Hard truth at Senate’s security summit
CHUKWU DAVID reports on the National Security Summit organised by the Senate, which provided Vice President Yemi Osinbajo the opportunity to make clarifications on the proposed grazing reserves and clamour for state police
The Senate recently organised what it termed “National Security Summit” to brainstorm with the relevant security agencies and stakeholders in order to proffer solutions to the worsening security situation in the country.
The summit was conceived as an intervention by the apex legislative chamber towards addressing the deteriorating and widening insecurity across the country. The need to hold the summit became imperative following the January 2018 killings in Benue, Adamawa, kaduna and Taraba states.
When the senators resumed plenary from their Christmas and New Year recess on January 16, the first thing they did was to raise concern over unprecedented security challenges in the country, with escalating killings and wanton destruction of lives and property in some parts of the federation.
The Senate took a comprehensive look into the ugly and disturbing trend and came up with a number of resolutions. One of the decisions of the lawmakers was to impress on President Muhammadu Buhari to rise up and tackle the threatening situation or resign his position as the commander-in-chief of the armed forces.
The lawmakers, who accused the President of appointing many incompetent persons into his cabinet, urged him to sack all members of his cabinet and other appointees, who are not living up to expectation.
They also called for the sack or resignation of heads of security agencies, who could not live up to expectation in respect of containing the worrisome insecurity in the country, particularly those who have demonstrated partiality and ineptitude in their mode of handling the security challenges.
The anger and frustration expressed by the legislators, while considering the report of the Senate ad hoc committee on the review of the nation’s security infrastructure as well as a point of order raised by Senator Shuaibu Lau (PDP, Taraba North), on killings in Taraba State by Fulani herdsmen.
Adding to this was another point of order by Senator Emmanuel Bwacha, who also brought to the notice of the Senate incidences of kidnapping in Taraba State and the gruesome murder of a member of the state House of Assembly, Hon. Hosea Ibi, who was killed even after his family paid a ransom of N25 million to his captors.
Also disturbing to the Red Chamber was the report by Senator Kabiru Marafa, who informed the Senate earlier that he had received phone calls from his constituents in Zamfara Central, that some armed bandits invaded the area and abducted some people and demanded for ransom.
Marafa told the Senate that sixty per cent of Zamfara State is now being controlled by foreign mercenaries. He further alleged that the mercenaries are known to the state government.
Against these backdrops, the Senate resolved to convene a national security summit to consider the various security challenges in the country, with a view to proffering short, medium and long term solutions to the menace.
The summit was eventually convened at the Nigeria Air Force (NAF) Conference Centre, in the nation’s Federal Capital Territory, Abuja. It was a two-day programme spanning Thursday January 8, and Monday 12.
President Muhammadu Buhari was billed to be the special guest of honour, but he was absent and did not send any of his cabinet members to represent him.
Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, who graced the occasion, did so in his personal capacity as he acknowledged that he had to honour the Senate’s invitation.
Declaring the summit open, Osinbajo spoke on two critical issues currently bogging the nation, which have actually proven to be major problems confronting successive governments, the present administration and the people of Nigeria in general.
The issues border on call for the establishment of state police and the much-talked about establishment of ranches, grazing reserves or cattle colonies.
In addressing these hydra-headed issues that have provoked a lot of divergent views and agitations within the polity in recent times, Osinbajo unequivocally lent his voice to other Nigerians, who have been calling for the establishment of state police in the 36 states of the Federation, as the only pragmatic and effective means of tackling the menacing problem of insecurity in the country.
He also stressed that based on the provisions of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended), the Federal Government has no such powers and would never seize or forcefully take any lands from the states for the purpose of establishing cattle ranches or grazing reserves as being insinuated by many apprehensive Nigerians.
Commenting further on the security challenges in the country and the efforts of government to solve the problem, the vice president however, admitted that there were instances where security agencies had failed to properly and urgently respond to security issues, noting that some basic challenges inhibited the efforts of security agencies to adequately secure the country.
According to him, the Nigeria Police Force with the current centralised structure is too defective to be useful in combating the worsening security challenges in the country. He also stated that in the interim, the number of police personnel must be increased reasonably to be able to match the frightening unfolding insecurity in the country.
