From Gyang Bere, Jos
The leadership crisis rocking the Plateau State House of Assembly may throw up fresh security issues as both factions have resorted to recruiting thugs and youths to defend their cause.
This has been the trend since Thursday, October 28, 2021, when eight members of All Progressives Congress (APC) invaded the Assembly at dawn and announced the impeachment of the Speaker, Nuhu Ayuba Abok, replacing him with their own
But in a counter effort, the purportedly removed Speaker and 11 other PDP members reconvened, held a plenary outside the Assembly Complex and announced suspension of the six members who had earlier impeached the Speaker. They equally suspended Yakubu Sanda, the new Speaker.
The drama did not end there. It continued until Monday, November 1, 2022, when Abok and his loyalists also invaded the Assembly as early as 6.00am. They came prepared with their belongings, vowing to sleep in the legislative chambers until they got justice.
When the other faction arrived the House that morning and met them there, the situation degenerated, resulting in hot exchanges and near physical combat. The disquiet in the chambers brought hired thugs, who in turn invaded the House from the exit route and broke down the doors of the main entrance. The thugs also broke down several windows and other valuables belonging to the House.
When the youths loyal to the PDP lawmakers noticed the surge of the hired thugs, they forced their way through the fence. That led to a minor clash between the supporters of each side.
The unhealthy development caused fear within the city capital, Jos, especially among those living close to the Assembly. The anxiety resulted in the shutting down of businesses.
Shortly after the confrontation, Commissioner of Police, Barholomew Onyeka, went to the chambers and attempted to broker peace. But he was largely unsuccessful. The Inspector General of Police redeployed the CP and dispatched Assistant Inspector General of Police, AIG Mustapha Dandaura to handle the situation.
The AIG convened a meeting between the two factions. But the meeting ended in deadlock as each faction laid claim to the post of the Speaker. The embattled officers introduced themselves as the authentic speakers of the House.
Dandaura insisted that until the legislators resolved their differences, which they seemed unwilling to do and come together as one, the House of Assembly would remain closed.
Abok admitted that the meeting failed to reach a compromise, insisting he remained the authentic Speaker. He described the process in which some few members purportedly removed him as flawed and illegal:
“We appreciate the AIG for convening the meeting. We wanted to make peace but from all indications, due process was not followed in my purported removal; all we are saying is that the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria should be respected.
“My security has been withdrawn. I don’t have security now and they have provided security to the illegal Speaker. I am going on hiding because I don’t have security.”
The supposedly elected new Speaker, Yakubu Sanda, said: “We are for peace, it is not our wish for what has happen. We will call out colleagues back home if they are ready, they status still remain.
“You are aware that we suspended six of them, if they feel remorse they can come back, we will listen to them and negotiate. I am the Speaker of the 9th Assembly, Plateau State.”
Governor Simon Lalong said the legislature has its autonomy even as he added that the impeachment of a Speaker is entirely the affairs of the House
Coalition of Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) cautioned security agencies against taking side with any of the parties in the tussle. Its chairman, Gad Peters, urged security agencies to stand on the side of justice, fairness, peace and ensure that the legislators uphold the rule of law and legislative procedures to avert breakdown of law and order:
“We wish to urge the various security agencies in the state that they should maintain an impartial posture in handling of the on-going attempt at leadership change in the State House of Assembly.
“This call became imperative because there is a general perception that the State Security Service and the Nigeria Police Force has not been a strategic arbiter in handling the impasse thus far.
“We are worried that the security agencies in the state saddled with the responsibility of providing security, restoring peace and maintaining law and order seems to have become a party in the impasse.
“We want to use this platform to call on the Inspector General of Police and the Director General of the State Security Service to call their personnel to order, to ensure they do not compromise the security architecture of the state which is still fragile and they stand on the side of justice, fairness and peace.”