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Nigeria Lawmakers Summon Top Police Official After Tear Gas Incident

FILE - Nigeria's President Goodluck Jonathan (L) presents the 2013 budget proposal as Senate President David Mark (C) and House speaker Aminu Tambuwal look on at a joint sitting of the parliament in the capital Abuja, Oct. 2012.

A leading Nigerian lawmaker says the House Committee on Police Affairs has called the Inspector General of Police (IGP) to appear before the group on Friday. Inspector General Suleiman Abba will be asked to explain why security officers fired tear gas at legislators the day before.

Haruna Muktar Betara, chairman of the House Committee on the Army called the incident ‘an assault on democracy and the rule of law’. He said lawmakers from both the ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and the main opposition All Progressives Congress (APC) had found fault with the decision to use tear gas.

“The House Committee on Police affairs has invited the IGP tomorrow 10 o’clock…So, after deliberating with him then they will come and give their report to the house,” said Betara.

“To me it’s unfortunate, the democracy is not only for us; the democracy is for the country in general…We’ve told the police we are not fighting for ourselves, we are fighting for Nigeria. So if you like, join us, if [not], fight alone. But we are going to succeed. That is what we told them,” he said.

The lawmakers had been scheduled to discuss a possible extension of the state of emergency in parts of Nigeria, following the recent escalation of violence by the Islamist militant group Boko Haram.

After the tear gas incident, the debate was rescheduled for December 3.

Committee Chairman Betara said legislators were surprised that police and state security officers prevented them from carrying out their duties. He described the action as being a violation of the law on separation of powers.

“As soon as we reached the House this morning, we saw over 500 policemen and state security personnel, they locked the gate that we cannot enter, the speaker cannot enter, [and] we have to force ourselves to the premises of the national assembly today,” said Betara.

Some opposition APC lawmakers joined in condemning the security agencies’ action. They demanded an immediate investigation. The opposition members contend that the tear gassing was related to the defection of House of Representatives Speaker Aminu Tambuwal, from the governing party to the APC.

Betara said “I don’t know what is really happening. They teargased everybody within the assembly. We had to close the house, both the Senate and the National House of Representatives. It’s sad for our country. I am telling you it is an assault on democracy. Nobody today will tell you he is happy…If not because of the speaker, I would be surprised what is going to happen within the house today.”

Betara said lawmakers plan to meet with the House speaker soon to express their concerns about the security officers’ action. He said the House members have not received a formal apology from the security agencies.

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