Yakubu's confirmation, 2021 budget, PIB, others top agenda as Senate resumes Nov 24…Asks Buhari to issue executive order to flush out bandits, kidnappers, criminal herdsmen

…Wants govs to implement livestock plan

…Senators clash over Akeredolu’s quit order

…Killing, kidnapping of citizens signal govt’s failure – Reps

…Plans to amend ACJA, Human Trafficking Act, Police Service Commission Reforms soon

…Say on cost of governance, ‘we can’t keep making laws to set up more institutions’

…We haven’t got details of story —Presidency

By Henry Umoru, Levinus Nwabughiogu & Johnbosco Agbakwuru

The Senate said yesterday Nigeria is becoming a failed state on account of the insecurity situation in the country, which has culminated in high level insurgency, banditry, kidnapping, herdsmen attacks, and asked President  Muhammadu Buhari to issue executive order on the need to flush out the criminal herders.

It also asked governors to implement the Federal Government’s National Livestock Transformation Plan, NLTP, in an effort to curb the unending conflict between farmers and herders in the country. Also, the quit notice given by Ondo State governor, Rotimi Akeredolu, SAN, to herders to leave forest reserves in the state split senators, following the debate on the issue.

The Senate’s position came on a day Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, said the incessant killing and kidnapping of Nigerians signified government’s failure in its obligations to the people.

Senators angry

At the resumed debate on the general insecurity in the country by the senators, anger, enveloped the Senate chamber.

Senators were particularly worried by the relentless activities of criminal herdsmen that have engulfed the entire country, following unending waves of kidnappings, rapes, murders, ransom-taking, among others.

The lawmakers also urged the President to direct the National Security Adviser, Major-General Babagana Monguno, retd,   the Inspector-General of Police,   IGP, Mohammed Adamu   and the new service chiefs to devise what they described as a proposal to rejig the nation’s security architecture against the current security challenges.

Resolutions of the Senate were sequel to a motion, titled “General insecurity in Nigeria,”  sponsored by  Deputy Senate Leader, Senator Robert Boroffice (APC, Ondo North).

Deliberations on the issue generated a heated debate on the quit notice given to herdsemen by Ondo State governor, Rotimi Akeredolu, SAN, to leave forest reserves in the state.

It will be recalled that following incessant invasions of farms and damage of farm produce by cattle, the governor had asked the herders to leave the forest reserves.

He also asked those who wish to continue to do business in the state to register, so their movements could be easily monitored .

The governor had said:  “Bad elements have turned the reserves into hideouts for keeping victims of kidnapping, negotiating for ransom and carrying out other criminal activities.”

Adamu queries Ondo gov’s action on herdsmen

Debating the issue yesterday, Senator Abdullahi Adamu (APC, Nasarawa West), wondered why the governor would give such an order.

“There are rights of residence. I don’t understand why a governor of a state will ask people who are not indigenes of his state to leave his state.

“We see in the social media, houses of people that have been burnt who are not even from the state.

“We need to find out exactly the truth or otherwise of these allegations of killings as reported,” Adamu said, while contributing to the motion on insecurity sponsored by Senator Ajayi Boroffice.

Abaribe counters Adamu

His contribution was immediately countered by Senate Minority Leader, Enyinnaya Abaribe, who said it was criminal herdsmen the Ondo governor ordered out of the forest reserves and not out of the state.

He said: “No Nigerian is being sent away from anywhere. Criminals are being sent away from the forests where they are. When we come here and say such, you send the wrong message out.

“The message is simple, the police IG has told us, these are criminal elements coming from outside Nigeria and what we should ask ourselves is, if someone is a criminal, and he is in the forest, what is he doing there? We should not water down the issue to please whatever,” Abaribe said.

Buhari asked to seek foreign help

Also contributing to the debate, Smart Adeyemi (APC, Kogi West), urged President Muhammadu Buhari to seek international help in ridding the country of the alleged foreigners perpetrating crime in the country.

“We are talking about N500 billion for COVID-19 intervention. Nigeria’s problem is beyond COVID-19. That N500 billion is needed to fight insurgency, not for COVID-19,” Adeyemi said.

On his part, Senator Francis Alimikhena,   APC, Edo North, who lamented that Nigerians can no longer sleep with their eyes closed because of armed banditry and kidnapping across the country, said one of his constituents,    Prince Denis Abuda, the US-based Nigerian, who was in Edo for the Yuletide holidays, was kidnapped on his way back to Lagos to return to America, but was found dead five days after his abduction.

