From Ndubuisi Orji, Abuja
Since the inauguration of the ninth National Assembly on June 11, 2019, issues relating to the deplorable security situation in the country have dominated discourse in the House of Representatives. On the average, the House entertains at least one motion or bill on security every legislative day.
So far, no fewer than 200 security-related motions have been passed by the House in the last 19 months; with far reaching resolutions. Among the resolutions are a vote of no confidence on the service chiefs and call for President Muhammadu Buhari to sack them, in the event that they fail to resign.
The latest resolution of the House on security was the invitation of President Buhari to appear before it, to explain efforts to check the rising insecurity across the country, especially in the North East, as well as a demand for a declaration of a state of emergency on security in the country. However, not much has come out of the many motions.
Three weeks ago, the lawmakers, enraged that the government is seemingly not taking decisive steps to address the security challenges in the country, ranging from insurgency, banditry, kidnapping and other violent crimes, insisted that President Buhari must appear before them over the issue.
The trigger was the recent killing of 43 farmers in Zabarmari in Jere Local Government Area of Borno State by suspected Boko Haram insurgents.
In the aftermath of the Zabarmari killings, the speaker, Femi Gbajabiamila had told the House, at plenary, on December 1, that it is imperative for the government to rethink the war on terrorism in the country. Gbajabiamila lamented that after more than a decade, with huge resources expended, the country does not appear close to defeating terrorism.
He said: “for more than a decade, we have confronted the evil that is Boko Haram. We have not won and do not appear close to winning the war against terrorism in Nigeria. Yes, we have recovered territory and land in places where not so long ago, the black flags of Boko Haram flapped in the desert air as an affront to our nationhood and a rebuke to the failures that brought us to that ignoble end.
“But we must ask, what does it mean to recover territory if our people cannot live, and work and trade in these places? What is the value of land whose only purpose is to bury the unfortunate dead?
“We must rethink this war on terror. We must ask ourselves what it is we are doing wrong? What have we failed to do? How is it that despite the billions in resources expended and the countless lives lost, we still are at the mercy of murderers who offer only the promise of death and the certainty of destruction and condemnation in this life and the next?
“Now is the time to ask difficult questions. We ask these questions in the sincere hope that through our collective and concerted search for answers, we might arrive at a solution that spares us further bloodshed. We ask these questions in the hope that the answers we find will heal our land and make our people whole. We ask these questions because we must.”
The speaker’s speech was to set the tone for the discourse on the debilitating security challenges in the country on that fateful day, as members were unanimous in their views that the government needed to do more in combating insecurity.
The lawmakers, while speaking on a motion by the Borno State caucus on the Zabarmari killings, had expressed indignation that the country is not making sufficient progress in the war against terrorism and other violent crimes across the country.
Ahmed Satomi, who led debate on the motion, said there was need for the Federal Government to listen to the voice of reason and adopt new strategies in combating insecurity in the country. Satomi said a declaration of a state of emergency on security in the country will enable the government reorganize its security architecture and restrategise in the prosecution of the war against terror and other criminal activities.
‘In looking at the security architecture, new modalities must be introduced in fighting this crime. I call in strong terms on the Presidency to look into the prayers of the National Assembly and open up ways to listen to the legislators. To listen to people that have technical know how. Without listening and accepting that there are loopholes in security, there is no way we can solve this problem. I call on the Federal Government to adopt new strategy, new tactics to fight insecurity in the country,” he stated.
The lawmaker added: “I want to call on the Federal Government, particularly looking at the deliberations we have made in this chamber in the first 19 months from 2019 June. From my statistics, this chamber discussed over 206 security issues. But believe me, action is not yet as expected. ‘
The deputy minority leader, Toby Okechukwu, in his contribution, canvassed for the probe of the Defence Industry Corporation (DICON), which is saddled with the responsibility of producing arms in the country. Okechukwu added that apart from ascertaining DICON’ s preparedness to produce weapons, the parliament should probe the procurement of one $1 billion worth of military equipment since 2018.
“We have DICON, which is Defence Industry Corporation, ordinarily should be responsible for the manufacturing of arms in this country. I will ask the House that we mandate the House Committee on Defence and Army to investigate DICON on their manufacturing status to determine their level of preparedness regarding weapons needed for national use.
