By Yakubu Dogara


Parliamentary security and national security are inextricably linked. The legislature cannot function and contribute to democratic governance and development without a secure and stable environment and there can be no effective national security without a strong legislature to promote and sustain them.

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The legal framework in Nigeria for discussing the topic of Sergeant at Arms and National Assembly Security would be found in the following legal instruments and enactments.

First, the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, talks about Sergeant at Arms only by inference. Section 89 (1) and (2) of the Constitution empowers the National Assembly for the purposes of any investigation under Section 88 of the Constitution to among other powers, summon any person in Nigeria to give evidence at any place or produce any document; and to also issue a warrant to compel the attendance of any person who, after having been summoned to attend, fails, refuses or neglects to do so.

It further provides that “a summons or warrant issued under this section may be served or executed by any member of the Nigeria Police Force or by any person authorised in that behalf by the President of the Senate or the Speaker of the House of Representatives, as the case may require”. This implies that both Presiding Officers can authorize the Sergeant at Arms to execute Warrants or Summons issued by the National Assembly. In the botched Constitution Review exercise, the 7th National Assembly, together with over 2/3 of the State Houses of Assembly in Nigeria amended Section 89 (2) of the Constitution to empower the Sergeant-at-Arms in addition to the Nigeria Police, to execute orders of the National Assembly. It read thus: “A summons or warrant issued under this section may be served or executed by any member of the Nigeria Police or Sergeant-at-Arms of a Legislative House or by any person authorized in that behalf by the President of the Senate or the Speaker of the House of Representatives, as the case may require.” This was intended to give direct constitutional imprimatur to the institution of Sergeant at Arms. The National Assembly may need to revisit this amendment in the current Constitution amendment exercise.

Secondly, the Standing Orders of the House made pursuant to Section 62 of the Constitution provides for the duties and jurisdiction of the Sergeant at Arms as follows:

“ Duties of the Sergeant-at-Arms.
(1)  It shall be the duty of the Sergeant-at-Arms to attend the House during its sittings, to maintain order under the direction of the Speaker or Chairman, and pending the election of a Speaker or Deputy Speaker under the direction of the Clerk. He shall execute the commands of the House, and all processes issued by authority thereof, directed to him by the Speaker.
(2)  He shall be the Chief Security Officer of the House.
(3)  He shall enforce strictly the rules relating to the privileges of the Chamber.
(4)  He shall allow no person to enter any room or rooms reserved for members of the House during its sittings; and fifteen minutes before the hour of the meeting of the House each day, he shall see that the floor is cleared of all persons except those privileged to remain, and kept so until ten minutes after adjournment.
(5)  He shall have the duty of ensuring that no visitor allowed by the House into the Chamber of the House has on himself a camera or any other recording equipment or instrument of any description whatsoever, for the purpose of taking photographs, monitoring, or recording the proceedings of the House. Neither shall such visitor bear firearms.
(6)  He shall ensure that no member shall enter the Chamber or the public gallery of the House with any type of walking stick, or any offensive or dangerous weapon.
(7)  The Sergeant-at-Arms attending the House shall be responsible for the safe keeping of the Mace, furniture and fittings thereof.

Jurisdiction of Sergeant-at-Arms; Any security personnel within the precincts of the House shall be subject to the direction of the Sergeant-at-Arms.”

Thirdly, the National Assembly Service Act, 2014, further specifically provides for the jurisdiction and position of the Sergeant at Arms in Section 12(2) thereof, which says that “the Sergeant-at-Arms and other Security Personnel of the National Assembly Service shall be vested with all the powers, privileges and immunities of police or law enforcement agencies in the performance of their duties within the National Assembly Complex and other National Assembly premises.”

Fourthly, the Legislative Powers and Privileges Act, Cap L12, LFN, 2014, which currently defines the powers, privileges and immunities of Legislative Houses established under the Constitution and members of such Houses,  was enacted in 1962 and has not undergone any amendment. It does not specifically define or mention the duties, powers and responsibilities of the Sergeant at Arms. Rather it imposes on the Police Officer many of the duties ordinarily vested in the Sergeant at arms by the House Rules and newer legislations. In fact, Section 2 of the Act, defines an “officer” in relation to a Legislative House, to include, “any police officer on duty within the precincts of the House”.

