The Nigeria Police Force has defended its decision to block the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Aminu Tambuwal, from the National Assembly Thursday, saying the operation was based on an “intelligence report” and was meant to forestall the invasion of the assembly by “hoodlums”.
Mr. Tambuwal was barred from the assembly by security operatives on the first day the House was to sit since he defected from the ruling Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, to the All Progressives Congress, APC.
Police fired teargas to stop mainly opposition lawmakers, including Mr. Tambuwal, from accessing the assembly, before the speaker’s loyalists smuggled him through security barriers into the House of Representatives chamber.
The All Progressives Congress, APC, has accused the police of acting on the directives of President Goodluck Jonathan to pave the way for Mr. Tambuwal’s removal as speaker.
In a statement hours after the attack, police said the action was to prevent the breakdown of law and order at the National Assembly and that its personnel had “the duty to restore order and normalcy, using lawful means”.
“Following an intelligence report of a likely invasion of the House of Representatives by hoodlums and thugs, the Nigeria Police Force promptly deployed its personnel to the premises to prevent a breakdown of law and order,” a statement by police spokesperson, Emmanuel Ojukwu, said.
“Consequently, the Police condoned the area and began screening of all members and visitors alike.”
The statement accused Mr. Tambuwal of arriving with a crowd, assaulting the police and violating a security cordon.
The Nigeria police was the first government establishment to move against Mr. Tambuwal after he defected to the APC on October 28.
On October 29, the police withdrew the speaker’s security aides and announced that Mr. Tambuwal was no longer the speaker.
In the statement issued by Mr. Ojukwu Thursday, the police did not refer to Mr. Tambuwal as the speaker of the House of Representatives.