When N’Assembly Descended on Service Chiefs

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Lawan-and-Gbajabiamila

The rising wave of insecurity in the country attracted the attention of federal lawmakers last week as they took a swipe at the security chiefs over their inability to contain the menace, report Deji Elumoye and Adedayo Akinwale

What a day! That was the best way to capture what transpired last Wednesday, in the two chambers of the National Assembly, when the growing insecurity was subjected to intense debate. The federal legislators were in their best elements as they condemned the inability of government to address the mounting security challenges facing the nation.

A whole day was dedicated to the debate on the nation and the security challenges with the lawmakers taking turns to lampoon the Executive as well as canvassing for the sack of the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) as well as the three services for being bereft of ideas on how to address the security challenges.

It all started at the Senate, where the Senate President, Dr. Ahmad Lawan, stated that the embarrassing security situation in the country called for urgent legislative intervention and urged his colleagues to proffer solutions to the problem.

The debate centred on the motion titled, ‘Nigerian Security Challenges: Urgent need to restructure, review and re-organise the current security architecture’ sponsored by Senate Leader, Senator Yahaya Abdullahi and 105 others with three minutes time frame given to every Senator to speak.

Leading the debate, Senate leader pointed out the casualty associated with banditry attacks, kidnapping, armed robbery and other security challenges facing the nation and called for urgent intervention by the upper legislative chamber.

By the time the Senate President recognised the Senate Minority Leader, Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe to speak, the momentum changed and the chamber became agitated, when Abaribe in a no-hold-barred submission called for the resignation of President Muhammadu Buhari over failure to solve the security situation facing the country almost five years after becoming President.

Although Lawan tried to interject, Abaribe was able to marshal his point to the admiration of his colleagues in the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

The Senate Minority Leader, who spoke the minds of the 44 PDP Senators during the debate, said the President should resign forthwith for his inability to nip the security problems in the bud.

He said: “Nigerians did not elect the IG, we did not elect the Chief of Staff, we did not elect the joint chiefs, we did not elect the National Security Adviser. We elected the government of APC in 2015 and re-elected them in 2019. The reason why we re-elected them was that they continued to tell us that they had the key to security.

“When you want to deal with a matter, you go to the head, so we will go with the government and ask this government to resign, because they can no longer do anything. Yes, the Nigerians voted a government into power and that government even said, if we don’t perform, stone us. We are going with the stones to stone them now, because they are no longer performing”.

Abaribe further stressed that, “When I was coming this morning, I saw the newspaper headline of THISDAY with Mr. President and Commander-in-Chief expressing shock at the level of violent crime in the country. In other words, Mr. President was expressing surprise. But in accordance with our Rule 53(13) I will not go into that but I will only say, Mr. President, in pidgin English, this surprise surprise me,” he said.

At the end of the debate, the Senate, in its resolution, while urging the Presidency to declare a national security emergency also set up a 17-man ad-hoc committee headed by the Senate Leader, Senator Abdullahi, to engage the security agencies and report back to the Senate within two weeks.

Members of the committee include Senators Abaribe, Sabi Abdullahi, Ali Ndume, Aliyu Wammakko, Haliru Jika, Kashim Shettima, Bala Ibn Na’Allah, George Sekibo, Ibrahim Gobir, Suleiman Kwari, Geisham Bassey, Stella Odua, Ibikunle Amosun, Abba Moro, Yusuf Abububakar and Kabiru Gaya.

The terms of reference of the Ad-hoc committee include engaging the National Security Adviser on the implementation modalities of the December, 2019 national security strategies, engaging the National Security Institution to discuss their operational structures, funding, equipment and staff disposition with a view to reviewing the national security architecture “to make it more responsive in tackling the myriad of security challenges facing the nation and the people; and produce a draft implementation modality/blueprint on the ways and means of tackling the current security challenges for the consideration of the Senate”.

It was another ball game entirely in the House of Representatives, as the members demanded the immediate resignation of the Service Chiefs. The green chamber called on President Buhari to sack them if they failed to resign.

The House reached the resolution following the unanimous adoption of a motion moved by the Chief Whip, Hon Mohammed Monguno, on the need to curb the incessant attacks of the Boko Haram insurgents

The lawmakers, who spoke passionately maintained that the Service Chiefs had not been able to address the security challenges confronting the country since July 2015, when they were appointed by the President, adding that they had adopted same strategies that had not yielded any positive result.

Arguing, Monguno lamented that the Boko Haram insurgents who were relegated to the background are now unleashing terror in Borno and Yobe States, adding that recently the insurgents had forced the Nigerian military to close traffic on the Damaturu-Maiduguri Road for some days, noting also that the Damaturu-Maiduguri road was the only access from Maiduguri to other parts of Nigeria.