Legislative Powers and Privileges Act, Cap. L.12, LFN, 2004, provides in Section 4; that “A summons issued in accordance with this section may be served by an officer of a Legislative House or by a police officer”:

Section 6 provides for the Power to issue warrant to compel attendance and provides in (6)(2) That “A warrant issued under this section shall be executed by a police officer”.

Police officer which has been defined as officer of the House has Powers of arrest, powers to remove strangers on orders of President or Speaker. He has further powers to exclude a Suspended member from Chamber and precincts under the Legislative Powers and Privileges Act, Cap L.12, LFN, 2004

Fifthly, the 1999 Constitution, as amended, provides in Sections 214 and 215 for the Nigeria Police Force. It says:
“214. (1) There shall be a police force for Nigeria, which shall be known as the Nigeria Police Force, and subject to the provisions of this section no other police force shall be established for the Federation or any part thereof.

(2) Subject to the provisions of this Constitution –
(a) the Nigeria Police Force shall be organised and administered in accordance with such provisions as may be prescribed by an Act of the National Assembly;
(b) the members of the Nigeria Police shall have such powers and duties as maybe conferred upon them by law;”

“215. (2) The Nigeria Police Force shall be under the command of the Inspector-General of Police and contingents of the Nigeria Police Force stationed in a state shall, subject to the authority of the Inspector-General of Police, be under the command of the Commissioner of Police of that state.”

“(3) The President or such other Minister of the Government of the Federation as he may authorise in that behalf may give to the Inspector-General of Police such lawful directions with respect to the maintenance and securing of public safety and public order as he may consider necessary, and the Inspector-General of Police shall comply with those direction or cause them to be compiled with”.
The relevant question here is whether the Sergeant at Arms could be described as a police force? Can it exist side by side with the Police Force? What is the relationship between the Sergeant at Arms and the Nigeria Police Force and indeed other security Agencies? Can all the security agencies exercising police powers co-exist within the National Assembly? In the event of conflict whose authority is superior with respect to security in the National Assembly? It should be noted that the Police is under the command of the Inspector General of Police whereas the Sergeant at Arms is under the command of the Legislature. These are not mere rhetorical questions. The questions are live questions that also arose following the incident at the National Assembly of Nigeria on 20th November 2014. I will quote the Vanguard and Thisday Newspapers report of the incident, which was like a story from Hollywood or Nollywood!!

“The House of Representatives which was on break was reconvened, ….. following a letter from the President seeking legislative approval for the extension of emergency rule in the three troubled states of the North-East.

However, ominous signs of trouble were first noticed on Wednesday night with the beef-up of security in the National Assembly complex. By … morning, the security cordon had been significantly beefed up with several detachments of heavily armed regular and mobile policemen including hooded security agents manning all entry points into the National Assembly complex. Entry was, however, limited to only the main gate near the Eagle Square and everyone including legislators were thoroughly quizzed before being allowed entry. Before Tambuwal arrived, the Deputy Speaker, Chief Emeka Ihedioha had arrived around 10.35 a.m. and was easily passed on by the Policemen.

Situation, however, came to a head at about 10.38 a.m. when Speaker Tambuwal in the absence of police security approached the first gate and met a cordon mounted by policemen who refused him entry. The Speaker, who was escorted by several House members, remained inside his vehicle while the members came out and asked the policemen to remove the barricade for the speaker. The policemen were unmoved, forcing a physical engagement with the members who eventually overpowered the policemen, allowing the Speaker’s convoy to proceed along the main road leading to the second gate which was, however, firmly locked against the convoy.
Again, the lawmakers, now already worked up, engaged the policemen but the policemen were unmoved and the Speaker had to step down to confront the policemen.

