A Legislative Screening for the Daunting Task Ahead

0
Babajimi Benson

Udora Orizu writes that the Chairman, House of Representatives Committee on Defence, Hon. Babajimi Benson and his counterparts in security committees are set to screen the new service chiefs as requested by President Muhammadu Buhari

With the continuous rise in kidnapping, banditry, terrorism, farmers/herders crisis in the country, both chambers of the National Assembly commenced legislative activities of the year 2021, addressing the deteriorating security situation of the country.

The height of insecurity in the land clearly showed that the Service Chiefs are not doing enough to curb the menace and this has brought about the calls by lawmakers and other stakeholders for their sack or resignation.

The calls which predated Buhari’s second term in office, became more strident not only because of the rising wave of insecurity but also due to the fact that the security chiefs were overdue for retirement. Their continued stay in office was seen as hindering the career growth of their subordinates, many of who retired without getting to the peak of their career in the armed forces.

While former Chief of Defence Staff, Olonisakin, a member of the 25th regular combatant course, spent about 40 years in service, former Army Chief Buratai and former Naval Chief Ibas spent 38 years in service. The sacked Air Chief Abubakar spent about 40 years in service. The statutory retirement age is 35 years in service or 60 years of age.

As the newly appointed watchmen gear up to tackle the insecurity currently bedeviling the country, the Senate and the House of Representatives, last week set up ad-hoc committees to screen the new service chiefs.

While the Senate Joint Committees on Defence, Army, Navy and Air Force will handle that of the red chamber. The committees on Defence, Army, Navy and Air Force as well will handle that of the green chamber, to be chaired by the Chairman House Committee on Defence, Hon. Babajimi Benson.

National Assembly Stance on security situation of the country

Though, President Muhammadu Buhari has finally changed the Service Chiefs, the growing rate of insecurity in the country has not abated, hence security is again a top priority of both chambers of the national assembly.

At the plenary last week, the Senate urged the President to direct the National Security Adviser (NSA), Maj. Gen. Babagana Monguno (rtd), the service chiefs, and the Inspector-General of Police, Mr. Mohammed Adamu, to rejig the nation’s security architecture for more effective counter measures to tackle the security challenges facing the country.

The Senate, in resolutions passed after a debate on a motion on insecurity, also asked state governors to implement the National Livestock Transformation Plan in order to prevent farmer-herder conflicts.

In the resolutions read by the President of the Senate, Dr. Ahmad Lawan, at the plenary yesterday, the Senate also urged security agencies to deploy drones and helicopters in the forests and other ungoverned spaces to identify illegal camps of bandits so as to crush the criminals.

The senators also observed one- minute silence in honour of all victims of insurgency, banditry, herdsmen-farmers’ clashes, and other security challenges.

The Senate had formulated the resolutions following points raised by Senators Tolulope Odebiyi (Ogun West Senatorial District); Solomon Adeola (Lagos West Senatorial District); Kola Balogun (Oyo South Senatorial District); Ali Ndume (Borno South Senatorial District), amongst others, for urgent action to be taken against the security challenges in the country.

The Senate, therefore, urged Buhari to direct Monguno, the new service chiefs and Adamu, to rejig the nation’s security architecture and evolve more effective counter measures to battle security challenges, particularly in the rural areas.

It urged the state governors to re-invigorate rural governance and convene dialogue to promote local conflict resolution and inter-ethnic harmony.

The Senate also advocated a scheme to checkmate the proliferation of firearms and enforce the laws against illegal possession of firearms.

It said by implementing the National Livestock Transformation Plan, the governors would help to eliminate transhumance in order to prevent farmer-herder conflicts.

In other resolutions, the Senate urged the federal government to adequately equip the Nigeria Immigration Service and the Nigerian Customs Service to police and monitor the country’s borders using technology to check illegal immigrants, and checkmate smuggling of firearms and light weapons.

The Senate further urged the federal government to resuscitate and inaugurate the National Task Force Commission to combat the proliferation of Light Weapons, Small Arms and Ammunition; and urge the federal government to review the ECOWAS Protocol of free movement to checkmate the infiltration of criminal elements into Nigeria.

Meanwhile at the House plenary on February 10, the Speaker of the House, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, 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 these failures has emerged a culture of self-help in matters of internal security that portends grave danger for the nation’s continued existence.

