Insecurity: National Assembly under scrutiny over futile resolutions, crocodile tears, empty press statements

On the 18th of August, 22 people were killed in Jos, Plateau State capital. Seven persons were killed in Ohaji area while going to shell facilities. Over the years, some regions in the country have become killing fields by different militia groups in the country.

While the designation could change from terrorists, bandits, militia, armed herds, kidnappers and so forth, the reports remains the same, people in Nigeria are not safe in their homes, farms, roads, schools, offices, including the Nigerian Defence Academy.

Over the past six years, several commentators have questioned the approach of the federal government led by President Muhammadu Buhari to address the general insecurity in the country. The latest being the policy of rehabilitating and re-integrating repentant insurgents/terrorists.

Amid the general insecurity, members of the National Assembly, representing 109 senatorial districts and 360 federal constituencies have not been able to resolve to take any concrete step that will force the executive to take action.

As the insecurity situation worsens, Nigerians have seen some lawmakers weeping on the floor of the Senate, APC members speaking up, while a lawmaker even threatened to resign, but failed to fulfil the promise of resigning.

Section 4(2) of the 1999 constitution gives the National Assembly the powers to make laws, “for peace, order, good government of the federation.” In addition, sections 88 and 89 also gives the National Assembly the powers to investigate matters and to summon anyone.

Since the return to democracy, ruling parties have controlled the National Assembly, thereby causing what appears to be eroding the independence of the National Assembly. The current leadership of the two chambers, Sen Ahmad Lawan (Senate President) and Femi Gbajabimaila (Speaker) have been accused of being a rubber stamp to President Muhammadu Buhari.

However, the accusation of lawmakers being appendages of the executive has always been around since the return of democracy in 1999, as ruling parties make sure those loyal to the sitting government occupy leadership, and presiding officers not loyal to the government are harassed or removed.

Under former President, Olusegun Obasanjo’s 8 years tenure, the Senate had 5 Presidents. Most of the senate presidents left the office in controversial circumstances with speculations that they were removed due to disagreement with the then president, Obasanjo.

David Mark, the Senate President from 2007-2015 had the most stable tenure, which many linked to the harmonious relationship he had with both Umar Yar’Adua and Goodluck Jonathan. Meanwhile, Sen Saraki was in and out of court during his tenure, as his case of asset declaration defined the administration.

House of Reps has equally been turbulent in recent times. In 2007, the members of the lower chamber went against the choice of the executive, Patricia Etteh and forced her out. A similar occurrence happened between Mulikat Adeola and Aminu Tambuwal. Also, Gbajabiamila was outfoxed by Yakubu Dogara in 2015.

Despite cases of rebellion in the two chambers, most often the executive still cast a long shadow on the legislation.

Valentine Ayika, a former member of the House, while speaking with DAILY POST said it is not enough to have the political will. The political system in Nigeria put the legislator at the mercy of the party.

“I will say there is not enough political will. But then again, I will say, it is not just political will, everything depends on our electioneering and political practice, where you don’t have independent candidate, by section 65(2b), coupled with section 177 paragraph C, of the constitution, for you to contest for the office of a legislator, you must be a member of a political party and sponsored by that political party.

“As I said earlier, section 177(c), is also applicable if you want to run for the office of a governor, if you don’t do the bidding of your political party, there is a chance that they will deny you of your return ticket for you to return, maybe on one side, the political will is there, but can you put it into practice, it might amount to party disloyalty or might be misconstrued as anti-party activities. The chances of getting your return ticket—once you taste power, you will want to remain there—the political will may be there, but it is not entirely dependent on political will, our political system has much to do with it.”

In this report, it reviews some of the actions taken so far by lawmakers and their impact on the insecurity in the country.

Countless resolutions without political will

Since the emergence of Buhari in 2015 and the resultant growing insecurity in the country, both chambers of the National Assembly have moved quite a number of motions and reached countless resolutions which have failed to address the insecurity in the country.

It would be recalled that the House of Representatives resolved to shut down plenary for three days over the killings in the country. The resolution was part of the other 38 resolutions reached following a motion by Mark Gbillah from Benue State on the 25th of April 2018.

