BY EMMAN OVUAKPORE & LEVINUS NWABUGHIOGU
Abuja — Emotion overwhelmed the House of Representatives yesterday as members were brought to the point of tears on a day the House declared a day of mourning for the 59 slain students of the Federal Government College, Buni Yadi, Yobe State.
Speaker Aminu Tambuwal declared it as a day of infamy as he took members on an imaginary journey on what happened to the students on that fateful night of February 25.
“My dear colleagues, please travel with me on an imaginary journey to Federal Government College, Buni Yadi.
“Picture the scene as the terrorists creep into the hostels and the children begin to wake up one after the other, with their eyes heavy with sleep, each of them convinced that this is some nightmare.
“Picture the chaos in the rooms and the terror on the faces of the children as they watch the murderers attack the first set of students, the ones nearest to the entrance, and the students begin to realise that what is happening is not a nightmare but a reality far harsher than any nightmare the mind of a child can construct.”
Yesterday’s session began when the Majority Leader of the House, Hon. Mulikat Akande-Adeola moved that “this House do hold a Special Session to deliberate on the incessant killings and maiming of people and residents of Adamawa, Borno and Yobe States by the Boko Haram insurgents.”
The motion, which was seconded by Hon. Friday Itulah (Edo, PDP) then paved way for the speaker.
In a moving speech, the speaker, while commending the various Committees which have been working assiduously on the budget, said that welcoming back members was rather on a sad note to him. He condemned the brutish killing of the “ innocent” students and other victims, saying that it was on that note that the House had to dedicate the day to mourn the departed.
He said: “I welcome you back to the Plenary Session of the House of Representatives. In the last two weeks, various Committees of the House had been working assiduously on the 2014 Appropriation Bill. The House is grateful to the Committees for their hard work and dedication. Our reunion at times like this has always been one of joy for accomplishment of a civic responsibility. However on this day it is with the greatest sense of anguish that I welcome you back.
“On February 25, 2014, the very day the House adjourned Plenary, Nigeria suffered a horrendous terrorist attack that struck a fatal blow at the heart and soul of the Nigerian nation and desecrated values that decent peoples of all nations hold dear.
”On that night, about 59 students of Federal Government College, Buni Yadi, Yobe State were killed in the most heinous manner. Some of our future national leaders were mowed down in gruesome circumstances in their sleep. Some were shot dead while many were burnt beyond recognition. That day was a day that will live in infamy in the history of this nation.”
And we cannot therefore merely join in the chorus of lamentations. Our duty is to act swiftly and decisively in the protection of the citizenry.”
Over 20 Resolutions passed on National Security
The speaker also hinted that the House of Representatives since the inception of the current 7th Assembly has passed 20 resolutions on national security, amended the anti- terrorism law and appropriated monies for security agencies to strengthen the fight against terrorism and insurgency in the country, regretting that despite all that, killings have persisted.
“In the past, this House had initiated and supported all measures needed to combat terrorism in the Country. Since active terrorism started manifesting itself, the House has taken the following steps: We have passed over twenty resolutions on the issue of national security. We amended the Anti-terrorism Act, 2011 to strengthen the Security Agencies. We have appropriated huge sums of money for the Security Agencies.
“Only recently, January 30, 2014 the House in making its recommendations for Constitutional Amendment voted to include the National Security Agencies and the Nigerian Police on the First Line charge for purpose of ensuring their financial independence and timely release of funds when appropriated.
“While we await the completion of the Constitutional amendment process in which we have thus sought to remove the funding bottleneck that impedes the operational effectiveness of our security institutions, we must in the interim adopt definite measures to ensure that the security agencies have all the support they need to put an end to this long-running orgy of bloodbath so that Nigerians can sleep with both eyes closed. That is the most basic service citizens expect from their government.”
Articulating solutions on the matter, Tambuwal recommended an all-inclusive strategy which included a better equipped and motivated military personnel currently on the ground in the north east as a new approach that will pay off.
“My dear Colleagues, let us not forget that we have in place a State of Emergency in the three affected North East states. Yet the killings have continued unabated in spite of the gallant efforts of our security forces. It is therefore clear that we need to come up with other ideas for a solution. There are certain questions that this House must now ask. How do we ensure that the welfare of our military is effectively administered and that they have the appropriate equipment to execute their hazardous assignment? The sad events of recent weeks have once again made Nigerians ask whether moneys appropriated for the welfare of our security forces are properly administered.
“How do we strengthen the intelligence gathering capabilities of our intelligence agencies? How do we encourage the Nigerian Police Force to institutionalize Community Policing as a framework for engaging local Communities in a partnership for checking crime and terrorism? What about integrating local security structures into the regular security windows of the Nigerian Police Force with the Federal, State and Local governments supporting them with necessary resources? Is it perhaps time for us to revisit the idea of State Police?
“How do we develop an institutional framework for securing the land through a neighborhood audit where a tab is kept on every member and every housing structure whether completed or uncompleted? A fully engaged and strongly organized local population would not allow terrorism in their community or across their territory. Nigerian citizens must therefore be mobilized to take back their communities. Intelligence gathering will improve tremendously if security structures at the local levels are tapped effectively by the Police.
“How do we institute a form of ‘Marshall Plan’ to effectively address the economic circumstances of the affected regions? Such a measure will serve to check youth restiveness, unemployment and mass poverty. The private sector also has a huge role to play in this. What about our traditional rulers, religious leaders and other stakeholders? Does the government now need to intensify engagement with these elders to take advantage of their unique position, wisdom and influence?
“These few suggestions are only intended to serve as stimuli for further discourse. I challenge my colleagues and other Nigerians to come forward with other ideas and solutions on how we can as a nation address this situation.”
We must be United to Win
The Lawmaker also regretted that “One hundred years after Nigeria was amalgamated into one country, there are Nigerians who would still prefer to emphasize and celebrate our differentness and blame the British for amalgamating us, rather than embrace the reality of our oneness.”
He called on Nigerians to eschew political and sectional differences “In the light of a heart-wrenching tragedy like this”, saying that “We cannot claim to be one nation, if we cannot find unity in grief.”
“My dear colleagues, Our nation is in mourning, and it is in urgent need of consolation. Our nation is in pain, and in urgent need of healing. Our nation is puzzled, and in urgent need of answers. Our nation is disillusioned, and in urgent need of reassurance. As the elected representatives of the people, it is our duty to offer that consolation, administer that healing, provide those answers and furnish that reassurance that our people need to make them continue to believe in the Nigerian nation,” Tambuwal further stated.