As Senate Interfaces with Service Chiefs, Security Heads Tuesday…

Sunday Aborisade examines efforts being made by the Senate to tackle the current security challenges facing the country especially its proposed engagement with the military and security agencies’ top brass this week.

While the federal lawmakers were away from legislative functions between December 30, 2023  and January 30, 2024, series of activities and events affected the security situation of the country and the nation’s economy.

The terrorists had intensified their evil activities in most parts of the North especially in Borno, Plateau, Kaduna, Niger, Zamfara states and other parts where they are either protecting their sponsors’ illegal mining businesses or executing their inordinate expansionist agenda.

Some security experts have identified the root causes of banditry and insecurity in Nigeria to include illiteracy, unemployment, poor leadership, porous borders, proliferation of arms, and non-compliance with the rule of law.

As expected, senators from affected constituencies had on resumption, prepared  motions on the dangerous development and offered suggestions on how to find lasting solutions to the menace.

During the holiday, however, the Chairman, Senate Committee on Finance, who represents Niger East, Senator Sani Musa, called for the establishment of State Police, as a panacea to the current insecurity in the country.

Musa also advocated massive recruitment into the armed forces.

He also made a case for the adoption of new tactics in intelligence gathering to address the  state of insecurity caused by multiple crimes, banditry and spate of kidnappings across the country.

The Senator urged the Federal  Government  to re-engineer the nation’s security architecture against the backdrop that the present one was not working.

He said all the tiers of government  and Nigerians must recognise the fact that

security remained essential for the survival and flourishing of any society.

According to him, it has become imperative that all hands must be on deck to ensure the protection of individuals, communities, and the entire nation against dangers and attacks.

Musa however, urged Nigerians to  give President Bola Tinubu the needed support to do the needful in the nation’s quest for renewed hope.

Other parts of the country were not spared by the terrorists and some of their indigenous collaborators as the rate of kidnapping increased drastically with the military and security agencies appearing totally helpless.

The police had on a few occasions, paraded some suspects and claimed to have rescued some of their hostages but victims have countered such claims by insisting that their loved ones paid huge ransom to regain their freedom while insisting that the real kidnap lords were still walking freely on the streets.

The situation had also pitched the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, Nyesom Wike, against the Senator representing the Federal Capital Territory, Ireti Kingibe, over the rising cases of kidnapping and other crimes in the nation’s capital.

Kingibe had condemned the situation and told journalists that the Senate would summon Wike on resumption.

Senators from crisis-ridden areas on resumption of plenary, approached the Senate President, Godswill Akpabio, to move separate motions on insecurity but they were advised to harmonise their views and make a joint presentation.

The suggestion was approved by the House and it was resolved that the harmonisation should be done at closed session so that it would have the input of all members since no part of the country had been spared by the criminal elements.

The Senate, after the closed session, re-invoked its earlier resolution to summon the service chiefs and heads of security agencies in the country to find out efforts they were making to address the unfortunate situation.

The red chamber took the decision after passing a harmonised motion sponsored by the entire 109 senators and moved by the Senate Leader, Senator Opeyemi Bamidele.

The Senate in the joint motion, noted with sadness the rising spate of killings, kidnappings, banditry, and other criminal activities across the nation.

It insisted that the recent killings in Agatu local government area of Benue State, including security personnel and destruction of properties as well as the brutal killings of 11 residents of Logo Local Government Area of Benue State were uncalled for.

The Senate equally noted with great concerns, the various kidnappings in the Federal Capital Territory where victims were killed after collecting ransom.

The upper legislative chamber said it was also aware of several cases of kidnappings all over the country where huge ransom had been paid and several of the victims still got killed.

It lamented that the recent killings of two traditional rulers and the abduction of primary school pupils in Ekiti state had further aggravated the level of insecurity in the country.

Senate equally noted the unfortunate bomb explosion at the Bodija area of Ibadan, the Oyo State capital where no fewer than five lives were lost and several residential houses, schools, hotels, and religious centres destroyed.

The federal lawmakers agreed that the service  chiefs and security heads would explain to them, the killing of several residents of Mangu, Bokkos, and Barkin Ladi communities in Plateau State, among other incidents.

The Senate thereafter observed a minute silence in honour of the departed.

Senate President, Godswill Akpabio, who presided over the plenary, said the leadership will meet with President Bola Tinubu after the engagement with the military and security chiefs.

His words: “After the interactive session with the security chiefs, which we agreed that it should be next week, we would also fix a time to discuss the outcome with Mr President.

“We have a responsibility to collaborate with the executive and contribute our ideas to ensure that our constituents and ourselves, including our children can sleep with their two eyes closed.

“Security is everybody’s business, and without security, we can not have progress.

“We are very determined to make laws and pass resolutions aimed at ensuring rapid progress of the country and the immediate improvement of the Nigerian economy.