The lawmaker expressed worry that the closure of the road had left travelers stranded and affected business activities in Maiduguri and is thus causing untold hardship to the people. He stressed that the closure of the road was an indication that the Boko Haram insurgents had seized the road and attacked communities on that axis.

Monguno said the incessant attacks on the communities along the Damaturu-Maiduguri road axis had forced the residents of the communities to flee to refugee camps in Maiduguri for safety.

Hon Abdurazaq Namdas, while speaking, described the upsurge in attacks by Boko Haram in the North-east and increasing insecurity across the country as worrisome, but opposed the idea of removing all the personnel currently serving in the area, saying their experience was still needed to assist those that will be sent to work there.

He reminded the House that the Nigerian constitution allows the President to invite the military to intervene in internal security of the nation, but stressed the need to retrain and equip the police to properly handle internal security in the country.

On his part, Hon. Francis Waive, said the issue of insecurity in the country had gone beyond the issue of one zone, stressing that every Nigerian should be concerned about what is going on in the country. He noted that the Service Chiefs should ask themselves whether they have performed creditably well and whether they are proud of what they have achieved since their appointment in 2015.

He therefore called on the Service Chiefs to resign, while also calling on the President to take another look at the Service Chiefs with a view to replacing them with fresh hands, who will bring fresh ideas into the security system in the country.

Adding her voice to the debate, Hon Beni Lar, argued that the North Eastern part of the country has gradually been brought to a standstill with the resurgence in activities of Boko Haram.

She said the lawmakers could not sit back and watch as if nothing was happening. She also questioned the intelligence gathering mechanism of the military, which she said appeared to be lacking, adding that Boko Haram seemed to be ahead of the Nigerian military in terms of intelligence gathering.

The Minority Leader, Hon. Ndudi Elumelu, in his contribution called for more investment in equipment for the security agencies and stressed that there was no way you can ask policeman to rescue you when he is poorly equipped.

He alleged that some Nigerians are making money out of the system and would not want the insurgency to end, questioning however the capacity and motivation of the security agents to carry on with the fight.

Elumelu noted that the Service Chiefs were not showing good example and had outlived their usefulness, adding that, “The best thing for them to do is to take a bow and go. If you don’t know when to leave, then you will be eased out.” He said Nigerians must be told that some people are feeding fat on the system and that, “People are stealing money and not doing what they are supposed to do”.

After the long debate, the House called on “all the service chiefs to resign immediately, failing which the President should remove them.”

Earlier, before the motion was taken, House Speaker, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila decried the spate of insecurity in the country, saying neither the security institutions nor political leaders can afford to hold on too tightly to a status quo whose frustrating limitations are painfully evident, whilst reflexively rejecting innovations that may improve the country’s fortunes if properly implemented.

He noted that all people of conscience mourned the loss of a reverend and a senior member of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) in Adamawa State, Mr. Lawan Adimi, who was recently executed by the Boko Haram sect.

He however added that in the midst of mourning, their hearts were broken once more by the release of a video depicting the gruesome assassination of Mr. Ropvil Dalep Daciya, a student from Plateau State, who was abducted by suspected Boko Haram terrorists on his way back to school at the University of Maiduguri.

Gbajabiamila however said to overcome the country’s overwhelming national security challenges required everyone that would be willing to accept new approaches and consider novel ideas.

“Neither the security institutions nor political leaders can afford to hold on too tightly to a status quo whose frustrating limitations are painfully evident, whilst reflexively rejecting innovations that may improve our fortunes if properly implemented.

“Our cup of endurance has run over and we are no longer willing to labour under these dark clouds of random violence inflicted upon our people by faceless cowards whose ends we do not understand, and whose means we do not know. God forbid that it is now our nation’s fate to live forever under the threat of abduction and murder.

“What gaps and weaknesses continue to exist in the national security infrastructure that makes us more susceptible to the machinations of those who seek to achieve wealth and power through brutal violence? How do we achieve for all our people, a just and honourable peace?

“These questions are never too far from my mind, and I know that it is the same for you too, because often it is you who are at the frontlines responding to the concerns of constituents, who have themselves been victimised and those who fear that the moment of their own affliction is only a matter of time and circumstance.

“This House will shortly take action to put these questions before those agencies of our national security to whom our constitution and other legislation have granted the powers and the resources to ensure the safety and security of all our people.”

A day after the National Assembly’s call on the service chiefs to resign, the President held a meeting with the security chiefs in the State House in Abuja but rather than relieving the security chiefs of their duties, President Buhari at the end of the closed-door meeting only gave an assurance that government would continue to do its best possible to secure the nation.

Time will, however, tell if the Executive will hearken to the voice of the legislature that the service chiefs had overstayed their welcome in tackling security challenges facing the nation and should therefore be sacked, having in mind that the 479-man National Assembly spoke the minds of the over 200 million Nigerians they represent.