AKEEM NAFIU writes that lawyers have asked President Muhammadu Buhari to heed the Senate’s call for disengaging service chiefs over rising insecurity. They said the nation’s security architecture should be rejigged to overcome the menace
For the second time in six months, lawmakers at the Red Chambers are demanding the removal of service chiefs over the growing menace of insecurity in the country. Prior to last Tuesday’s call by the Senators on President Buhari to relieve the service chiefs of their appointment, they have made similar appeal in January. Precisely on January 29, 2020, the lawmakers took the whole day to deliberate on a motion on national security challenges and the need to restructure the nation’s security architecture.
The debate lasted for over four hours as over 50 lawmakers took turns to make their contributions. At the end of the day’s deliberations, the lawmakers asked the president to remove the service chiefs and appoint new ones. Six months after, the lawmakers are again reiterating their demands for the sack of service chiefs.
It all started last week’s Tuesday when the Chairman, Senate Committee on Army, Ali Ndume (APC, Borno South) raised a point of order, drawing his colleagues attention to the rising insecurity in the country. He was particularly concerned about rising casualties involving troops of the Nigerian Armed Forces, engaged in the counter insurgency war with Boko Haram as well as the Islamic State West African Province (ISWAP) in the country.
In a motion tagged “The rising casualties among the Nigerian Army and other security agencies,” Ndume said he was dismayed about the current development where terrorists had been killing soldiers in large numbers. He called for action on the part of President Buhari to halt the ugly trend. His words: “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”. In his contribution, Senator Istifanus Gyang (PDP-Plateau), said the picture painted by Senator Ndume has 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,” he said. Senate Leader, Yahaya Abdullahi, also expressed concern over the rising wave of insecurity saying the Senate will continue to discuss the issue because of its national importance.
He said: 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”. At the end of heated deliberations, the Senators passed a resolution demanding that the service chiefs step aside and allow a new crop of officers to undertake the task of securing people’s lives.
They opined that something urgent should be done by the president to salvage the situation before it gets out-of-hand. Presidency reacts Reacting to the lawmakers demand, Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina, said appointment or sack of the Service Chiefs was a presidential prerogative to be exercised only by the President whenever he deemed fit. He said: “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.”
The president had at a meeting with the service chiefs sometimes in June equally expressed his displeasure at the growing insecurity in the nation. He said the service chiefs best was not good enough.
The service chiefs were led to the closed-door meeting by the Chief of Defence Staff, Gen. Gabriel Olonisakin. The Chief of Army Staff, Lt.-Gen. Tukur Buratai and Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar, were also in attendance. Others at the meeting were the Minister of Defence, Major Gen. Bashir Magashi (rtd); Inspector- General of Police, Muhammad Adamu; National Security Adviser (NSA), Major Gen. Babagana Monguno (rtd); Director-General of the Department of State Services (DSS), Mr. Yusuf Bichi and the Chief of Staff to the President, Prof. Ibrahim Gambari.
Briefing newsmen at the end of the meeting, the NSA disclosed that the president while expressing concern over the worsening insecurity told the service chiefs that their best has not been good enough for the country. He said: “Today’s meeting basically focused on recent developments. Mr. President has expressed great concerns over the declining security situation in the country.
He is extremely unhappy about what is happening and he feels that, even though the security agencies are doing their best, their best is not good enough for him and wants an immediate reversal of the current trend and immediate reversal of our misfortunes in all their dimensions. “Mr. President also told us clearly in no uncertain terms, that he and indeed the administration campaigned to power on the platform of three issues, fighting insecurity, overcoming our economic difficulties and dealing with the scourge of corruption. More so, he noted that it takes common sense for anyone to understand that without security, the pursuit of the other two will just be an exercise in futility.
“He also pointed out the immediate areas of concern and these areas are also interlinked and we must find a way out, especially the issue of proliferation of drugs, small arms and light weapons. “These two issues also go hand in hand with the major issues of criminality in this country, be there banditry on one hand in the North-West of Nigeria or terrorism in the North-East. “In the final analysis, Mr. President has said everyone is doing his best but the best is not good enough. That should send a signal to all of us.
