By Omoniyi Salaudeen and Daniel Kanu
The threatening security challenge facing Nigeria again resonated on the floor of the Senate last Tuesday. Ostensibly worried by the rising trend of banditry in the Northwest and the seeming invincibility of the Boko Haram insurgents in the Northeast, the lawmakers unanimously passed a vote of no confidence in the Service Chiefs and accordingly called on them to “step aside” to allow fresh blood to take charge.
The Chairman, Senate Committee on the Military, Senator Ali Ndume, had introduced a fresh course on the issue of funding of the military operation, but the lawmakers went a notch higher to review the general security situation in the country and consequently passed the resolution, urging President Muhammadu Buhari to sack the Service Chief. For Ndume, it was an unintended consequence. But then, the majority had the final say.
This is not the first time such a resolution would be passed by the National Assembly. It has been a recurring decimal. The reason President Muhammadu Buhari has decided to keep them on the job in spite of the negative perception about their performance remains a matter of conjecture.
President Buhari himself had last month told the Service Chiefs that their performance was not good enough, and gave them a marching order to find a solution to the rising security challenge. He also expressed displeasure over the lack of synergy among the security forces and asked them to work together to solve the nation’s security challenges. It was, therefore, surprising to many concerned stakeholders when the Presidency in a quick respond to the Senate’s resolution said the decision to sack or retain the Service Chiefs was the sole prerogative of the president. The tenure of the current Service Chiefs spanning over five years is the longest in the recent past. They clocked five years in office on July 13. Yet, there is no indication that Buhari is ready to heed the call for a change of guard. For some couple of weeks, Kaduna and Katsina have been under siege of the bandits, wreaking havoc on innocent citizens with no end in sight.
Expectedly, there has been a deluge of reactions to the renewed call by the Senate. While some say they (Service Chiefs) have outstayed their usefulness, others confer the power to hire and fire on the president.
A former governor of the old Anambra State, Dr Chukwuemeka Ezeife, in an interview with Sunday Sun, said that keeping the Service Chiefs on the job amounted to rewarding failure.
His words: “National Assembly is a very powerful body. If they decide on an issue, like the Service Chiefs, I don’t think it is proper to oppose it. These Service Chiefs are supposed to be in charge of security for Nigeria, but there is no security. So, why are we compensating failure? If they are not doing what they are supposed to do, if they are not achieving what they are assigned to do, I don’t see why they should remain in the position. The main thing is that conscience is dead in Nigeria, which is why there is comprehensive corruption. If the National Assembly asks them to go, let them go. Nigerians are not satisfied with their performance. Therefore, their going will be an improvement.
“We look for excuses all over the place. If things are well organized, communities will have no problem. Blaming the communities for the failure of security agencies is just a way of looking for excuses. We didn’t appoint the communities to be information security agents. It is security agents that plan for a way to collect relevant information from the people. It is not the role of the communities to submit security information. It is the role of security agencies themselves to collect security information for the communities. So, they cannot blame people for what they have not done.”
His Kaduna State counterpart, Alhaji Balarabe Musa, in a contrary opinion, dismissed the Senate’s resolution as diversionary, saying President Buhari should take responsibility for the sorry plight of the nation.
“The call for the removal of Service Chiefs is diversionary. Are the Service Chiefs responsible for the state of the nation? Are they the president? Will sacking them change anything? It is diversionary to blame the Service Chiefs because they take order from the president. They are responsible to the president. They are not working on their own. He (president) is the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces. It is he who appointed the Service Chiefs. Removing them will not change anything because they did not appoint themselves. They are not security officer of the state, they are not Commander-in-Chief. Why blaming them for the state of security of the nation,” he queried.
In his own submission, a former Minister of Police Affairs, General David Jemibewon (rtd), urged the executive and legislature to work together to find a common ground for the security challenge confronting the nation.
He, however, insisted that the prerogative to sack the Service Chiefs lies with the president.
“The National Assembly legislators are the representatives of the people and they made their contributions in the appointment of the Service Chiefs. If they want things done in a certain way, they can consult the president and the president can also consult them. I think there must be a way the two parties can find a common ground. Having appointed them, I am not too sure that the National Assembly can compel the president to relieve them of their appointments. So, they must find a medium through which they can settle whatever disagreement they have.
“It is only the person who made the appointment that can remove without any serious friction. The president has the prerogative to appoint and to sack. The National Assembly can make recommendation, can agitate the removal of a particular person holding an office, but the reality is that the person who has powers to appoint is likely to be vested with the authorities to remove,” Jemibewon argued.
In another perspective, a renowned security expert, Dr Ekhomu Onah, unequivocally declared that the Service Chiefs had failed in all performance indicators, calling for a deep introspection into the current state of the nation.
According to him, the Senate’s call for the sack of the Service Chiefs “underlines the seriousness of the matter.”
