By Adedayo Akinwale
The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, has admitted that the government of the day has failed in its primary responsibility of protecting the lives and property of every Nigerian.
He stated categorically that from the abundance of the failures has emerged a culture of self-help in matters of internal security that portends grave danger for the nation’s continued existence.
Gbajabiamila stated Wednesday at the plenary while delivering his speech on the resumption of the lawmakers for the 2021 legislative session.
He stressed that the true test of government is in its ability to protect the most vulnerable, adding that it is impossible to separate the goal of economic prosperity from the ambition to ensure that people live in a just society free from abuse of power and protected by a justice system built on fairness and the rule of law.
To this end, Gbajabiamila noted that the House would shortly begin considering Bills to amend the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, and also follow it up with a long-overdue review of the Trafficking In Persons (Prohibition) Enforcement And Administration Act and other legislation that seek to deliver a justice system that works for all.
He stated: “The security and welfare of the people shall be the primary purpose of government. With these words, the constitution obligates all of us who swear to serve in government to do everything to protect the lives and property of all citizens and promote their well-being above all else.
“This obligation is central to the governing contract between the government and the citizenry. Every time a citizen going about their business is killed or kidnapped, loses their property or livelihood, we have failed in our obligation.
“From the abundance of these failures has emerged a culture of self-help in matters of internal security that portends grave danger for our nation’s continued existence.”
The Speaker pointed out that if there was a time for all to put aside all other considerations, especially the petty concerns of partisanship and politics, it is now.
He added that if ever there was a time to set aside differences of tribe and religion to focus on a concerted effort to defeat the challenges of insurgency and banditry, communal violence, and the violent struggle over land, that time is now.
Gbajabiamila noted that the forces that threaten lives and property, sovereignty and nationhood, do not make any exceptions based on the God individual prays to or the language of individual’s native tongue.
According to him, from every region and state, citizens of every tribe and religion have suffered and will continue to suffer the pain of death and the grief of loss until we put an end once and for all to the terrors of banditry, insurgency and malignant crime in all forms.
Gbajabiamila said: “Here in the National Assembly, we do not command any armies or control the police. Command and control of our nation’s security infrastructure is an exclusively executive responsibility. Yet it is to us that our constituents look to when the forces of darkness descend to disrupt their lives, often irreparably.
“We have to reconcile the obligations we owe to our people with the constitutional limitations under which we operate. But we will not shrink from our role as advocates for the forgotten voices, and we will continue to exercise the appropriation and oversight authority vested in us to hold to account those who bear direct responsibility for the protection of all our nation’s people.”
Gbajabiamila said in the 2021 legislative year, the House would focus its attention on bills and motions that improve ease of doing business and unlock economic potential by stripping away restrictive regulation and ending predatory regulatory practices that deprive young people the opportunity to conquer new frontiers.
He said in this age of technology and innovation, of daring and enterprise, government cannot risk implementing policies that handicap the ability of the nation to participate in new markets and profit from emerging industries.
The Speaker said it has become more difficult with each appropriation cycle for the government to meet its obligations, considering the exploding recurrent cost of governance demands.
He, therefore, urged the lawmakers to be more circumspect in the priorities the parliament pursues, particularly regarding Establishment Bills in the National Assembly.
Gbajabiamila said at a time of reduced revenue, with preexisting and worsening infrastructure deficits requiring significant investments, the parliament cannot afford to keep establishing more institutions that impose a permanent liability on government income.
“I am not unmindful of the realities that often necessitate such legislation, yet we cannot ignore the facts that lie before us. Let us work together to reform and strengthen the institutions already in existence, and remove those no longer fit for purpose. I believe most sincerely that this is the pathway to a legacy that we can all be proud of,” he said.