But again, it is also incumbent on the wider Nigerian population, to key into whatever the security agencies are doing. “Understanding that there has been issue of loss of confidence, loss of trust, abuse or whatever, these issues will have to be addressed by a discussion between security agencies and the political leadership and of course the judiciary will come in”.
Lawyers speak Some senior lawyers have in the meantime thrown their weight behind the Senate’s call for the sack of the service chiefs. The lawyers while speaking on the issue at the weekend urged the president to respect the sensibilities of Nigerians by complying with the demands of the people by asking the service chiefs to go. To them, the president’s admittance that the service chiefs’ best was not enough is an indication that they have outlived their relevance.
Speaking on the issue, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Chief Mike Ahamba, asked the president to relieve the service chiefs of their appointment and bring new hands on board. He said: “As far as I am concerned, the state of insecurity in this country as at today is a source of concern for everyone and something urgent has to be done. “What I can’t understand is why we believed that the present service chiefs are the only people who can do the work. So far, I don’t think they have done anything for which they can be praised. “My suggestion is that we must first of all change the command. All of the service chiefs must go.
I agree with the National Assembly that they must go. I think we need to try another set of people as service chiefs. “Even if a very good player is not performing on the football pitch, he or she will be shown the way out. The whole thing is worrisome. It is now very difficult for people to travel out to Abuja for fear of being kidnapped.
People are not happy with the situation and it has to change immediately”. Speaking in the same vein, another silk, Dr. Biodun Layonu, want the president to act promptly on Senate’s demand. “The Senate only issued an advisory or passed a resolution to that effect. its not binding or enforceable. However the President should pay heed to this, the same advisory having been issued by both houses of the national assembly as representatives of the people.
“Perhaps as president, he has information not generally available to the general public. He should share such with the leadership of the national assembly under secrecy. My opinion is that the President should have sacked them since and should do so now that the national assembly has spoken with one voice”.
To Mr. Hakeem Afolabi (SAN), the president needs to yield to the Senate’s demand because sovereignty belongs to the people who are represented by the National Assembly. He said: “The call has become over re-emphasized. Nigerian people have resolved long time ago that the service chiefs have over stayed their welcome. The stand of the president(if in truth he has any on the continued stay in office of the service chiefs) as echoed by spokesman of the presidency is a clear demonstration of insensitivity of the president to the yearnings of Nigerians. “Sovereignty belongs to the people who are represented by the National Assembly.
The president must respect the sensibilities of Nigerians by complying with the demands of the people by asking the service chiefs to go. After all, the president himself said their best was not good enough. “One begins to wonder if the president is actually in charge in the face of colossal failure being recorded by the armed forces, the little best he can do for Nigerians at this point in time is to sack the service chiefs.
The National Assembly is totally in order”. Dr. Fassy Yusuf opined that the rising wave of insecurity portended failure on the part of Buhari’s administration. “The insecurity in the country is an embarrassment to all, especially to President Buhari and his party. Never before have we witnessed this type of rudderlessness.
“Without security, no human activity can be successfully transacted. It is understandable therefore, that protest is rising over the spate of insecurity in the country especially in the North. Security is one of the three cardinal programmes of this administration and any unsatisfactory performance in this area is catastrophic. It portends failure on the part of the administration.
“The whole security architecture should be rejigged. All the service chiefs should be retired and fresh hands should be appointed with performance charter signed by them. “Interagency cooperation should be encouraged and the military, the police, and other security agencies should work as a team and operate strategically. It is disgraceful that banditry and insurgence are overwhelming our security apparatus. It is time to change the tide”, he said. In his own comment, the Coordinator, Christian Lawyers Fellowship of Nigeria (CLASFON), Lagos sub-region, Okey-Joe Onuakalusi, said the service chiefs have overstayed and need to go.
“The resignation of the service chiefs will be the most welcome news in Nigeria. They have overstayed and their continued stay put attitude is counterproductive in all fours. These security agencies need fresh start, fresh ideas and new set of officers in the drivers’ seat of Army, Navy and Air Force.
“It will be a moral-booster to the ranks and files and officers when they are sacked. I wish they understand the damages their continued stay have done to their organization. Sadly, they will not be sacked,” he said.