By Dipo Awojobi – Scores of protesters on Tuesday besieged the National Assembly to demand for the resignation of the Senate President, Bukola Saraki from office following his ongoing trial at the Code of Tribunal ( CCT) over allegation of false assets declaration, just as another set of protesters moved to the main entrance of the federal legislative house in support of Mr. Saraki.
While those in support of Mr. Saraki gathered at about 10:00 a.m, around the main entrance to NASS in solidarity protest for the Senate President, those demanding for his resignation on alleged crisis of integrity, stormed the same place in their hundreds at about 11:30 am and occupied the entrance.
Hundreds of the anti – Saraki protesters who came under the aegis of Citizens United for Peace and Stability (CUPS) donned T-shirts with inscription #Occupy National Assembly vowed to sustain the protest for his ouster in office until he resigns.
They barricaded the main entrance to the National Assembly complex, thus forcing lawmakers and staff in the legislative arm to make do with the alternative entrance at the back of the complex to resume work.
The placard carrying protesters accused the Senate President of acts of corruption, citing his alleged false assets declaration, alleged padding of the 2016 Budget by legislators and the delay of the Budget assents by the National Assembly as reasons he should resign.
The Protesters alleged that the suffering Nigerians are passing through at the moment owing to refusal by President Muhammadu Buhari to assent the 2016 Budget was partly the making of the National Assembly, which they said have been sympathetic to Saraki.
Speaking on behalf of the protesters, one of the coordinators, Sadiq Jidda said the Senate President was deficient in integrity and that his inability to live above board as a National Assembly leader has disqualified him from the post.
He said Nigerians need a leader they can always learn from and not the set that will allow corruption to fester, insisting that Nigerians must collectively stand up to demand for immediate resignation of Saraki
Another Coordinator of the group, Akpomejevwe Nyemachi Tedheke , said aside Saraki’s moral burden as Senate president in the face of his ongoing trial at the CCT, senate’s fraudulent handling of the 2016 budget and its refusal to put into full glare of Nigerians, details of the N115billion allocated to the National Assembly , also necessitated their protest.
He added that the 36 exotic cars recently procured by the Senate allegedly for some of its committees at exorbitant prices must be returned to the seller and vowed that the group would not leave the main entrance of the National Assembly until Saraki resigns, declaring that they brought along with them, mobile toilets for the protesters to use in answering the call of nature anytime the need arises.
Some of the placards wielded by the protesters read:
“Saraki your time is up resign. “Saraki Must go to stop corruption in NASS”, Enough Is Enough, Occupy NASS to stop corruption”, “Legislation, Yet, Legislooting, No.” To Keep Nigeria going, Nigerians Must Stand Up, and others.
The protesters who started thronging the National Assembly premises as early as 10.30 am were initially seen dancing and singing, while chanting anti-Saraki songs.
For fear of breakdown of law and order, security operatives at the Complex moved swiftly to shut down the giant gates in an attempt to prevent the protesters from gaining entry into the main premises.
Earlier, the Pro-Saraki group in an address given to a motely crowd of supporters declared that his on-going trial at the CCT was an attempt to emasculate the Senate.
They called on Nigerians to stand up to prevent an attempt by those they described as enemies of democracy to halt the progress the Senate has been making on defence of democracy under Saraki’s leadership of NASS.
Though the Senate did not in anyway officially responded to the protests yesterday, but the Senate Leader, Ali Ndume in his personal capacity , described the trend as dangerous precedent.
Ndume who made the remark while briefing the media on efforts being made by the Senate to bring to an end the impasse between it and the Presidency over the 2016 budget, said the anti-Saraki protesters in particular were wrong in their action, saying ” saying Senators were elected by their constituents and not civil liberty groups or activists”.
He assured that the disagreements between the Senate and by extension , the National Assembly and the presidency over details of the 2016 budget will be resolved before the week runs out.
“That is why we are not trying to say anything about them because what is happening out there is a very dangerous precedence because 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, not by placard I have posters but not placards.
“So if for example am short of performance and my constituents feel that they didn’t have time to waste there is a clear cut process of doing that through collection of signatures which will lead to my being recalled, that is the democratic way 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 just come here and do better”.