Gbajabiamila stressed that the true test of government is in its ability to protect the most vulnerable, adding that it was 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.

Gbajabiamila added: “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.”

Previous Calls for Sack of Service Chiefs

The 9th House since their inauguration on June, 11, 2019 has been clamouring for the resignation of the service chiefs due to their failure to curb the worsening insecurity in the country.

Back in January 29 2020, the lawmakers while debating a motion on the need to curb the incessant attacks by the Boko Haram insurgents moved by the Chief Whip, Hon. Mohammed Monguno, asked the Service Chiefs to resign or be sacked by the President.

After the long debate on the motion, the lawmaker representing Chibok/Damboa/Gwoza federal constituency of Borno State, Ahmadu Jaha, called for the resignation and/or sacking in the additional prayers he made on the motion.

The lawmakers called on “all the service chiefs to resign immediately, failing which the President should remove them”.

Again, the green chamber in September last year, adopting a motion on the need to curb the rising cases of banditry, killing, and kidnapping in Niger state, sponsored by Hon. Shehu Barwa Beji and Hon. Saidu Umar Doka, asked President Muhammadu Buhari to give effect to subsisting resolutions of the House bordering on the removal of Service Chiefs.

However, their resolutions were ignored by President Buhari.

Buhari finally heeds to parliamentary calls

Eventually, after several strident calls from the parliament and Nigerians, President Muhammadu Buhari finally replaced the Service Chiefs on January 26, 2021.

According to a statement issued by the President’s Media Adviser, Femi Adesina, the new Service Chiefs are: Major-General Leo Irabor, Chief of Defence Staff; Major-General I. Attahiru, Chief of Army Staff; Rear Admiral A.Z Gambo, Chief of Naval Staff; and Air-Vice Marshal I.O Amao, Chief of Air Staff.

The statement said Buhari congratulated the new Service Chiefs, and urged them to be loyal and dedicated in the discharge of their responsibilities.

The statement also said Buhari accepted the immediate resignation of the Service Chiefs, and their retirement from service.

The retired service chiefs are the Chief of Defence Staff, General Abayomi Olonisakin; Chief of Army Staff, Lt-Gen. Tukur Buratai; Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Ibok Ekwe Ibas; and Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar.

The President thanked the outgoing Service Chiefs for what he called their “overwhelming achievements in our efforts at bringing enduring peace to our dear country,” and wished them well in their future endeavours.

A welcomed development

Soon after the presidency announced the resignation of the service chiefs, the House of Representatives praised Buhari for finally heeding to calls of parliament and Nigerians.

The House Spokesman, Hon. Benjamin Kalu in a telephone call with THISDAY described the appointment of new service chiefs as a reflection of a leadership that listens.

He said that the executive have shown that they have a listening ear to the desires of not just the parliament but the desires of Nigerians by replacing the service chiefs.

Kalu noted that the coming on board of the new service chiefs is an injection of new energy, which though may not be automatically magical but still a good step that will take the nation closer to the desired solution to the insecurity issues.

While appealing to Nigerians to manage their expectations in what they want coming out of this new position given to the new service chiefs, the House spokesman also urged everyone to support, partner and encourage them.

He assured that the parliament will support the service chiefs through legislative interventions, motions, bills and any other intervention that will help them achieve success.

He said, ”For the House of Representatives, it is a reflection of the leadership that listens. On our part we’ve shown that we pay attention to wishes desires hunger, need of the Nigerian people. What they actually wanted is what we have carried on our shoulders and presented at the plenary as their representatives.

”On the other side lies the executive who receives the resolutions passed in the parliament. We have shown intensity of desire in making sure that these wishes of the people got granted by the Executive and today, the executive have shown that they have a listening ear to the desires of not just the parliament but the desires of Nigerians.

”Having said that, it’s doesn’t mean there’s going to be a magical solution just by this resignation that has been accepted by Mr President. But what it holds for Nigeria is an injection of new energy, new military strategy, which though may not be automatically magical but it seems like a good step that will take us closer to the desired solution to the insecurity issues in the country.

”What we owe this new team of armed forces that have come to protect us is to give them our support. We want to ask those that we represent to manage their expectations well, a mismanaged expectation will place unnecessary burden on this new team and might make them to derail from the purpose.”

