IT may sound strange that the positive response of the Service Chiefs to an invitation by the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria could draw our special attention. We give them a pat on the back because their action went a long way in restoring the dignity of the National Assembly which was seriously undermined by the serial, flagrant refusals of some top appointees of the Federal Government to appear before our elected representatives.
The invitation was sequel to the rising spate of insecurity in the country, particularly the intractable Boko Haram insurgency, upsurge in herdsmen’s attacks and the reign of terror by cattle rustlers and other armed bandits. At the plenary session on 17th April 2018, some senators had recommended the sack of the Service Chiefs. A resolution was later reached to invite them to explain why they seem unable to protect the people.
To the happy surprise of well-meaning Nigerians, the Service Chiefs – the Chief of Defence Staff, General Abayomi Olonishakin; the Chief of Army Staff, Lt-Gen Tukur Buratai; the Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Ibok-Ete Ibas and the Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshall Sadique Abubakar – were joined by the Director -General of the Department of State Services (DSS), Alhaji Lawal Daura on 23rd May 2018, to honour the invitation at the National Assembly complex.
It will be recalled that on previous occasions Colonel Hameed Ali (Comptroller-General of the Customs) and Alhaji Ibrahim Idris, the Inspector General of Police (IGP) refused to honour the Senate summons. They even went to court in efforts to evade the summons. This gave, perhaps, the wrong impression that the erring officials had the backing of President Buhari, whose government faces a frosty relationship with the legislative arm. It is on record that the President specifically directed officials to respond to National Assembly summons to defend their agencies’ budgets.
The implication is that the recalcitrant officials acted of their own will. This, however, exacerbates the growing impression that there is very little control within the government, as everyone appears to act as they like. That is unacceptable.
In the same manner that all citizens who are not covered by immunity are mandated to respond to police invitations, they are equally duty-bound to respect the summons of the legislative arm. The constitution empowers them to invite anyone when required in the performance of their duties.
We must learn to respect our institutions created under our democracy, even if they do not possess the power to directly inflict pain on defaulters. The legislature represents the Nigerians people. Refusing their invitations is a slap on the faces of the people.
We commend the Service Chiefs for refusing to emulate the bad examples set by their recalcitrant colleagues.