Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja
President Muhammadu Buhari has set up a committee to periodically review the security situation in Nigeria.
The Federal Government has also agreed on the need to increase funding for the security services, especially the police, their welfare and of their families, in order to boost their commitment in crime fighting.
The committee’s members are to be drawn from the executive, legislature and the ruling party.
This development follows the call by the Senate and House of Representatives last week for the sack of the service chiefs as well as other drastic measures to tackle the deteriorating security situation in the country.
Answering questions from State House correspondents after a meeting with President Buhari, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, while not disclosing the names of the committee members, said it would include members of the executive, the legislature and the ruling party.
He said the committee would help find lasting solutions to the security problems in the country.
The Speaker said the National Assembly’s leadership believed that something drastic needed to be done under the present circumstance, but added that the removal of the service chiefs may not entirely address the crippling insecurity in the country.
When asked if changing the service chiefs would impact positively on the fight against insecurity, Gbajabiamila replied, “Is the President as concerned as we are? Answer: probably more. Is the President looking to do something about it? Answer: yes. The question of security is uppermost in his mind and he opened up to us and you must understand that some communications are privileged, but suffice to say that the President is concerned and he intends to do something about our challenges.
“Opinions are divided; the generality of the opinion is that the service chiefs should go, that was evident in our debates in the House of Representatives and in the Senate, but sometimes you don’t want a knee-jerk reaction.
“Many of us identify that something drastic has to be done, there’s also the school of thought that says since we are talking about banditry, kidnapping and murders, what have the armed forces got to do with that, anywhere in the world? So, the question then arises that, if he changes the service chiefs, does that address the issues of kidnapping and banditry? The army, navy and air force are outfits set up to tackle external aggression. It is the police that is set up for internal security, such as we are all witnessing.
“That’s talking about service chiefs; has the Inspector-General of Police met up with his responsibilities? The question is, if we now narrow it to the IGP, many will argue that he has done a very good job and many will argue with you that he’s hamstrung, straight-jacketed, there’s very little he can do in the face of no equipment, no funding, and we explained to Mr. President that we have to increase funding, we have to recruit more.
“We are talking, even just right now we have gone on to set up a committee that will periodically review the issue of security, maybe once a month or once in six weeks, which will involve the two arms of government and the party.
“Major progress was made in this discussion, which is a meeting that lasted over an hour, and I believe Nigerians will begin to see traction, they’ll begin to see changes. You can be sure that concrete steps were taken in that direction.”
The Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, who was part of the meeting, also said President Buhari was worried about the deteriorating security situation in the country.
He said: “We met with Mr. President over the security issues in the country and other matters of governance. The recent security challenges this country is facing requires that we work very closely.
“We had the debates in the two chambers of the National Assembly last week and resolutions were taken and we have come to discuss with Mr. President on the way forward, what we feel about some of these security challenges and also to ask him what he thinks we should do. Even though, in the Senate, we have our ad hoc committee who are to work and fashion out the specific measures we believe should be taken, but in the interim there is need for us as a government to ensure that we provide a way out, to tackle the security challenges. In the intermediate and the long term, we should be able to come up with some strategies, the road map to ensure that we secure the lives and properties of Nigerians.”
Asked if the sack of the service chiefs was part of the discussion, Lawan said: “We discussed everything that matters, as far as the issue of security in this country is concerned. We believe that it is imperative that we are able to provide those necessary equipment and welfare for the armed forces of this country and the police, to ensure that they are able to operate and perform efficiently and effectively.”
Asked about Buhari’s response, the Senate President said: “Mr. President was forthcoming, of course, as the leader of this country, he is more worried than anybody else about the situation. So, we are on the same page that we should be able to do whatever it takes to ensure that the security agencies are able to perform better than they are doing now.”
Asked if changing the security chiefs would solve the problem, he reolied: “You see, in matters of security, of course, as leaders, we are supposed to lead but when it concerns security every single citizen matters in this. So, it is for all of us, citizens and leaders, to ensure that we are playing our part as it is necessary. But I believe that now the time has come, we have reached a tipping point that everybody in Nigeria is concerned about the security situation and, therefore, we are all prepared and that is why we have come to meet with Mr. President as leaders of the National Assembly on behalf of our colleagues, to discuss the way forward. And of course I believe that citizens participation is critical and crucial.”
Asked if the issue of using technology to fight insurgency was also looked into, Lawan said: “Definitely we are looking into technology but don’t want to divulge everything discussed about security. But I believe that the issue of technology is important. We need to minimise the casualties of our armed forces and therefore we need to apply technology and become more efficient.
“It is also critical that because we are dealing with human beings, you are asking the military, the police to go and fight insurgents, kidnappers and bandits, you also need to do something about their welfare. How do they live? where do they live? What is the condition of the schools for their children? And so in and so forth. So these are issues that are very important and could have very impact outcomes when we are able to do the right thing and we will do them.”