President Goodluck Jonathan and the ruling Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, on Thursday praised the Police action at the National Assembly on Thursday. An attempt to prevent House of Representatives Speaker, Aminu Tambuwwal from entering the chambers plunged the complex into chaos and led to the immediate closure of the legislature.
Doyin Okupe, presidential spokesman said the police were merely enforcing their “constitutional duty” to keep the peace and that they were not teleguided by the Presidency.
The Peoples Democratic Party lambasted Tambuwal and other lawmakers who forced their way through a police cordon, wondering what would have happened in the absence of security operatives.
“The whole scenario as we witnessed it is rather unfortunate.
We wish that at all times national interest should supersede all other interests including personal and political interests,” Okupe told reporters hours after the incident.
He defended the Inspector General of Police, Suleiman Abba, saying the police chief was doing his job by deploying scores of officers to the assembly.
Police raided the National Assembly early Thursday ahead of a crucial sitting at the House of Representatives.
The House had planned a session to discuss a request by Jonathan for an extension of the emergency rule in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa States- all three hit by a virulent insurgency by Boko Haram.
Officers mounted a blockade at the assembly, refusing to allow the speaker, Tambuwal, in, a move the opposition All Progressives Congress, APC, said was aimed at unseating the speaker as punishment for defecting from the ruling Peoples Democratic Party, PDP.
Police fired teargas after defiant lawmakers forced their way through three barricades and helped escort Tambuwal into the central building called the White House.
In an earlier statement, police denied any wrongdoing and said they acted on an “intelligence report” regarding a threat that could have undermined the security of the National Assembly.
The APC and the Conference of Nigerian Political Parties, CNPP, have called for sanctions against the police Inspector General, but Okupe, said the IGP did nothing wrong and also denied that the police acted on the orders of the president.
“Once there is infraction in the law, the police has to come in and the IGP does not need to take permission from the presidency first. He acted in the discharge of his duty. The IGP did not invade the National Assembly,” Okupe said.
He said the government hopes the House of Representatives, which has adjourned, will sort out all outstanding issues and return to lawmaking.
“From government perspective, the overriding concern today is the issue of insurgency which necessitated the request by Mr. President that the National Assembly considers an extension of the State of Emergency to give the Security forces the needed legal framework and space for a successful prosecution of the war against Boko Haram terrorists.
“It is our hope that the Honourable members of the House of Representatives will use the period of adjournment to resolve all matters so that they can resume to deliberate and act on issues of national importance.”
The PDP also described as “embarrassing” the violence that broke out at the National Assembly, and blamed the lawmakers for it.
The party denied having a role in the police action and also absolved the presidency of blame.
The PDP National Publicity Secretary, Olisa Metuh, said in a statement that lawmakers “are responsible adults elected by their constituencies and wondered what would have happened if the law enforcement agencies were not there to maintain law and order”.