“Let me extend our deepest gratitude to His Excellency, President Muhammadu Buhari, for his executive’s support towards the convening of this Summit. Appreciation also goes to the Speaker of the House of Representatives, the Rt. Hon. Yakubu Dogara, for the cooperation that brought the entire 8th National Assembly on board for this Summit.”
By Ateko Ejima
As Senators began a two day national security summit in Abuja Thursday, there was apathy among the ruling and opposition governors of States who are chief security officers of their respective states. The summit which was postponed last week due to burial ceremony of the late Vice President, Chief Alex Ekwueme was held at the Nigeria Airforce Conference Centre in Abuja without a single governor in attendance.
All the Ministers in President Buhari’s cabinet stayed away in apparent loyalty to him, DAILY ASSET observed at the Summit in Abuja.
The summit which was organised by Senate Ad-hoc Committee on National Security Architecture headed by the Senate leader, Senator Ahmed Lawan was in response to chatting the way forward on insecurity bedeviling the nation which the Upper chamber believes, President Buhari was not doing well.
The crisis had seen lawmakers of upper and lower legislative chambers lampooning President Buhari for not taking proactive steps in nipping the development in the bud before it happened. Senate’s decision was further triggered by pogrom in Logo, and Guma local government of Benue state as well as Taraba, Niger and Kaduma states. In Benue state, anger was further excerbated when 73 corpses were being given mass burial as a result of attacks carried out by suspected Fulani herdsmen.
Public outcry occasioned by the incident moved Senators into constituting the Ad-hoc Committee, but in a letter addressed to the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, and which was read at the plenary, President Buhari revealed measures being taken to avert security breaches in the country.
President Buhari’s refusal to honour the invitation may not be unconnected with his earlier conviction that the federal government has taken a decisive steps against the threats to national security in some states, hence, there was no need for the summit.
Moreso, the security summit which was proposed at earliest times was preferable to be held at the Villa by the Presidency, but lawmakers viewed that it was their own initiative, insisted, that it should take place at their own choice of venue.
However, Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osibanjo’s attendance couldn’t leverage Buhari’s absence, as he spoke in his personal capacity and not as a representative of Mr. President.
Apart from the absence of critical stakeholders in public and private security outfits, some host Senators in their numbers turned up after the Vice President, Yemi Osibanjo had delivered his paper and left. The situation raised curiosity that there might be no love lost between the Executive and the legislature. In his speech at the event, the Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo in a veiled reference to the needlessness of the security summit, reminded the Senate that the Executive had in August last year, held a broad security summit which traditional rulers attended. The Vice President explained that there was marshall plans that would bring an end to security threats in the country.
Supporting his position, the VP said, the legislature has been communicated over efforts by the federal government to reduce insecurity in the country. He reasoned that State policing might be a panacea to insecurity in Nigeria, adding that it was a constitutional matter that needs to looked into by the federal government. Buhari’s recent letter over Benue killing reads: “To infer that nothing has been done by the government is incorrect as the police are strenuously working to apprehend the rest of the culprits of the heartless killings in Benue State.”
“I have instructed the IGP to relocate to Benue state and redeploy forces to the most sensitive towns. The federal government is initiating measures to address these and other security challenges, alleviate the consequence of these attacks and forestall reoccurrence. The senate resolution itemised in your letter would be taken into consideration and I am instructing all relevant MDAs to factor them in their work.”
“On December 19th to be precise, while reviewing the report of the Committee that was set up to review the technical and administrative structure of the NIA, I underscored the need to review the entire national security architecture as I promised in my inaugural address on the 29th May 2015, action is being initiated to receive maximum cooperation from the senate in line with paragraph three of the senate resolutions”, Buhari told Senate in the letter.”
“You may recall that I told you of the following steps taken as soon as the information came in to me about the Benue killings. On Friday 5th January, the Inspector-General of Police briefed me verbally on the latest situation, calm had then been restored.
“On Monday 8th, the minister of interior met with the following, governors of Adamawa, Kaduna, Niger, Benue Taraba and Nasarawa together with the DG of the State Security Services, Inspector-General of Police, CG Civil Defence, Minister of agriculture and rural development and police commissioners of the six aforementioned states.
“After the meeting, I instructed the Minister of Interior to brief you on the information gathered so far and steps taken.
“9th of January, at a session with governor Samuel Ortom of Benue state during which I was informed of Police arrests of some suspects. In addition, I have instructed him to speed up trial of the suspects and give wide publicity of the Police efforts.
Meanwhile, the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki differed in his presentation, saying that it takes a political will by the Executive arm of government to tackle insecurity in Nigeria.
“Let me reiterate that we are not here to indict anybody. This is not an indictment, it is not to lay blame or point fingers, and it is not to take credit for what goes well. This process is very much solutions-driven. In order for us to ameliorate the current difficulties, therefore, it is important that people speak frankly.’
“What our country needs at this time is leadership that will work to douse the flames and reduce tension in the land. It is essential that we lower the barriers in our actions and rhetoric, and refrain from playing politics with a crisis situation in which Nigerian lives are being lost, tragically and needlessly, on a regular basis.”
“To the Executive, I say this: you cannot do it alone, and this is why we are all here to join efforts. It is all hands on deck. No one person, organisation or arm of government can single-handedly tackle the hydra-headed monster of insecurity. The Constitution makes it clear that the safety of lives and property of citizens is the responsibility of government. We in government must therefore do everything in our power to ensure that Nigerians are safe from harm, and their livelihoods and belongings protected.”
“The kind of collaborative and joined-up working that should be an example to Nigerians, is already on display here; and it is hoped that we shall use this as a springboard for the success of this Summit, the outcome of which must be such as can feed into the search for a solution” he said.
Describing the the Summit as historic, Senate leader, Ahmed Lawan said, the 8th Senate would contribute in searching for answers to security challenges confronting the nation.
“As it is now known it will soon be said of the Federal Republic of Nigeria has kept emerging security threat bedeviling the nation for a number of years now under very close scrutiny through its legislative and oversight powers.”
“In the past few months, numerous attempts by the Senate have been made to deepen our understanding of the security challenges, the capacities of our security systems, law and order as well as the concerns of communities over threat to lives, livelihood and our economy.
“The Ad-hoc Committee which I am privileged to chair is the product of genuine attempts at addressing concerns over the state of our nation’s security. The committee to review the current security infrastructure in the country is a bold effort to appreciate the strength and weaknesses of foundations of our national security and it has commenced its work and it is on record that it has already visited Benue for an on-the-spot assessment of the killings in the state in early January this year.”
“The Senate has also charged the Committee with the task of organizing this summit with the leadership of all arms of the federal government, state governments, traditional and religious leaders, CSOs, media and other experts to identify solutions on acute and long term security challenges”, Lawan said.
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