A civil society organisation, Citizens United for Peace and Stability, yesterday staged a rally at the National Assembly, demanding the “immediate resignation of Senate President Abubakar Bukola Saraki”.
The protesters, who called themselves #OCCUPYNASS, criticised the purchase of 36 exotic Sport Utility Vehicles (SUV) for the senators.
They insisted that the “exorbitant vehicles” must be returned.
They asked the lawmakers to revisit the 2016 budget in line with the Presidency’s demands.
The protesters, mostly youths, said Saraki should vacate his seat for what they called mounting corruption cases preferred against him in the country and internationally.
Apart from Saraki’s trial at the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) for alleged false declaration of assets, the group cited the alleged operation of offshore companies by Saraki in a tax haven.
The activists proceeded from the Unity Fountain in the Central Area of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Abuja to the National Assembly.
As they marched toward the entrance to the National Assembly, they forced their way to the main gate.
Due to the high number of the protesters, a security network mounted by regular and riot police officers collapsed.
The security operatives promptly shut the main gate, an action which prevented workers, lawmakers and other visitors to the National Assembly from either entering or leaving the complex.
The protesters formed a circle around the main gate to convey their demands.
Armed with placards containing various inscriptions, the protesters insisted on sealing off the National Assembly for at least the initial three days of their protest.
They vowed that they would only call off their protest when their demands are met.
The protesters said they would mount a permanent protest and paralyse the National Assembly, if their demands were not met.
Some of the placards displayed by the activists read: “Return exotic cars”, ”Saraki must go”, “Legislator stop budget padding”, “Enough is enough”.
Their leader, Mr. Sadiq Jidda, insisted that “Saraki must resign”.
He noted that his stay as the Senate President was no longer in the country’s interest.
He said: “What does a legislator has to do with projects? We are gathered here to occupy National Assembly. Senate President should immediately resign. Saraki’s integrity is in question and he has been indicted. Yes, he has not been convicted, but his integrity is in question.”
Another group, which protested in favour of Saraki, said those asking for the Senate President to resign did not mean well for the country.
The pro-Saraki group’s leader, Solomon Adodo, insisted that those calling for the resignation of Saraki should be ignored.
Adodo noted that the emerging negative trend must be fought by lovers of democracy.
He said that the tenet of democracy must not be compromised.
Senate Leader Mohammed Ali Ndume described the action of the anti-Saraki group as “dangerous for our democracy”.
He said: “That is why we are not saying anything about them because what is happening out there is a very dangerous precedence that we are trying to set.
“Nigerians and you too the press will have to help to define rights; know that where your rights ends, my own starts.
”I contested to be senator of Borno South. I did not force myself on my people and therefore, somebody out there, especially the one that did not elect me, cannot force me out because I didn’t come in by force.
“I came in by ballot, not by gun and not by placard; I have posters but not placards. So, if for example, I am short of performance and my constituents feel that they didn’t have time to waste, there is a clear cut process: collect signatures, ask for me to be recalled. That is the democratic way and not by coming in here to stand and say you want to occupy NASS.
“If you occupy NASS, to do what, to be leader or to be senator? It doesn’t work that way. If you strongly feel that Ndume is not doing well to represent southern Borno, next time, if you are up to 35, you just go and contest and defeat the man and come here and do better.”
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