Dogara insists on demilitarisation, proper funding for police
James Emejo in Abuja
The military authorities on MondayÂ cautioned the National Assembly against politicising military affairs.
The Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), represented by Air Vice Marshall Ibrahim Shafi, told the lawmakers that issues bordering on defence should not be subjected to political considerations.
His submission came on a day the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Yakubu Dogara, called for proper equipping, staffing and training of the Nigeria Police, which he said is the civil authority designed to protect Nigerians in a democracy in the ordinary course of events.
He said the armed forces are currently doing a great job, assisting in maintenance of internal security as the police is ill equipped, improperly manned and too weak financially to perform its duties.
Both spoke at a public hearing organised by the House Committee on Defence, chaired by Hon. Muktar Betara Aliyu on six bills which are aimed at amending the Armed Forces Act to correct perceived lacuna and strengthen the forces among other things.
Aliyu said the committeeâ€™s report would aid legislations towards repositioning the armed forces and other security agencies for efficient and effective service delivery, especially in the fight against insurgency in the north, Niger Delta militancy and kidnappings in various parts of the country.
The proposed amendments include a bill for an Act to amend the Armed Forces Act, Cap.A20, Laws of the Federation, 2004 to make the appointment of service chiefs subject to confirmation by the National Assembly; a bill for an Act to establish the Security Services Welfare Infrastructure Development Commission to provide among other things, management and review the state of welfare infrastructure of the security services and for other matters connected therewith as well as a bill for an Act to amend the Armed Forces Act, Cap.A20, Laws of the Federation, 2004 to provide for the appointment of Chief of Defence Staff.
Other are: A bill for an Act to repeal the Defence Industry Corporation of Nigeria Act, Cap. D4, Laws of the Federation, 2004 and enact the Defence Industry Corporation of Nigeria and for other related matters connected therewith, Bill, 2016; a bill for an Act to amend the Armed Forces Act, Cap.A20, Laws of the Federation, 2004 to among other things, provide for specific duties for the Armed Forces Reserve in order to serve as a Rapid Response Mechanism with capacity to intervene in Emergency and Internal Security where the Nigerian Police is overwhelmed as well as a bill for an Act to amend the Armed Forces Act, Cap.A20, Laws of the Federation, 2004 to provide for the Retirement age of Officers of the Nigerian Armed Forces and for other matters connected therewith.
However, the DHQâ€™s concerns bordered among other things around moves by the House to subject the appointment of the CDS and members of the board of the Defence Industry Corporation of Nigeria (DICON) to the confirmation of the National Assembly.
Shafi had argued that an appointment by the president ought to be finite, and requiring no further confirmation except where itâ€™s merely a nomination that needs a confirmation.
Also, he said Section 18 of the Armed Forces Act should be entirely deleted as itâ€™s currently in direct collision with the Section 218 of the constitution.
Part of the proposed amendments to DICON further required that membership of its board be constituted from the six geo-political zones in the country.
But Shafi whose presentation was largely adopted by other forces, said DICON had always been an army affair since its inception, adding that its management should be left to the army.
The defence ministry however, said it was happy with the proposed bills and that the ministry would fully cooperate with the committee on the laudable objectives.
Nevertheless, Dogara, said the lower chamber was ready to play its part working in concert with the executive towards proper funding and support of the police to play its role.
He said: â€œIt has also become necessary and urgent to re-examine the current architecture of policing in Nigeria to make it structurally strong and effective. The spate of insecurity, rampant kidnappings, terrorism, civil strife and threats to our corporate existence as a nation are too weighty and too important to be left unaddressed or to continue to be treated in a business as usual manner.â€
He said: â€œAs a government, we owe it a duty to ensure that Nigerians do not continue to die in their numbers since the most important constitutional duty of the state is the security and welfare of the people.
â€œThe armed forces also need to be strengthened to face the numerous security challenges faced by the country with adequate funding and necessary policy frameworks.
â€œOfficers and men of the armed forces are doing their best in the fight against Boko Haram and other security challenges facing the country. There is no doubt that welfare and equipping of the armed forces with modern tools of war aided by technology is being undertaken by the current administration, but we need to do much more.
â€œThe House of Representatives will continue to do its part to support the repositioning of the Armed Forces of Nigeria to stem the tide of insecurity.â€
Meanwhile, the planned creation of Armed Forces Reserve is intended to serve as a rapid response mechanism with capacity to intervene in emergency and internal security where the Nigeria Police is overwhelmed.
The supporters of the bill argued that a reserve corps will address situations whereby fresh army intakes are killed in battle fronts partly because they lacked the experience and skills of war.
But the reserve corps to be made up of largely retired army personnel would provide buffers for internal security, allowing them to take charge of entities liberated by the regular forces.
They said the military is currently overstretched and lacked the time to refresh against future battles as they have had to also watch over liberated areas- a task which could best be supported by the police and the reserve force.