Tambuwal faces policemen

“Gentlemen, my names are Aminu Waziri Tambuwal, and I am the Speaker of this House,” Tambuwal told the policemen who all without exception ignored him and turned their backs on him.

Again, the Speaker said: “I am here as our constitution demands to go in and preside over the sitting of the House. Officers, I would like to know who is the commanding officer here.

“Can you identify me as the Speaker of this House?”, he asked. The policemen who stuck to their guns remained mute, leaving the Speaker to himself.

Having received no response from them, Tambuwal moved back and stood in the sun, waiting for a likely commanding officer to come.

By 11.20 a.m. the Speaker having been tipped off about a small gate which was half opened, marched forward alongside a few members and made his way in before the police could realize.

Even after the Speaker had smuggled himself in, the police were unyielding as they kept other members of his entourage outside forcing a number of them to scale the gate into the National Assembly complex.”

The ThisDay Newspaper Report of the incident made it clear that teargas was also used by the Police to prevent the Speaker from gaining access to the Parliament:

“Contrary to claims emerging that the policemen deployed to the National Assembly released canisters of tear-gas within the premises to disperse ‘miscreants’, THISDAY reports that the canisters were shot in the direction of the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Aminu Waziri Tambuwal.

Our correspondent, who was in the premises when the canisters were shot, said the first tear-gas landed near Tambuwal as he was walking towards the arcade. The second canister descended as he was climbing the stairs, backing the arcade and the third as he was passing through the reception entrance, where Senate President, David Mark had come out to see what was happening”.

This case shows how a Speaker who is supposed to be in charge of Security in the House of Representatives was treated, within the precincts of the National Assembly. The Sergeant at Arms officials stood-by as spectators and watched, helplessly, too ill equipped, and with no capacity to intervene.

This Conference should therefore make appropriate recommendations on resolving the legal relationship between all the security Agencies. If push comes to shove, who has ultimate authority for security at the National Assembly. Can the Police override directives of the Sergeant-at-Arms especially with respect to public order and public security? Can the Sergeant at arms department set up departments in conflict with the traditional duties of the Police Force and State Security Service? For instance, VIP Protection is the traditional responsibility of the Secret Service, so can the Sergeant-at-Arms set up VIP Protection Department to take over protection of Senior officials of the National Assembly? Following police invasion of the National Assembly on November 20, 2014, and the withdrawal of both Police and Security details of the Speaker, is there a genuine case for VIP Protection of National Assembly Officials to be handled by the Sergeant at Arms? Are they trained for such a role?

Maybe we should examine the position in other jurisdictions for guidance. In the United Kingdom Parliament, the Sergeant-at-Arms liaises with the Metropolitan Police when large numbers are expected in the Parliament to ensure public order is maintained and Parliament remains secure.  The Metropolitan Police Service has been protecting and keeping order on the Parliamentary Estate since 1839.

They are contracted to the House Authorities and provide policing services through a Special Service Agreement.

The Police works with the Parliamentary Authorities to provide a safe and accessible environment for Peers, Members of Parliament, employees and the public by:

Ø Patrolling the Palace of Westminster.
Ø Monitoring and checking identity passes.
Ø Controlling access to the Estate
Ø Conducting searches of visitors, staff, personal property and vehicles.
Ø Maintaining public order so the business of the Houses is not disrupted.
Ø Introducing security measures to minimise opportunity for crime.
Ø Providing crime prevention, security and personal safety advice to members and staff.
Ø Monitoring closed circuit television, alarms and police communications.
Ø Responding to incidents and alarms.

The two administrative authorities that are jointly responsible for the day to day running of the Estate are the Sergeant – at- Arms (House of Commons) and Black Rod (House of Lords).

UK Constituents have a constitutional right of access to both Houses whilst they are in session to lobby their MPs or observe proceedings from the public galleries. There are also private and ‘pay to view’ tours of the Houses of Parliament when they are not in session. Officers and staff patrol the building and its grounds and control access of people and vehicles onto the Estate. There is a dedicated search wing, trained to conduct counter-terrorism searches.

