NASS SECURITY SUMMIT: A bait from Presidency?

President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan, on Wednesday, dropped the hint of his plan to convene a national security summit. Coming from a man who in 2018 was saddled with a similar assignment by his immediate predecessor, Senator Bukola Saraki, his declaration to conduct a fresh summit was taken with a pinch of salt by his colleagues. Is this initiative genuine or a hollow ritual to buy time for President Muhammadu Buhari who has since dismissed similar calls from certain eminent Nigerians as unpatriotic? TAIWO AMODU examines the prospect of Senator Lawan’s fresh proposal.

THE Senate on Tuesday resolved to convoke a national security meeting with relevant stakeholders to arrest the rising spate of insecurity across the country.

Speaking after listening to contributions of his colleagues on the pervasive, scary insecurity situation, President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan, said the national discourse had become compelling to assure Nigerians that the political elite was responsible and responsive to their fears and anxieties.

Senator Lawan, who shared the disaffection of his colleagues over the seeming helplessness of the nation’s security agencies, further described the security situation in Nigeria as perverse.

He said: “We should have a robust national summit on the security situation of this country. Instead of taking more time on this, we (should) go through the prayers and try to organise the national summit on security to address the situation.

“Let me, once again, mention that the security situation of this country is perverse and every part of the country has a story or another to tell of the situation. So, it will be the duty of this Senate to hold an all-encompassing and all-inclusive National Summit on Security, including the third arm of government, of course, because we have to work together with them to address this situation.

“Therefore, the different and various interventions alluded to today will be taken into consideration.”

Before the Senate’s Tuesday plenary where Senator Lawan made his call for a national dialogue on insecurity, certain eminent Nigerians had made similar suggestions. The list includes Nobel Laureate, Professor Wole Soyinka; and former president, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo.

Speaking last weekend, the literary giant said Nigeria’s problems had overwhelmed the Buhari-led administration and called for a national dialogue among all the people across party and ethnic lines.

Making public his own position, Chief Obasanjo, in an open letter addressed to President Buhari, alerted the nation to the danger of the rising wave of kidnapping, banditry and armed robbery which he noted were being attributed to the menace of Fulani herdsmen. The former president further advised the incumbent President Buhari to seize the initiative of a national dialogue to enable the farmers and others at the receiving end of the rampaging herdsmen to ventilate their grievances.

He said: “Herdsmen/farmers crisis and menace started with government treating the issue with cuddling glove instead of hammer. It has festered and spread. Today, it has developed into banditry, kidnapping, armed robbery and killings all over the country.

“The unfortunate situation is that the criminality is being perceived as a ‘Fulani’ menace unleashed by Fulani elite in different parts of the country for a number of reasons. But even more unfortunately, many Nigerians and non-Nigerians who are friends of Nigeria attach vicarious responsibility to you as a Fulani elite and the current captain of the Nigerian ship.

“Perception may be as potent as reality at times. Whatever may be the grievances of the Fulani, if any, they need to be put out in the open and their grievances, if legitimate, be addressed. And if other ethnic groups have grievances, let them also be brought out in the open and addressed through debate and dialogue.”

Chief Obasanjo, who further suggested that former governors, presidents, serving and retired service chiefs and traditional rulers should be involved in the national dialogue, pleaded with President Buhari not to show indifference to his suggestion, as he insisted that “very onerous cloud is gathering.”

He said “the main issue, if I may dare say, is poor management or mismanagement of diversity which, on the other hand, is one of our greatest and most important assets.

“As a result, very onerous cloud is gathering. And rain of destruction, violence, disaster and disunity can only be the outcome. Nothing should be taken for granted. The clock is ticking with the cacophony of dissatisfaction and disaffection everywhere in and outside the country. The Presidency and the Congress in the United States have signaled to us to put our house in order. The House of Lords in the United Kingdom had debated the Nigerian security situation.

“We must understand and appreciate the significance, implication and likely consequences of such concerns and deliberations. No one can stop hate speech, violent agitation and smoldering violent agitation, if he fans the embers of hatred, disaffection and violence. It will continue to snowball until it is out of control. A stich in time saves nine, goes the old wise saying.”

 

Lawan’s call: How altruistic?

Findings revealed that most of the returning senators were not enamoured by the President of the Senate’s call for a national security summit. Those who spoke with Sunday Tribune in confidence recalled that a similar summit was convened by the eighth National Assembly with Senator Lawan, who was then Senate Majority Leader, as chairman. The report and recommendations have since been abandoned by President Buhari.

Checks revealed that the Senate, under Senator Saraki, adopted 20 recommendations of the report submitted in July 2018 by Senator Lawan after four months of his committee’s sitting. The report identified rampaging herders as a threat to national security and made far reaching recommendations which included low-interest rate loans for herders to develop ranching businesses in the country as well as integrate the almajiri system with the formal educational system.

The summit also recommended increase in the capacity of the Nigerian police, military and other paramilitary agencies (who are currently overstretched) to respond to national security issues. It advised the Federal Government to ensure that there was further recruitment in these organisations.

