The House of Representatives call on the President Muhammadu Buhari to declare a State of Emergency on insecurity following the rising spate of killings, kidnapping, banditry and resurgence of Boko Haram insurgents has continued to elicit reactions from different quarters. SAMSON BENJAMIN examines the motion by the legislators and accompanying reactions.
The country has continued to battle the rise in crime rate with individuals, states and regions resorting to self help. The launch of Amotekun, a regional security operation sponsored by governors of the South-west region, with other region mulling similar outfits and operations, may have set the stage for the motion by the House of Representative for the declaration of a State of Emergency on insecurity.
President Muhammadu Buhari recently expressed surprise at the current surge of security challenges across the country. The President spoke at the State House, Abuja, when he received a delegation of Eminent and Respected Citizens of Niger state led by the Governor of Niger state, Abubakar Sani Bello.
The President also made reference to the promise he made during the campaigns leading up to the 2015 general elections as well as in his inaugural speech of ending the Boko Haram insurgency. He frowned at the threats posed by the sect and other armed groups.
President Buhari said: “Harder times” await bandits whose disruptive activities have brought sorrow to Nigerians, kept many away from their means of livelihood, and heightened insecurity in parts of the country.”
Reps mull State of Emergency
Similarly, worried by the rising state of insecurity in the country, the House of Representatives, Wednesday, asked President Muhammadu Buhari to declare a State of Emergency on the nation’s security.
The House also called for the investigation of low morale of military personnel serving in the North-east as well as the establishment of special camps by the Army and withdrawal of Soldiers from checkpoints to the special camps.
Unanimously adopting a motion of urgent public importance on the recent attack on travellers at Auno village along that Damaturu/Maiduguri road by Boko Haram insurgents, the House asked the military to henceforth stop the practice of keeping commuters over night at a particular period and allow them proceed on their journey after 6.00pm.
The Chief Whip of the House, Mohammed Tahir Mongunu, who sponsored of the motion, had drawn the attention of the House to the killing of over 30 people by insurgents at a military check point where they were kept by the military who closed the road and refused them entry into Maiduguri 6pm.
He said after closing the road and disallowing the travellers from continuing with their journey, the military personnel abandoned them there to their faith and were subsequently attacked with some of them, including an infant killed and others were kidnapped.
Attack avoidable, preventable
Co-sponsor of the motion, Ahmed Jaha, disclosed that among the vehicles that were trapped at the check point was a tanker belonging to the military and conveying petroleum product to Maiduguri, wondering how the military could also detain its own truck and leave it at the mercies of the insurgents.
He alleged that the check point was closed by the Army 15 minutes before the scheduled time, leaving the travellers stranded, while the soldiers on duty went away to return the following day.
While insisting that the attack on the travellers was avoidable and preventable, he blamed the failure of intelligence gathering for the attack adding that prior to the attack, there was information making the round about the movement of the insurgents from one village to the other.
He said it was painful for leaders to stay in their comfort zone while their people are slaughtered stating, “This issue is of national importance. It is the North-east today. Nobody knows where it will affect next.”
Absence of commensurate action
Contributing to the debate, Minority Leader of the House, Ndudi Elumelu, said it was inhuman for the military to close the road and abandon their duty post without security for travellers and emphasised the earlier resolution of the House calling on the service chiefs to resign or be fired.
He drew the attention of the House to a trending video on the social media of soldiers complaining of low morale, adding that the lawmakers kept talking about the same issue of insecurity on a daily basis without commensurate action.
Elumelu said it was time for action on the issue of security in the country, saying “our brothers and sisters are being slaughtered daily in the North-east. My worry is that one day; we will be chased out of this chamber. It is high time the right thing was done. Nigerians voted for President Buhari because he promised to protect them. I still stand by the House resolution that the service chiefs should go because they have outlived their usefulness.”
