Saraki’s Remarks at the #WorldPressConference on the National Assembly Invasion by DSS


Statement by Abubakar Bukola Saraki, President of the Senate  at the World Press Conference Held at the National Assembly Complex  on Wednesday, August 8, 2018

  1. 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 as early as 6.30 am. 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.
  2. The ensuring 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.
  3. We have to say that this is not about us – Abubakar Bukola Saraki or Yakubu Dogara as an individual. It is not about Ike   Ekweremadu,   nor   is   it   about   Yusuf   Lasun.   We   are speaking for my colleagues when I say that this is about the soul of Nigeria, what we represent as a country, (people) 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.
  4. This is most disheartening. We don’t get any joy in saying: We said so. We 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, almost on a daily basis, we are seeing the manifestations of that government within a government. It beats one’s imagination how the head of a security agency could have authorized the brazen assault on the legislature that we saw yesterday. Only recently we saw in Benue how 8 members of the 30 members of State House of Assembly with the collaboration of security forces, DSS and police tried to impeach the Governor. Despite the threat to our lives, we shall continue to fight impunity and injustice in this country.
  5. 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 government,   represents   the   will   of   the   people.   We   are elected by the people, and 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.
  6. Saraki during the World Press Conference
    Saraki during the World Press Conference

    The resistance mounted by staff of the National Assembly, our   colleagues   in  both   chambers   and   Civil  Society Organisations (CSOs) who refused to leave the entrance of this Complex until the siege was broken, strengthens our 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.

  7. By   this,   we   have   shown   that   Nigerians   can   resist government within government in whatever guise, and this is humbling for us. Those who sought to defend the attack on the National Assembly under our leadership for their selfish ends have further affirmed our 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.   We   are   confident   that,   together,   we   shall always defeat acts of unconstitutionality. The rule of law shall always prevail.
  8. We   want   to   thank   Nigerians,   Senators,   Members   of   the House of Representatives and National Assembly Staff, for standing up to be counted for democracy during yesterday’s siege. We thank the thousands who monitored the situation on radio, television and 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.
  9. We also thank the international community – particularly the   European   Union   that   visited   the   complex   –   and   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.
  10. Among the many that come   up   for   special   mention, we 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.
  11. We applaud all who kicked against the atrocity and who stood   firm   until   sanity  prevailed.   We   are   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.
  12. We 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 and the image of our country. 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,   and   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 invasion was allowed to happen in the first place.
  13. This is an incident concerning which we have it on good authority that it has been in the planning for months. How is it that such an atrocity was not prevented? How is it that the masterminds were not deterred? Very serious questions remain that can only be answered by a full investigation. We   call   for   an   investigation,   and   we   demand   that  all perpetrators are brought to book. We owe it to ourselves to ensure   that   such   a   situation   never   occurs   again.  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.
  14. We 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 and their lawmakers. We know that we, certainly, did not fight just so the legislature could be undermined and subjected to this onslaught.
  15. There are many lessons to be drawn from the ugly incident we   all   witnessed   yesterday.   For   one,   government   must ensure that security agencies remain neutral and act in line with   the   position   of   the   constitution   as   well   as   their enabling laws. Heads of Agencies should be accountable, and those who step out of line must be held responsible for their   actions.   Enough   with   impunity.   Enough   with   the reckless   and   senseless   deployment   of   militaristic   force. Enough.
  16. In this dark cloud, we can see the silver lining, and that silver lining is the commitment of Nigerians to defending their hard-won democracy. We are more than encouraged by   the   strength,   the   determination   and   the   resolve   of ordinary Nigerians to see to it that democracy survives and thrives in this   country.  We are also  strengthened  by the determination of the media to report and analyse the truth as they see it.
  17. We want to reassure Nigerians that, on our part, we remain committed to working for a country governed by the rule of law. Our desire is to have a society where there will be equity and justice, not oppression. We stand committed to doing   our   utmost   as   lawmakers   to   ensure   that   the responsibility   and   functionality   of   governance   are   met. Although we are on annual break, we are daily reviewing the   situation   and   are   alive   to   the   responsibility   to   take action as necessary. Unfortunately, yesterday’s shutdown prevented us from meeting with INEC, as scheduled, to address their request. We will continue to do all to ensure a smooth and successful 2019 election. In the spirit of that we   also   appeal   to   Mr.   President   to   sign   the   new   2018 Electoral   Act   Amendment   Bill   in   line   with   his recommendations, which has been sent for his assent.
  18. We remain confident in the support of my colleagues and their   focus   on   the   job   at   hand,   which   is   to   serve   the Nigerian people. My confidence is unshaken. We remain committed   to   the   success   of   the   historic   8th  National Assembly, and to the continued progress of our country.
  19. In   closing,   let   me   reiterate   that   neither   myself,   Deputy Senate President or Speaker  belong to the class  of politicians that are desperate to stay in power by al means and at all costs. The day, two thirds of our members feel they   do   not   have   confidence   in   our   leadership,   we   will gracefully bow out. I repeat again and again, this is not about us, but about respecting the constitution and the rule of law.


Thank you.


– Aug. 8, 2018 @ 17:58 GMT |

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