PRESIDENT Muhammadu Buhari is currently presiding over the quarterly National Security Council, NSC, at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.

…Sack service chiefs now – Senate

…Notes 67, not 43 farmers killed

…ACF, Afenifere, Ohanaeze, CNG back Senate

…Service chiefs’ll remain as long as Buhari is satisfied with them — Garba Shehu

…Uproar in House of Reps over resolution to invite Buhari to explain insecurity

…Invitation not necessary — Gbajabiamila, Doguwa

…B-Haram badly degraded, attacks defenceless people – Lai Mohammed

By Anayo Okoli, Regional Editor, South-East, Henry Umoru, Dapo Akinrefon, Levinus Nwabughiogu, Chioma Onuegbu & Ibrahim HassanWuyo

The Senate and leader of Boko Haram, Abubakar Shekau, differed yesterday in the number of casualties recorded in the sect’s attack on rice farmers at Zabarmari community in Jere Local Government Area of Borno State last Saturday.

While the Upper Chamber said 67 of the farmers were killed, Shekau claimed 78 were beheaded in the attack.  Both Governor Babagana Zulum and the military had claimed weekend that 43 of the farmers fell victim of the attack.

The United Nations which earlier said 110 farmers were killed, said yesterday that it didn’t have accurate number of those actually killed.

Shekau said his group was responsible for the killing of the farmers in a video he released yesterday.

He said his men went after the farmers because they handed over a member of the sect to the Nigerian army, warning that those giving out intelligence on Boko Haram activities to the military would face the same fate.

The Senate also, yesterday, asked President Muhammadu Buhari to urgently sack service chiefs, following last Saturday’s beheading of 43 farmers at Koshobe, Borno State, by Boko Haram.

The call, for the umpteenth time, came barely hours after Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Mallam Garba Shehu, said on Arise TV programme Monday night that the service chiefs will remain in office as long as the President was satisfied with their performance.

The Senate’s call came on a day the House of Representatives was thrown into an uproar over resolution of members to invite the President to give an explanation on the security situation in the country, in the aftermath of the massacre of farmers in Borno.

This is even as Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, yesterday, insisted that Boko Haram had been badly degraded, saying it could only now attack defenceless people.

The Senate’s call elicited the support of Yoruba socio-political organization, Afenifere, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Arewa Consultative Forum, ACF and Coalition of Northern Groups, CNG.

Senators question Buhari’s inability to manage insecurity

Senators at yesterday’s plenary questioned why President Buhari could not marshall the country’s security agencies to protect the people.

According to the senators, President Buhari has breached the 1999 Constitution as amended, having failed to adhere to Section 14(1) of 1999 Constitution which has to do with the government and the people as well as stipulates that the Federal Republic of Nigeria shall be a state based on the principles of democracy and social justice.

The senators argued that Nigeria will not move forward if the lives and property of Nigerians were not secured.

Resolutions of the Senate were sequel to a motion entitled “Beheading of 67 farmers in Borno by Boko Haram insurgents: Need for Urgent Decisive Action,” sponsored by Senator Kashim Shettima ( APC, Borno Central), co-sponsored by 17 other senators.

…demand immediate sack of service chiefs

The Senate, which read the riot act to the President, asked him to immediately sack the service chiefs and appoint fresh hands to nip in the bud the insecurity in the country.

According to the Senate,   the time has come for  the Chief of Defence Staff, General Abayomi Olonisakin; National Security Adviser, NSA, Major-General Mohammed Babagana Monguno; Chief of Army Staff, Lt.General Tukur Yusuf Buratai; Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar and Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Marshal Ibok- Ete Ibas to go because they have outlived their usefulness.

It also disclosed that 67, and not 43 farmers were killed in very gruesome manner by the insurgents.

The lawmakers adopted these resolutions after almost an hour-long deliberation on insecurity across the country and the recent killing of 43 farmers in Borno State.

Presenting the motion, Senator Shettima called   for urgent, decisive action against Boko Haram, even as he said the primary responsibility of government was protection of lives and property of citizens.

Shettima, who lamented the rice farm massacre, said, among others: “The Senate is disheartened that more than 67 citizens were beheaded while they were working on their farmlands without any form of resistance or challenge from the security stationed a few kilometres away.”

He said that the Nigerian military in conjunction with other security agencies had not been able to quell the insurgency affecting the region, in spite the slogan by government officials that the insurgents had been technically defeated.

Continuing, Shettima said: “The Senate notes that Borno State has been the epicentre of the despicable activities of Boko Haram for over a decade, during which a conservative estimate of 40,000 people, mostly unarmed civilians, were brutally murdered, 2.5 million people displaced from their homes and farms, property worth trillions of naira wantonly destroyed and over seven million people, mostly women and children, plunged into dire humanitarian needs.