The House resolved among other things that the President should declare State of Emergency on insecurity in the country, direct the military authority to henceforth stop keeping commuters overnight at a particular period on the Damaturu-Maiduguri road and to allow them proceed on their journeys even after 6:00pm
HURIWA adds voice
For the National Coordinator, Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA), Comrade Emmanuel Onwubiko, “The human rights situation in Nigeria has deteriorated requiring the immediate declaration of a State of Emergency on human rights and national security by President Buhari.”
Addressing a press conference on the state of human rights, Wednesday in Abuja, Onwubiko said, “It would seem that we have reached the precipice and if emergency measures are not adopted them national doom is inevitable.
“To show you how bad the situation is, the Nigeria Police Force (NPF) has lost its constitutionally required potency to prevent violent crimes just as most police officers are basically concerned with other duties but policing Nigeria and Nigerians.”
According to him, “The level of professionalism in the NPF has dramatically nosedived and indiscipline has become a common currency of circulation amongst the rank and file as well as the officer cadres of the NPF.
“The Police Service Commission is moribund and not responsive to their responsibilities of enforcing discipline. PSC is more concerned about promotions and there are widespread allegations of bribes for promotions, which must be investigated by an independent judicial commission of inquiry if we are desirous of finding lasting solutions to the security and policing nightmares affecting Nigeria.”
…Islamic clerics too
Also, the Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs (NSCIA) has urged the President to declare a State of Emergency to tackle insecurity, especially kidnapping, terrorism, armed robbery and banditry in the country.
The NSCIA Director, Administration, Mr Yusuf Nwoha, made the call while speaking at a news conference on the state of the nation in Abuja.
Nwoha said that the security situation in the country requires desperate measures in the collective interest of all Nigerians stating, “Let the monster of insecurity be tackled actively and proactively with the full weight of Nigeria’s security and defence capabilities,” he said.
He stressed that the activities of Boko Haram insurgents were completely against the principles and teachings of Islam. “We want to state in unequivocal terms that Boko Haram does not represent Islam or Muslims,” he said.
The council, therefore, reiterated the need for the federal government to act decisively by declaring a state of emergency on insecurity.
“The federal government should deploy all the military arsenals at its disposal to arrest the trend for the interest of lives and properties of the citizens.
“We also urge the federal government to review and reinvent its security architecture by injecting more vim into security operations all over the country without delay,” he said.
Move long overdue
In a chat with Blueprint Weekend, a security expert Col. Yusuf Lawan (retd.) said state of emergency in the security sector is long overdue if President Buhari really wants to address the daunting insecurity confronting the nation.
He decried the killings, kidnapping and all manner of criminality that had taken the front burner in the country.
He said, “A State of Emergency is the only way to address the state of insecurity in the country. The rate of insecurity generally in the country is calamitous.
“There are many directions of security lapses; it is a calamity throughout the nation. There is an emergency and adequate measures should be taken accordingly”
Earlier gains lost
Similarly, AIG Afolayan Dusu (retd.) told Blueprint Weekend that President Buhari’s administration has lost the early gains it made in the fight against insecurity and therefore needs to declare a State of Emergency in order to confront the challenges head on.
He said, “The multiple security challenges Nigeria is facing right now indeed requires the declaration of the state of emergency for it to be tackled in all front.
“Recall that the Nigerian security forces in collaboration with the Multi National Joint Task (MNJTF) from Chad, Cameroon and Niger reversed the pre-2014 setbacks and Boko Haram occupation of some communities that were left not reclaimed by President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration.
“The joint forces degraded the insurgents and forced them to the fringes of the Lake Chad, Sambisa forest and Mandara mountains. However, soon after the feat, other criminal activities including herders/farmers clashes, kidnapping, banditry and communal clashes became recurrent stories and also overstretched the Nigerian security forces that were deployed to nearly 30 out of the 36 states of the federation.
“And in the last few months, the terrorists in the North-east with ISWAP loyal to ISIS and Boko Haram loyal to Abubakar Shekau, have equally resurfaced and sacked many communities, subdued many military formations, abducted many people and made many major roads inaccessible. For me, a State of Emergency is the way out.”
