• Thursday, May 23, 2024
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BusinessDay

Insecurity: Why sudden attack at N/Assembly is possible

National Assembly

Amid the controversial approval by President Muhammadu Buhari of N37billion for the renovation of the National Assembly complex, the federal legislative complex is in danger of imminent attack as a result of its current porous nature.

It is a place of free entry and free exit. Thorough checks are hardly carried out in the midst of escalating insecurity in the country.

Despite the fact that more security operatives have been deployed to the National Assembly recently, security in the complex is still very much under threat as body and luggage scanners that broke down, more than six months ago, are still not fixed.

The security situation is worrisome that the mandate of the National Assembly to enact laws that can guarantee adequate protection of lives and property of the citizenry is put to question. At NASS, persons including lawmakers who enter the complex, with all manner of luggage, are not scanned.

It was observed that security personnel that are stationed at various entry and exit points of the White House where the Red and Green Chambers are situated, were only seen checking accredited entry permit of staffers and visitors, and not luggage.

Senate President, Ahmad Lawan recently raised the alarm that NASS was under security threat as he said intelligence report revealed that there was influx of unknown persons into the place.

There were reports that assailants were planning to bomb the NASS complex, the reason Lawan insisted security must be remodelled.

Lawan said in a statement by his media adviser, Ola Awoniyi, that the intelligence prompted a quick response to provide temporary measures in the place.

He said: “As principal officers of the National Assembly, or let me say in the Senate in this respect, our responsibility and obligation is to ensure that our senators, members of the House of Representatives, workers of the National Assembly, our visitors and indeed anyone who has a lawful business to do in this National Assembly are safe.

“With the heightening insecurity in the country, the time has come for this National Assembly to be properly secured for members of the National Assembly to carry out their legislative and other functions, under a very safe atmosphere.

“Necessary security gadgets and technologies to ensure that our parliament is like other parliaments in other climes where you have no business in the parliament, you cannot go in and when you have a business on the first floor, you can only go to the first floor. You can’t go to any other floor.

“From the gate, people who shouldn’t be here at all, find themselves in. And then people come in, moving from one office to another, looking for nothing because they have no appointment with anyone. Yet, they pass through all the security systems that we have in place.

“Even our chamber. When we close from the chamber, you see a line-up of people. You wonder how these people have come in and what is their business there.

“We don’t want to wait until something happens. This kind of discussions had taken place in the past. This is the ninth Senate, we want to do it differently.

“We believe now we have to work together if it means the agencies talking to their people who are supposed to work here, they should do so because truly, we are under ‘invasion’. Anytime you come to the National Assembly, it’s full like a market with all manner of people,” Lawan had stated.

Since Lawan raised the alarm and insisted that security be beefed up, new method of checking entry of staff and visitors into the complex have been put in place, beginning from the main gate situated near the Eagle Square. But the body and luggage scanners are yet to be functional.

Although, it is no longer news that the security system in the NASS complex is seemingly porous. It will be recalled that during the 8th Senate, some thugs had invaded the Senate Chambers and carted away the Mace which is authority symbol of the legislature.

The thugs had gone right into the Chamber, unhindered, when plenary was midway. They beat all security checks and were able to move out with the mace without any stoppage.

The 8th Senate had accused Senator Ovie Omo-Agege of masterminding the invasion of the Senate Chambers. He was subjected to probe by the ethics committee for further disciplinary action.

Till today, no one can tell what hidden arrangement the thugs might have made with the security personnel to gain free access into the Chamber.

It is surprising because persons such as staff and journalists with accredited identity, and who have lawful business in the complex are always subjected to stiffer security checks, sometimes leading to embarrassing situations.

Be that as it may, the probe of Omo-Agege ended quietly, without cogent reasons to show. However, Senate spokesperson, Senator GodiyaAkwashiki when asked, explained that “the matter died because the life of the 8th Senate elapsed and it is constitutional that anything, whether a motion or bill in the last Assembly must not be entertained by the 9th Senate.”

On why the scanners were not working, Rawlings Agada, director of information, said: “I think the equipment has a lifespan. What we should consider is that the poor performance of this year’s budget is affecting everybody. Most of the equipment you are talking about, we don’t have the money to maintain them.

“The body scanners should be upgraded from time to time. The software of some of the machines has to be upgraded and it takes time. And you cannot call anybody on the streets to come and service those things; they are under the supervision of the security agencies.”

With all the security threats, it is doubtful whether the National Assembly that has the constitutional mandate to make laws, and protect lives and property of the citizenry is showing a good example. The big question is, can the National Assembly protect Nigerians when it can’t protect itself?

Recently, worried by the security threat at NASS complex, a 12-man security sub-committee was set up by the Clerk of the National Assembly, Mohammed Sani Omolori. The committee was headed by the Sergeant-at-arms, Brigadier-General Mohammed Sani Danwalis (rtd).

Some of the recommendations of the committee include, “rationalisation of banks and other business outfits whose operations are neither incidental nor complementary to the functions of the National Assembly.

“Leadership of the Senate and the House of Representatives should prevail on legislators to submit themselves to security checks, especially at the point of entry into the National Assembly.

“Security clearance should be a major requirement for disengaging Legislative Aides. Also, renewal of identity cards for Legislative Aides should be made annually.”

Others are that the “Directorate of Human Resources and Staff Development should maintain a data base on all staff, legislative aides and legislators which should be shared with all security agencies.

“The Management of the National Assembly should advise security chiefs to desist from bearing arms within the precincts of the National Assembly;

“The Directorate of Research and Information, in conjunction with security agencies, must ensure that journalists practising in the National Assembly are accredited on a yearly basis.”

The sub-committee also recommended that the National Assembly, in conjunction with National Identity Management Commission (NIMC), should ensure that henceforth, identity cards issued to staff, legislative aides and legislators have biometric features to stem the possibility of forgery.And that the National Assembly should procure more radio and communication equipment to enhance response capacity on the part of security agencies, among others.

Yahaya Dan-Zaria, director of Public Affairs in the National Assembly, has noted that the “NASS management has taken steps to nip the situation in the bud.”

 

 Solomon Ayado, Abuja