Security officials attached to the National Assembly Complex in Abuja have arrested some legislative aides and National Assembly workers for engaging in last-minute looting of the offices of lawmakers and carting away valuables belonging to the second tier of government.
Some of the items are television sets, cabinet shelves, electronics, computers, printers, furniture, air conditioners, rugs and carpets, and solar power systems.
Sunday PUNCH gathered that outgoing and re-elected members of the Senate and House of Representatives were also engaged in moving those items out of their respective offices and residences as it had become the tradition so that new items could be purchased for members of the 10th National Assembly.
However, eagle-eyed security agents manning the National Assembly Complex arrested some of the legislative aides for attempting to move out some of the items without the necessary permits.
According to multiple sources, the suspects were arrested while trying to move out of the complex without passes for the items.
Confirming the incident, the Sergeant-at-Arms at the National Assembly, Chuks Obaloje, confirmed the incident, but could not provide details of the development.
“Yes, some people were arrested while trying to go out with some items from the National Assembly. But I wasn’t on duty on the day it happened, so I can’t provide you with details. Please contact the Crime Division of the National Assembly,” Obaloje told our correspondent when he was contacted on Friday.
The Divisional Police Officer in charge of the National Assembly Complex, Alex Annagu, declined to comment on the incident.
He said that it was not in his place to speak on the incident and directed our correspondent to the police spokesperson.
He said, “If you want any information on that, please report to the police headquarters. We report to the police headquarters.
“Please, please and please, I’m not obliged to say anything to you on that. You know where to call and get the information that you need. Call the headquarters and get your facts from there.”
However, the spokesperson for the Federal Capital Territory Police Command, Josephine Adeh, said she could not give details as she had been unable to reach the DPO.
“I have not been able to reach the DPO to give you details of the case and I am on duty outside, so I can’t give anything concrete until I speak with the DPO,” she stated.
Commenting on the theft of items, the Director of Information, National Assembly, Rawlings Agada, stated that the occurrence and the arrest of the culprits proved the effectiveness of the National Assembly security.
He noted that some people were stopped and not allowed to go out with items that were not assigned to their offices.
Agada said, “I don’t want people to sensationalise the issue. What happened was that people were stopped from going out with items that were discovered not to be theirs.
“A pass was issued for the items and accredited to each office. The pass has a list of each item that should be taken out from each office, so if an item that was not on the list was found, such would not be allowed to go out.
“And just as you were checked and cleared to come in, you also need to be checked and cleared when going out.”
Commenting on the items being moved out from the lawmakers’ office, Agada confirmed that they now belonged to the legislators.
According to him, an arrangement was reached with the management of the National Assembly and the items were sold to the lawmakers.
Agada added, “The items are now for the lawmakers. They were sold to the lawmakers at a depreciating value.
“The items have already depreciated; the new set of lawmakers will not want to be the ones to use those items. So, in wisdom, the items, including the vehicles, are valued and sold to the lawmakers.”
Sunday PUNCH reports that lawmakers have been vacating their office and taking along their belongings.
It was observed that almost all the offices of the lawmakers had been emptied with very few seats left for the lawmakers to use after plenary sessions.
Items like television sets, cabinet shelves, electronics, computers, printers, furniture, air conditioners, rugs and carpets, and in some cases solar power systems are being moved out of the complex by some of the legislative aides.
Our correspondent observed that the items were being moved out of the complex till late into the night as buses were still conveying items out of the premises by 8pm on Thursday.
One of the legislative aides, who spoke to our correspondent, noted that all the items belonged to the senators and representatives as many of them often buy them to furnish their offices to their preferred styles.
The aide said, “The lawmakers are the owners of the items; many of them bought some of these things, especially items like furniture of their preferred taste, to suit their preferences.
“The items are theirs; for instance, some of them didn’t like the carpets in their offices and bought theirs, so, the items do not belong to the National Assembly.”
When asked if the lawmakers bought the printers, computers and solar panels as well, the aide declined further comments.
A top staff member of the National Assembly also told our correspondent that it was a ritual for the lawmakers to move the items out every four years in order for some top staff members to award contracts for the supply of new ones to themselves.
The source said, “This is a ritual that happens every four years; it’s an arrangement of the National Assembly so that contracts are awarded to resupply the same set of materials every four years.
“Rather than leave some items for the new set of lawmakers, a new set is brought in. Someone will supply computers; someone else will furniture and other items. It’s always like that. “
Another National Assembly worker, who corroborated his colleague, stated that there was an arrangement between the lawmakers and the National Assembly to buy the items at discounted rates.
The source said, “The lawmakers usually buy all the items from the National Assembly at discounted prices and such money is often discounted from their severance allowance afterward.
“The items are often cleared by the National Assembly and a pass is issued listing all the items each lawmaker is allowed to move out.
“Some of them gifted some of the items to their aides and committee members as parting gifts.”
Join our WhatsApp Group to receive news and other valuable information alerts on WhatsApp.