Senate President Saraki, Speaker Dogara and other lawmakers reacted angrily when they were refused entry into Aso Rock.
The plan was that all the ‘big boys’ of the national assembly will proceed from Saraki’s home to Aso Villa for a meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari.
The meeting was going to dwell on the 2018 draft budget which the Federal Executive Council (FEC) had just approved.
Buhari was expecting the lawmakers but apparently, the chaps manning the Aso Villa gate weren’t.
The lawmakers led by the Senate President and Speaker of the House of Representatives, arrived the Aso Villa gate in a white Coaster bus, expecting to be waved in by the security personnel on duty. But the security official apparently didn't get the memo.
The security personnel demanded that the lawmakers be screened. Actually, the security personnel asked that Saraki and Dogara go in, but that other lawmakers in the Coaster bus be subjected to the same security screening all visitors to State House receive.
However, Saraki, Dogara and other lawmakers refused to be screened and asked the driver of the Coaster bus to hit the reverse gear. They felt insulted and embarrassed. All the lawmakers returned to Saraki’s home snarling and fuming.
“We were told to come down from the bus one by one for security check”, one lawmaker was quoted as saying. “Not even the presence of the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives would make the security operatives change their mind.
“We therefore decided to turn back. We could not withstand such an embarrassment”.
Moments later, President Buhari dispatched Chief of Staff Abba Kyari to Saraki’s home to pacify the lawmakers.
However, only Saraki and Dogara returned to the Villa for dinner with Buhari.
One security official told online newspaper Premium Times that the lawmakers just refused to cooperate.
“Their names had been submitted to the gate since afternoon and they were being expected,” said the official.
The security personnel also said when the lawmakers arrived, security agents at the Pilot gate told them that while the senate president, his deputy, as well the speaker of the House of Representatives and his deputy can go in with their vehicles, “others have to come down and do the normal biometric capture for tags.”
He said the lawmakers refused to alight from their vehicles and insisted to be allowed in alongside the four presiding officers.
The source said tagging all Villa visitors is normal practice and that even when the lawmakers insisted they will not come down for tags “the officer in charge decided to get in touch with his superiors and report about the situation for a possible advice when the lawmakers turned back and left.”
Asked if it was true that the Chief Security Officer to President Buhari, Bashir Abubakar, gave the directive for the gates to be closed, the officer said, “On the contrary, the CSO called at about the time the lawmakers were expected to arrive and asked if all parties are already gathered at the New Banquet Hall, that was when he learned of their decision to turn back.”
It was after the lawmakers turned back and left that the president sent privately for Messrs. Saraki and Dogara and met both men.
After the meeting with President Buhari, Saraki and Dogara refused to comment on the incident.
The Senate President told State House correspondents that the meeting with President Buhari was fruitful. “That is what is important”, Saraki said flatly.
Hours later, President Buhari apologized to the lawmakers through his spokesperson Garba Shehu.
“The Senate President and the Speaker returned and they just finished dinner with the President. President Buhari has apologised to them”, Shehu said.
Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina, said a new date for a meeting between Buhari and principal officers of the national assembly, has been scheduled for next Tuesday.
Adesina also blamed the entire saga on a security mix up.
“President Muhammadu Buhari will on Tuesday, October 31, 2017, host the leadership of the National Assembly to dinner at the Presidential Villa.
“At a private dinner with the Senate President, Dr. Abubakar Bukola Saraki, and Speaker of the House of Representatives, Rt. Hon. Yakubu Dogara, at the State House, President Buhari said the dinner, earlier arranged for Thursday, October 26, will now hold on Tuesday.
“The new date is occasioned by a security mix up that attended the earlier scheduled meeting”, Adesina said.
Those present at the meeting were President Muhammadu Buhari, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, Chief of Staff to the President, Abba Kyari, Senior Special Assistant to the President on national assembly matters (Senate), Ita Enang and Senior Special Assistant to the President on national assembly (House of Reps) Sumaila Kawu.