The number two citizen however warned Nigerians not to allow the present insecurity situation in the country to assume a religious dimension as he said that the present administration is doing everything within its powers to drastically reduce insecurity and give Nigerians a peaceful, habitable country.
His words: “The nature of our security challenges is complex and known. Securing Nigeria’s over 900, 000 sq km and its 180 million people requires far more men and material than we have at the moment. It also requires a continuous reengineering of our security architecture and strategy. This has to be a dynamic process.
“For a country of our size to meet the one policeman to 400 persons prescribed by the United States (UN) would require triple our current police force; far more funding of the police force and far more funding of our military and other security agencies. We cannot realistically police a country of the size of Nigeria centrally from Abuja. State police and other community policing methods are clearly the way to go.
“We must intensify existing collaboration with our neighbours in the Chad Basin by strengthening security especially at border communities to prevent the movement of small arms and disarming armed pastoralists and other armed bandits who go through our borders day after day. We must avoid the danger of allowing this crisis to degenerate into religious or ethnic conflict. This is the responsibility of political, religious and all other facets of our leadership in Nigeria.”
On the efforts of government to resolve the frequent herdsmen/ farmers clashes in the country, the vice president said that the presidential committee handling the matter, of which he is the chairman, had been consulting with the stakeholders to proffer lasting solutions to the situation.
He said that the committee has also been working to see how to ensure that there is a plan for cattle breeding and rearing which would take into account, contemporary methods of doing so in other parts of the world.
Osinbajo further allayed the fears of Nigerians on insinuations the Federal Government under President Buhari was planning to forcefully take over lands from the states to establish cattle ranches or grazing areas, noting that the Constitution of Nigeria has vested the lands in the state governors.
He said: “We are also, with the collaboration of states and the governors of Benue, Plateau, Adamawa and along with seven other governors, have constituted the working group which I chair, where they have been seeking to proffer solutions to some of the problems associated with farmer/herdsmen clashes, but in particular, how to ensure that there is a plan for cattle rearing that takes into account, contemporary methods of doing so in other parts of the world.
“All stakeholders agree that we must now develop new ideas to prevent clashes between herdsmen and farmers; in particular enabling the cows and herders to become more sedentary. It is obvious that the physical movement of cattle in an endless journey on the move, must now begin to take a different shape. We cannot afford it even from the economic perspective, there must be another way.
“There is also a clear sense which I think must be appreciated, that the Federal Government cannot dictate to states what to do with their land. This is so because the Land Use Act of 1978 puts land under the control of governors on behalf of their states.
“Also, the Supreme Court in the case of Attorney General of Lagos State versus the Attorney General of the Federation in 2004, held that use of land resources and permits for such use, lie firmly in the hands of state governments. Even for use of federal lands in the states according to the Supreme Court, building or development control permit must be sought from the governors of the states.”
He however, pointed out that in some northern states, there are gazetted grazing reserves, which he noted had been degraded and are without pasture or water especially in the dry season, stating that there was the need to secure the routes leading to the grazing reserves in the states where they existed.
He said: “In several states, especially in the North, there are duly gazetted grazing reserves. A majority of these grazing reserves are degraded and are without pasture or water especially in the dry season. Grazing routes leading to these reserves must also be secured. The grazing reserves to be effective and operate effectively, should operate as ranches or livestock production centres on a commercial basis. The ranches will have adequate water from boreholes, salt points and pasture.
“The locations would serve both as forage points, but also centres for providing extension services to boost animal care, feeding and veterinary facilities, and even abattoirs. Because the ranches are commercial ventures, cattle owners will pay for its use.
“It is important to note that by and large, in consultation with stakeholders, all agree that where adequate provision is made on a commercial basis, there is no reason why there won’t be cooperation to use those ranches because there are both economic and social benefits for everyone, including herders.
“Aside from states that have gazetted grazing areas, so far about 13 states have agreed to allocate 5,000 hectares of land for the ranching or livestock production. We must emphasise that in arriving at any of these decisions in the states, the states, Federal Government and all of the stakeholders have to seat together and work out solutions that will benefit everyone. This cannot be done by fear or force, people have to work together to ensure that there is adequate consultations.
