National Assembly adjusts to security scare
By Ini Ekot originally published in 234next.com
Stories about the National Assembly, with its 469 lawmakers, almost certainly evoke instant fury amongst many Nigerians, with continuing media highlights of the lawmakers’ unending corruption charges and huge earnings, amid numerous other sundry wrongdoings.
Now, the rising audacity of perpetrators of deadly bombings around the nation has jolted the leaders of the assembly into the realisation that the bombers might want to score a publicity coup by attacking the complex.
Officials have acknowledged the existence of such promptings and have admitted that the area, part of the Three Arms Zone which houses the Presidency, National Assembly and the Supreme Court, needs greater security now more than ever.
At the National Assembly, sweeping security overhaul is underway ahead of resumption of lawmaking on September 13, according to officials who spoke anonymously.
Presently unprecedented checks are being carried out by guards, police and officials of the department of State Security.
But more than anything, the fear have unsettled the more than a thousand-strong workforce at the complex, which comprises of civil servants, bank workers, caterers, journalists, construction workers and thousands of daily visitors.
With a lax security that has been more routine than functional in the past, the numbers accessing the buildings have remained uncontrollably high and even suya vendors are repeatedly intercepted at various wings of the building.
For instance, each bank operating within the complex was officially allowed to bring in key staffs not exceeding 12, according to the Sergeant-at-Arms, Emeka Okere, a retired colonel, who spoke after the bombing of the police headquarters in June.
The numbers at the banks have swollen, with some as much as 30 and with almost every bank available, their staff total at several hundreds, complicating the work of a hapless security apparatus.
Fortunately, no major security breach has been recorded over the years. During interviews for this story, the question as to whether a respondent felt that National Assembly could be a target for bombing, turned out a no-brainer.
“That one everybody knows,” many of those spoken to answered.
National Assembly staffers have initiated personal survival strategies, leaving their cars at home and planning for fewer working days when lawmakers resume.
“The day anything happens, I will not be here,” said a staff who gave his name as Hezron. “You know when people say National Assembly, all that comes to the mind is a senator or member of the House, forgetting that they are only 469 and many don’t even come to work while there are thousands of ordinary Nigerians working there every day.”
Predictably after the UN bombings in which dozens were injured, security at the legislative building has been scaled up, with all staff cars moved outside the complex while gun-toting operatives roam the walkways.
Though only one mobile policeman as usual operates the bomb detector at the first main gate to the National Assembly, many armed policemen now mount checkpoints some poles away from the gate at several spots.
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