The Punch reports that the Inspector-General of Police, Mr. Suleiman Abba, was adamant on Wednesday, refusing to recognise the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Mr. Aminu Tambuwal, as the speaker. He simply addressed him as “Alhaji Aminu Tambuwal”, a title that angered members of the House Committee on Police Affairs. The Chairman of the House committee, Mr. Usman Bello-Kurmo, asked him a direct question,
“Is Aminu Waziri-Tambuwal the Speaker of the House of Representatives or not?”
The IG replied,
“Mr. Chairman, you know that matters before the courts are subjudice. Commenting on them is subjudice until they are disposed of.”
The response brought the session between Abba and the committee to an abrupt end, as the two parties stormed out of the venue.
The committee, acting on a House resolution, had summoned Abba to explain why the police shut the gates of the National Assembly against lawmakers on Thursday last week.
During the closure, Tambuwal and many lawmakers were disallowed entry by the police, resulting in violent reactions by the members.
In the process, many of them scaled the gates to enter the premises and later forcibly took the Speaker into the House.
Riot policemen reacted by throwing tear gas canisters at Tambuwal and the enraged members.
As the Wednesday’s meeting was about to start, Bello-Kurmo called for maturity, saying that the interest of the country must prevail at all times.
However, speaking on what transpired last week, the IG justified the police action.
He maintained that all those the police restrained from entering the National Assembly were “thugs.”
Rather than admitting that his men threw tear gas canisters at lawmakers, he claimed that “a tear gas canister exploded.”
Abba also told lawmakers to their faces that it was his men who suffered physical assault and not the lawmakers.
He said, “The police management and particularly my own person, I was traumatised by what I saw happened to police officers that day.
“What happened was unprecedented worldwide; policemen were physically beaten and disobeyed, among other things that happened.”
He claimed that the police shut the National Assembly for security reasons after the Force Headquarters received intelligence that Rivers State Governor, Mr. Rotimi Amaechi, and All Progressives Congress supporters were going to attack the legislature and other public offices on November 20.
According to him, a day earlier on the 19th, the “leadership” of the APC, Amaechi and party members had blocked the Force Headquarters in Abuja, “where they made uncomplimentary statements and threatened to do worse (things) in the days ahead.”
Among the places he claimed would have been attacked by the APC members and Amaechi were the Presidential Villa and the headquarters of the Independent National Electoral Commission.
He added that his men merely asked for identification from lawmakers and that they allowed those who complied into the premises.
The IG stated that, bearing in mind that the parliament in Burkina Faso suffered a similar attack recently, he ordered the massive security beef-up to safeguard the National Assembly.
He added, “The procedure was orderly until the arrival of Alhaji Aminu Tambuwal and his men with quite a number of suspected thugs to disrupt the security arrangements.
“Unfortunately, a tear gas canister exploded at the gate; the situation is unfortunate and it is being investigated.”
He also claimed to have briefed the Office of the Sergeant-at-Arms to the National Assembly and “some members of staff of principal officers” on the police action a day earlier.
Abba was very careful throughout his speech, avoiding the use of the word “speaker” when referring to Tambuwal.
Members were already boiling with anger over the IG’s attitude and could barely wait for him to round off before they berated him for “disrespecting” the Speaker.
Two members of the committtee, Hakeem Munir and Victor Nwokolo, asked him to retract his earlier comment and address Tambuwal with his official title, but Abba refused.
With members threatening to walk out of the meeting if Abba would not recognise Tambuwal as the Speaker, Bello-Kurmo called off the session abruptly.
The committee resolved that the discussions could no longer hold since the IG would not accord Tambuwal his respect.
Lawmakers stormed out of the venue angrily, stopping Bello-Kurmo from shaking hands with Abba or making efforts to see him off to the door.