Deji Elumoye in Abuja
The Senate on Tuesday ‘noted’ a motion urging President Muhammadu Buhari to appoint a military officer from South East as Service Chief in line with the Federal Character Principle as enshrined in the constitution. It however did not call for the adoption of the prayers of the motion.
Senator Victor Umeh(APGA Anambra Central) had while moving a motion at plenary titled “Urgent need to appoint a representative of the South East into the National Defence Council and National Security Council” urged President Buhari to reconstitute membership of the National Defence Council and National Security Council, by appointing an officer from the South East as Service Chief for equitable representation of the people of the region in the Council.
He explained that by virtue of Section 153(1)(g), more particularly third schedule part 1 of the 1999 Constitution, the Council shall comprise of the President as the chairman, Vice President as deputy chairman, Minister of Defence, Chief of Defence Staff, Chief of Army Staff, Chief of Naval Staff, Chief of Air Staff, and such other members as the president may appoint.
According to him “the exclusion of the South East from appointment of Service Chiefs will continue to cause the feeling of alienation, neglect and consequential agitation among the people of South East”.
“The inclusion of the South East among the Service Chiefs will automatically accord them membership of the National Defence Council and National Security Council and will go a long way in assuaging their feelings of isolation and neglect”.
Umeh was also “convinced that immediate appointment of an officer from the South East as Service Chief will enhance the feeling of oneness among the South Easterners towards other parts of Nigeria”.
He explained that the Council was constitutionally empowered to advise the president on matters relating to defence of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Nigeria, and those relating to public security, including those effecting any organisation or agency established by law for ensuring security of the country.
The legislator therefore expressed concern that none of the Service Chiefs as appointed to the Council comes from the South East region “as firmly enshrined in the Constitution through the spirit and principle of federal character”.
Contributing to the motion, Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe (PDP Abia South), who wondered why Buhari excluded the region from the Council, alleged misinterpretation of the Constitution by the President.
Abaribe, who said he had in the past led the South East caucus in the National Assembly to the President on the matter, alleged that “it’s a deliberate attempt not to include the region as part of the security architecture of this country”.
The Deputy Senate Leader , Senator Bala Ibn Na’Allah (APC Kebbi South), however, accused sponsor of the motion of “gross misunderstanding of the provisions of the Constitution on the matter” and warned against politicising security issues in the country.
Na’Allah, who cautioned the Senate to be extremely careful over the matter, maintained that “it has never been a deliberate policy of any government since 1999 to exclude any section of the country”.
On his part, Senator Barau Jibrin (APC Kano North), described the motion as misleading and asked its sponsor to apologise to the lawmakers for misleading them.