“The Senate notes also that the fight to control the border axis of the North-Eastern part of this country has claimed thousands of lives (military and civilians alike). That the fallen men and women of our military, police and CJTF are our national heroes who we must remember, pray for and care for their loved ones till the end of time.

“It is aware that over the weekend, Boko Haram insurgents beheaded 67 farmers who had gone to a rice plantation at Kwashabe village in Zabarmari District of Jere Local Government Area, 20 kilometres north of Maiduguri, Borno State, to harvest rice and destroyed the farm.

“It observes that this attack is one of the major attacks perpetrated by this devilish group in addition to the February attack in Auno that killed 40 people, the assault in Foduma Koloram village of Gubio that killed almost 100 civilians last June, while another attack in Usman Lawanti left another 40 dead.

“It further observes that last month, Boko Haram fighters killed 22 farmers working on irrigation fields near Maiduguri in two separate incidents.

“The Senate further observes that while Nigerian Army’s Super Camp strategy has commendably helped in reducing military fatalities, it has left rural areas, farms and roads acutely exposed to attacks.

“It observes that as the Wall Street Journal documented in a recent report and as supported by the testimonies of victims and survivors, while Maiduguri and other major cities are relatively safe, thanks to the efforts of this administration, Boko Haram insurgents are literally ruling our rural areas and roads such as the Damaturu-Maiduguri road, especially around Jakana, Damboa-Maiduguri and Damaturu-Dapchi, where they mount checkpoints, rob, kill, destroy and abduct at will.”

 ‘Buhari’s best not good enough’

In his contribution, Senator Ahmad Babba-Kaita (APC, Katsina North), who is the senator representing President Buhari in the Senate, was the second to blast the government, stating that while Buhari might have done his best; his best has not been good enough to keep Nigeria secured.

Babba-Kaita, who called for probe of Nigeria’s military spending, said: “The moment of truth has come. It is no longer acceptable to every Nigerian; we cannot accept the explanation coming from the military.

“We have to sit and re-access the situation. Day in, day out, same scenario continues to play out. If we allow this to go, let’s be ready for another mourning. I believe the President is doing his best but the best is not good enough.”

On his part, former Senate Leader and Chairman, Senate Committee on Army, Senator Mohammed Ali Ndume (APC, Borno South), while quoting sections of the Nigerian Constitution, especially Section 14(1), noted that the sole responsibility of government is the security and welfare of its citizens; stressing that any serious government should be able to quell Boko Haram in less than six months.

Ndume, who noted the pitiable life of soldiers at war, how they share guns and how Boko Haram has seized virtually everywhere in Borno, said the insurgents have the audacity to set up roadblocks and collect harvest fees and levies from farmers.

He also called for a review of the current security architecture and a time-line for  service chiefs to deliver or get fired.

Ndume said: “The issue of insecurity has been there. We have lamented. Committees have been set up. We have sent recommendations to the President. Two reports were not implemented. There are other recommendations we have made and nothing was done.

“We need to take a step further. Section 14 of the Constitution is clear. We are just talking about security. You pay and people don’t have the arms. I can tell you that people fighting war are sharing ammunition.

“They have no arms or proper kits. I have gone round. I have not seen a Nigerian soldier holding a new AK-47. Last week, some people came to me in Abuja and they asked for money to help them pay their dues to Boko Haram terrorists before they can harvest their crops.

“If government is serious, this terrorism can be stopped in six months. America engages mercenaries. Why can’t we get that? We will be failing in our responsibility if we fail to do the right thing.”

Service chiefs have outlived their usefulness — Aliero

On his part, Senator Adamu Aliero (APC, Kebbi Central), who shared   in the sentiment of others, said the service chiefs have outlived their usefulness.

He also blamed President Buhari for not going personally to Maiduguri to visit the government and people of Borno, instead sending a delegation there.

“The ideal thing is for the President to go to Zabarmari,” Senator Aliero said.

In his presentation, Senator Opeyemi Bamidele (APC,   Ekiti Central) and Senator George Sekibo (PDP, Rivers East), added their voices to growing calls on Buhari to sack the service chiefs.

Senator Bamidele said the only new thing was that more people had been killed, adding, “I stand on existing resolutions.

“It is time for Buhari to let the service chiefs go. They have done their best. If he cannot remove them, he should constitute an advisory committee and put them there. They will still be advising him. If he won’t let them go, we call on them, in overriding public interest, to resign.

