A meeting in Nigeria’s National Assembly plenary was disrupted after a group of men stormed the building and stole the chamber’s mace – a large, ceremonial club.
One of National Assembly’s security personnel told local outlet Premium Times that the men told him they were with Senator Ovie Omo-Agege.
“We tried to stop them but they told us they were with him (Omo-Agege),” he said.
After storming the building, the men stole the chamber’s mace, required for all Senate plenaries, throwing the meeting into “pandemonium.”
Footage from the incident shows men fighting and throwing chairs, as onlookers back off from the incident.
The incident appears to be an act of protest against Omo-Agege’s suspension from the Senate after he accused fellow politicians of trying to undermine President Muhammadu Buhari, to whom he claims to be intensely loyal. Ome-Agege is now believed to have sponsored the attack, with an eyewitness telling the Guardian that they had spotted him with the intruders before the incident took place.
According to Premium Times, the Senate resumed its plenary around an hour after the incident after finding a replacement mace.
In a statement on Wednesday, the Senate’s media and public affairs chairman Aliyu Sabi Abdullahi condemned the incident as an “act of treason.”
“Today, some hoodlums … seized the symbol of authority of the Upper Legislative Chamber, the mace,” he said in a statement. “This action is an act of treason, as it is an attempt to overthrow a branch of the federal government of Nigeria by force and it must be treated as such.”
“All security agencies must stand on the side of due process and immediately mobilize their personnel to retrieve the mace and apprehend the mastermind and the perpetrators of this act,” he continued.
— The Nigerian Senate (@NGRSenate) April 18, 2018
The incident provides further testament to the sorry state of Nigerian politics in the run-up to next year’s presidential election, where violence, intimidation, and corruption are part and parcel of political life.
“This speaks to the kind of fractures that we’re going to see as 2019 approaches,” independent political analyst Chris Ngwodo said in an interview with Bloomberg.
“The sheer hooliganism of the action does not speak well of the senator or just of the institution itself,” he continued. “It’s an unfortunate example of the low values we find among our political elite.”