Hunting with the Hounds and ....

26 May 2013

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It  was a week in which the House of Representatives made frantic efforts to assert its powers and the authority of the parliament on the state of insecurity in the country.

For three and a half hours on Tuesday, the lawmakers met behind closed door to deliberate on the state of emergency declared in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa states.
It was an opportunity for them to peruse the emergency rule document sent to them by President Goodluck Jonathan and endorse or reject it.

At the end of the session, they approved the emergency rule, but on some conditions.
But it does seem as if the proclamation was grudgingly approved by the Green Chamber and in the process they erected some hurdles on its pathway. They do not want the sweeping powers proposed by the President in the declaration because they fear it could lead to dictatorship.

It appears that the legislators were not fully convinced that the declaration of state of emergency was right and made in good faith.
However, they had no alternative solution to the Boko Haram menace given the fact that the insurgents had persistently shunned the olive branch extended to them by the federal government.

So, what did the lawmakers do? They went into some superfluous amendments. They sought to limit the powers of the President to strictly issues of security and maintenance of law and order. But isn’t that the goal of the declaration?
They were acting under the suspicion that the President could have something else up his sleeves.

They were not satisfied that the President adhered strictly to the constitution when he retained the democratic structures in the areas affected by the Emergency rule.
They failed to recognise that precedence, exigencies of the time and public opinion favoured the sacking of the state governors, state Houses of Assembly and chairmen of Local Government Areas in the emergency areas.

On a matter as sensitive as national security, it took the lower chamber of the National Assembly a long time to agree that the emergency rule declared in the North-east was an idea whose time had come.
The terrorists and insurgents had tested the patience of the Nigerian state for so long a time that the country was practically hanging on a cliff.

They know that a situation where the insurgents had carved out territories for themselves and hoisted their own flags was a declaration of war; yet they were not convinced that the amoured tanks needed to be rolled out. They forget that if the insurgents are not flushed out quickly, soon this bush war could spread to the city of Abuja.

In the weeks preceding the emergency declaration, day after day, the House entertained motions upon motions lamenting the activities of the Boko Haram in places such as Baga and Bama. Strong condemnation usually trailed military raids on communities suspected to have harboured the insurgent group, while the massacre of soldiers and innocent civilians appeared to be a normal sacrifice.

Many of these motions were couched in languages that portrayed the leadership of the country as rather rudderless and the citizenry, helpless.
Yet when the decision to halt the drift towards anarchy came, the body language of some parliamentarians was that of the ostrich - burying its head in the sand.  It was as if some representatives of the people preferred the chaos that had reigned in the land for almost two years.

Even when they saw that their subtle opposition to the state of emergency would be akin to swimming against the tide, they resorted to re-couching of the proclamation. They saw it as another appropriation bill which they must alter, insert and re-allocate. Unfortunately there were no constituency projects, no sub-heads and no figures to joggle.

In the names of democracy and human rights they want security agencies to oust the terrorists without firing a gun shot or locking down suspected communities. Is the House hunting with the hounds and running with the hares?
No doubt, it is right to protect the unarmed civilian populace but care must be taken not to erect hurdles that could become counter productive to the mission of ousting the insurgents from the occupied territories.

As parliamentarians, they should encourage the security forces to do their jobs professionally and not to condemn them even before they get to the front line. The reason terrorism has grown into a terrifying monster today is because we handled it with kid gloves for a long time and failed to call a spade by its name.

Bombardier 700
The Joint House Committee on Justice and Aviation has submitted its report on the controversial grounding of an aircraft belonging to the Rivers State government. Although the report has not been considered for us to know the final verdict on the imbroglio, the raw report has indicted Caverton Helicopters and the aviation authorities for some of their actions.
In fact, the report has recommended the prosecution of Caverton Helicopters for allegedly misleading aviation authorities in Nigeria to ground the plane without following the laid down rules.

According to the report, the private jet actually belongs to the Rivers State government, contrary to the testimonies of the Ministry of Aviation and the regulatory agencies in the sector.
The report accused Caverton Helicopters of providing the information that led the authorities to wrongly believe that Rivers State government falsified the documents of the aircraft. If the report sails through, the Attorney-General of the Federation may be asked to prosecute Caverton Helicopters under the provisions of Section 36(4) Civil Aviation Act, Cap. C13 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004.

However, the report also said that the documents of the aircraft had indeed expired but faulted the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) for not giving the operators of the aircraft notice, as required by law, before grounding it.
The report recommended that the Rivers State government should be allowed to comply with the necessary conditions for granting of all required permits and licences of Rivers State Government-owned Bombardier B700 Global Express Registration Number N565Rs.

It also urged the Ministry of Aviation to desist from undue interference in the day-to-day operations of the aviation regulatory authorities as envisaged by the law. The aviation regulatory authorities, the report said, should be allowed to operate professionally and ensure compliance with international best practices.  In the course of the investigation, it was discovered that there were several other private jets flying in the country with expired registration and clearance certificates.

This is clearly a reign of negligence of duty for the regulators and gross impunity for the rich and powerful men in our society.
The situation portends grave danger to safety and national security. But the puzzle is why then single only one aircraft? May be, we want to start getting serious before the sky becomes cluttered with all manner of tokunbo planes.

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