He said it had become imperative for the country to embrace state police to complement the present federal police to fish out the bandits.

In his contribution,   Senator Tolulope Odebiyi, (APC, Ogun West), said the nation is on the edge of a civil war, urging President Buhari to speak out to calm the people.

He said that it is a serious indictment on the leadership of the nation for foreigners to invade the country to cause havoc.

“President Buhari should sign an Executive Order banning open grazing. The nation is in great danger and the President has done nothing,” he lamented.

Similarly, Senator Biodun Olujimi (PDP, Ekiti South)  said Nigeria is not paying sufficient attention to the problem and should have declared “national emergency” against insecurity as it did to tackle the spread of COVID-19 in the country.

Olujimi said:  “We are in denial, else, we would have declared insecurity a national emergency just like we did for COVID-19. Right now, we are an endangered specie. People are going into homes to abduct, to rape. Herdsmen are everywhere. We have spoken severally and nothing has been done. Posterity beckons.

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“We should declare insecurity a national emergency so that everybody will start to work on it as we are working on COVID-19. The figures that are coming out of insecurity are sure higher than the figures from COVID-19, the deaths are more.”

‘Foreign herders have wreaked havoc for more than 20 years’

In his contribution, Senator Bulkachuwa Adamu Mohammed (APC, Bauchi North), narrated how foreign herders often cross through his border constituency into Nigeria to sack farmers.

According to Bulkachuwa, the attack by these foreign herders on local farmers have been on for at least 20 years, a view attested to by the Senate President who noted that the problem had   lingered for a long time, even in his own state, Yobe.

Also contributing,  Senator James Manager, (PDP, Delta South), called for the arrest and prosecution of culprits, even as he asked how many had been arrested and prosecuted so far.

He queried:  “It’s sad that we only talk here and it ends like that.  How many of these criminals have been arrested and prosecuted?

In his remarks,   President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan, warned politicians against ethnicising the insecurity in the country, warning that doing so is capable of inciting bloodshed among the various ethnic groups in Nigeria.

According to him, the issue of insecurity remains one  the National Assembly will continue to debate, as it affects the welfare of Nigerians.

He emphasized the need for more funding for the military to enable it tackle the widespread insecurity in several states across the geo-political zones, as a result of the growing activities of Boko Haram, bandits and kidnappers.

He said: “There’s no better investment today in Nigeria by government, than making more resources available to our security agencies because security is the major thing that government can do to change the lives of the people for the better.”

Lawan, who further warned politicians against making unguarded comments capable of burning the country and dividing Nigerians along ethnic lines, said the fight against criminality remains the responsibility of security agencies.

“Recently, in most parts of the country, political leaders have decided to throw caution to the winds. We must be careful about what we say because the people listen to us as their leaders.

“So, if we appear to be divisive, they will find justification in taking actions that all of us will regret.  Nobody is saying the situation is okay; it is not. If you have criminals occupying areas they shouldn’t be, of course, the security agencies must take the necessary steps to ensure they address the situation.

“But these are criminals, and that is a specialized criminal activity. All other criminals must be flushed out, otherwise, how do we have peace?

“We have to address criminality, we have to defeat criminality, but we also have to nip in the bud that desire and excitement sometimes of people speaking as champions of their tribes and ethnic groups.”

Senate resolutions

After the argument and counter-argument, the Senate resolved to urge the President to direct the National Security Adviser, NSA, and the new service chiefs to overhaul the country’s security architecture.

It also urged the security agencies to monitor the country’s forests and combat the proliferation of small and light arms into the country.

The Senate equally asked governors of the 36 states to key into the Federal Government’s National Livestock Transformation Plan, NLTP, which had been a subject of controversy since it was mooted in 2018.

Govt has failed the people — Gbaja

Meanwhile, speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, said yesterday that the incessant killing and kidnapping of Nigerians signified government’s failure in its obligations to the people.

He also faulted the creation of new institutions of government, calling instead for reform of existing ones and phasing out of those no longer useful to the economy.

According to him, creating new institutions or agencies has helped shoot up cost of governance.

Presidency keeps mum

When contacted to react to the statement from the House of Representatives, the Senior Special Assistant to the President on National Assembly Matters, (House of Reps) Umar El-yakub, said he was yet to get the full story.

He said: “I have not heard that yet. I don’t have the full information of what was said. I will only react when I have the full details of what was said.”

Efforts to reach Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, for comments proved abortive, as calls to his numbers were unreplied.  A text message sent to his phone lines were also not replied.