The 9th House under Yakubu Dogara did not shut down the House nor did the President appear before the House as reached by the committee. Also, the call by the House for the then Service Chiefs to be removed went unheeded by the President.

In 2020, the lawmakers in the green chamber resolved to summon President Muhammadu Buhari to appear before it. After initial commitment to appear, the president subsequently declined.

Shortly before the lawmakers embarked on their annual recess, the House of Representatives held a security summit to address the lingering security situation in the country. 19 recommendations were made by the committee in the aftermath of the summit. The report has been presented to the President.

But security summit by lawmakers has become a reoccurring thing. In the last Assembly, the Bukola Saraki held a security summit and a report with 20 recommendations was presented and adopted by the Senate.

For years, the lawmakers called for the resignation of the Service Chiefs, however, the President did not bulge until he decided to remove them. There was even a vote of no confidence passed on the Service Chiefs, but it was not enough to get them out.

Sen Smart crying on the floor

The lawmaker representing Kogi West Senatorial District, Sen Smart Adeyemi, a member of the ruling party, caused a minor stir on the floor of the senate by crying over insecurity in the country.

The senator was discussing a motion moved by Mohammed Sani on the general insecurity in the country. Sen Oluremi Tinubu, the wife of Bola Tinubu, the National leader of the APC, still turned the matter into a political issue by saying, “Are you PDP, why are you talking?”

False threat of resignation

Victor Mela, a member of the APC from Gombe State, had threatened that he would resign if the House should fail to do something significant on security.

“I want to say, I will give myself two months, if nothing is done tangibly to show Nigerians that this House has taken a serious step to curb the issue of security in this country, I am going to resign. And I am serious about it. We cannot come up here and every day, we observe a minute silence. We have to show Nigerians that we are for Nigerians,” he had said.

He later turned around to claim that the House had responded to the issues he raised, hence, there was no need for him to resign.

APC members speaking up

On Monday, in a letter by Yusuf Gagdi, a member of the House from Plateau State, the lawmaker condemned the president for the way and manner crisis has been abled in the country.

“About six years down the line and having secured a second term mandate from Nigerians, it is heart-wrenching to note that insecurity has worsened in the country, leading to interrogative concerns…” he wrote.

Gagdi, who is the Chairman House Committee on Navy added that, “the issue of insecurity has reached a point where the current strategies being adopted by your administration have failed and are no way going to guarantee safety.”

Gagdi is not alone in this thought. Earlier, Rotimi Agunsoye, a member of the House from Lagos stated that the APC administration has failed to deliver security for Nigerians.

The lawmakers have also used press statements, briefing and the likes, but currently, Zamfara State has declared curfew in 13 local governments. Citizens cannot buy fuel more than N10,000 and several governors in the North have shut down schools, while Nigerians wait for the lawmakers to move beyond the cry, press statement, resolutions and other measures that have failed to yield results.

Mr Ayika stated that while the lawmakers may not have the power to execute, they can be closer to the people they represent, urging them to leave the comfort of Abuja for their villages as often as possible.

when you are representing the people, don’t stay too far away from the people you are representing. That is why at the National Assembly, the sitting is Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursdays. You don’t sit on Mondays and Fridays, and such activities are deliberately coined or designed for members to visit their constituencies on Friday and come back on Monday, then go for their sittings on Tuesday, but the majority of the legislators, once they win and get to Abuja– of course, Abuja is a comfortable place, surrounded by good roads and beautiful green trees, so they forget the constituencies, they forget the constituents while enjoying their lives in Abuja. Because if they are there with the people, they will feel what the people are feeling, and since they have the powers, they will do something to that effect. Along the line of representation, it will be good for constituents to visit their constituencies as often as possible. It will be good for them to make good use of their constituency offices, where issues of crimes and unlawful acts are reported. It is different when a legislator—national or state– calls the Commissioner of Police or director of DSS, compared to a common man in the village—you know that in Nigeria, the issue of whom is concerned has a lot to do with the actions taken. With that, some of these problems will be taken care of.”

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