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Senate keeps mum after four hours meeting with service chiefs

The Senate, yesterday, grilled the nation’s security chiefs for four hours, during a closed-door session on the deteriorating state of insecurity in the country and the way forward. However, the President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan, refused to disclose the outcome of the protracted briefings by heads of the country’s security architecture at the end of the session.

The apex legislative assembly had, last week Tuesday, invited the nation’s security chiefs, following debate on a motion moved by Senator Musa Sani (APC, Niger East), on the activities of bandits and Boko Haram terrorists in parts of Niger State. Lawan, after a four-hour closed door session with the heads of security agencies, which began at 11:20am, said “the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) spoke on behalf of the security chiefs. He also noted that the CDS responded to questions on efforts to curb banditry, terrorism, kidnapping and other security vices currently menacing the country and the citizenry.

In his speech, Lawan was silent on the details of the briefings, insisting instead to steer the conversation to the 18th May 2021 date when the Upper Chamber would resume plenary after the Sallah break. He disclosed that the Senate would receive the report of the long awaited Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) from the Committee on Petroleum, Upstream and Downstream.

The politician also said that the Red Chamber would, upon resumption after the break, consider the report of the Senate Committee on INEC and the Committee on Constitution Review. Lawan appealed to his colleagues to be serious with their legislative functions even during the break, pointing that the joint committee of INEC and Constitution Review would continue to carry out their functions. While welcoming the heads of security agencies earlier in his introductory remarks, he expressed the unflinching support of the Senate in helping them to address the worrisome situation in the country. In a pre-emptive statement to the briefing, the Chairman of the National Assembly told the chamber that limited resources and inadequate funding was responsible for the inability of the country’s armed forces to win the war against terrorism in the country.

His words: “You recall our resolution to invite them for a briefing on the security situation in our dear country. On behalf of all of us Senators, I want to welcome this team and let me quickly assure all of you that indeed this Senate or the entire National Assembly is and will remain a partner in progress with you.

“On behalf of my colleagues, I want to commend our armed forces and other security agencies for fighting the myriad of security challenges across the country. In the process, some have given up their lives. “We appreciate what you are doing because we know that you are doing your best with what you have at hand. I want to assure you and everyone that the challenges we face are taken seriously and extremely by the Parliament. “Hardly a day passes without this Senate discussing one security incident or the other. And it has been so for many years, not only this session.

“Once again, I welcome you and trust us with what you think will help us as a parliament to help the cause of Armed forces and other security agencies to perform better because you haven’t achieved the optimum and I can attribute that to inadequate resources.

“We pray that at the end of this interaction, we will see better ways and means of providing the necessary provision of resources to enable our armed forces continue with the national case to provide national security. “We need to protect the lives and property of citizens to stabilise our environment for the economy to receive better investments for this country; to be a hub for investments that will provide employment opportunities to our teeming youths”. Meanwhile, the claim of insufficient funding of the armed forces by Lawan came days after the Minister of Finance, Zainab Ahmad, dismissed a similar claim made by the Senator representing Borno South and Chairman of the Senate Committee on Army, Ali Ndume. Zainab had revealed that the government had, in 2019, budgeted N75 billion for operation Lafiya Dole, but it ended up spending N82.61 billion. This according to her, represented 110 percent of the earlier approved budget for the military, saying, “so far, the government has spent up to N1 trillion naira in prosecuting the war against insecurity in the North-East. Meanwhile, Spokesman of the Senate, Ajibola Basiru (APC, Osun Central) told journalists that the interface with the security chiefs focused on ways by which the parliament could work with the executive and the security chiefs to provide lasting solutions to the problem of insecurity.

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