“Let me reiterate, that on no account will any lands be seized or forcefully taken to create these ranches or grazing areas. All insinuations to that effect should be disregarded. No one is giving land to herdsmen, as is being falsely alleged. Instead, it is in our view that states that are willing and which have set aside land for development should cooperate with willing investors into commercially viable, government-supported ranches or livestock production centres for commercial use.”
On his part, the President of the Senate, Bukola Saraki, argued that the present security challenges in the country were deteriorating as a result of lack of political will on the part of the leaders at various levels of governance, to live up to their responsibilities towards protection of lives and property of citizens.
He urged Nigerians particularly those in positions of authority to shun those tendencies that threaten the corporate existence of Nigeria and stressed the need to work together in search of solution to the insecurity in the country.
He noted that the summit was not designed for blame-game or to attack anybody, but to sincerely proffer solutions to the worrisome security challenges in the land, stressing that the security of lives and property of the citizenry is the primary responsibility of government.
He said: “This is not a summit to trade blames neither is it convened so that any person or entity can take credit. We just want solutions, solutions only. That is all Nigerians require of us. The Summit brings together a wide spectrum of stakeholders including political leaders; security policy makers; governors, who are chief security officers in their states; security and intelligence chiefs; key persons in the nation’s security architecture; regional and socio-cultural groups; traditional rulers; civil society organisations (CSOs) and others with strong, persuasive insights into the problem.
“We in government must therefore do everything in our power to ensure that Nigerians are safe from harm, and their livelihoods and belongings protected. It was envisaged that the summit would provide a platform for critically examining the problem of insecurity, to help collate views and ideas in aid of the search for solutions. It is most reassuring to see us all here – people together – coming together to come up with a national response to a grave problem confronting our nation.”
Saraki posited that the country is currently in urgent need for a leadership that could douse tension and reduce ethno-religious, political and economic barriers.
“What our country needs at this time is leadership that will work to douse the flames and reduce tension in the land. It is essential that we lower the barriers in our actions and rhetoric, and refrain from playing politics with a crisis situation in which Nigerian lives are being lost, tragically and needlessly, on a regular basis.
“We have the capacity to bring about a change in this situation, to end the violence and bring succour. We have the capacity. But, do we have the political will? I dare say political will is what is required; and it is my hope that we shall marshal it as a legitimate instrument against this problem. Indeed, there is no reason why that should not be the case.
“There can be no denying the horrific reality in many parts of our country today. People who should be neighbours are turning on one another and taking up arms. These attacks and reprisal attacks are an intolerable cycle of hell that must be broken. Killings, kidnappings, mayhem and general lawlessness cannot be the new normal. We must take this country back and restore order,” he said.
While President Buhari, 36 state governors, ministers and traditional rulers were conspicuously absent from the summit, all the service chiefs and the Inspector-General of Police, Mr. Ibrahim Idris graced the event.
The absence of the President, members of the Federal Executive Council and the state governors from such critical summit, when Nigeria is in dire need of peace has already provoked insinuations that the effort of the Senate in convening the meeting might end in futility.
Some analyst are saying that the summit was not acceptable to Buhari and his men at both the federal and state levels, while others are of the opinion that the Senate ventured into an area that is purely an executive jurisdiction and might have offended the President, who might not openly express his reservations about the summit.
Again, on the positions canvassed and declared on the establishment of state police and the no intention of government to seize or usurp powers of the states over lands for grazing reserves respectively, have been viewed as a political strategy towards winning the support of the already disenchanted masses for the 2019 presidential elections.
Some of those who are doubting the sincerity of the Federal Government on the issue of state police, say that as a lawyer, Osinbajo knows that creation of state police is a constitutional matter, which might take a very long time to achieve, and should have been brought to the National Assembly for constitutional amendment long time before now.
However, whatever the reality is, most Nigerians are desperately watching to see how things will unfold in the government’s handling of the issues of state police and the menacing activities of Fulani herdsmen in the country even as the 2019 general elections are fast approaching.
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