are kindly requested to report and interview the undersigned at 5 Fomela Street, Off Adetokunbo Ademola Crescent, Wuse II Abuja on Tuesday, 24th July, 2018 at 10a.m. prompt.

"This request is made pursuant to section 38(1) of the Economic and Financial Crimes (Establishment) Act, 2004."

But, in spite of the letter of invitation, the EFCC and a team of policemen stormed and occupied some positions of the official residence of Ekweremadu, in the Apo Legislative Quarters, Abuja in the early hours of Tuesday.

Nigeria Sliding Into Anarchy, Warns rAPC, others

The reformed All Progressives Congress (rAPC), the Civil Liberties Organisation (CLO) and a frontline Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) presidential aspirant, Mr. Kabiru Tanimu Turaki (SAN), Tuesday condemned the invasion of the residences of Saraki and Ekweremadu, by security agencies, in what is seen as an attempt to intimidate and stop some aggrieved APC's lawmakers from switching party.

In a statement signed by the National Publicity of rAPC, Prince Kassim Afegbua, the aggrieved factional group within APC, wondered why the police, that should serve as the custodian of the democratic rights of the people, provide a good anchorage to safeguard the lives and properties of the people, have suddenly become instrument of "oppression, suppression and willing tools" in the hands of the powers-that-be.

According to rAPC, "We are particularly disturbed that those who glorify themselves as democrats and fighters for democracy, by condemning military rule have suddenly maintained conspiratorial and ominous silence.

"They have not only endorsed this act of ignominy, but also watching with relish in the closet of their homes as the nation drifts on the plane of fascism, democratic militarism, gangsterism, and bare-faced dictatorship.

"It baffles us that while we are putting in place concerted efforts to secure our democracy by fighting brazen injustices and outright abuses, the APC government that prides itself as fighters of corruption have been trying hard to crumble this democracy."

On his part, a frontline PDP presidential aspirant, Turaki, condemned the Gestapo tactics unleashed on Saraki and Ekweremadu, adding that it was clearly a dangerous attempt to truncate Nigeria's democracy.

Also reacting to the incident, a respected human rights organisation, the Civil Liberties Organisation (CLO), said it was appalled at the rapid slide into "anarchy, dictatorship and incivility" that Nigeria was being plunged by the current administration.

In a statement by its National President, Mr. Igho Akeregha, the group said the siege, by the police and operatives of the Department of State Services (DSS) on the Abuja residences of the Senate president and deputy Senate president was apparently ordered by the administration to avert defection of some senators who are dissatisfied with the growing undemocratic practices within the ruling APC.

"The CLO and indeed many Nigerians who made huge sacrifices to enthrone democracy are daily confronted with extreme brigandage and lawlessness promoted by the Buhari administration. Citizens should now stop this dangerous drift," CLO stated, adding: "We similarly condemn the Executive and abhor its penchant to deploy state instrument of coercion against those who do not share its view as this behaviour if left unchecked, will inevitably destroy constitutionalism and the rule of law in the country."

Presidency: Let Security Agencies Do their Work

But in a statement, the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Malam Garba Shehu, said the Presidency had taken note of what he described as orchestrated campaign against Buhari each time a very important person (VIP) is invited by law enforcement agencies while discharging their legitimate duties and functions.

He was reacting to the invitation of Saraki by Special Anti-robbery Squad (SARS) in relation to the Offa robbery incident Tuesday.

According to him, the law of the land is intended for all and not for the poor or those at the lowest rungs of the social ladder, adding that it is odd, strange and bizarre that while ordinary citizens can be called up to answer questions or be interrogated, the VIP cannot be questioned without the annoying insinuations of partisanship, persecution or outright politicisation.

Shehu further said this country cannot achieve peace and development when important cases are viewed through a political prism while the law is considered as being applicable to some, and not applicable to others.

He added that the workings of law enforcement agencies were stipulated in both the constitution and the laws of the country, noting that if they work at the discretion of past presidents, who decided who to question and who to detain, Nigerians should get used to the fact that Buhari is different because he does not influence or interfere with cases.

The statement added: "The constitution clearly directs law enforcement agencies to promptly report and investigate any actual or potential infringement of the law and also initiate proceedings against all those involved.

"This president is not the one who directs them on what to do. President Buhari does not stand in the way of law enforcement either. Under our constitution, he has no powers to stop the investigation of anyone or institution. When they are set to investigate anything and anyone, the best friend of the law is the one who lets them do their work.

"The president's constant refrain is that he will not tolerate any form of illegality including corruption and the law enforcement agencies have been given complete freedom to identify and bring all culprits to justice. His instructions to them are very clear: Anyone with a case to answer or found guilty should not be spared.

"Accused persons should approach the courts to plead their innocence rather than going to the public to plead persecution. The country is better served when the law enforcement agencies are allowed to do their work and we must stop the actors of this dangerous game of politicising law enforcement."

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