Speaking on the changes the new service chiefs will bring on board in regards to the insurgency war, Hon. Kalu said it is the the style, culture and structure as it appeared that the old team were having a problem of marginal utility.

According to him, ”It’s the style, culture, because leadership styles are different, no two leaders lead in the same way. Some lead according to tradition, others employ innovation, innovation that’s hinges on technology and advanced strategy, that’s hinged on the right motivation.

”At a point it appeared as if the old team were having a problem of marginal utility, where you’ve done one thing for too long and you’re becoming boring. So we saw that a lot of marginal utility was setting in the management of the insecurity problem in Nigeria by the past leaders. This new leaders are coming with new energy. They must have watched the mistakes of past leaders and must have innovated a way that may not be too traditional but solution driven to give Nigerians the kind of security they are looking for. The style, leadership structure, strategy is going to change, but all of them will still be within the military code of conduct.”

Seeking the Parliament’s Nod

Following the appointment of new service chiefs, President Buhari wrote to both chambers of the national assembly, seeking confirmation of the nominees.

Buhari in a letter dated January 27, 2021 and addressed to the Senate President, Ahmed Lawan and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, said that the screening was in compliance with the provisions of Section 18 (1) of the Armed Forces Act Cap A.20 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004.

The President urged the lawmakers to consider and confirm the nominees in the usual expeditious manner.

Setting up the adhoc committee

Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, on February 10, referred the request of President Muhammadu Buhari seeking the confirmation of the new service chiefs for appointment to the Senate Joint Committees on Defence, Army, Navy and Air Force for further legislative work.

Lawan, gave the committees two weeks to carry out their assignments and report back to plenary.

Chairman, Senate Committee on Army, Senator Ali Ndume said that Senate Joint Committee on Defence, Army, Navy and Air Force may start the screening of the newly nominated Service Chiefs this week.

Just like the Senate, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, same day referred Buhari’s request for the confirmation of the new Chief of Defence Staff and Service Chiefs to the House Committees on Defence, Army, Airforce and Navy for screening.

The Speaker, set up an ad-hoc committee to be chaired by the Chairman House Committee on Defence, Hon. Babajimi Benson to screen the new service chiefs.

Hon. Benson, according to Gbajabiamila, is to work with the Chairmen of other security committees, Hon. Abdulrasak Namdas (Army), Hon. Shehu Koko (Air force) and Hon. Yusuf Gagdi (Navy), their deputies and at least five members of their committees to carryout the exercise in strict adherence to Covid-19 protocols.

Renewed Hope

Following their confirmation by both chambers of the national assembly, there will be renewed hope for the citizenry, who believes there will be a renewed onslaught against insurgents, bandits and other criminal gangs whose despicable activities have shot issues of insecurity into a national emergency. All eyes are now on them to deliver where their predecessors failed.

QUOTE 1

The House Spokesman, Hon. Benjamin Kalu in a telephone call with THISDAY described the appointment of new service chiefs as a reflection of a leadership that listens. He said that the executive have shown that they have a listening ear to the desires of not just the parliament but the desires of Nigerians by replacing the service chiefs. Kalu noted that the coming on board of the new service chiefs is an injection of new energy, which though may not be automatically magical but still a good step that will take the nation closer to the desired solution to the insecurity issues. While appealing to Nigerians to manage their expectations in what they want coming out of this new position given to the new service chiefs, the House spokesman also urged everyone to support, partner and encourage them. He assured that the parliament will support the service chiefs through legislative interventions, motions, bills and any other intervention that will help them achieve success

QUOTE 2

The Senate also advocated a scheme to checkmate the proliferation of firearms and enforce the laws against illegal possession of firearms. It said by implementing the National Livestock Transformation Plan, the governors would help to eliminate transhumance in order to prevent farmer-herder conflicts. In other resolutions, the Senate urged the federal government to adequately equip the Nigeria Immigration Service and the Nigerian Customs Service to police and monitor the country’s borders using technology to check illegal immigrants, and checkmate smuggling of firearms and light weapons. The Senate further urged the federal government to resuscitate and inaugurate the National Task Force Commission to combat the proliferation of Light Weapons, Small Arms and Ammunition; and urge the federal government to review the ECOWAS Protocol of free movement to checkmate the infiltration of criminal elements into Nigeria