A coalition of various Civil Society Organisations under the aegis of Citizens United for Peace and Stability, on Tuesday, stormed the premises of the National Assembly, demanding the immediate resignation of embattled Senate President Bukola Saraki.
The activities of the protesters numbering over 200 caused a serious gridlock as they forced the security operatives of the federal parliament to close the main gate from about noon till the time of filing this report.
The protesters, who arrived at the National Assembly complex with mats and foams, sat on the floor outside the main gate, chanting solidarity songs, not minding the scorching sun.
Our correspondent observed that the protesters underscored the seriousness of their mission as they had mobilised generators, cooking utensils and mobile toilets to the National Assembly.
The anti-Saraki agitators pledged to occupy the complex until their demands were met, vowing to ensure that the situation persisted till Thursday (tomorrow).
They insisted that Saraki should vacate his seat over the myriad of corruption cases preferred against him, which had necessitated his ongoing trial at the Code of Conduct Tribunal for alleged false and anticipated asset declaration when he was the governor of Kwara State between 2007 and 2015.
The protesters, including physically-challenged persons, also condemned the purchase of exotic jeeps for the senators at exorbitant price and asked them to return the vehicles.
The protesters marched from the Unity Fountain within the Central Area of the city to the National Assembly, a journey of about two kilometres and forced their way to the main gate, defying all security networks mounted by regular and riot police officers.
Some of the placards carried by the protesters read, “Revolution will not be televised. Keep yourself informed. Occupy Nigeria”; “Why we must occupy N’Assembly from April 26 to 28” and “Federal lawmakers working against Nigerians.”
Trouble started when the protesters forced the security operatives as well as the sergeant-at-arms to close the main gate, thereby preventing staff members, lawmakers and visitors from either entering or leaving the premises.
The development forced the visitors to abandon their mission to the National Assembly and return home while the members of staff, lawmakers and legislative aides had to access the complex through either the Villa gate or the gate of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation.
Addressing journalists on behalf of his fellow protesters, one of their leaders, Mr. Sadeeq Jidda, said the Senate President must resign because his integrity had been called to question with his ongoing corruption charges.
He stated, “We are here for a peaceful protest. We are not fighting anybody; we will sleep here today until our demands are met. Our interest is to see real legislative activities in action. Lawmakers are not expected to be contractors, they should face lawmaking.”
Reacting on behalf of his colleagues, Senate Leader, Ali Ndume, said the protesters by their action, were laying a bad precedent, urging Nigerians to condemn their action.
Ndume added that no form of protest could force anybody in the federal parliament to resign his position, arguing that the protesters were not the people who elected them in the first instance.
He explained that the call for the return of the vehicles was not necessary because the vehicles were meant for the senators to carry out their various committee’s works, noting that the jeeps remained the property of the National Assembly.
Ndume stated, “For instance, I contested to be senator of Borno South; I did not force myself on my people and therefore somebody out there, especially the one who did not elect me, cannot force me out because I didn’t come in by force.
“So if for example, I am short on performance and my constituents feel that they don’t have the time to waste, there is a clear cut process, that is, collect signatures and ask for me to be recalled.”
Meanwhile, another group, under the aegis of Save Nigeria Group, led by one Solomon Adodo, also staged a peaceful protest to the National Assembly on Tuesday, condemning the call for the resignation of the senate president.
Adodo, who is not a known leader of the SNG, maintained that the current prosecution of Saraki was an attempt to emasculate the red chamber.
He said the group believed the development would destroy the image of the red chamber on the long run.