Standing Together Against a Common Foe

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In this report, Adedayo Akinwale and Udora Orizu, dissect last week’s resolution by both chambers of the National Assembly following the recent killing spree witnessed across the country

That Nigerians are now endangered species in their own country is the lowest ebb the citizens have reached under the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari. Security agencies and theirpersonnel that were supposed to be the shoulder to lean on are now targets forelimination by non-state actors.

The lack of capacity, competence and ability on the part of President Buhari has led the country to a precipice. At the moment, nowhere and no one is safe in the country. The government of Buhari appears to have been taken over by bandits, hijacked by Boko Haram and manipulated by greedy cabals, who are feeding fat from the ills that have befallen the country.

Many say the security situation wouldn’t have been this bad if the President’s body language had not encouraged the mindless killings of Nigerians especially, from the blood thirsty herdsmen.

On January 1, 2018, Fulani herdsmen killed about 70 people in the Agatu area of Benue State. Rather than the President condemning the murderous act, he asked the victims to learn how to live with their neighbours. By this, many believed the President gave the non-state actors the licence to kill.

Moreso, in the past weeks, it has been tales of sorrow, blood and tears. At least, 239 people were killed and 44 others kidnapped in separate violent incidents across the country.

Highlights of Recent Killings

Last Sunday, no fewer than 20 persons were killed in reprisal attacks between vigilante groups and bandits in Maru Local Government Area of Zamfara State; while on Monday, two police officers were killed in Anambra State, in a deadly attack by gunmen on a police facility in the state.

The story was the same on Tuesday, when 20 students and three staff of Greenfield University in Kaduna State, were kidnapped, with the kidnappers demanding 800 million to secure their release.Five of the students have been murdered.

Also, on Wednesday, attacks by suspected bandits across villages in Zamfara State, left at least 83 persons dead and hundreds of others, including women and children, injured; while on Thursday, gunmen reportedly abducted 18 passengers in a commercial bus in the Ibarapa axis of Oyo State, among others that were not even reported in the media.

Situating N’Assemby’s Resolutions

It was based on the fact that the insecurity challenges facing the country appears intractable that the two chambers of the National Assemby reached various resolutions, which as usual, were “Non-Radical” to tackle the intractable security mess in the country.

The Senate Debate

The Senate expressed anger over the deteriorating security situation of the country, and therefore mandated its leadership to book an appointment with President Buhari and the service chiefs to discuss the issue and proffer lasting solutions.

The Senators aired their views while contributing to a motion on urgent national importance, titled:‘Need for federal government to deploy troops and other security apparatus to immediately bring an end to the menace of insurgency and terrorism in Niger State and other parts of Nigeria,’ sponsored by Senator Mohammed Musa (Niger East).

The Senate also resolved to invite the service chiefs to brief them on what they’ve been doing to tackle the menace. It further resolved to invite the Minister of Foreign Affairs, its defence counterpart, and the Director General of Nigeria Intelligence Agency (NIA) to discuss the regional implications of the security challenges.

The Senate called on the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), the Chief of Army Staff (CAS) and the Inspector General of Police (IG) to immediately deploy troops to defend the unarmed populace and bring back security to the affected communities.

But the President of the Senate, Dr. Ahmed Lawan, rejected a proposal by some senators to shut down the Senate for a while and deliberate behind closed doors on a daily basis due to the security issue.

The Red Chamber urged the CAS and the IG to as a matter of urgency, direct the establishment of a permanent military and police command base at the axis adjoining Shiroro and Rafi Local Government Areas respectively and to redesign the modus operandi of the military operations within the affected areas so as to curtail the escalating insecurity.

It also directed the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs and National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) to, as a matter national emergency, provide relief materials and medical support team to the victims immediately.

Moving the motion, Musa lamented that the activities of bandits and Boko Haram terrorists in Niger State have taken a dangerous dimension.

He recalled that the Senate had made several resolutions, set up Ad hoc Committee on Security and declared every support at bringing to an end the persistent insecurity in the country, yet, insecurity has continued to elude the nation.

According to him, for almost seven years, the Niger East Senatorial District have come under constant and sustained multiple deadly attacks by heartless and venomous Boko Haram terrorists, who are always heavily armed with assorted sophisticated and dangerous weapons unleashing their horror on innocent populace.

Musa noted that about 42 communities across the two local government areas of Shiroro and Munya have so far fallen under the Boko Haram control with about 5,000 villagers already displaced in the last three days.

He said the Boko Haram terrorists have mounted their flags in many of the villages they have captured, such as Kaure, Alawa and Magami, and the inhabitants of the war-torn parts of the state have been abandoned and left to their fate thereby compelling them to wallow in perpetual agony and abject misery.

