By Rafiu Ajakaye
In a dramatic theft while the assembly was in session, "hoodlums" broke into Nigerian Senate on Wednesday, carting away the mace and attacking the sergeant-at-arms, who tried to prevent them from getting away with the assembly’s symbol of authority.
The incident has led to the arrest of one senator, Ovie Omo-Agege, who stands accused of escorting the thieves into parliament, according to a police spokesman.
Omo-Agege was suspended last Thursday after the Senate Ethics Committee found him guilty of criticizing the parliament for reordering the sequence of elections for alleged political advantage.
“The Senate decided that it will get to the roots of this sad assault on democracy and an obvious act of treason which the seizure of the mace by some armed hoodlums represents,” Senate spokesman Aliyu Sabi said in a statement.
The Senate has ordered the police inspector general, Idris Kpotum Ibrahim, and head of the State Security Services (SSS), Mallam Lawan Daura, to retrieve the mace within 24 hours, he added.
After the incident the Senate immediately went into a closed-door session and then reconvened with a spare mace.
Parliament cannot hold sittings without the ceremonial mace present.
Amateur footage of the invasion showed the thieves entering the Senate chambers while lawmakers were already seated and then taking away the mace after overcoming guards.
Nigeria’s Senate is soaked in tension over claims that some lawmakers wanted to impeach Senate chief Bukola Saraki -- a ruling party lawmaker who has been criticized for alleged high-handedness in tackling dissent within parliament.