•Senators decry worsening security situation, demand Olonisakin, Buratai, others’ resignations
Omololu Ogunmade and Deji Elumoye in Abuja
The presidency yesterday disagreed with the Senate over its call on the service chiefs to either step aside or be sacked over the worsening security situation in the country.
A statement by presidential spokesman, Mr. Femi Adesina, said going by the constitution, the appointment or removal of service chiefs, like other appointees is the prerogative of President Muhammadu Buhari and he would be guided by national interest on whether to fire or to continue to retain them.
The statement was a riposte to an earlier resolution yesterday by the Senate asking the Chief of Defence Staff, Gen. Abayomi Olonisakin, and the three other service chiefs to resign forthwith over their inability to address the insecurity in the country.
The other service chiefs are Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen. Tukur Buratai; Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar; and Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Ibok- Ete Ibas.
The statement said the presidency had noted the resolution, but he would only do what he considered to be in the interest of the country.
It said: “The Senate Tuesday adopted a resolution calling on the service chiefs to resign or be sacked due to the multi-pronged security challenges in the country.
“The presidency notes the resolution and reiterates that appointment or sacking of service chiefs is a presidential prerogative and President Muhammadu Buhari, in his capacity as Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces will do what is in the best interest of the country at all times.”
The call for the resignation of the service chiefs was a sequel to the adoption of a motion entitled: “Rising Number of Casualties Among the Nigerian Army and Other Security Agencies,” moved by the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Army, Senator Ali Ndume.
Ndume, who came via point of Order 43, had while explaining the dire situation in Borno and other states in the North said in the last few days, scores of soldiers had been killed, while others had been declared missing by army authorities.
He said: “The Senate notes with concern the number of casualties among the Nigerian Army and other security agencies. Just recently, 24 soldiers were ambushed and killed along Maiduguri-Damboa road in Borno State, 19 were wounded and nine were declared missing in action.
“In Katsina, soldiers were also ambushed and killed while several others were wounded and the number of casualties is not known.
“The Senate appreciates the sacrifice of our armed forces in the fight against the insurgency and banditry and protection of territorial integrity and several other security assignments given to them.
“The Senate is concerned that if the trend continues, it would have serious implications on the fight against insurgency, banditry. It has been alleged that over 200 soldiers voluntarily resigned their engagement or appointment with the Nigerian Army.”
Contributing to the motion, Senator Ibrahim Gobir, identified lack of coordination among the military, as the major reason for the setback in the fight against banditry and insurgency.
According to him, lack of coordination and cooperation recently led to the sacking of 13 villages hitherto recovered by the military while a local government headquarters is also being occupied by bandits.
Leader of the Senate, Senator Yahaya Abdullahi, said while many security reports had been submitted to the executive, but no action had been taken.
He, therefore, called for a change of tactics by the military.
He said: “This Senate will not keep quiet to the importance of this issue. And whenever challenges of the nature that have occurred as narrated by Senator Ali Ndume, we should come out very clearly to show our disgust and at the same time commend those operating as security forces who lay their lives so that we can survive to be free.”
A former deputy president of the Senate, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, also said the frequent losses of lives and the apathy in the military were a dangerous sign.
He added that the primary responsibility of government is the protection of lives and property and urged the government to take charge and safeguard the lives of Nigerians.
In a supplementary prayer, Senator Francis Fadahunsi moved for the sacking of the service chiefs, and in an overwhelming response, senators for the first time since the Ninth Assembly was inaugurated, adopted the prayer.
Fadahunsi had said: “Thank you Mr. President, distinguished colleagues. The additional prayer is that the present crop of service chiefs should step aside for the new ideas to come in so as not jeopardise security system.”
The Senate, thereafter, constituted a joint committee to receive briefing on the state of affairs of the security services to determine the next line of action.
The joint committee, which has four weeks to report back to plenary, is made up of Defence, Army, Air Force, Navy, National Security, Nigeria Police and Interior with the Defence committee leading the interface.
Commenting on the motion, President of the Senate, Dr. Ahmad Lawan said: “The spirit of this motion is that our armed forces are trying very hard just like the president said.
“The good is still not enough but we need to continue to encourage them, we need to continue to provide for them, they lay their lives on behalf of all of us and of course, it is very sad that some of them are alleged to have deserted the war front. We need to get to the bottom of this.
“This our joint committee should be able to find out the facts about this allegation of over 200 deserting the war front and of course those that are dead we will observe a minute silence.”