Musa stated: “They have kidnapped many and their wives seized from them and forcefully attached to Boko Haram members. Three military camps in Allawa, Bassa and Zagzaga in the two local government areas have been sacked and some security personnel killed by the insurgents in the last one month of renewed attacks.

“The negative effects of atrocities committed by these heartless monsters in the period under review include among others, total collapse of the local economies of the affected victims, total collapse of educational system in the affected areas, famine due to collapse of agricultural activities, displacement as a result of desertion of crisis prone areas, depopulation as a result of wanton deaths, social vices such as drug abuse and thuggery emanating from struggle for survival, trauma arising from serial rape cases and inhumane, cruel and deadly subjugation,” Musa said.

The repeated attacks, according to Musa, are taking place amid the absence of slightest hindrance, resistance or confrontation from the authorities concerned.

Musa called for a total review of the nation’s security architecture, adding that if this menace was not drastically addressed, the attacks would continue and the danger was that it might escalate further to other communities.

In his contribution, Senator Sabi Abdullahi (Niger North) said something drastic has to be done to curb the menace.

He said: “We are here once again discussing this unfortunate issue of insecurity. It is indeed with a very heavy heart that I lend my support to this motion. In this chamber, we’ve traced the genesis and possible scenario as narrated by the motion sponsor, even before the crisis got to Niger State, we have discussed it thoroughly. My concern is that something drastic needs to be done. I represent Niger North, and my constituency is in constant attack. They have driven all the farmers away and the bandits now occupy those areas.”

On his part, Senator Bima Enagi (Niger South) lamented that the federal government is handling the issue of insecurity with kid gloves.

“The situation is bad, our women, men can’t go to the farms or fetch water. Nigerians can’t continue to bear this pain, we can’t continue to allow Boko Haram to force our young girls into marriage or wreak havoc. The federal government is handling this with kids’ gloves, people are dying everyday. We can’t continue to come here to talk, something must be done,” he said.

Senator Ike Ekweremadu said nothing has come out of the many security-related motions moved by the lawmakers over the years.

According to him, “Our citizens are killed, police stations destroyed on a daily basis. Mr President recall that in the 8th Senate, you headed a summit, where we discussed the security situation of the country and made recommendations, but nothing has happened about that. In this particular Senate, we have several lawmakers moved several motions on this. It’s time for us to sit up and take the business of protecting our people seriously.”

An emotional Senator Smart Adeyemi opined that government should get help from outside as the country was bleeding.

“The president must rise to the occasion; the country is on fire. We cannot keep quiet any longer. Our security system has collapsed, we need help from outside. The security architecture we have today can’t fight this. The president must know that the country is bleeding.”

Lawan, while rejecting the proposal by some senators to shut down the Senate for some time as they deliberate behind closed doors on the issue, suggested that supplementary budget was needed to recruit more security personnel and purchase arms.

Lawan said: “What we’ve done today is to speak the mind of our people, how they are faring in the security situation of the country. But what is crucial is to proffer solutions. I don’t think it’s the best of ideas to close the Senate, because there’s serious security situation. It’s when there’s challenges that you should be opened not closed, we shouldn’t be detached or discouraged. This is the essence of parliament.

“There’s no arm of government that’s not concerned about the security situation of the country. Everyone is concerned. We must appropriate funds for the military. They require additional man power, and they can’t do that without funds being appropriated for them. So, we need to have a supplementary budget, not only for recruitment but for procurement of weapons. It’s going to be expensive but that’s an investment that’s worthwhile. We appeal to our citizens, this is a case in our lives, we are already in it and by the grace of God we will get out of it.

“As government plays its roles, citizens should do theirs as well. There’s no intelligence without the help of the citizens. I also commend our security forces. They work with less than what they should have, some paid the ultimate sacrifice. In my state, last week, so many policemen were killed. They do this work with very limited resources and it’s our duty to give them all the support they require, as well as hold them accountable. We urge the executive arm of government to request for supplementary budget to give our armed forces the resources they require.”

Adopting the motion, the senators thereafter observed a minute silence for all the victims of the callous acts of criminality across the country.

How the House Stood

While there was debate on the issue of security in the Senate, there was none in the House as the lawmakers went into Executive session that lasted for three hours discussing the issue of security facing the country. At the end of the three hours meeting, the House called on President Muhammadu Buhari to declare a state of emergency on security in the country in order to fast track all measures to ensure the restoration of peace.

It also summoned the National Security Adviser, Service Chiefs, and Paramilitary Chiefs, Controller General of the Nigerian Customs Service and the Managing Director of Nigerian COMSAT to brief the House on the Security situation in the Country.

Speaker of the House, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, who read the resolutions condemned attacks on security agents and formations and sympathised with their families.

