The House of Representatives Committee on Monitoring and Implementation of Legislative Agenda has commenced a two-day retreat to discuss new bills that will address insecurity in Nigeria and the roles of security agencies.
The retreat, holding in Lagos, is in collaboration with the Office of the Speaker, Konrad Adenauer Stiftung (KAS), the National Institute for Legislative and Democratic Studies (NILDS), and supported by the German Consulate.
This retreat, which focuses on addressing national security issues, will consider seven amended bills to tackle the overlapping functions of security agencies in Nigeria.
The bills are the Armed Forces Act (Amendment) Bill, 2021; Police Act (Amendment) Bill, 2021; Economic and Financial Crimes Commission Act (Amendment) Bill, 2021; Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Act (Amendment) Bill, 2021; National Security and Civil Defence Corps Act (Amendment) Bill, 2021; and the Customs and Excise Management Act (Amendment) Bill, 2021.
Speaking at the opening ceremony of the retreat on Friday, Femi Gbajabiamila, the House Speaker, said the amended bills reflect recommendations by security experts and policymakers on National Security.
Mr Gbajabiamila was represented by Tobe Okechukwu (PDP, Aninri/Awgu/Oji River), the deputy minority leader.
“In the legislature, we do not control armies, we cannot deploy men and equipment to fight insurgencies, and to prevent the taking over of spaces by bandits, criminals, and assorted bad actors.
“Our power, and therefore our responsibility lies in our constitutional mandate to make laws for the good governance of the country. And we serve this mandate by convening ourselves and others in programs like this, to critically consider problems, advance solutions and agree on a joint strategy for law-making for oversight and collaboration with the executive,” Mr Gbajabiamila said.
The speaker said the experts and members of the House present at the retreat will review each of the bills, and achieve a collective understanding and shared appreciation of their objectives.
“We will together and individually work to rapidly advance these reform proposals through the legislative process, with a clear-eyed understanding of the fact that the work we do on these Bills will go a long way in ensuring that our country can defeat the forces of violence and strife that challenge us and threaten our peaceful prosperity,” the speaker said.
Vladimir Kreck, the resident representative of KAS said there is a need for improved collaboration between security agencies in Nigeria.
“We believe that only one agency, considering the magnitude of security challenges in Nigeria, that only one agency won’t be able to tackle all the security issues in the country. Only joint approaches, collaborative approaches of security agencies in Nigeria may entail success in all aspects.”
Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung (KAS) is a German political foundation, associated with the German ruling party, the Christian Democratic Union that has been supporting Security Sector Reform in Nigeria since 2016.
Sharing some of the findings of a survey by KAS on the Overlapping Mandates of Security, Intelligence and Enforcement Agencies, Mr Kreck said there is a need to address core issues on the functions of the agencies.
“We realise that over the past decades, the a high number of security agencies were created in Nigeria by legislative acts, and in result, many of these agencies have overlapping mandates. Many of them even have the same mandates and there is no regulatory framework that might prevent conflicting situations between agencies, and rivalry.”
He said there is a need for frameworks that will induce inter-agency collaboration to tackle the main security challenges together and not in rivalry.
Mr Kreck said the interventions of KAS in the security section is to seek reforms that will foster national security policy-making, improved democratic governance, and strengthen interagency approaches in the fight against crime, violence and terrorism in Nigeria.
“Today, Nigeria suffers from a variety of serious security challenges that are by far not limited to the Islamist insurgency in the North-east anymore. Large-scale banditry in the North-West, farmers-herders conflicts in the North-Central and in Southern parts of the country, insurgency movements in the South-East and, as of late, in the South-West, as well as banditry and militancy in the South-South, are the major security issues that destabilize the country and make development nearly impossible,
“Considering the scale of security challenges as well as the present overstretching of security agencies, it becomes clear that neither the armed forces nor the police or any other Nigerian security agency alone will be able to bring peace to the country. Only joint, collaborative approaches may entail success.
“Interagency collaboration, however, is not natural to agencies with similar or even overlapping mandates. In order to overcome rivalry between agencies and to induce synergies, a regulatory framework is necessary, defining the modes of collaboration, Mr Kreck said.
He added that it is on this backdrop that amended security bills to foster coordination will be reviewed at the retreat.
“We are convinced that this retreat will not only contribute to a decisive step towards a more effective security sector, but also to more democratic governance in Nigeria,” he said.
Speaking at the opening ceremony, Henry Nwabuwa, Chairman, Committee on Legislative Agenda, said the committee will ensure innovative solutions to address the most pressing national problems which revolve around security.
He said during the period of the retreat, the committee, policymakers, and security experts will review bills that will address statutory weaknesses of the national security framework.
“Both the original and updated versions of the legislative agenda of the 9th House of Representatives included a commitment to seek and implement legislative reforms to the security architecture of Nigeria.
“Beyond specific considerations of provisions of these bills, we are here today to collect the opinions, observations, and ideas of members, so that these contributions can be part of other security reform bills,” he said.
Mr Nwabuwa said the reforms will serve the interest of the country and the committee will ensure they see the bills through to legislation.
Also, Abubakar Sulaiman, Director-General of the National Institute for Legislative & Democratic Studies (NILDS), said the retreat is the culmination of a survey on overlapping mandates in the constitutional and statutory frameworks regulating security and intelligence agencies in Nigeria conducted by KAS.
“The findings from the study, which will be presented at this retreat, show that despite perennial and often-cited problems such as insufficient funding, lack of military hardware, absence of robust intelligence gathering and analysis mechanisms and a host of other challenges, another significant challenge faced by security agencies in Nigeria relates to the poor understanding of and management of overlapping mandates.
“Whereas overlaps in functions are often necessary and even desirable, if not properly managed, it can lead to misunderstanding and sometimes even outright conflict. However, where there is synergy between agencies, they are better able to manage conflict, share resources, and draw from the operational competencies of one another, ” he said.
Mr Sulaiman added that inter-agency collaboration can reduce the strain on existing resources and help the country effectively tackle insecurity.