The Police works closely with the Parliamentary Security Director, who is employed by the Houses of Parliament and who is ultimately responsible for making recommendations to the Joint Committee on Security. This body is made up of prominent Members of both Houses.

Police and security officers assist in providing the security for historic and traditional ceremonial occasions such as the State Opening of Parliament.

In the United States, the position as stated in the U.S. Capitol Police Website, is as follows: “The United States Capitol Police (USCP) is a premier, CALEA-accredited, Federal Law Enforcement Agency. It’s mission is to protect the Congress, its legislative processes, Members, employees, visitors, and facilities from crime, disruption, or terrorism. They protect and secure Congress so it can fulfill its constitutional responsibilities in a safe and open environment.

As America’s Police Department —

It protects the legislative process, the symbol of American democracy, the people who carry out the process, and the millions of visitors who travel here to see democracy in action;

Every American who visits the Capitol, as well as those visitors from around the world, is a member of the protected community.

It represents the best in American policing. It acts on the world stage every day of the year, as a model in security, urban crime prevention, dignitary protection, specialty response capabilities, and homeland security. It is often the first face that visitors and employees encounter, and leave a lasting impression that is reflective of the Legislative Branch and its role in America’s democracy”.

U.S. Code § 5605 – provides for the Law enforcement authority of Sergeant at Arms

(a) Law enforcement authority:
The Sergeant at Arms of the House of Representatives shall have the same law enforcement authority, including the authority to carry firearms, as a member of the Capitol Police. The law enforcement authority under the preceding sentence shall be subject to the requirement that the Sergeant- at- Arms have the qualifications specified in subsection (b).

(b) Qualifications: The qualifications referred to in subsection (a) are the following:
(1) A minimum of five years of experience as a law enforcement officer before beginning service as the Sergeant-at-Arms.
(2) Current certification in the use of firearms by the appropriate Federal law enforcement entity or an equivalent non-Federal entity.
(3) Any other firearms qualification required for members of the Capitol Police.

(c) Regulations:
The Committee on House Oversight of the House of Representatives shall have authority to prescribe regulations to carry out this section.

(Pub. L. 104–53, title III, § 313, Nov. 19, 1995, 109 Stat. 538.)

In South Africa, the question arose recently. The eviction of Economic Freedom Fighter (EFF) MP Julius Malema from the 2015 State of the Nation Address raised a number of questions surrounding the use of security forces within the South African National Assembly and parliament, and under which conditions such force is warranted.

‘Are police permitted to enter parliament in South Africa?

“Security services” are defined by Section 199 of the Constitution of South Africa, as a “single defence force, a single police service and any intelligence services established in terms of the Constitution”, in terms of the Powers, Privileges and Immunities of Parliaments and Provincial Legislatures Act, 2004.

The same Act states that members of these “security services” may enter the parliamentary precincts and perform “any policing function in the precincts” in two circumstances. The first is with the permission – and under the authority – of the Speaker or Chairperson.

The second is when there is immediate danger to life or safety, or a threat of damage to property. In the latter case, security forces can enter parliament without permission, although they have to report to the Speaker and the Chairperson “as soon as possible”.

The Act defines the precincts of parliament as being the “area of land and every building or part of a building under parliament’s control”. This can extend to “where a House or committee convenes beyond the seat of parliament”. In such cases, the Act “applies as if the premises where the House or committee is sitting were within the precincts of parliament”.

The Speaker and the Chair of the National Council of Provinces, “exercise joint control and authority over the precincts on behalf of parliament.”

The Changing Nature of Security Threats in Africa.
The threats to sub-regional stability which assumed ascendancy in the 1990s and first part of the 21st century included civil wars, military coups, and resource and identity conflicts. These were intensified by serious socioeconomic constraints, weak state institutions and the prevalence of illegal arms trafficking and activities of mercenaries. Some of the old challenges to regional peace and security remain, in varying degrees and numbers. However, it has become apparent in very recent times that a number of relatively “new” potential drivers of conflict have been emerging.

