President Goodluck J onathan
Chuks Okocha, Onwuka Nzeshi and Muhammad Bello
In a move that goes against the spirit and letters of the doctrine of separation of powers, checks and balances, which underpin the 1999 Constitution, the House of Representatives Tuesday summoned President Goodluck Jonathan.
The House is inviting the president to appear before it over the relentless suicide bombings in the north and general insecurity in other parts of Nigeria.
The summon is reflective of the worsening relationship between the House and the presidency, which follows the bribery saga involving the suspended House Chairman, Ad Hoc Committee on the Monitoring of Fuel Subsidy, Hon. Farouk Lawan.
The development has set the lower chamber of the National Assembly on a collision course with the presidency, which is being accused of wanting to use the situation to unseat the House leadership.
The lawmakers, who also passed a resolution condemning the bomb attacks and gun battle between Boko Haram and security operatives in Damaturu, Yobe State, said Jonathan was being summoned to appear before them in his capacity as the nation’s chief security officer.
However, unlike in normal practice with legislative summons, the House did not give a time frame on when Jonathan should appear before it.
The House summons came on the heels of the National Security Adviser, Lt. Gen. Owoye Azazi, dismissing speculations that the Federal Government intends to declare a state of emergency in Kaduna State following the multiple bomb attacks on churches and reprisals in the state last Sunday.
There was an initial attempt to summon the president before a joint session of the National Assembly but the proposal was dropped for fear that it might be difficult to get the Senate to concur with the House on the issue.
Jonathan is expected to appear before the House with Azazi, service chiefs and all heads of security agencies to present a comprehensive report on the prevailing security challenges and what they have been doing to combat the menace.
However, the House rejected a proposal asking the Federal Government to immediately commence dialogue with Boko Haram, which has claimed responsibility for most of the bombings in the North, including last Sunday’s attacks on three churches in Kaduna State.
The lawmakers passed the resolution summoning the president after debating a motion of urgent national importance, brought by Hon. Yakubu Barde.
Barde, in the lead debate, recalled last weekend's attacks on three churches in Zaria and Kaduna and expressed dismay at the huge loss of lives and property.
Other lawmakers raised questions on the rationale behind Jonathan's current trip to Rio De Janerio, Brazil for the Earth Summit at a time when the country was under siege.
Some of them added it was not enough to condemn the bombings and blame it on the government and urged the House to see the degenerating level of insecurity in the country as a failure of leadership at various levels, including the local communities.
Others argued that with the poor response to the spate of bombings and insecurity in the country, the Federal Government had failed to justify the huge funds appropriated for defence and security in the 2012 budget.
Minority Leader of the House, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, said the time had come for the House to go beyond mere motions and resolutions in handling the insecurity plaguing Nigeria.
Gbajabiamila also argued that the House should look beyond the usual summons of the Inspector General of Police and proposed that Jonathan be invited to explain what he has been doing to end the siege on the country.
He also urged members to propose some new bills that could assist the parliament in reforming the security system in the country.
The House commiserated with the victims of the latest bomb attacks and urged the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) to send relief materials to these families to cushion the impact of the attacks on the people.
On his part, Gen. Azazi yesterday dismissed speculations over the declaration of a state of emergency in Kaduna State.
Azazi, who briefed State House reporters in Abuja after a meeting of security chiefs with Vice-President Namadi Sambo, who stood in for President Goodluck Jonathan, said notwithstanding the tense security situation in Kaduna State, the declaration of a state of emergency was not on the cards.
Azazi’s assurances came as a renewed bid aimed at tackling the insecurity situation in the North took off yesterday with the coming together of Northern leaders, including former Speaker, House of Representatives, Alhaji Ghali Na’Abba, former Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) national chairman, Chief Audu Ogbeh, among others, to form a group that will drive the new initiative.
The NSA criticised the reprisals that followed the bombing of churches in Kaduna, describing them as “criminal acts.” He said the police and other security agencies had been placed on red alert to curtail the spread of terrorism in the country.
“What we need to do is to be mindful. Somebody is killing somebody in Zaria and you are retaliating somewhere in Zonkwa; that is criminality. Things happen but as a nation, as a people, we must address situation not necessarily by killing each other,” Azazi said.
According to him, the Federal Government was doing all it could to restore normalcy in Kaduna, adding that the state governor, Mr. Patrick Yakowa, and religious leaders have also been talking with all critical stakeholders on how to restore peace within a short time.
“The governor (of Kaduna State) and religious leaders are also talking. What we are talking about is how do we extend this discussion beyond just the state so that it can go down?” he asked.
He disagreed with suggestions that dialogue was already late in the day to resolve the security challenges given the easy recourse to reprisals as seen in Jos and Kaduna, whenever a church is bombed.
Azazi’s comments came just as Northern leaders opened a new front in the fight against terror with the formation of the Northern Reawakening Forum (NRF) whose chief objective is tackling the security challenges and the moral decadence in the 19 Northern states.
Various speakers at the launch of NRF in Abuja, including Bishop of Sokoto, Dr. Mathew Kukah, former Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Alhaji Yayale Ahmed, and Ogbeh warned of the grave consequence of allowing the security situation in the North to fester for much longer.
Kukah lamented the senseless bloodletting in Kaduna and other Northern states and warned that if care was not taken, the current crisis will spell doom for the region.
According to him, unless the Boko Haram menace is decisively addressed, “the North is dancing on a wet grave.”
Ogbeh also gave insight into how he predicted the current security crisis in the region, which he attributed mainly to poverty and unemployment.