Abuja - Three men burst into Nigeria's Senate on Wednesday and snatched the legislature's ceremonial mace, in an incident the body's spokesman blamed on a lawmaker who had been suspended.
The men entered the chamber, picked up the mace and left with it in a swoop that lasted less than two minutes. A Reuters journalist at the scene was not able to identify them.
Decisions taken in the Senate cannot be approved without the mace, an ornamental staff which symbolises the authority of Nigeria's legislature. A giant statue of a fist holding a golden mace stands outside the parliament building, making it one of Nigeria's most potent government symbols.
"Today, some hoodlums led by suspended senator Ovie Omo-Agege walked into the Senate plenary and seized the symbol of authority of the upper legislative chamber, the mace," said Senator Aliyu Abdullahi, spokesman for the upper house, in a statement.
Omo-Agege is a senator who was suspended last week after a disagreement with other lawmakers. Reuters was not immediately able to contact Omo-Agege for comment.
"This action is an act of treason, as it is an attempt to overthrow a branch of the Federal Government of Nigeria by force, and it must be treated as such," Abdullahi said.
"All security agencies must stand on the side of due process and immediately mobilize their personnel to retrieve the mace and apprehend the mastermind and the perpetrators of this act."