Onyebuchi Ezigbo in Abuja
Speaker of House of Representatives, Hon. Yakubu Dogara, has expressed worry over the prolonged deployment of military personnel to quell crisis across the country, saying it has literally placed the country in a state of emergency.
He also lamented the over-bearing influence of the executive arm of government on the security agencies which has not allowed them to be more transparent and accountable to Nigerians.
Speaking at the one-day capacity-building/interactive needs assessment workshop of the security sector related committees of the House of Representatives organised in collaboration with the Policy and Legal Advocacy Centre (PLAC) held at the Transcorp Hilton in Abuja Monday, the Speaker said the legislature was responding to the task of reforming the laws hiding the security sector.
â€œIt is worrisome that Nigeria is effectively permanently in a state of emergency as the armed forces are deployed in more than 28 states of the federation in peace time. These armed forces have virtually taken over the routine police work in Nigeria. It is no longer acting in aid of civil authorities but has become the civil rite itself.
Dogara who was represented by the Chief Whipâ€™ of the House Hon. Alhassan Ado Doguwa, said part of the challenges the National Assembly is trying to address is how to get the security services to subject themselves to legislative scrutiny.
He said the House of Representatives recently amended the Public Procurement Act to make the armed forces more accountable in procurement matters.
Dogara added that since the return to democratic rule in 1999, security issues have been firmly under the control of the executive, thereby â€œmaking most of the security agencies insulate from certain levels of transparency and accountability.
The speaker said the fundamental practice in advanced democracies around the world is that the security sector institutions submit to democratic governance.
He therefore expressed the determination of the House not only to strengthen the security agencies but to fully exercise its mandate by holding them accountable.
According to him, this would ensure a secure and stable Nigerian environment that is favorable to investment and sustainable economic development.
The House committees responsible for oversight functions of the security sector include the House Committee on Defence, Committee on Navy, Air Force and Committee on Police and National Intelligence.
The Executive Director of PLAC, Clement Nwankwo, said the House committees in-charge of the security sector is saddled with a very critical role especially at this time in the countryâ€™s history when there are several security challenges.
According to Nwankwo, the security services have become over-stretched, with the resultant threats to peaceful coexistence posing a serious challenge for the country.
Nwankwo said there was the need for the legislators to ensure the security services respect the rights of the citizens in accordance with the constitution of the country.
â€œThe legislators should also ensure that where there are breaches on citizensâ€™ rights, that the affected security agency is called to order and appropriate remedies made to assuage the feeling of the victims,â€ he said.
He said it was the expectations of the citizens that the National Assembly should take measures to ensure that the security services are well-equipped to played their role effectively.
In her remarks, the Head of the sub-Saharan Africa Division, Africa Programme (DCAF), Dr. Sandy Africa, said legislative oversight of the security sector is very key in ensuring that the security services play their expected roles effectively within the ambits of the law.