National and international terrorism continue to pose palpable security threats to Nation-States in Africa including al-Qaeda’s North African wing, Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), with roots in Algeria; The Somali-based and Al-Qaeda-affiliated Islamist terrorist group, Al-Shabab; and Boko Haram in Nigeria.

Specific cases of violent attacks on parliament in parts of Africa and the World has occurred recently.

In Libya’s post-Gaddafi, internal tensions escalated catastrophically in mid-2014, as Gunmen launched an attack on the parliament in the capital Tripoli and demanded its suspension. Hours before the parliamentary suspension, members of an armed group backed by truck-mounted anti-aircraft guns, mortars and rocket fire attacked parliament, sending politicians fleeing for their lives as gunmen ransacked the legislature.

The Boko Haram insurgency in northeast Nigeria and attacks carried out by the group on the United Nations compound, Police Headquarters and other targets in Abuja have fueled fears of attacks on soft targets like parliament.

On October 22, 2014, a series of shootings occurred at Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Canada, after wrestling with a security guard at the entrance, Zehaf-Bibeau ran inside and had a shootout with parliament security personnel. He was shot 31 times by six officers and died on the scene.

A Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) investigation into the shootings recommended the re-structuring of security at parliament arguing that Parliament Hill is a symbol of Canadian democracy and If Canada is to remain vigilant and proactive in dealing with threats directed to it, there has to be a willingness to implement changes to protect this area.

On 13 December 2001, the Indian Parliament was attacked in New Delhi. The perpetrators were Lashkar-e-Taiba (Let) and Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) terrorists. The attack led to the deaths of five terrorists, six Delhi Police personnel, two Parliament Security Service personnel and a gardener.

Only recently, extremist forces attacked Ukraine’s Parliament on 31 August 2015, killed a police officer and seriously wounded several people.

Earlier, the Kabul Parliament was attacked on June 22, 2015. The Taliban detonated a car bomb outside the National Assembly in Kabul, and Taliban fighters attacked the building with assault rifles and RPGs. 2 civilians and 7 Talibans died in the attack.

It is against the background of these new threats that this Conference has been designed as parliaments have often been the target of these groups. Although terrorists employ a wide variety of tactics and strategies, their attacks have often targeted buildings in urban environments, including parliament buildings.

Given that security threats have changed, security services at parliament must also change and become more sophisticated to enable it respond to these new challenges.

Parliament is the cornerstone of our constitutional government and democratic practices. The legislature occupies a central position in the machinery of governance as a representative body and traditionally vested with formal law making powers, giving it some capacity to shape and influence public policy.

The representation role of the legislature makes it the mouthpiece of constituents and communities. As a result of the centrality of parliament to democracy therefore, it is all too often the theatre and the primary target for those wishing to make a public statement about an issue or cause.

In the National Assembly for instance, more often than not, these statements take the form of peaceful demonstrations in front of the National Assembly First Gate. However, recent years have seen an increase in highly charged demonstrations in and outside the National Assembly and a corresponding increase in the threat of violence. These incidents include:
a) Bomb blast around Eagle Square, close to the National Assembly, in 2010
b) A couple of bomb scares in and around the National Assembly since 2011
c) Several demonstrations and civil protests in and around the National Assembly sometimes leading to breach of security, e.g. NIMC protest, Occupy Nigeria protests, Bring Back our Girls (BBOG)
d) Invasion of the National Assembly by heavily armed policemen on November 20, 2014.
e) Occasional scaling of NASS perimeter fences by protest groups;
f) Incidents of car theft at NASS car parks;
g) Issues relating to access into the National Assembly by unauthorised persons and vehicles.

It is these sad but real threats that should prompt us to re-think our strategy here in Nigeria, and Africa as a whole, knowing full well that as a democracy, citizens should have access to Parliament.

