- They were sponsored by gov, minister – Saraki
Fred Itua, Abuja
Armed policemen, yesterday, fired teargas to disperse hundreds of “anti-constituency project” protesters who were bent on forcing their way into the National Assembly.
Trouble started at about 9:30am when over 500 protesters stormed the complex in 20 luxurious buses, armed with a public address system, loud speakers and placards with different inscriptions.
The protesters who stopped motorists and pedestrians from accessing the complex, called for the removal of the Senate President, Bukola Saraki and Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara.
Some senators and members of the House of Representatives who were trapped in the melee for over an hour had to abandon their vehicles when the protesters became violent.
At about 10:50am, the protesters upped their game as they made an attempt to forcefully gain access into the National Assembly, while some scaled the fence into the complex.
To avert complete break down of law and order, policemen attached to the National Assembly had to release teargas canisters to disperse protesters.
The premises was thereafter barricaded, while the major gate leading to the National Assembly was shut to motorists and pedestrians.
Motorists and senators was forced to explore other routes to access the National Assembly.
Soldiers and more armed policemen were deployed to provide additional security.
Barnabas Gemade described sponsors of the protests as ignorant of how the parliament operates. He vowed that no amount of blackmail will stop the National Assembly from approving money for constituency projects.
He said unlike heads of ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs), senators now “go cap in hand to beg ministers to finance their constituency projects. This is shameful and this has to stop.”
His position was supported by the Deputy President of the Senate, Ike Ekweremandu, who blamed the protest on unemployment and poverty. The Enugu West senator, said government officials were behind the protests.
“There is unemployment in Nigeria. This has given people the opportunity to create jobs. That is why we now have professional beggars. What they do is is just to approach a government official who doesn’t like the Senate. He will ask for funding and they will collect N1,500 for each protester.
“In the end, they give only N500 to each protester. I feel sad when I see these people at the gate protesting. They protest what they don’t believe in. And this protest against constituency projects is very embarrassing.
“It was the late Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, who then as president, insisted that lawmakers must be part
of the process of budgeting. He said about N100 billion should be set aside every year to cater for that need. He recognised the importance of lawmakers and how close they are to the people Anybody who
is against constituency projects should be seen as an enemy of the state. No amount of blackmail should stop us from continuing with this constituency projects which is helping our people,” he said.
Aita Aidoko, Kabiru Marafa and Isah Hamman Misau, supported the motion. Misau wondered why President Muhammadu Buhari, whose appointees were allegedly sponsoring protests against the National Assembly had refused to call them to order.
Saraki said they would continue to educate the public on the importance of constituency projects and disabuse the minds of Nigerians that senators receive money to execute constituency projects.
“Nigerians should be made to appreciate their constituency projects as the only way to spread projects to every nook and cranny of this country.
“The president should investigate those behind the protests. The protesters will tell him the minister and governor giving them money to protest. The irresponsibility of some people in government should not be allowed. If protests should be allowed, it should be against those behind the protest. Those behind the protest should desist from such,” he said.