Senate President, David Mark, has proposed an immediate comprehensive review of existing laws on terrorism to give more powers to security agents to tackle the insecurity challenge posed by the extremist sect, Boko Haram.
Mr. Mark, who was speaking during the opening of the three days Senate retreat in Uyo on Monday, noted that desperate times require desperate measures by the Executive and the Legislative arms of government to strengthen the security take the battle to the sect, which he identified as the country’s main security challenge today.
“At the moment, we cannot just go with the rule of law,” he said.
“The way Boko Haram is going, if nothing drastic is done to halt it, God forbid, it may result in the break-up of the country,” Mr. Mark said.
Dismissing suggestions that poverty is behind the Boko Haram insurgency, the Senate President said if every poor man in the country decides to become a suicide bomber, Nigeria would not exist today, pointing out that the problem might be as a result of lack of education, which requires a long term solution.
He placed the origin of the problem squarely on issues of ideology and religious fundamentalism as well as dearth of national values, urging the government not to be deterred by the antics of the terrorists, by ensuring that it does stop any of its programmes.
“Boko Haram has resulted in massive regional movement, promoted ethnic and religious conflicts in the country, while under-development in the Northern part of the country has worsened. If government stops any of its programmes, the terrorists would have succeeded in frustrating national development,” he said.
He posed the challenge to political leaders and elites from the North to come together to find solutions to the menace of Boko Haram, saying the growing insecurity in the region constitutes the greatest disincentive to development and economic growth.
“Those behind Boko Haram are shooting themselves on the foot. Other regions are not going to wait for the North to develop before they carry on their development programmes. The same people who are crying about under-development in the North are responsible for the current situation, because no investor would risk investing his money in any part of the North when his life is in danger.
“The investor who comes into Nigeria would look at the safe areas of the country to do business, and the safe areas in the country today are the Southern states. The Northern states have to think properly before they allow what a few selected cabals in Boko Haram are doing to bring the North to its knees. If allowed to go on, it will encourage disunity and religious war, because there is a limit to patience. Christian leaders have been appealing against vengeance. But, for how long would the people continue to listen, while they are being killed?” he said.
Nevertheless, he called on the government to keep the avenues for dialogue open for the sect, on condition that it would make their leaders known if they have genuine grievances.
To address the unemployment at the grassroots, which he blamed for the situation, Mr. Mark underscored the need to make the Local Governments function properly, pointing out that at the moment most of them are in a comatose state, because the states that control them hardly allow their allocations to get to them.
President Goodluck Jonathan, as he declared the retreat open, stressed the need for cooperation between his administration and the National Assembly in waging a concerted war against Boko Haram, urging all parties to avoid the politicisation of the Insecurity issue.
While emphasizing accountability on security policy issues, the President noted that the nation’s security depends on its economic growth, assuring that the economy is growing well, as it is currently being diversified, with greater focus on agriculture and food security as crucial factors for national security.
“We must work together under a new social and political contract to safeguard the country,” the president said.
“Whatever are the causes, the solution lies in a stronger union among all stakeholders, equity and justice, transparency and accountability, above all the fear of God. If God did not will it, we would not be together today as a country of Christians, Moslems and traditionalists. If God did not will it, we would not be together as a people of multi-ethnic groups. If God did not will it, we will not be Nigerians today.
“Our unity is the will of God, and our diversity is the binding ligament of our strength. Those who want to weaken us use axes of hate to cut the tree of our strength. But, we should refuse to be weakened. Let us unite to defeat the forces of darkness. We should not play politics with national security. The challenge of terror and insecurity should unite the country as we take the fight to the terrorists,” the president said.