“Before budget is passed, Buhari should address the National Assembly on plans for insecurity or hold a joint session public hearing on the issue. It should not be business as usual.”

Lawan laments

In his remarks, President of the Senate, Senator Ahmad Lawan, who presided over the session, lamented the Borno killings, describing it as one death too many

Lawan said: “We should not despair that nothing has happened to our earlier resolutions. It is now important that the executive should implement the latest resolution because they are not frivolous.

READ ALSO: Zabarmari Massacre: AFAN expresses sadness, says disaster looms in food system

“Enough of excuses, those who have nothing to offer in terms of securing the country should be shown the way out. The security of Nigerians should take the centre stage. Time has come to find solution.”

Lawan pledged that the executive would receive the resolution, adding that the Senate leadership will insist on their full implementation.

You can’t keep top grade incompetents in office—Afenifere

Throwing its weight behind the Senate, the pan-Yoruba socio-political organization, Afenifere, said though the Senate’s call was just a demand, no serious government would keep top grade, incompetent officials in office.

Afenifere’s National Publicity Secretary, Yinka Odumakin, said: “It is just a demand by the Senate. No serious country that cares about the lives of its people will keep the grade A incompetents in office.”

It ‘s overdue, they lack initiatives, new ideas — Ohanaeze

On its part, Ohanaeze Ndigbo expressed total support for the call by the Natolnal Assembly on President Muhammadu Buhari to sack service chief, saying they lacked the capacity to tackle the rising insecurity in the country.

Acting Secretary General of the Igbo apex group, Prince Uche Achi-Ogbaga, said the removal of the service chiefs was over due as they seemed to lack initiatives to combat the insecurity that has bedveiled Nigeria as a nation.

He said: “Ohanaeze Ndigbo is one of the groups that have been calling on the President to change the service chiefs. It is said that monotony kills the interest.

“The service chiefs have overstayed and perhaps have exhausted all their ideas. And, therefore, seem to lack new ideas to tackle the rising insecurity in the country. They seem to lack initiatives. They have run out of ideas.

“The Federal Government said the beheaded farmers did not get permission from the military before going to their farms. This is embarrassing. Do you need to get clearance to go to your farm or leave your house?

“That means there is serious insecurity and that is why we have been calling for the removal of the service chiefs. They should be changed, let new people with new ideas and initiatives come in.  We need new officers with new ideas. Nigeria is fast becoming the worst secured nation.”

ACF backs Senate

Also support the Senate’s call for sack of service chiefs by the President, National Publicity Secretary of Arewa Consultative Forum, ACF, ACF, Emmanuel Yawe, said the forum had earlier made its position known on the security situation in the country and the need for the service chiefs to be sacked and stood by that.

Reiterating that Nigerians are worried by continued killings across the North, the ACF scribe said  the group has appealed to the President to live by his oath of office to protect the lives and properties of Nigerians.

North now a battlefront, service chiefs should go – CNG

Similarly, the Coalition of Northern Groups, CNG, also asked the President to sack the service chiefs, noting that the killings of the farmers in Borno State was indicative that the north was now a battle front.

Abdulazeez Suleiman, spokesperson of the coalition, said: “For us in the North, policing lives and livelihoods of communities is now a major problem, it would not be an exaggeration to say bluntly that Buhari is the single problem of Nigeria today.

“We all heard of Zabarmari because the number was huge and it all happened at the same place and hour. The truth is, these incidents are constant all over the North which is today virtually a battlefront, and a hostage of Boko Haram, kidnappers, bandits, rustlers and rapists who roam about and operate freely while President Buhari and his government persist in denial.

“Northern leaders and elites fortified in their comfort zones and living far away from the effects of this devastating insecurity may be tolerated if they downplay the significance of insisting that Buhari has failed in the vital area of protecting the lives and properties of a significant component of the nation, the North.

“We, the common people, understand what it means, and we daily pray to God that we have a change of situation because without doubt, this administration will certainly abandon the North to be routed completely by criminals who understand that weak political will, insensitivity, incompetence and corruption have weakened government’s resolve to challenge them.

“All Northerners feel the pains of this insecurity that is already frustrating all hopes that the government could discover a more permanent solution to recurring violence across the region. We, therefore, insist that in the face of this glaring failure, the people must consider taking steps to protect themselves and their communities.

“While we don’t doubt that governments are important in deciding how we live, but citizens and communities who speak and understand each other make stronger building blocks for sustainable peace and public safety.

“We urge all northern communities to unite against this pervasive dangerous security situation with resolve and awareness of their obligations under the law, as well as the knowledge that victory will only be pronounced when the region achieves full cessation of hostilities, disarmament, demobilization and reintegration.”

