The speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, has spoken of concerns about a “knee-jerk decision” in removing Nigeria’s military chiefs amid mounting insecurity, suggesting President Muhammadu Buhari whom he met Monday, may not have welcomed the call by the National Assembly.
The House last week passed a rare motion demanding the termination of the services chiefs as various parts of the country, especially the north, face an unprecedented scale of deadly attacks by Boko Haram, bandits, and kidnappers.
At the Senate, several lawmakers backed the call and urged Mr Buhari to take decisive actions to stem rampant killings of innocent and defenseless Nigerians.
The leaders of the two chambers, Ahmad Lawan, and Mr Gbajabiamila, met with the president on Monday to communicate their decisions, Mr Lawan said.
Asked whether the meeting discussed the removal of the chiefs of army, navy and airforce, Mr Lawan said they discussed “everything that matters as far as the issue of security if this country is concern.”
He did not provide details of the talks. But the speaker gave more insight.
Mr Gbajabiamila said there was the concern of a “knee-jerk” decision regarding the service chiefs, and also whether the prevalent security problems fall under their job description.
“Many of us identify that something drastic has to be done, there’s also the school of thought that says since we are talking about banditry, kidnapping, and murders, what have the armed forces got to do with that, anywhere in the world? So the question then arises that if he changes the service chiefs, does that address the issues of kidnapping and banditry? The army, navy and air force are outfits set up to tackle external aggression. It is the police that is set up for internal security, such as we are all witnessing,” he said.
“That’s talking about service chiefs, has the Inspector-General of Police met up with his responsibilities? The question is if we now narrow it that to the Inspector General to Police, many will argue that he has done a very good job and many will argue with you that he’s hamstrung, straight-jacketed, there’s very little he can do in the face of no equipment, no funding and we explained to Mr President that we have to increase funding, we have to recruit more.”
Read the full interview with state house journalists:
Senate President, Ahmad Lawan
We met with Mr. President over the security issues in the country and other matters of governance. The recent security challenges this country is facing requires that we work very closely.
We had the debates in the two chambers of the National Assembly last week and resolutions were taken and we have come to discuss with Mr. President on the way forward, what we feel about some of these security challenges and also to ask him what he thinks we should do. Even though in the Senate we have our adhoc committee who are to work and fashion out the specific measures we believe should be taken, but the interim, there is need for us as a government to ensure that we provide a way out to tackle the security challenges. In the intermediate and the long term, we should be able to come up with some strategies, the road map to ensure that we secure the lives and properties of Nigeria.
Did the issue of the service chiefs sack come up in your discussion?
We discussed everything that matters as far as the issue of security if this country is concern. We believe that it is imperative that we are able to provide those necessary equipment and welfare for the armed forces of this country and the police, to ensure that they are able to operate and performed efficiently and effectively.
What was the president’s response?
Mr. President was forthcoming, of course as the leader of this country he is more worried than anybody else but the situation. So we are on the same page that we should be able to do whatever it takes to ensure that the security agencies are able to perform better than they are doing now.
Do you think changing the security chiefs will solve the insecurity problems?
You see, in matters of security of course as leaders we are suppose to lead but when it concerns security every single citizen matters in this. So it is for all of us, citizens and leaders to ensure that we are playing our part as it is necessary. But I believe that how the time has come, we have reached a tipping point that everybody in Nigeria is concern about the security situation and therefore we are all prepared and that is why we have come to meet with Mr. President as leaders of National Assembly on behalf of our colleagues, to discuss the way forward. And of course I believe that citizens participation is critical and crucial.
Technology is equally important, are you looking at that side?
Definitely we are looking into technology but don’t want to divulge everything discussed about security but I believe that the issue of technology is important. We need to minimize the casualties of our armed forces and therefore we need to apply technology and become more efficient.
It is also critical that because we are dealing with human beings, you are asking the military, the police to go and fight insurgents, kidnappers and bandits, you also need to do something for their welfare. How do they live? where do they live? What is the condition of the schools for their children? And so in and so forth. So these are issues that are very important and could have very impact outcomes when we are able to do the right thing and we will do them.
Speaker, Femi Gbajabiamila
Is the President as concerned as we are? Answer: probably more. Is the President looking to do something about it? Answer: yes. The question of security is uppermost in his mind and he opened up to us and you must understand that some communications are privileged, but suffice to say that the President is concerned and he intends to do something about our challenges.
Opinions are divided; the generality of the opinion is that the service chiefs should go, that was evident in our debates in the House of Representatives and in the Senate, but sometimes you don’t want a knee-jerk reaction.
Many of us identify that something drastic has to be done, there’s also the school of thought that says since we are talking about banditry, kidnapping, and murders, what have the armed forces got to do with that, anywhere in the world? So the question then arises that if he changes the service chiefs, does that address the issues of kidnapping and banditry? The army, navy and air force are outfits set up to tackle external aggression. It is the police that is set up for internal security, such as we are all witnessing.
That’s talking about service chiefs, has the Inspector-General of Police met up with his responsibilities? The question is if we now narrow it that to the Inspector General to Police, many will argue that he has done a very good job and many will argue with you that he’s hamstrung, straight-jacketed, there’s very little he can do in the face of no equipment, no funding and we explained to Mr President that we have to increase funding, we have to recruit more.
We are talking, even just right now we have gone on to set up a committee that will periodically review the issue of security, maybe once a month or once in six weeks, which will involve the two arms of government and the party.
Major progress was made in this discussion, which is a meeting that lasted over an hour and I believe Nigerians will begin to see traction, they’ll begin to see changes. You can be sure that concrete steps were taken in that direction.
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