But Gbajabiamila, who stated this  while welcoming members of the House from their 2020 Christmas and New Year break at plenary, urged all hands to be on deck in tackling the security challenges in the country.

“The security and welfare of the people shall be the primary purpose of government. With these words, the constitution obligates all of us who swear to serve in government to do everything to protect the lives and property of all citizens and promote their well-being above all else.

“This obligation is central to the governing contract between the government and the citizenry. Every time a citizen going about his business is killed or kidnapped, loses his property or livelihood, we have failed in our obligations.

“From the abundance of these failures has emerged a culture of self-help in matters of internal security that portends grave danger for our nation’s continued existence.

“If ever there was a time for us to put aside all other considerations, especially the petty concerns of partisanship and politics, it is now. If ever there was a time to set aside our differences of tribe and religion to focus on a concerted effort to defeat the challenges of insurgency and banditry, communal violence, and the violent struggle over land, that time is now.

“The forces that threaten our lives and property, our sovereignty and nationhood, do not make any exceptions based on the God we pray to or the language of our native tongue. From every region and state, citizens of every tribe and religion have suffered and will continue to suffer the pain of death and the grief of loss until we put an end, once and for all, to the terrors of banditry, insurgency and malignant crime in all forms.

‘NASS doesn’t control Army, Police’

“Here in the National Assembly, we do not command any armies or control the police. Command and control of our nation’s security infrastructure is an exclusively executive responsibility. Yet it is to us that our constituents look to when the forces of darkness descend to disrupt their lives, often irreparably.

‘’We have to reconcile the obligations we owe to our people with the constitutional limitations under which we operate. But we will not shirk from our role as advocates for the forgotten voices, and we will continue to exercise the appropriation and oversight authority vested in us to hold to account those who bear direct responsibility for the protection of all our nation’s people.”

Gbajabiamila also gave hints of plans by the House to tinker with the  Administration of Criminal Justice Act and the Trafficking In Persons (Prohibition) Enforcement And Administration Act to reflect the current realities.

He added that the Police Service Commission Reforms Bill would also be completely processed by the House.

Continuing, he said:  “Honourable colleagues, the true test of government is in our ability to protect the most vulnerable among us. We cannot separate the goal of economic prosperity from the ambition to ensure that all our people live in a just society free from abuse of power and protected by a justice system built on fairness and the rule of law.

‘’Therefore, we will shortly begin considering bills to amend the Administration of Criminal Justice Act. We will follow up with a long-overdue review of the Trafficking In Persons (Prohibition) Enforcement And Administration Act and other legislation that seek to deliver a justice system that works for all.

“Last year, we initiated legislative action in the House of Representatives to build a more effective framework for policing accountability. That process is ongoing, with the Police Service Commission Reform Bill currently making the way through the legislative process.

‘’We will ensure that a bill shortly emerges from the House of Representatives, without compromising any of the objectives that necessitated our intervention in the first instance.’’

The speaker also called on the members to brace up for the work ahead in the new legislative year, saying “Honourable colleagues, we begin this new year with a renewed commitment to legislative action that drives the course of progress and brings us closer to achieving the highest aspirations we hold for our nation.

‘’We begin with renewed determination to achieve better oversight of government spending priorities through a collaborative effort with the executive arm of government and with civil society. And we remain dedicated to the lofty, yet clear ambitions we articulated in our legislative agenda when we resumed in the 9th Assembly.’’

On creation of new institutions to raise government spending, Gbajabiamila said:  “In the 2021 legislative year, we will focus the attention of the House of Representatives on bills and motions that improve ease of doing business and unlock economic potential by stripping restrictive regulation and ending predatory regulatory practices that deprive our young people the opportunity to conquer new frontiers.

‘’In this age of technology and innovation of daring and enterprise, we cannot risk implementing policies that handicap our ability as a nation to participate in new markets and profit from emerging industries.

“At this time, I will crave the House’s indulgence to raise a matter of urgent importance. It has become more difficult with each appropriation cycle for the government to meet its obligations. The exploding recurrent cost of governance demands that we be more circumspect in the priorities we pursue, particularly regarding Establishment Bills in the National Assembly.

“At a time of reduced revenue, with pre-existing and worsening infrastructure deficits requiring significant investments, we cannot afford to keep establishing more institutions that impose a permanent liability on government income.

‘’I am not unmindful of the realities that often necessitate such legislation, yet we cannot ignore the facts that lie before us. Let us work together to reform and strengthen the institutions already in existence, and remove those no longer fit for purpose. I believe most sincerely that this is the pathway to a legacy that we can all be proud of.”

Vanguard News Nigeria

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