By Dele Anofi, Abuja
The President is to brief lawmakers on how he is addressing the growing insecurity in the country, it was resolved yesterday.
This is the first time since the return of democratic governance in 1999 that a President has been invited by lawmakers to address them.
The President visits the legislature only when he is inaugurating a new Assembly or presenting the budget.
The House of Representatives adopted a resolution that President Goodluck Jonathan should address it in a closed session on the steps he has taken so far and how he is addressing the insecurity in the land.
The resolution followed a motion by Yakubu Barde (PDP Kaduna) supported by Minority Leader Femi Gbajabiamila (ACN Lagos).
It was in response to the weekend suicide bombings in Kaduna and Monday’s terrorist attacks on Damaturu, the Yobe State capital.
More than 50 people were killed in the attacks on churches in Kaduna and Zaria. The death toll in the attacks on Damaturu is believed to be over 30. Many are displaced.
In adopting the motion, the legislators rejected the proposal to have the President address a joint session of the National Assembly.
They also rejected the proposal compelling the Inspector-General of Police, Mohammed Abubakar, to transfer police officers from the rank of Inspector and above to their states of origin.
Barde described as unfortunate, the loss of lives and destruction of property that followed the Sunday attacks in Zaria and Kaduna, and the subsequent reprisal attack.
Barde said: “Kaduna has always been known to be peaceful but these unfortunate attacks have driven fear into the minds of the people. Now, people will say attacks are not religious, but people are now afraid of going to their places of worship.
“Not only that, businesses are now badly affected in the region. Which investor would want to go to that area to invest? In other words, poverty is being perpetrated in that region.
“To me, the question is no longer when would the next bomb blast go off or when would the next attack be launched and where, but of how long are we going to live with this?”
Benjamin Aboho (PDP, Benue) expressed regret that President Jonathan has been unable to tackle the security issues thrown up by the Boko Haram since it assumed a more dangerous dimension about two years ago.
He alluded to the President’s trip to Brazil and the bribery scandal rocking the House.”Does that mean that the climate change conference is more important to the President than the lives and property of Nigerians? It seems that the Presidency is more interested in damaging the credibility of the lawmakers instead of addressing the security situations of this country,” he said.
Contributing to another motion on insecurity in Zamfara State, Jumoke Okoya-Thomas blasted President Jonathan for his insensitivity by traveling out at a time when the country is boiling.
“I think the time has come for the House to summon the President and give him a marching order on steps to take in addressing the question of insecurity in this country. To whom much is given, much is expected,” she said.
“Toby Okechukwu (PDP, Enugu) cited the negative fallouts of the Civil War and kidnapping on the socio-economic life of the people where it started from before spreading to other parts of the country.
He warned that steps must be taken urgently before bombing takes a business dimension. “We should not see the problem as restricted to the Northeast. Now it has spread to the Northwest and, if care is not taken, the rest of the country risks being engulfed by the phenomenon.”
Gbajabiamila said the President had abandoned the last line of the oath of office he took – to protect the lives and property of Nigerians.
“Rather, the President felt that travelling overseas for some climate change, not minding that the insecurity situation in this country right now is infringing on the rights of Nigerians to religion and peaceful assembly.
“The current situation has also infringed on the rights of Nigerians to free movement and rights to life. How do we relate with a situation whereby for five hours, state security agencies could not contain this attack.
“This can be pardoned if element of surprise was there like a bomb going off without warning, but for five hours, that is absurd. Does that mean that we have to look elsewhere for solution to this problem?”
Besides, he posited that the legislature must take the initiative out of the hands of the Executive through a bill that would ensure the reformation of the security system.
The Minority Leader stressed that the House must not shy away from its oversight functions over the Presidency, the President inclusive, to make him adhere to the oath he swore.
He said the President needed to appear before the Representatives in a closed session where ideas would be exchanged on way out of the security challenges.
Lanre Odubote (ACN, Lagos) said a constitutional amendment was necessary to address insecurity.
He said regional autonomy, decentralisation of fiscal authorities as well as decentralisation of security apparatus must be in place, to address the issue.
Nkiruka Onyejeocha (PDP, Abia) blamed her colleagues for shying away from discussing Boko Haram when it first reared its head. “When a member raised the issue, it was taken to executive session and I remember that it was said that we should not discuss it because of the effect it might have on us.”
She went on: “I also remember that someone said if we failed to address it then, that the problem might get to consume us. What I will say is that as leaders in whatever capacity, we should look within ourselves and seek the face of God.
“We should go to our constituencies and educate our people on security issues and do whatever is necessary to assist in bringing this problem to an end.”
Jerry Mnwe (PDP, Taraba) wanted to know what security agencies were doing with the “huge” funds allocated to them yearly. “Is it to buy AK47 only or is it to buy bomb detectors for Aso Villa or the National Assembly alone and leave the rest of Nigerians to their fate?”
Manwe felt that President Jonathan and the National Security Adviser (NSA), Gen. Owoeye Azazi, appeared to be afraid of apprehending the perpetrators of the violence.
“Is Jonathan, Azazi and the IGP, Abubakar Mohammed afraid that they can’t arrest the people they said they know? I think Nigerians should mobilise to arrest whoever comes out tomorrow to tell us that they know those behind the attacks and cannot arrest them.”
Opeyemi Bamidele (ACN, Ekiti), Mohammed Monguno (ANPP, Borno) James Faleke (ACN, Lagos) and Oluchi Ibeji (PDP, Abia) among others added their voices to the need for the President to explain the situation.
The lawmakers condemned the attacks in Zaria, Kaduna and Damauru and in other parts of the country. They also commiserated with the victims.
They urged the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) to provide the victims with relief materials.
On the modalities for inviting he President, House Committee Chairman on Media and Public Affairs, Zakari Mohammed said the House would formally write to the President.
“We will not say just by the resolution of the House we have invited him, we will formally write to him, inviting him to come along with his Security Chiefs to explain what steps have been taken so far.
“From there, we will know where we are to come in and offer assistance; from there too, we will be able to know what we are going to tell our constituents on what the government is doing about the security situation in the country.
“When we are inviting him, the public will know about it”.
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