We are making a strong case for Re-Structuring Sergeant-at-Arms and Parliamentary Security in Nigeria. In Nigeria, security in the National Assembly is coordinated by the Sergeant-at-Arms. As chief law enforcement officer of the National Assembly, the Sergeant-at-Arms is charged with maintaining security in the estate of the National Assembly and all National Assembly buildings, as well as protection of the legislators themselves. The Sergeant-at-Arms thus enforces law and orderliness, supervises both Senate, House and Management Office Buildings and has responsibility for and immediate supervision of the chamber and galleries.

While this existing security infrastructure might address ‘traditional’ risks, is the Sergeant-at-Arms of the National Assembly properly equipped to address any serious security threats, particularly those relating  to terrorism? Thus, we must take steps to restructure the Sergeant-at-Arms of the National Assembly to enhance security and professionalism and to ensure that the National Assembly Precincts and its buildings are fully prepared to meet new realities and challenges.

The development and implementation of a long-term plan is critical to addressing requirements for efficient and effective security. The proposed re-structuring must allow for a layered system of access control and a solid infrastructure for security systems that lays the groundwork for current and future requirements.

I am aware of some proposals outlining concrete ideas on how to modernise and improve the services and capabilities of Sergeant-at-Arms. These recommendations delineate a forward-looking approach to parliamentary security design that will undoubtedly evolve as new countermeasures are developed to address emerging threats. Furthermore, the recommendations are intended to be fluid and adaptable to a changing environment. They include the following: a specialized and professional non-civil service Sergeant-at-Arms; improved tactics and training; improved quality of staffing; improved communications; unified security force; improved interoperability with other services; improved pedestrian screening and access; and updated electronic monitoring.
To increase efficiency and actualise these recommendations outlined, there may be need for completely new legal framework to govern security in the National Assembly. This will define the place of the Sergeant-at-Arms and the role of other security agencies. It has been suggested that the following major divisions may become necessary in the new framework: (a) Intelligence Division (b) VIP Protection Division (c) Law Enforcement Division (d) Chamber & Protocol Division and (e) Emergency Management Division.

Funding is crucial if we are to meet long term security challenges and re-structure the sergeant-at-arms.  As new threats employ more sophisticated technology and cross traditional borders, law enforcement in parliament must rely on technological tools which are advanced, easy to use and interoperable. Recent and planned advances in information technology offer significant opportunities for the National Assembly to implement necessary security measures and increase capacity in a cost-effective way.

The need for greater operational coordination among the security partners is an important component of a re-structured Sergeant-at-arms. All security agencies working in the National Assembly should be fully integrated and well prepared operationally to deliver on their protective mandate proactively, efficiently and effectively. Officials within the agencies and institutions should strive to work together to ensure a seamless transition towards this new security model. I am however aware that at present, the different agencies in National Assembly lack effective coordination of command chain, information sharing and operations.

Another key component of improved synergy among security forces working in the National Assembly is continuous training and establishment of best practices. Trainings should be separate and joint where needed to strengthen interaction among the different security agencies. Just as with the Capitol Hill Police, training for sergeant-at-arms should be structured to include intensive induction training, specialised training in the Police Academy as well as continuous field training to develop their skills through on-the-job experience.


The suggested changes, restructuring and support solicited would provide the tools and support for the Sergeant-at-Arms to improve its ability to prevent security breaches and possible attacks on the National Assembly, NASS buildings and legislators. A restructured Sergeant-at-Arms will be responsible for all matters relating to physical security throughout the National Assembly and coordinate the activities of all security partners attached to NASS. This task can only be effectively undertaken if the personnel, training and structure of the Sergeant at arms is overhauled to meet international standards.

The leadership of the National Assembly is committed to our shared responsibility to ensuring the safety of parliamentarians, employees, visitors and parliamentary estates. I am confident that a re-structured sergeant-at-arms will allow us to take this commitment one step further and place us in a better position to mitigate future threats while maintaining an open and secure Parliament.


Dogara Yakubu,  Speaker, House of Representatives delivered this remark on January 19, 2016 at a conference organized by the National Institute for Legislative Studies (NILS) in Abuja




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