• We’ll enact laws to address root causes of insecurity, says Abbas
Adedayo Akinwale in Abuja
The sectoral debates introduced by the House of Representatives hit the rock on Thursday after the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), Gen. Christopher Musa; Chief of Army Staff (COAS), Lt-Gen. Taoreed Lagbaja; Chief of Air Staff (CAS), Air Marshal Hassan Abubakar; Chief of Naval Staff (CNS), Vice Admiral Emmanuel Ogalla and the Inspector-General of Police (IG), Kayode Egbetokun, failed to honour the invitation to appear before the House.
In anticipation of the meeting with the service chiefs, the Speaker, Hon. Abbas Tajudeen, had on Wednesday instructed that the Order Paper for Thursday be made light to give more time for the interaction.
The inaugural session was earlier scheduled to commence last Thursday, November 9, 2023 with the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Governor, Dr. Olayemi Cardoso, and his deputies but was postponed.
The sectoral debate was introduced in pursuant to Order 17, Rules 1(3) of the Standing Orders of the House.
The service chiefs billed to appear Thursday sent representatives.
Following a motion by the House Leader, Prof. Julius Ihonvbere, at plenary, which was seconded by Hon. Aliyu Madaki, the representatives were introduced into the chamber.
However, after the self introduction by the representatives of the service chiefs and the IG, the Deputy Speaker, Hon. Benjamin Kalu, objected, saying that although the representatives were competent in their capacities, they would not be allowed to speak on behalf of their principals.
He noted: “Mr. Speaker, I want to move that the chief executives, be it private sector or public sector, they must come in person. I want to pray that we don’t break this sacred tradition of our House lest we be taken for granted.
“I therefore move that this sectoral engagement be suspended until the leaders of the agencies that we invited, who are our friends, who are working for Nigeria people we are proud of, come. They should come to address us, take our questions and explain certain things to us.”
After Kalu’s motion, which was seconded by Hon. Nnolim Nnaji, the Speaker put the motion to a voice vote and it was adopted by the House.
He said: “Our dear brothers, you have heard from the House in an emphatic manner, that this House does not encourage, does not accept representation particularly at this high-level engagement.
“We thank you for coming. Please convey our message to your service chiefs, that we understand the tight schedules they have and we are willing to make an adjustment to reschedule this engagement to Tuesday next week for them to appear in person.”
The spokesperson of the House, Hon. Akin Rotimi, had, in a statement earlier last week, stated that the ‘Sectoral Debate’ series were introduced by the House to provide political appointees and key government officials an opportunity to brief members of the House of Representatives about the policies and programmes of their respective MDAs.
Meanwhile, the Speaker said the 10th House would enact legislation to address the root causes of security challenges in Nigeria.
He said the House would also strengthen the capacity of Nigeria’s Armed Forces to be able to respond to such challenges.
Abbas disclosed this on Thursday in Abuja while declaring open a two-day post inauguration retreat for members of the House Committee on Defence organised jointly by the committee and the National Defence College.
The Speaker, in a statement issued Thursday by his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Musa Abdullahi Krishi, noted that security was one of the priority areas highlighted in the Legislative Agenda of the 10th House.
He stated that the security of the nation was a collective responsibility, adding that the legislative arm of government has a critical role to play in ensuring that the Armed Forces and the police are well-equipped and adequately funded to tackle the multiple security challenges facing the country.
Abbas noted: “As legislators, we have a critical role in ensuring that the necessary legislative frameworks are in place to support the national security architecture. This includes enacting robust legislations that address the root causes of the security challenges.
“We must also strengthen the capacity of our Armed Forces and other security agencies to respond to these complex and ever-evolving challenges effectively.
“The 10th House will continue to support the efforts of security agencies and actors through adequate funding, the provision of modern equipment, ramping up training, and improving the welfare packages for security personnel.”
Also, the Defence Committee chairman said he was optimistic that at the end of the retreat, members would gain useful skills, knowledge and experiences that they would bring to bear in the performance of their duties in the committee.