Expressing concern over the deteriorating security situation in the country, he said: “The threat of insecurity is metastasizing, it is growing in severity, it is growing in frequency. Unless something is done to tamper it down, it is going to get worse. The Service Chiefs are giving us what we call input efficiency, they are giving us the amount they spent in doing different things. What they are not giving us is the picture of the measure of performance. The measure of performance for security is attack prevention.
“The best measure of performance is attack deterrent; being in a position that you are so strong that the bad guys are discouraged. That is what is desired in all instances.”
According to Ekhomu, the recent resignation of 356 soldiers is an indication that Nigeria is not winning the war, noting that the development portends a great danger.
He lamented: “It is a very dangerous portent. It is quite ominous. When people are quitting in large number like that, it means the warriors themselves have given up. Some of the warriors are fed up because they are the ones on the frontline. It means they are becoming disillusioned. It means their morale is low. It means the will to fight is leaving them because to fight you have to be angry. It also means that they don’t believe in the cause of the war any more. All of these are very negative connotations. When you have such thing happening, there is a need for time to do introspection.”
Meanwhile, some concerned stakeholders have called for a forensic audit of the military operation to identify the areas of challenges facing the troop.
But Ekhomu, in a quick reaction, dismissed the argument, saying it would amount to an effort in futility.
His words: “You are not going to get any useful answer because much of what they are doing is shrouded in secrecy. They will tell you they cannot disclose certain information because of national security. When they say that, what are you going to do? Instead of that, we should ask for metrics-measure of performance. Are they deterring attacks? Are they detecting attacks? Are they countering the enemies? How effective is the war on terror? These are objective measures; this is not politics.
“Any time a bomb goes off, that is a measure of insecurity in the whole land. On September 11, 2001, the US was attacked, and they lost 2,000 people in World Trade Centre. Since then, no other attack has succeeded on American soil. That is an objective measure of performance. We have seen school children abducted in Chibok, we have seen children abducted in Dapchi. We have seen abduction galore everywhere, in the Northeast, Northwest and so on. We’ve seen military base being overrun. We’ve seen soldiers go into defensive position in what they call super camp.
“These are all indicators that there is something certainly wrong with whatever strategy we are implementing right now. And we need to refocus, we need to rejig, we need to reconstruct, we need to reengineer all our strategies. Whatever we are doing right now is not working. War is too important to be left to the Generals alone. Generals will just want to keep fighting. They just want to keep shooting for the next 30 years.
“The state governors are the chief security officers of the states. So, they should create their own intelligence infrastructure. Sitting there, waiting for the arm to come and police everywhere is irresponsible of the state governors. They should use self-help remedy and stop complaining like women.”
Also speaking in the same vein, an activist and the 2015 presidential candidate of the National Conscience Party (NCP), Martin Onovo, maintained that Service Chiefs had overstayed their relevance and needed to be shown the way out, describing their performance as catastrophic failure.
“We cannot continue to tolerate mediocrity and find excuses for failure. The Service Chiefs are a catastrophic failure. Results don’t lie. They have overstayed and are overdue for retirement. They have not been able to defeat the rag-tag Boko Haram; they have not been able to defeat the bandits. There is no new idea you can get from them because they have pulled all the strings they know. Security of lives and property of the citizens is not anything any government jokes with, but it is sad we are playing politics with it here,” he posited.
“The Army chief has been in office for not less than five years. Five years is enough time to show performance. He has not shown performance, he has failed woefully and we have lost nearly 3,000 soldiers to these bandits. He keeps re-assuring everybody that everything is okay. If everything is okay and after five years you cannot defeat them, why are we continuing to retain them? No excuses will hold now. The Senate is completely in order,” Onovo added.
Similarly, Evangelist Elliot Ugochukwu-Uko, founder, Igbo Youth Movement and secretary-general, Eastern Consultative Assembly (ECA), shared the same view, saying that security watch under the present Service Chiefs had been a disaster.
He declared: “They have proven to Nigerians, as well as the entire world that they are incompetent. They should have left long ago, they are incompetent, they have proven to the entire world that they are incapable. Continuing to keep them there is absurd. Killings continue to go on in Southern Kaduna, Zango-Kataf, day after day. Killings continue to go on in Borno, Zamfara State etc, every other week.
“Communities have been displaced in the Northwest and the Northeast has remained a boiling cauldron. Boko Haram now has the temerity and effrontery to attack military barracks, military formations, and base, lay ambush on a military convoy.
“There is no doubt that the Service Chiefs have outlived their usefulness unless we don’t want to tell ourselves the bitter truth. In fact, the Service Chiefs are now part of the problem. It is very important to note that the amount of money voted on security, equipment for the military in the last five years is the highest since Nigeria began. Upon all the resources expended they have failed woefully.
“It is an old story that people cannot travel from Abuja to Kaduna or Kano. Do you also now know that nobody can travel from Enugu back to Abuja? You cannot pass Lokoja whether you are passing from the Ibadan axis to Abuja or you are coming from Enugu axis to Abuja. We don’t have any security any longer.
“It is sad that President Buhari is still dragging his foot on the issue. The earlier they are thrown out, the better for the country.”