The House also sympathised with all the families and communities that have been victims of banditry, terrorism and criminal elements in the country, particularly in Ukpo, Ifitedunu, Dunukofia, Geidam LGA, Abagana, IDP Camp in Makurdi Urikpam, Jato-Aka, Police Divisions in the South East, Ehime Mbano, Uzo-Uwani in Enugu State, Uzuakoli, Abia State, Balenga Local Government Area of Gombe State, and parts of Imo and Nationwide.

The House reiterated its commitment to the security and corporate existence of Nigeria and would therefore accelerate its engagement with stakeholders on a Special Security Summit to be organised by the House.

It stated: “The House should urgently invite the NSA, Service Chiefs, and Paramilitary Chiefs, Controller General of the Nigerian Customs Service and the MD of Nigerian COMSAT to brief the House on the Security situation in the Country. Considering the Security situation, the President should immediately declare a State of Emergency on Security so as to fast track all measures to ensure the restoration of peace in the country.”

It also urged the federal government to ensure the protection of National Infrastructure assets, particularly the Shiroro and Kainji Dams in Niger State.

The House, therefore, mandated all its Security Committees to immediately commence a comprehensive audit of all military and paramilitary assets and arms in our Armed Services and revert to the House within four weeks.

The House stated categorically that the number of personnel in the Police and Military falls far short of the required number to effectively secure the country and therefore called for immediate recruitment to this effect.

How Births a 40-man Committee

Sequel to the resolution of the House, the Speaker has inaugurated a 40-man Committee to find a solution to the security challenge that has assumed an intractable dimension. Gbajabiamila said the Committee would hold a 4-day security summit in May, adding that it would be open to journalists,because of its seemingly sensitive nature.

He stated: “We are all aware of the grave circumstances in our country today, which have been so for some time. It has gotten to a point, where this House, sitting and deliberating and the Leadership felt the need to constitute this committee to begin to deliberate on how to address and tackle the situation we found ourselves.

“It is in view of this prevailing reality that the House of Representatives appointed a special committee to undertake a comprehensive study of the challenges of our national security from the perspective of the legislature. At the end of it, we’ll recommend a practical and innovative solution that will help us to build up our national security and challenges.”

The Speaker stressed that there was a clear and urgent need to take necessary action across different arms and levels of government and to articulate solutions to ensure an effective discourse of the challenges facing the country. In doing this, the Speaker added that there was need to proceed with caution and wisdom in order not to further compound the problems or create new ones.

“After our meeting yesterday (Tuesday) where we met for over four hours, it was clear that we are all on the same page irrespective of ethnicity or party affiliation and religion. It behooves us as a legislative arm of government to begin to fashion out ways to deal with this problem, which seems over the years to be intractable. This 9th Assembly will find a solution to whatever the problem is,”Gbajabiamila added.

Fears of a Compromised Military

A member of the House of Representatives from Kabba/Bunu federal constituency of Kogi State, Hon. Tajudeen Yusuf, has called on the federal government to hire machinery to fight insecurity facing the country before Nigeria becomes history.

He added that the military cannot save Nigeria from the present security situation, because it has been hugely compromised by the political class.

The third term lawmaker disclosed this Wednesday in Abuja while speaking on the deteriorating security situation in the country, adding that Nigeria was in a very dire situation and that extreme illness requires extreme medicine.

The lawmaker said Nigerians should not expect any radical resolutions from the National Assembly,because of the idea of excessive affiliation and loyalty to the party, adding that until the members come to terms with those realities that parties are vehicles but the constitution of the country should guide their actions on the floor.

“So, where we are today? Don’t expect a radical position. If you remember, when we invited the President, how some of our colleagues reacted that we dared to invite the “almighty”. Don’t you see the mentality? Some were ready to fight physically for inviting the President of the country,” Yusuf said.

He noted that the Nigerian army needs to be rejigged and that the administration of President Buhari has done so much damage to the military.

His words: “We are in a very unusual situation. I would quote Malcolm X who said an extreme illness requires extreme medicine. I have come to realise that waiting for matters to come on the floor is not enough for where we are. So, I chose to come to say, hey, our country, if not already, is near Armageddon. We are near the precipice. When you want to cut down a tree, you bring an axe. When the tree finally comes down, it is not the last hit that brought it down, it is the cumulative of all the hits. We do not know the last that would bring Nigeria down.

“We are in a situation that is avoidable but because we have a president, who has a mindset of what he wants and deliberately encourages what we are seeing today. However, I doubt if they understand the consequences. It is possible to want something, because you are a bit hollow,” he said.

The lawmaker accused President Muhammadu Buhari of focusing on what he assumed would accrue as advantage to him, forgetting that the aftermath of that single advantage will not be in the best interest of Nigeria. Yusuf was of the opinion that the country was in this present mess, because of the failure of the political class.

He added: “Nigerian security apparatus as it is cannot deliver us from insecurity, because they are easily compromised. It is the failure of the political class that gave birth to that.”