Friday 11 September 2009

Nigeria: A case of undignified self-importance

Self-importance and rage

It was strange to pick up news of an egotistical megalomaniac politician who had apparently become a law onto himself and committed an assault for which he might not get charged.

The dishonourable Chinyere Igwe a representative of Rivers State in the volatile Nigerian Niger Delta region was asked for his identification when he tried to enter the National Assembly Complex by the Sergeant-at-Arms rather than show proof that he had authorised access, he felt affronted and proceeded to slap the official twice [1].

Mr. Chinelo Nwolo, the Sergeant-at-Arms was eventually rescued by bystanders before he suffered grievous bodily harm.

Checks not nods

Whilst, it would be nice for security staff at the National Assembly to recognise and identify on sight any and all members of the assembly, the purpose for issuing identity passes is to ensure that the person holding a pass is validated by inspection of the relevant access material.

In fact, there are some members of the National Assembly that can be nodded through for the fact that they are well known, but without trying to be pedantic, the job of security personnel is to identify by inspection of identification documents or material before allowing the visitor into the complex.

Where that is not done, the security personnel would be derelict of their duties. The man was only doing his job.

A case of puffed-up arrogance

The dishonourable member however exemplifies a state of affairs in Nigeria where those in power believe they are above the law and should not to subject to basic house rules. To be challenged by a somewhat security agent would be to attract wrath, uncontrolled temper and rage leading to assault by reason of their view that they can be police, judge and jury exacting justice and proper retribution for the affront to their distinguished status.

It ought not to be so, a politician representative should be conduct himself with all manner of courtesy, comportment and dignity whilst appreciating that he is there to do a job and the security personnel have a clearly defined function that interfaces with their when it comes to security, security of access and safety.

In one other report, the representative referred to the Sergeant-at-Arms as a boy, a very derogatory epithet coming from an ill-disciplined man who by ways probably does not know how to reflect and make amends for wrongs he might have done.

Just doing his job

The Sergeant-at-Arms is an official of the Federal Republic of Nigeria whose office is well recognised in the constitution and it carries responsibilities and authority to which people especially lawmakers should defer without rancour.

On a very basic level, the assault should be seen as criminal and be reported to the police that should then take steps to prosecute the representative, referring him to the House of Representatives’ Committee on Ethics and Privileges is all well and good but it is hardly due process.

It goes without saying that if a man authorised to perform a duty in the centre of our legislature cannot freely do so without harassment and threats of violent conduct from the legislature, what hope do Nigerians have in other places of work when leadership provides no examples?

The Serjeant-at-Arms deserves more than just an apology from the representative, the leadership of the legislature should do well to ensure that the representative is properly upbraided, sanctioned and disciplined if necessary.

Overhaul security

In the end, it brings the security arrangements at the National Assembly into sharp focus, rather than have hapless men at the risk of unwarranted menace, the security access system should require all staff produce their passes that can be read electronically by some automatic access system and human beings should only get involved when that access fails.

In a perfect world, brutes like Chinyere Igwe should be in a correction facility where they should be intensively rehabilitated to recognise basic civility and good manners without too much self-importance. I do hope he gets his just desserts, as for the Sergeant-at-Arms, Mr. Chinelo Nwolo, I am all sympathetic and sorry about the incident, it must never happen again.


[1] Rep slaps Sergeant-at-Arms | Daily Trust

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