Shola Oyeyipo in Abuja
The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila yesterday expressed rage and disappointment over the decision of most of the Service Chiefs to ignore a meeting called by the leadership of the House of Representatives to discuss the prevailing security situation in Nigeria.
Rather than attend the meeting billed to hold at Gbajabiamila’s office at the House of Representatives wing of the National Assembly, the Chief of Defence Staff, General Gabriel Olonisakin; Chief of Army Staff, Lieutenant-General Tukur Buratai; Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Ibok-Ete Ekwe Ibas and the Chief of the Air Staff, Air Marshall Sadiq Abubakar were absent and instead, were represented by other officers.
The Chief of Defense Staff was represented by Major General Leo Irabor Chief of Defense Training and Operations, Army Headquarters, who was accompanied by Chief of Account and Budget, Army, Major General Kola Bakare.
The Chief of Army Staff was represented by Lieutenant General Lamidi Adeosun (Chief of Policy and Plans, Army), the Chief of Naval Staff was represented by Rear Admiral Tariworio Dick (Chief of Training and Operations) and the Chief of Air Staff was represented by Air Vice Marshal Isiaka Amao (Chief of Training and Operations).
The Inspector-General of Police (IGP), Mr. Mohammed Abubakar Adamu; the Comptroller-General Immigration Service (CGIS), Muhammed Babandede and the Director-General, State Security Service (SSS), Mr. Yusuf Bichi were however personally present at the meeting.
Gbajabiamila, who had expressed disagreement with the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Godfrey Onyeama over his decision to ignore the invitation of the parliament, was miffed by the actions of the Service Chiefs.
Expressing embarrassment, Gbajabiamila who said his remarks on the development would be uncoordinated because the meeting itself was uncoordinated, noted that the action of the security chiefs was at cross purpose with the national government.
He called off the meeting and postponed it till Monday next week, again vowing to report the situation to President Muhammadu Buhari.
According to him, “The reason why we called this meeting, which unfortunately may not even go on. The reason is very simple, because of the optic in the security situation in certain areas of the country.
“But let me first of all commend President Muhammadu Buhari for the commitment he is showing in trying to stem the tide and to put a handle and lead on the security situation in Nigeria today.
“Unfortunately, Mr. President cannot work alone, he has to have people to delegate those powers to as the Commander-in-Chief as dictated by our constitution, but because of the fact that Mr. President has delegated those powers to the Service Chiefs, we decided to call this meeting as representatives of the people.
“This meeting was not called by a committee of the House; not that it matters. The meeting was called by the highest level of the legislature. It was called personally by me as the Speaker of the House.
“Let me commend the Inspector-General of the Police (IGP) for being here personally. Let me commend the DG DSS for being here personally and ditto, Nigerian Immigration.
“But let me say that as the House is an institution, I cannot understate my disappointment or our disappointment for the rest of the Service Chiefs that are not here.”
Emphasising that the meeting was invaluable, Gbajabiamila noted that “You can see member from Borno State here. There is crisis in Borno State right now.
“We wanted to hear from the Service Chiefs, to know what is going on, to know how the House can help, what are the problems, what are the challenges, to talk about strategy and what we need to do?
“I am sure you do not expect the House to fold his arms over what is going on in Maidugiri and other parts.”
Underscoring the dire security condition in the North-east, the Speaker stated that there was a migration now from local governments to Maiduguri, saying “But here we are, we called the Armed Forces coordinates by Chief of Defense Staff who is not here. We have Service Chiefs who are being rpresented by their accountants.
“I am actually at a loss. For me, I believe my colleagues are in tandem with this; the absence of the Service Chiefs, the Navy is not represented as far as I am concerned, Air Force is not represented.”
Responding to some of the Services Chiefs representatives who tried to say they were present at the meeting, Gbajabiamila said: “When I say not represented, as far as we are concerned what I mean is that there is no representation. The heads are not here – Service Chiefs are not here. Ditto the Chief off Army Staff.”
The Speaker said: “I know one or two of these Service Chiefs who were somewhere yesterday night. I am aware of that. I can almost say it shows a disdain for this institution.
“The budget is on its way. We need to talk about it. What do you need? What is required? I am almost embarrassed, to tell the truth. I am almost embarrassed. There was no call placed to my office to explain why, I am just seeing accountants and representatives.
“I am not sure how to handle this. I do not think this happens anywhere in any parliament in the world, where the head of parliament will call the Service Chiefs for a nagging problem on how to resolve it and you have what you call no call, no show.
“I think it is important to postpone this meeting to Monday morning. I will personally see the president myself. I will. Because we are supposed to work as one. We are supposed to work together as a body.”
Gbajabiamila said further that “Let me just give you an example of how we are trying very hard to stem the situation and work with you. There was a motion on the floor of the House yesterday on the ‘Super Camp.’ It was meant to be discussed. When we saw it, as leadership, we said ‘no, we cannot discuss this in the full glare of the TVs and the cameras because it was a security matter.
“The man who brought the motion, I told him to join us at this meeting. Don’t worry, step this motion down, it is not meant for public consumption. I am having a meeting with the service chiefs – all of them – tomorrow. Please, join us.
“That is why he is here. We are supposed to be working together in tandem. I just used that as an example. Do I now bring up that motion on the floor on Tuesday, since there is nobody to answer our questions? I think enough has been said. We will adjourn this meeting till Monday, 10am.”
Corroborating the Speaker, the Deputy Speaker, Hon. Idris Wase, who said as chairman of a committee, he never attended to any agency in the absence of the chief executive and accounting officer, said: “I know that these Service Chiefs are the accounting officers of their various agencies. It is our practice and tradition. I am insulted and I feel insulted that these leadership would make a pronouncement and say ‘come, let us discuss the problem that is affecting our country’ but the same people who are in charge of security, coordinating it; the active officers who are supposed to be on the field are not here.
“If this honourable leadership and principal officers will make a call and they cannot attend the meeting, I don’t know what they will do to a committee leadership. That is why I want to say that this meeting should not hold and they should come unfailingly on Monday.
“There should be no excuse and there will be no excuse. There is no parliament anywhere in this world, that will make a call and someone will say they have an excuse. As I was coming in, I saw one of the service chiefs going to the presidential villa. We crossed on the way and that is the truth.”