Buhari on top of security situation – BMO
However, the Buhari Media Organisation (BMO), on Wednesday, came out in strong defence of the President stating that he is fully in charge of ‘critical affairs of governance,’ especially security affairs.
According to the BMO, there was no split, crisis or disharmony in the security architecture of the country as being speculated by haters of Nigeria, particularly the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
The group said in a statement by its chairman Niyi Akinsiju and secretary Cassidy Madueke, that the President has never abdicated his responsibilities as Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces, so there can be no room for discord in taking decisions on security matters.
BMO accused the PDP of latching on an in-house issue in the Presidency, which has since been resolved, to push a self-serving interest.
The opposition party just opted to twist an in-house situation to mean that ‘strange persons had been presiding over critical affairs of governance.’
“That PDP could make it seem like the President has abdicated his responsibilities and should resign is nothing but mischief taken too far.
“The President has never abdicated his duty on security matters to anyone and like Presidential spokesman Mallam Garba Shehu once said, he is working hard to keep Nigeria and Nigerians out of the harm terrorists have unleashed in the entire Sahel and Sub-Saharan.
“There is an estimated 10 million small arms and light weapons in circulation in Africa as a result of the Libyan crisis, according to a report by the office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA), out of which one million are believed to be in Nigeria.
“To curb new security challenges in the country, President Buhari has in the last three months alone held a minimum of two meetings every month with Service Chiefs and heads of security agencies, as well as a series of local and international engagements on security matters with a view to making the country more secure.
“That is not what anyone who has ceded his responsibilities to ‘strange persons’, to quote the PDP directly, would do.
“We make bold to say that President Buhari has had a hands-on approach on matters of security and will continue to do so.”
This, according to BMO, is because the President has since the outset of the administration in 2015 placed security high up on his agenda.
Adesina defends the President
Furthermore, the Special Adviser on Media and Publicity to the President Femi Adesina has criticised people who are saying not much has been done to tackle insecurity.
In an article posted on his Face book wall titled: Insecurity: What Buhari has done, and is doing.
Adesina highlighted the efforts made by the Buhari’s regime in the fight against insecurity.
According to him, the Nigerian military was in tatters, ill-equipped, ill-trained, and ill-motivated before Buhari came.
Adesina added, “But at Eagle Square, where he took the oath of office on that memorable day, the brand new President gave a directive.
“The command centre of the Boko Haram war should move to Maiduguri, in Borno State, which was the epicenter of the insurgency. Pronto, the Service Chiefs moved, and the country was saved.
“Boko Haram got flushed out of Abuja, North-central, North-west, Yobe, Adamawa, and got circumscribed in Sambisa Forest. Soon, their last stand, Camp Zero fell, and since then, they have been scattered like sheep without a shepherd.
“They mingled with the civilian population, from where they launch cowardly atavistic attacks. They became degraded, but just like a scorched snake, not beheaded yet, they still retain the capacity for evil. But can you compare what is, with what used to be? Not at all.
But some people have short memories. They say not much is being done to tackle insecurity by the Buhari government. Really?
“Admittedly, many more frontiers of insecurity have been opened: banditry, kidnapping for ransom, communal clashes, farmers/herders clashes, and many others. But the baby that says the mother will not sleep, he too will not snooze at all.”
Adeshina expressed the commitment of the President to fighting insecurity in the country, stating that Buhari met the country in “disarray.”
Reps visit to Borno
Meanwhile, the House Committee on Defence, on Wednesday, berthed in Maiduguri on a fact-finding mission into the worsening security situation in the North-east.
The committee arrived at Maiduguri around 10.30am and were received by the Theatre Commander Operation Lafiya Dole, Major General Olusegun Adeniyi at the Air Force Base, the headquarters of the Theatre, Maimalari Barracks.
They legislator and the military had a meeting there, which excluded journalists. At the end of the closed-door meeting which lasted for about an hour, the legislators paid a courtesy call to the governor of Borno state, stating their mission to the state.
“We are here to carefully listen, take note and go back with valid notes on actions to be taken,” said the chairman of the Committee on Defence, Babajimi Benson.