By Akanimo Sampson
After the House of Representatives under the watch of its Speaker, Femi Gbajabiamila, un-tactically called for the resignation of the service chiefs, the speaker in seeming about-face is now appealing to the security chiefs the National Assembly wants to be thrown out of their jobs, to redouble efforts at shoring up internal security.
Gbajabiamila told the service chiefs that Nigerians are on the necks of their representatives in the House over the security situation in the country, claiming that the anxiety among the citizenry was enough reason for the military commanders to redouble their efforts, challenging them to take the battle to the criminals.
He was speaking at the meeting of the joint House Committees on Defence, Army, Navy and Air Force with the Chief of Defence Staff, Chief of Army Staff, Chief of Naval Staff and the Chief of Air Staff.
But on January 29, the House passed a resolution calling on all of the military service chiefs to resign. If they do not, the resolution called on President Muhammadu Buhari to fire them.
The Red Chambers of the bicameral Legislature had also expressed the view that the service chiefs had to go. The House motion appeared to be more formal than the Senate’s action. Though both tend to reflect frustration at the resurgence of Boko Haram in the volatile North-East axis of Nigeria, the federal legislators did not appear to be tactical in dealing with the matter.
The service chiefs were appointed by President Buhari in 2015 after he was elected to his first presidential term. Under military regulations, their terms of service expired in 2017, but the President has kept them on. They are Chief of Defence Staff, Abayomi Olonisakin, Chief of Army Staff, Tukur Buratai, Chief of Naval Staff, Ibok-Ete Ekwe Ibas, and Chief of Air Staff, Sadique Abubakar.
President Buhari is not likely to move against the service chiefs so soon because of the National Assembly. The president can only replace them for his own reasons. All are personally loyal to President Buhari.
However, the seeming inability of the armed security forces to defeat Boko Haram is the result of complex factors, not the personal limitations of the service chiefs, whatever they might be. The House of Representatives resolution made specific reference to Boko Haram and the North-East.
Without a doubt, the breakdown of security is becoming a major political issue. Earlier in January, the governors of Western Nigeria moved to establish a security outfit to supplement and assist the Nigeria Police Force in the face of a festering kidnapping scourge.
According to one report, 23 out of the 36 states of the federation have stood up local security outfits, ranging from neighborhood watches to armed community police.
For instance, the Army Chief, Lt. General Tukur Buratai, has recorded some silent milestones in his efforts to boost the morale of troops in the frontline. Under him, allowances of soldiers are paid directly into their bank accounts. Before Buratai, such payments are routed through the commanders and gives room to corruption.
In the area of training, he has expanded in-theater training for troops in the frontlines to afford them the required capabilities to operate and conduct effective operations. Special attention has also given to providing local and foreign training opportunities for all cadre of officers and soldiers.
For example, in 2018 alone, a total of 156 personnel attended foreign courses while 2,390 attended local courses and training programmes, ranging from masters degree programmes to workshops and conferences. The army has also hosted over 300 local and international conferences, seminars or summits either solely or in conjunction with other bodies.
In spite of Buratai’s arguable successes, the Nigerian Army under his watch is still faced with challenges and setbacks. Soldiers are still being attacked regularly by the insurgents, and there are worrisome allegations of human rights abuses. Commendably, he has set up a Human Rights Desk offices in all army formations for speedy attention to human rights allegations.
Meanwhile, Gbajabiamila according to a statement by his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Lanre Lasisi told the service chiefs: “I thought I should be here to encourage everybody that we’re all on the same page. We all know the situation in Nigeria today, we can’t hide from it, we can’t shy away from it, we cannot pretend that it doesn’t exist.
“We spent practically the whole day on Wednesday (January 29) discussing the security situation in Nigeria as expected. Simultaneously, the Senate was doing the same thing without us comparing notes.
So, it was a natural reaction to what was going on in the country today. Back home, our constituents are on our necks. People are dying every day, they are dying callously in ways that you can only find in countries without security forces. But we know that you guys are doing a lot.
“We must think outside the box; we must take the battle to these criminals whatever they are. Like I said at the State House the other day, Nigerians are anxious, but I do understand the limitations of the Armed Forces.
“My opening remarks on the floor of the House when we returned from the break was to commend you guys, particularly the ones that are on the frontlines, sacrificing their lives every day, our men and women in uniform.
“This is another one of those meetings, engagements, which we said would be continuous. We said it the last time. It’s going to be continuous to find out exactly what’s going on, what the issues are, what the problems are, and hopefully get some commitments from you.
“Moving forward, things are going to get better. We know what the basic issues are: there’s funding, there’s equipment, there’s the recruitment of personnel. I believe the committee is well equipped to handle these issues. This is our priority. It’s the government’s priority, and it should also be our priority in the House. It’s major in our legislative agenda, and we must address is frontally, squarely and however and whatever needs to be done.’’