The Senate, on Monday raised the alarm that the corporate existence of Nigeria was under threat. The upper chamber’s alarm was based on the general insecurity in the country, which has affected all regions of the country since 2015, when President Muhammadu Buhari assumed office. The Senate said that Nigeria was under siege of non-state actors, who are armed with weapons of different dimensions with which they have held the country hostage in different forms.
The Senate pointed out that a recent report of the United Nations Regional Centre for Peace and Disarmament in Africa (UNREC), revealed that out of an estimated 500 million illegal weapons circulating in West Africa, 350 million, representing 70 per cent, were in Nigeria for nefarious activities of criminals.
The damning revelation came to light at a public hearing organised by the Senate Joint Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters, Navy and Marine Transport, on Firearms Act 2004 (Amendment) Bill 2021 and Exclusive Economic Zones Act 2010 (Repeal and Re – Enactment) Bill 2021.
“Analysts estimate that out of the 500 million weapons circulating in West Africa , 350 million, which represents 70 per cent of such weapons, can be found in Nigeria,” said Uba Sani, a senator from Kaduna State. There is no gainsaying the fact that Nigeria is on the tenterhooks, occasioned by general insecurity across the country.
To say, as the Senate said, that the corporate existence of the nation is under threat is in fact, to state it mildly. The security situation threatens more than the existence of Nigeria. It goes beyond the break-up of Nigeria. Rather, what is at stake is the total loss of control over the security situation in the country.
We are convinced that even if the country were to break today, many of the regions of the country would still be encountering the same insecurity problems that are bedeviling the nation as a whole. Rather than wailing and crying over the threat to the corporate existence of the country, we had expected the Senate and the National Assembly at large, to hasten up and provide solutions to the identified problems that are responsible for the general insecurity in the country. After all, any step taken by the Senate now would not be the first time it had stepped in to resolve issues that threaten the country.
We recall that in 2010, when the late President Umaru Yar’Adua was on the sick bed and Nigeria was almost at the boiling point over the inability of the then Vice President Goodluck Jonathan to take over power fully, the Senate acted with the ‘Doctrine of Necessity’ to make Jonathan, the acting president. We also recall that in 2006, when the issue of third term for former President Olusegun Obasanjo was threatening Nigeria’s corporate existence, it was the Senate that killed it. The third term went with other proposed constitutional amendments that were scheduled then. But the point is that the Senate, on both occasions, saved Nigeria from the brink.
That is why we believe now that the Senate should go beyond raising the alarms and act swiftly in arresting the drift that Nigeria is sliding into. Monday’s alarm was not the first time this 9th assembly has raised such cries. We recall that in 2020 alone, the Senate cried loudly more than three times about the insecurity in the country, including those that urged the president to sack the then service chiefs over their obvious poor performance. Buhari did not listen to them but only removed the Service Chiefs early this year, at his own time.
The president was to reward the same sacked service chiefs with ambassadorial appointments, which incidentally, were confirmed by the same Senate that despised and lampooned same over their poor performances. Today, the ex-service chiefs are Ambassadors-designate or even ambassadors; confirmed by the senate. We believe very strongly that the actions of the Senate and the National Assembly generally, more than the President would help in saving Nigeria from the morass of insecurity it is wallowing in. After all, the president has changed his Service Chiefs and even the Police IGP but the issues remain or are even more now.
We therefore expect the senate to go beyond the perfunctory alarms and focus on doing the things that can cure Nigeria. We note that there are cries for state police, regional police and general decentralization of the police across the country. We have no doubt that that would be a good starting point for the Senate. It is unwieldy for police in remote parts of the country to wait on Abuja and state police commissioners before acting on tip offs from responsible citizens. There is also no need for the IGP to take cases from states to Abuja, when they can be treated in the states with dispatch.
There are so many areas which the Senators themselves know can be acted upon to help the Federal Government in tracking the insecurity across the country. It does not only take alarms and shouting blue murder to take care of those. Nigerians have been shouting restructuring. We believe that it is within the purview of the National Assembly to set such in motion.
We do not believe that a good National Assembly is the one that is the lap dog of the executive. In some cases, a loud quarrel or confrontation with the executive would help hasten things for the benefit of all Nigerians. We have no illusion that Nigeria is in danger. It is a fact. Buhari is doing his part, either rightly or wrongly. But checks and actions of the National Assembly would do Nigerians a lot more good than alarms. Nigerians are obviously tired of alarms. They need concrete action.