The committee also observed that “the presence of millions of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in the North-East and millions of others who have had no education or strong social links presents a potent threat to the present and future security of the nation.

“The nation must immediately develop careful policies and initiatives that are aimed at addressing the reconstruction, rehabilitation and development of the North-East and the development of the uneducated members of our society.

“The national growing population may become a major threat to its future, unless substantial and sustained investments are made in the areas of human capital development, particularly education and health.

“In this regard, a visionary strategy must be developed for the national economy that is aimed at providing quality education, skills development and employment for our nation’s young people.”

The Senator Lawan-led committee’s report frowned at the influx of foreigners into the country and recommended that “Nigeria must assert its sovereignty amongst its neighbours, particularly in the areas of arms control, drugs, terrorism, human and economic sabotage. Additionally, all international commitment that impact on our domestic national security must be reviewed.”

The committee’s recommendations have continued to gather dust on some shelf in the Presidency.

The President of the Senate, on Thursday, expressed his indignation at government’s appalling indifference to his committee’s recommendations, as he openly demanded for explanation from President Buhari.

“We need to know if the recommendations have been addressed. If not, we need to know why. When we had that summit, we engaged the executive. Actually, it was declared open by Mr. President himself,” Lawan said.

 

Is APC allergic to national discourse?

Since the renewed call for a national dialogue gained currency during the week, many Nigerians have exhibited muted indifference. There is the perception that following the shoddy handling of the Senator Lawan-led Committee’s report and the disdain towards the call for similar national discourse in the past, the proposed security summit will be a mere talk show, even if it was ever convened.

Checks by Sunday Tribune revealed that following the consistent agitation that the All Progressives Congress (APC) should show fidelity to its promise to devolve power to 36 states of the federation and the 774 local government areas, being the first item in its manifesto which was formally unveiled in Abuja on March 6, 2014, its then national chairman, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, inaugurated a 24-member committee, in 2017.

Tagged Committee on True Federalism, with Kaduna State governor, Nasir el-Rufai, as chairman and Senator Olubunmi Adetunmbi (now serving senator) as secretary, the team was assigned the task of explaining to Nigerians the party’s position on devolution of power and take memoranda from them.

The Governor el-Rufai-led committee recommended state police, resource control and abolition of local government, amongst other recommendations.

Receiving the report in December of 2017, Chief Odigie-Oyegun assured the team that its recommendations would be taken seriously by other statutory organs of the party.

“I am going to promise that before the middle of February, it would have been considered and decided upon by the various structures of the party; the National Executive Committee (NEC) and the caucuses of the party; and whatever is there, thereafter, will be presented to the authorities as the considered view and decision of the APC for appropriate implementation,” Odigie-Oyegun had promised.

But between the Presidency and the APC National Working Committee (NWC), it has been a battle of wits over who was in custody of the el-Rufai-led committee’s report. While the latter claimed it had been submitted to its national caucus and presented to the Presidency, the former said it was not in possession of the document.

With such a development, Nigerians, obviously do not know who to believe in this case. It is for the same reason that the people appear skeptical about the latest call for national security dialogue by the Lawan-led Senate.

 

A case for state police

Other key players in the lower chamber of the legislature have also been harping on the need for national dialogue, with a number of them advocating the review of the nation’s polic. For example, a member representing Ayedire-Iwo-Ola-Oluwa federal constituency of Osun State in the House of Representatives, Bamidele Salam, expressed displeasure over cases of kidnapping and killing of innocent Nigerians, describing the situation in the country as degenerating internal security.

Salam, who doubles as member, ad-hoc Committee on Media and Publicity of the House, told Sunday Tribune that a national dialogue would address the menace of farmers/herders clashes

“It further shows the level to which internal security has degenerated in Nigeria. It calls to question the numerous police and other checkpoints on our roads. This is a major test for security agencies in the country. There is an urgency of unraveling and apprehending the killers.

“There is also an urgency of convening a major security summit on the growing menace of herdsmen attack in all parts of the country,” Salam said.

At the Summit, we must discuss Community Policing— Honourable Olatunbosun

Similarly, member representing Saki East/Saki West/Atisbo federal constituency of Oyo State in the Assembly, Honourable Jide Olatunbosun, underscored the need to reposition the Nigeria Police Force.

“It is a very bad signal that the current situation of pervasive insecurity is getting worse. As a matter of urgency, we must do everything to improve security of lives and property in our country.

“The major issue we are having is that considering the diversity of the country, the structure of our police force cannot cope with the emerging security threats. We need to improve very fast on intelligence gathering and we also need to have a framework for community policing.

“With community policing, the responsibility for security in an area, town, local government areas, states and even geopolitical zones will largely be with the natives or indigenes of such areas. This is the best practice and if we can adapt it to our own peculiar situation, it will help us,” he noted.

 

  • Additional reports by Kehinde Akintola
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