For the umpteenth time, the Presidency and the National Assembly have clashed again over the worsening state of insecurity in Nigeria.
Apparently worried by the failure of the Nigerian Armed Forces to tackle decisively the Boko Haram insurgency and other threats to national security, the upper chamber of the National Assembly, yesterday, passed a resolution demanding that the Service Chiefs step aside and allow a new crop of officers to undertake the task of protecting Nigeria’s territorial integrity.
The Senate also urged its Committees on Defence, Army, Navy, Air Force, Police, National Security and Interior to meet with the various security agencies and receive briefings on what they were doing to address the security situation in the country.
It further charged the Federal Government to urgently provide modern equipment to the Armed Forces to enhance the operational capabilities of the troops.
The lawmakers warned that allowing the status quo to continue with respect to the fight against insurgency and banditry might jeopardise the nation’s security system.
However, the Presidency has, as usual, called their bluff, insisting that the appointment or sack of the Service Chiefs was a presidential prerogative to be exercised only by the President whenever he deemed fit.
Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina, foreclosed any possibility of presidential consideration of the resolution.
In a terse statement released to the media, Adesina wrote: “The Senate, Tuesday, adopted a resolution calling on the Service Chiefs to resign or be sacked due to the multi-pronged security challenges in the country.
“The Presidency notes the resolution, and reiterates that appointment or sack of Service Chiefs is a Presidential prerogative, and President Muhammadu Buhari, in his capacity as Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, will do what is in the best interest of the country at all times.”
This was not the first time the Senate had passed this same resolution. In fact, both chambers of the National Assembly had jointly passed a similar resolution last month, but were equally rebuffed.
The red chamber passed the latest resolution, following a point of order raised by the Chairman, Senate Committee on Army, Ali Ndume (APC, Borno South), drawing the attention of his colleagues to the rising casualties involving troops of the Nigerian Armed Forces, engaged in the counter insurgency war with Boko Haram and Islamic State West African Province (ISWAP) in the country.
In the motion, entitled: “The rising casualties among the Nigerian Army and other security agencies,” Ndume expressed concerns about the current development where terrorists had been killing soldiers in large numbers. Ndume cautioned that if nothing was done to halt the ugly trend, it would have serious implications on the fight against insurgency and banditry.
He also noted with concerns, recent reports that over 200 soldiers voluntarily resigned their engagement or appointment with the army as a result of the prevailing situation.
“Just recently, 24 soldiers were ambushed and killed along Damboa-Maiduguri road in Borno; 19 were wounded and nine were declared missing in action. The Senate is disturbed that in Katsina, again, about 20 soldiers were also ambushed and killed while several others were wounded.
“The number of civilian casualty is not known. The Senate appreciates the sacrifices of our armed forces in the fight against insurgency, banditry and protection of the territorial integrity of Nigeria and several other security assignments given to them. It has been alleged that over 200 soldiers voluntarily resigned their engagement or appointment with the Nigerian Army,” he said.
In his contribution to the debate, Senator Istifanus Gyang (PDP-Plateau) said that the motion was very disturbing as it brought out the very unsavoury and gory details on developments from the front lines by soldiers fighting insurgency and banditry across the North-East and North-West regions of Nigeria.
“The report of repeated loss of lives of soldiers and desertions is the order of the day. The latest development that is novel and unprecedented is the resignation of over 200 soldiers. This shows the level of disaffection and disenchantment.
“This calls for an urgent scrutiny by the Senate of the strategic, the tactical and operational details of the operations of the armed forces,” Gyang said.
Senate Leader, Yahaya Abdullahi, who also acknowledged the seriousness of the issue, said that the Senate would not keep quiet because the likely implications of inaction on the country.
“Whenever challenges of the nature that have occurred as narrated by Senator Ndume, we should come out very clearly to show our disgust and, at the same time, commend those operating as security forces who lay down their lives so that we can survive and be free.
“We all know that this Senate had, on so many occasions, brought this issue of security of lives and property in this country on the floor of this Senate and at various interactions that we have had with security forces and security institutions. We have also brought it to the fore at every point, whenever the leadership of the National Assembly, particularly the leadership of this Senate has any engagement with the President of the Federal Republic.
“We have gone ahead over the years to establish so many committees whose reports we have endorsed in this chamber and submitted to the Executive for action. I’m quite aware over the years a lot of these reports have been there and they have been lying fallow and sometimes unimplemented. This has been the bane of a lot of the work that had been done in the security sector.
“The issue that now faces us is that the readiness of our armed forces to really confront these challenges is now under a lot of pressure and this pressure is reflected in the number of soldiers we are losing due to ambush by terrorists and bandits. This particular issue needs to be tackled. It means our security forces will have to reorganise their deployments and employ new tactics in this fight,” Abdullahi said.
In his remarks, the President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan, explained that the motion was intended to commend the Armed Forces for their feats in the war front as well as point out their inadequacies, with a view to improving on the situation.
“The spirit of this motion is that our armed forces are trying very hard, just like the President said, but their good is still not enough. We need to continue to encourage them. We need to continue to provide for them. They lay down their lives on behalf of all of us and of course, it is very sad that some of them are deserting or are alleged to have deserted the war front. We need to get to the bottom of this,” he said.