* Demand Saraki, Dogara’s resignation
*Sponsored protest height of rascality, says senate president
Deji Elumoye and James Emejo in Abuja
Thousands of protesters besieged the main entrance of the National AssemblyÂ TuesdayÂ to protest against the introduction of new projects into the 2018 budget by the legislature.
The protesters under the aegis of Citizens’ Action to Take Back Nigeria (CATBAN) led by the National Convener, Mr. I.G. Wala, are also calling on the President of the Senate, Dr. Bukola Saraki, and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Yakubu Dogara, to step down.
They said the newly introduced projects were not in the interest of Nigerians but rather, a connivance of criminal elements in the National Assembly.
The group, in their thousands, blocked the main entrance to the parliament, forcing the staff to use an alternative entrance through the office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) to link the National Assembly complex.
Over 50 armed policemen were deployed to handle the situation.
The protest ignited immediate debate from the Senators and was the first issue to be discussedÂ at plenaryÂ TuesdayÂ after a close- door session that lasted fromÂ 11.00am to 11.55am.
Senator Barnabas Gemade(Benue North East) opened the flood gate of discussions when he said those who organised the protest were ignorant about the basis for inserting constituency projects in the budget.
According to him, introduction of constituency projects made it easier for federal projects to reach every nook and crannies of the country.
This step, he said, ensured that projects are located in all constituencies across the country.
“This noble idea made it easier for legislators to reach out to their constituents with prove that projects are sited in their areas”, he said, adding constituency projects don’t enrich the pockets of lawmakers.”
“We don’t even know the contractors so why this unnecessary protest,” he said.
He thereafter moved a motion to condemn the siege laid on the National Assembly gate by protestersÂ and that Senate should advise the Executive not to discontinue with the constituency projects.
Seconding the motion, Deputy Senate President, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, traced the history of constituency projects to 2007 ” whenÂ the regime of President Umaru Yar’Adua initiated it with a view to taking development to the grassroots.
Describing the protest as embarrassing, he said no amount of blackmail can stop the implementation of the projects.
Senate President, Bukola Saraki, on his part, while describing the protest as height of rascality and irresponsibility said constituency projects have come to stay.
According to him, the protesters know the governors and ministers sponsoring them “and should direct them to go and protest at the ministries that award the contracts because we don’t award contracts here.”
He called on President Buhari to call the public officials behind the protest to order adding that such protest is not befitting of a democratic nation like Nigeria.