“This will not be possible without a secured nation. We will take this up with Mr. President after interaction with security chiefs.”

When the red chamber reconvened last week, the lawmakers agreed to grill the security chiefs closed sessions on Wednesday and Thursday last week.

However, on Wednesday after another round of closed session, the Senate postponed its meeting with the service chiefs and heads of the various security agencies to Tuesday this week.

The Senate President, after the service chiefs, the Inspector General of Police and the Director General of State Service had been ushered into the chamber and comfortably seated at plenary, said the postponement was to accommodate the National Security Adviser (NSA), Nuhu Ribadu, Chief of Defence Staff, General Christopher Musa and the Ministers in charge of Finance, Defence, Interior and Police Affairs Ministries in the engagement.

According to him, the interface could not hold because the NSA and the CDS were not part of the military and security chiefs in attendance.

Akpabio added that an apology was received from Ribadu on his absence but that he and the Chief of Defence Staff, must be present at the very important session.

He added that apart from Ribadu and Musa, the Senate had also resolved to invite other security heads to the planned meeting.

Those included to the planned session on Tuesday are the  Minister of Defence, Abubakar Badaru;  Minister of State for Defence, Bello Matawale; Minister of Police Affairs, Senator Ibrahim Geidam; and the  Minister of State for Police Affairs, Imaan Ibrahim.

Others are Minister of Interior, Hon Olubunmi Tunji-Ojo; Minister of Finance who is also the coordinating Minister of the Economy, Mr. Wale Edun and the Director General of National Intelligence Agency, Ahmed Rufai Abubakar.

Akpabio commended the Chief of Army Staff, Lt . General Taoheed Lagbaja; the  Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Emmanuel Ogalla; the Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshall Hassan Abubakar;  the Inspector General of Police, Kayode Egbetokun and the Director General of Department of State Services, Yusuf Bichi, for honouring the Senate’s invitation.

He said: “We thank you all for honouring our invitation for the very important interface on way out of the lingering security crisis at hand. But due to the absence of the NSA and the Chief of Defence Staff, the interactive session will no longer hold today.

“Besides, the Senate in its wisdom, has decided to add other public officers whose offices are connected to security matters, to be part of the interactive session.

“The Clerk of the Senate, has been directed to write them ahead of Tuesday, now fixed for the session. We need their presence along with those of you here today, for holistic and comprehensive brainstorming on the problem at hand and required solution”.

Gauging the mood of the country and the fact that appreciable progress had not been made in the area of security despite the huge resources at the disposal of the military and security agencies, Nigerians are not really expecting a drastic departure from the current approach to combating security.

Bewildered Nigerians who are currently living in fears, expect the Senators to insist on the decentralization of the security architecture in the country to accomodate the active involvement of the state governors, chairmen of local government and even traditional rulers.

In the meantime, the Centre for Peace and Environmental Justice, (CEPEJ) has urged the Federal Government to empower traditional rulers in fight against insecurity.

The group said considering constitutional roles for traditional institutions in the nation’s security architecture, would help  in the fight against insecurity. It said doing so would foster national economic growth and stability.

The National Coordinator of  CEPEJ, Chief Mulade Sheriff, stated this in Abuja.

Sheriff said, “In view of the high level of insecurity in Nigeria in recent time, accentuated by the spate of killings and kidnappings across the country, we hereby call on the government at all levels, and state apparatuses to consider the role of traditional institutions in the nation’s security architecture, in the fight against insecurity, so as to foster national economic growth and stability.”

He said CEPEJ is a foremost civil society organisation with over 20 years experience and impeccable track record across the nation on peacebuilding and peaceful coexistence, human rights protection, effective security intelligence gathering, and environmental justice advocacy,

According to him, “One of the surest means to fight and end insecurity in Nigeria is to engage the traditional rulers with the responsibility of ensuring that their respective domains are totally free from insecurity issues.”

He said, “It is important to note here that traditional rulers, as custodians of culture and traditions in their kingdoms, are more familiar and abreast with their domains and environments.

“This places them in a strategic position as leaders that can effectively take charge and control of their areas.

“Therefore, they should be given the responsibility  to protect lives and property in their domains in collaboration with security agencies, particularly the Nigeria Police Force (NPF), and the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC).

“I strongly believe that such collaboration will go a long way towards bringing the security challenges under control.

“It is also worthy of note that bandits, kidnappers and other criminal elements hide in a locality/place, within the domain of a traditional ruler, where they carry out their nefarious activities which have become an international embarrassment to Nigeria. The insecurity issue equally affects the country’s economic growth.”

Sheriff said the group was determined to forward to the National Assembly Committee on Constitution Review, a memorandum on the need to empower monarchs to have security votes to tackle insecurity in their domain.

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