“Two, we had ordered some equipment from overseas. The House should mandate the House Committee on Defence and Finance to investigate the status of the procurement of one billion dollar worth of equipment since 2018.
“Since non-state actors can bear arms and kill our citizens without let or hindrance, the House should seek an amendment to the firearms act to give eligible Nigerians the right to bear arms,” he added.
The debate assumed a new twist, when the Honourable Ahmed Jaha, member representing Damboa/Chibok Federal Constituency of Borno State, insisted that President Buhari must be summoned to appear before the House over the security challenges in the country.
Jaha said:”These security forces have been given all the support to do the job. If we invite them, they will say they don’t have enough equipment. Yesterday, the President said he has given them all the support to do the job. And unfortunately, they fail to do it.
“Secondly, I said on the floor of this House that we are not taking the battle to their door steps. And everybody resolved that yes, they are not taking the battle to their door steps. Yesterday, the President confirmed that this time they should be taking the battle to their door steps. Mr President should be invited to come and explain the security situation in the country, especially in the North East.”
Gbajabiamila, after a visit to the Presidential Villa, Aso Rock, to convey the resolution of the House to President Buhari, announced that the President has agreed to honour the invitation of the House. The Presidency later announced that President Buhari will address a joint session of the National Assembly on December 29.
The chairman House Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Benjamin Kalu, expressed optimism that after the dialogue with President Buhari, there would be remarkable difference in war against insecurity.
Kalu said:”We are looking at solutions, if he visits us and we interact with him, the question you will ask me is after the visit of Mr President, what next. Okay, he walks through the door and we interact with him; has that stopped the killing in the North? No.
“He will come but beyond the coming of Mr President, what we’re saying today is that the House has equipped Mr President with the mandate to declare a state of emergency on security”.
Nevertheless, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) caucus in the House said Nigerians should compel their representatives in the National Assembly to commence impeachment proceedings against the President immediately.
The caucus in a statement by its leader, Kingsley Chinda , accused President Buhari of allegedly violating Section 14(2)(b) of the 1999 Constitution( as amended), which provides that “ the security and welfare of the people shall be the primary purpose of government; …”
It also called on members of the Federal Executive Council to invoke the provisions of Section 144 (1) of the 1999 Constitution ( as amended) “by declaring that the President is incapable of discharging the functions” of his office.
‘We call on Nigerians across tribe, religion and political party to wake up their National Assembly Members and compel them to commence impeachment process against President Buhari to save Nigeria,” the PDP caucus stated.
Regardless, the House leader, Alhassan Ado-Doguwa, dismissed the call as unnecessary. Ado-Doguwa told Daily Sun that it was unpatriotic for anyone to call for President Buhari’s impeachment at this particular time.
According to him, ‘ it is baseless and unpatriotic of the PDP Caucus to call for the impeachment of Mr. President at this critical period of our democratic journey.
“President Buhari in his last 5years in office has checked insecurity in the country to a significant extent. And a lot is being done by this administration to bring insurgency to a final end. Our scheduled engagements with Mr. President would definitely provide unprecedented solutions to these precarious situation.”
Alas! On the scheduled date, President Buhari did not show up. The Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, a day to the President’s scheduled appearance before the parliament had said the House lacks the constitutional powers to summon Buhari over security issues.
Amidst public indignation over the failure of President Buhari to honour the invitation of the House, the PDP caucus reiterated its call on Nigerians to compel members of the National Assembly from their constituencies to begin the process of removing the President from office.
Apparently embarrassed by the whole affair, the House has been evasive on the failed appearance of President Buhari before the parliament. While Gbajabiamila tactically blocked a motion, seeking an explanation over the issue, Kalu said the House was still waiting an official communication from the Presidency.
Ironically, the House spokesman, while rationalising the failure of the President to honour similar summon by the Eight House, had boasted that President Buhari had not reason not to appear before the Green chamber this time.
Like the ninth House, the eight House under Dogara as speaker had passed countless motions on security in the country, including demanding the sack of the Service chiefs and summoning the President. However, nothing concrete came out of the motions.
Then, the big question is, now that the President has failed to appear before the House and is yet to implement most of the security related resolutions, what would the parliament do next? Only time would provide an answer to the question.