Service chiefs’ll remain for as long as Buhari is satisfied with them – Garba Shehu

However, Garba Shehu, a presidential spokesman, had earlier on Monday night, said the nation’s service chiefs would remain in office as far as President Muhammadu Buhari was satisfied with them.

Shehu, who featured during an Arise TV programme on Monday night, said the calls for the sack of the service chiefs were “out of place”.

He faulted claims that the tenure of the service chiefs had expired, saying the law does not prescribe such term limit.

“I am not aware that the tenure of service chiefs is subject to any law or regulation that is clearly stated. They serve at the pleasure of the president.

“If the President is satisfied with their performance, he keeps them. And the buck stops at his table with all due respect to the feelings of Nigerians.

“The clamour for the sack is out of place, considering that the President is not subject to the opinion of the opposition political party which has clamoured for this all the time.”

Shehu said contrary to the view of the opposition that “they have a role” in the tenure of service chiefs, it is “entirely up to him (the President) to decide.  He decides who he keeps as a service chief and for how long,” he added.

Uproar in House of Reps

Also yesterday, there was uproar in the House of Representatives as members were locked in a shouting match divided at plenary on whether or not to invite President Muhammadu Buhari to appear before them and offer explanations on the security situation in the country.

The lawmakers, however, resolved to invite the President after the matter was put to a voice vote, after initial division among them

The decision of the House to summon the President was sequel to a motion sponsored by 11 lawmakers representing various constituencies of Borno State.

The lawmakers included Ahmed Satomi, Mohammed Tahir Monguno, Zainab Gimba, Muktar Betara, Mallam Bukar Gana, Haruna Mshelia, Ahmadu Usman Jaha, Ibrahim Mohammed   Bukar, Usman Zannah and  Abdulkadir Rahis.

Presenting the motion, titled “Urgent Need to condemn and investigate the insane killing of unarmed farmers in Jere Local Government of Borno State,” on  behalf of his colleagues, Ahmed Satomi, who represents Jere Federal Constituency where the attack took place, condemned the killing of the rice farmers.

He said, among others: “The House is pained  that more than 43 people were killed in an “insane” and barbaric attack of rice farmers in Jere Local Government Area of Borno State on Saturday 28th November 2020;

“Troubled that the attackers tied up agricultural labourers working in rice fields and slit their throats in Zabarmari village, Jere Local Government, near Maiduguri, in Borno State;

“Disturbed that some of the victims are labourers from other states of the federation who had travelled to work on the rice fields in Borno State;

“Worried that the exact number of people killed in the incident is not yet known as over 44 dead bodies were recovered, buried, all of them slaughtered, along with six others with serious injuries and many more residents are reported missing;

“Recognizes that at the funeral of the victims on Sunday 29th November, 2020 the governor of Borno State, Babagana Zulum, stated that “Our people are in very difficult situations, they are in two different extreme conditions: in one side, [if] they stay at home, they may be killed by hunger and starvation; on the other, they go out to their farmlands and risk getting killed by the insurgents.”

On the prayer of the motion, Satomi urged the House to prevail on President Muhammadu Buhari to declare a state of emergency on security.

He also asked the security agencies to intensify efforts in the anti-terrorism war.

Amendment to the bill

Hardly had he finished when Deputy Minority Leader, Toby Okechukwu, suggested amendments to the bill.

The lawmaker recommended that the Arms Act be amended to allow eligible Nigerians bear arms; the House should investigate the preparedness of the Defence Industry Corporation of Nigeria to manufacture weapons in the face of alleged international gang-up against Nigeria; investigation of billions of Naira spent on the purchase of equipment. While the house voted positively on the preparedness of the defence industry, others failed.

The uproar

Meanwhile, the motion as earlier presented by Satomi didn’t go down well with another Borno lawmaker, Ahamdu Jaha, who relied on Order 6, Rule 1 of the House to say that the original motion which all the lawmakers agreed on was to call on the President to address them on the security situation, especially in the North-Eeast region.

He said that the original prayer of the motion had been jettisoned, therefore, amended the prayers of the motion.

“My amendment is that Mr. President should be invited to come and explain the security situation in the country, especially in the north east,” he said.

Jaha challenged any of the Borno lawmaker who opposed the motion to openly dissociate themselves by raising up their hands, saying they were not in the House as bench warmers.

His amendment got the support of the House.

Shehu Koko from Kebbi State, however, suggested an interface between the leadership of the House and the President.

He said security issues are hardly discussed in the open and as such, inviting the President to the National Assembly was not necessary.

