The President of the Senate, Dr. Ahmad Lawan, and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, Wednesday raised the alarm that Nigeria is at crossroads and under threat from the current security challenges facing it.
Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Muhammadu Sa’ad Abubakar, and the Ooni of Ife, Oba Adeyeye Enitan Ogunwusi, also charged government at all levels to quit the talks on insecurity and get to work.
However, President Muhammadu Buhari said the worsening insecurity stood in the way of his administration’s efforts to attain its ambitions for Nigeria.
Lawan and Gbajabiamila, at the opening of a special summit on national security, organised by the House of Representatives, agreed yesterday in Abuja that the essence of the Nigerian nationhood is under serious threat.
The summit, organised as part of the House’s response to the country’s security challenges, was to provide a platform for discussions by security stakeholders and other Nigerians in order to make far-reaching recommendations to the executive arm of government.
In his goodwill message, Lawan blamed bandits and insurgents for the threats to national security.
He urged both the legislative and executive arms of government to work more closely together by ensuring that recommendations from sessions such as the summit are implemented.
Lawan, who said the armed forces needed improved funding, told the session that the National Assembly was ready to partner with security agencies in addressing their operational challenges.
Lawan said: ”What started as the insurgency in 2009 or so in the northwestern part of Yobe has now snowballed into a full-scale insurgency in the entire North-east. What was not known to us in the North-west is now today the home of banditry and kidnapping. The North-central as we all know is not safe. It suffers the clashes between the herders and our farmers. And the recent introduction in the South-east is another serious threat to the existence of this country. Where government institutions are targeted, our police and security agencies personnel are being killed on a daily basis.
”Our institutions, buildings are burnt. I believe that these are threats not only to those areas but to the entire nation. And our armed forces are doing their best. I must commend our armed forces and other security agencies for doing so much with the little we are able to give them. The National Assembly has always been on the side of giving the kind of support, either legislative or the kind of financial support that our armed forces and indeed all other security agencies require, even though we have our limits.”
He added that a functional local government system aides in providing security for lives and property, with the traditional rulers playing key roles in ensuring security in their domains.
He also called for an end to ethnic profiling, saying that criminals should be named, shamed and dealt with.
Aligning with Lawan’s statement, Gbajabiamila, in his keynote address, said the country was under attack by insurgents, bandits, kidnappers, and other criminal elements.
He said it would be difficult for the country to attain the peace it desired for development to take place if the present security situation remained unresolved.
The speaker called for a united and coordinated security approach to contain the insecurity, adding that previous and current approaches to addressing security challenges have not yielded the desired results.
On his part, President Muhammadu Buhari, represented by the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Mr. Boss Mustapha, said the issue of insecurity remained the responsibility of all Nigerians in and out of government.
He called for unity and support to address the challenges.
He also urged the legislature to use the opportunity to pass more laws to enhance the operations of national security agencies.
He called on participants to set aside ethnic, political, religious and other considerations in the national interest to speak frankly on the security challenges and the solutions.
Buhari said: ”In different continents of the world, terrorism, political conflicts, racism and other forms of criminal activities continue to threaten economic development, peace and security.
“At the regional level, Africa, these concerns subsist and continue to rage. Nigeria shares land borders with Benin, Cameron, Chad and Niger; and maritime boundaries with Equatorial Guinea, Ghana, Sao Tome and Precipe.
“The challenges that these international borders pose to our national security and interest are enormous. The instability in the Lake Chad region alone deserves close attention. I am certain that we shall overcome just as we have done many times throughout our history.
“However, success at this time requires that we set aside all other considerations and commit ourselves to a common endeavour in the national interest.”
Also at the event, the Sultan of Sokoto said government at all levels should quit the talks on insecurity and get to work.
He advised the federal government to implement resolutions reached at previous forums rather than creating new summits.
Abubakar said: ”Now things are really very bad and it’s a fact. I’m happy to hear that the two leaders of the National Assembly are saying that in public. Let’s not deceive ourselves that things are alright; things are not alright and we know and we see it. For some of us, we’ve seen so much in our life. From the time I became Sultan till now, for 11 years plus, we have been having such gatherings to talk about Nigeria, national security, development and so on. We have talked and talked. We have talked at Northern Governors’ Forum level, talked at the national level where I happen to be the chairman of that body; we have talked and talked.
”In the last few months, we have had serious gatherings like this with the highest leadership of this country. Today we are here once again on the same issue of national security.
“Enough of this talks. Let’s work; let’s work the talk, the more we sit here and talk, the more time we waste in getting real actions. We know the problems. I will not say anything here that I have not said in the last seven years. We know the problems and I thought we are coming for a closed-door programme with the leadership of the House of Representatives and other stakeholders. My own take on this summit is yes it’s important to sit and talk but it’s more important to implement what we talked about. We can’t just continue to talk and not implement.”
The Sultan also chided politicians who say some things in the open and act differently behind closed doors.
He added: ”Certain things our leaders do, you say something in public and they clap for you. You go back to your comfort zone and throw everything away. That’s why I say whatever you do God is seeing you, and as leaders, God will ask us to account for the leadership he gave us here on earth and we must account for our deeds.
“I call on our leaders to fear God, do what’s right, don’t look at ethnic, religious or personal interest while you’re carrying out your duties.”
On his part, the Ooni of Ife, Ogunwusi said insecurity could not be solved without youth involvement.
He accused lawmakers of abandoning the youths at the grassroots while they enjoy their lives in the cities.
He said lawmakers should engage the youths rather than hold such meetings and repeating what has been said a lot of times.
He said: ”It is very idiotic and stupid for us to be doing the same thing over and over again and expect a different result. We will continue to get the same results.
“Let us be very truthful and honest to ourselves in this country, we all know the problems. How well are we carrying along these people in that age bracket. But whenever we want to go for political posts and appointments, we go back to them. We know the good, the bad and the ugly in their category. As traditional rulers, they are the most active in our system. Let us tell ourselves the truth, they are hungry and they are angry. I repeat: they are hungry and they are very angry. All of us that are here, I will be very happy if anybody can raise up their hand and say ‘I can go to my constituency, my local government area, and I can stay there in peace for one week.’ Who can do it here? Including our gatekeepers, who can do it here? Including the Senate president, including the speaker. But you left the traditional rulers; you left district heads, the baales to continue to stay there. And you are saying all will be well in this country.
”Let us change our style. You leave this age bracket. If there will be problems, you give them guns to start to move around. You will never see anybody above our age in our comfort zone here that is really ready to face the music.”
Udora Orizu in Abuja