Nigeria‘s head of the intelligence service has been fired after security services staged a brief “takeover” of parliament in the capital Abuja, at a time when President Muhammadu Buhari is out of the country.
Hooded armed men from the police and Department of State Service (DSS) blocked access to the two chambers – the Senate and House of Representatives – on Tuesday morning, preventing lawmakers, workers, journalists and other visitors from entering.
Images of the incident were shared widely on social media, reviving memories of the decades, when the military and security forces held sway over politics in a country that has one of Africa‘s largest economies.
Later in the day, Buhari’s office denied authorising the move, which comes amid a surge of tension between the president and his political rivals.
Vice President Yemi Osinbajo – who is acting as head of the country while Buhari is on holiday in London, ordered the dismissal of DSS chief Lawal Musa Daura “with immediate effect”.
He described the “unauthorised takeover” of the National Assembly as “a gross violation of constitutional order” and “rule of law”.
Show of strength
Independent sources speculated that Tuesday’s action was a show of strength connected to a political crisis ahead of presidential and parliamentary elections next February.
Lawmakers loyal to Buhari’s All Progressives Congress (APC) are believed to be planning to overthrow the President of the Senate, Bukola Saraki.
Saraki, the country’s third-highest ranking politician, last week left the APC for the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
The APC has called on him to resign, suspecting him to be the force behind defections that have damaged the party’s standing and Buhari’s chances of re-election.
On the last day before recess that began on July 24, 14 members of the 109-seat Senate and 37 members of the 360-seat House of Representatives left the APC.
Party primaries are due between this month and October, coinciding with mounting discontent at Buhari’s style of government and handling of widespread violence across the country.