But he was shouted down by his colleagues who rejected the suggestion.

At this juncture, the speaker, Femi Gbajabiamila, said it was not necessary to invite the President, stressing that the state of emergency prayer would suffice.

This was also rejected by the House.

Similarly, the majority leader of the House, Ado Doguwa, added his voice, saying security issues couldn’t be discussed openly, and pleaded the understanding of his colleagues not to summon the President.

He said: “I rise to add my voice to the motion moved by Satomi. I will like to say that based on those issues may not necessarily warrant inviting the President, I appeal that members should not go this far.”

His contribution was, however, greeted with thunderous shouts of  “No! No!!”

Seeing the rising tension and the determination of the lawmakers, the speaker suddenly called for executive session to resolve the matter.

“Hon. Colleagues, I am a little bit disappointed with a lot of these No!, No!!  This is not the spirit with which we started this 9th assembly.  We will go into executive session to resolve this matter,” Gbajabiamila said.

With the speaker’s ruling, the House went into a closed-door session.

Executive session

Reconvening after an hour from the closed-door meeting, Ahmadu Jaha was asked to formally move the motion for the President’s appearance

Successfully seconded by another lawmaker, the motion was subjected to a voice vote.

It then received the overwhelming support of the House, validating the invitation.

The House was, however, silent on the time of the President’s appearance.

Boko Haram badly degraded, attacks only defenceless people – Lai Mohammed

Meanwhile, Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, said yesterday that the killing of 43 farmers in Borno State does not reflect the progress made against Boko Haram insurgents by the military.

Addressing a press conference in Lagos, Mohammed said the killing was an act of cowardice and savagery “by a group of deranged terrorists”.

The minister said going after “soft targets” was an act of desperation by the insurgents “who have suffered huge setbacks in the hands of the military in recent times”.

He said: “On the killing of farmers in Borno, I want to say it is an act of cowardice and savagery by a group of deranged terrorists, and it does not reflect the progress being made by the military against Boko Haram.

“The modus operandi of a losing terror group is to go after soft targets in order to stay relevant. It’s not only Boko Haram that does that. In 2019, Al-Shabbab attacked DusitD2 Complex in Nairobi, Kenya, killing more than 20.

“Similarly, the Peshawar school massacre of 16 December, 2014 in Pakistan, carried out by six gunmen affiliated with the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan, left about 150 people dead, most of them students.

“The truth is that Boko Haram is badly degraded and can only carry out cowardly attacks like the one against defenceless farmers over the weekend.”

The minister also denied  saying Nigeria was at the mercy of Boko Haram because it has been denied weapons to prosecute the war against insurgency.

“This is sheer fabrication and an abuse of a platform. While in Makurdi, Benue State, on an official visit, I was asked by journalists to comment on the killing of farmers in Borno State over the weekend.

“I said terrorism is a global problem that requires the collaborative efforts among nations to combat. I said Nigeria needs the support of global partners, especially in the area of acquisition of effective platforms to deal with the terrorists

“I recalled that some of the platforms ordered and paid for by Nigeria have yet to be supplied till date, thus weakening the war on terror.

“How these statements translate to Nigeria being at the mercy of Boko Haram is baffling, and could only have come from warped minds who are more interested in attracting traffic to their websites than upholding the truth. Is anyone still in doubt that something urgent needs to be done to rein in the abuse of social media?”

Senate call for service chiefs’ removal cowardly — PANDEF

The apex socio-cultural Organization of the South South geo-political zone, Pan Niger Delta Forum, PANDEF, has said another call by the Senate that President Muhammadu Buhari should sack his service chiefs was cowardly.

National Chairman of PANDEF, and former military Governor of Akwa Ibom State, Air Commodore Idongesit Nkanga (Rtd) who made the assertion yesterday in Uyo, stressed that  what they should do rather was to bring to the attention of the president that the citizens are dissatisfied with the insecurity in the country and not to ask for sack of Service chiefs.

His words: “First of all, the Senators themselves are not serious. It is not for them to say sack service chiefs. They should rather inquire from the president what is causing this insecurity in the country because security of the country is in his hands.

“If there is insecurity the person that will take the blame is the Commander-in-chief (the president), or are they afraid of accusing the Commander-in-Chief? Supposing the President sacks the service chiefs and the insecurity continues?

“The security situation is getting worse, people are dying. If the president now feels that to sack his service chiefs is the answer, he will do it, but for the Senate to say sack service chiefs, as far as I am concerned is cowardly.”

Nkanga pointed out all these while Nigerians have been calling for sack of the service chiefs and he (president) refused to do so, they should know that there is something wrong.

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