Nigerian police fired tear gas inside Parliament on Thursday during a dispute concerning who should preside over a vote on whether to extend a state of emergency for six months in three states where Boko Haram holds territory.
Aminu Tambuwal, speaker of the House of Representatives, arrived to find a police barricade blocking his entrance to the chamber, said Lai Muhammad, spokesman for Mr. Tambuwal’s party, the All Progressives Congress.
Mr. Tambuwal recently defected from the ruling People’s Democratic Party, a move the party argues makes him ineligible to stay in office. A high court has said he should remain speaker, pending an appeals process.
Police, though, have sided with the ruling party and have removed the speaker’s security detail, citing its constitutional ability to decide which politicians merit such protection.
On Thursday, police blocked him from entering because, “Unfortunately, Honorable Aminu Tambuwal came with large number of hoodlums who assaulted policemen on duty,” said Emmanuel Ojukwu, a police spokesman. “When the situation was getting rowdy, we [needed] to ensure protection of lives and properties.”
The leadership of Nigeria’s senate declared the legislature closed until Tuesday.
The vote was scheduled three months before Nigeria holds its fifth presidential election since the army relinquished power in 1999, ending four decades of control. Thursday’s actions by the police sparked criticism.
“The police should explain to Nigerians over their shameful action,” said Imam Imam, Mr. Tambuwal’s spokesman.