- Saraki calls for political will
Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, yesterday, for the establishment of state police to effectively tackle the various security challenges facing the country. Osinbajo, who spoke at the opening ceremony of the on-going National Security Summit in Abuja, organised by the Senate, assured that the Federal Government will not forcefully take land from the states for the purpose of establishing cattle ranches or grazing areas.
This is as the President of the Senate, Dr. Bukola Saraki, blamed the security challenges in the country on lack of political will on the part of leaders at various levels of governance. Admitted that there were instances where security agencies have failed to properly and urgently respond to security issues, Osinbajo said the Nigeria Police with the current centralised structure is too defective to be useful in combating worsening security challenges in the country.
He further 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, and warned Nigerians not to allow the present security situation to assume a religious dimension.
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 Nations (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, the Vice President revealed that the presidential committee handling the matter, of which he is the chairman, has been consulting with the stakeholders to proffer lasting solutions.
He said the committee has also been working to see how to ensure that there is a plan for cattle breeding and rearing, which will take into account, contemporary methods of doing so in other parts of the world. Osinbajo further allayed the fears of Nigerians on insinuations that the Federal Government under President Muhammadu Buhari is planning to forcefully take over lands from the states to establish cattle ranches or grazing areas, noting that the Constitution of Nigeria has vested land ownership on the states. He said: “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.
“However 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 emphasis that in arriving at any of these decisions in the states, the states, Federal Government and all of the stakeholders have to sit 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. Saraki, on his part, urged Nigerians particularly those in positions of authority to shun those tendencies that threaten the corporate existence of Nigeria and focus on the need to work together in search of solutions 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 as 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 was it convened so that any person or entity can take credit. We just want solutions, solutions only.
That is all Nigerians require of us. “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. Meanwhile, President Buhari, the 36 state governors and ministers were conspicuously absent from the summit. However, all the service chiefs were present at the summit including the Insoector-General of Police, Mr. Ibrahim Idris. The two-day summit will be concluded today.
Electoral Act: Twists and turns of amendment
CHUKWU DAVID reports on the recent amendment to the 2010 Electoral Act by the National Assembly, reordering the sequence of elections, which triggered uproar in the Senate and caused a division among members of the upper legislative chamber
As the 2019 general elections approach, battle for self-preservation and survival has already begun within the nation’s political space. Politicians at all levels have started making their calculations and going into latent and sometimes manifest alignment and realignment, with the polity gradually getting charged as well as heated up. In the National Assembly, a lot of intrigues and horse-trading are obviously going on among members.
This betrays the serious apprehension in the camps of the lawmakers, resulting in the various disquiet tendencies manifesting in the way they go about their legislative business in some critical issues likely to affect their political future.
The current brouhaha in the Senate over the amendment to the 2010 Electoral Act, where the lawmakers had to reorder the sequence of elections, contrary to the original arrangement of the nation’s electoral umpire, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), is a reflection of the fact that the lawmakers have started drawing the battle line and building citadels of defence against incursions of some elements in the presidency, who might be plotting to frustrate their return to the legislature in 2019.
Apparently, the foot soldiers of President Muhammadu Buhari in the Senate are already crying out, that the sudden decision of the two chambers of the National Assembly to reorder the sequence of elections in the Electoral Act, was targeted at the President to frustrate his re-election bid, while at the same time trying to fortify their chances of returning to the hallowed chambers in 2019.
From the politicking currently going on between the National Assembly and the presidency, there is no doubt that the lawmakers are afraid that if presidential election holds first and Buhari emerges, he might use his power to ensure that those who are his perceived enemies in the present Assembly do not win their elections back to the apex parliament.
Conversely, there are also indications that Buhari and his supporters in the National Assembly are apprehensive that, holding the presidential election last would put him (Buhari) at a difficult position, where he might lose election particularly as there is an outcry across the country over the state of the nation under his leadership and watch.
With the current furore in the Senate on the amendment to the Electoral Act, there are possibilities that President Buhari may decide to withhold assent to the Bill when transmitted to him.
If this happens, then the National Assembly leadership will face the serious hurdle of getting the constitutional requirement of two-thirds majority to override his veto, which may be extremely hard to achieve because of the immense ethno-religious influences on Nigerian politics.
The pro-Buhari senators have also threatened to go to court to ensure that the controversial reordering of election sequence does not become law.
This development will one way or another definitely diminish the strength of the All Progressives Congress (APC) before and during the 2019 general elections.
This is because, if not quickly resolved, it might provoke some irreconcilable acrimony among the members of the party in the build up to 2019.
This will also give the opposition especially the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), some level of advantage in 2019 elections, particularly if the stakeholders in PDP cash in on the various crises rocking the APC, and put their house in order before and during the elections.
Genesis of the disagreement
The Senate was thrown into a serious turmoil last week Wednesday over the consideration and what some senators described as a controversial adoption of the Conference Report of its Committee on Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) Act Amendment Bill.
The crisis erupted between those considered to be pro- Buhari senators and others who are supposedly not supporting his re-election bid. The two factions tested their strengths to some extent during the exercise, which later resulted in desperate press briefings by the opposing political blocks.
The genesis of the imbroglio was the report of the Conference Committee of the Senate and the House of Representatives, which approved the reordering of the sequence of elections, thereby invalidating what INEC had arranged and sent to public domain through the time table it earlier released on the 2019 general elections.
The House of Representatives committee on Electoral Act (Amendment) Bill, had in its amendment to the 2010 Electoral Act, included Section 25(1) into the Act by reordering the sequence of the elections to start with the National Assembly, followed by governorship and state Assembly elections before the presidential election, which is now to come last if the proposal eventually becomes law.
The Chairman of the Conference Committee and Chairman, Senate Committee on INEC, Senator Suleiman Nazif, who presented the report for consideration, explained that the Conference Committee harmonised some differences in the two versions of the bill as passed by both chambers as well as adopted the new agreed positions.
“The committee met and deliberated on the two versions of the bill. After exhaustive deliberations, the committee noticed seven areas of differences in section 36 (3), 49(2), 53(2), 63(4), 78(4),” he said. Nazif further explained that the committee, in considering the House version in sections 25(1) and 8 (9A, a and b) dealing with sequence of elections and political parties’ primaries, unanimously adopted the provisions in its entirety to ensure orderliness.
Pro Buhari senators rattled
According to the rule of the apex Chamber, the conference report ought to have been subjected to debate on the floor, to enable senators who are not members of the committee to make contributions, especially in the areas that were not part of the Senate version but the President of the Senate, Dr. Bukola Saraki, put motion for the adoption of the report straight for voice votes.
Tension further heightened when it appeared as if at the voice votes, those who shouted nay were louder than those who shouted ayes, and yet Saraki in his ruling said the ayes carried the day. Angered by this development, Senator Ovie Omo-Agege (APC, Delta Central) raised a point of order to call for division, but was overruled by Saraki.
Omo-Agege, in his point of order, argued that the committee had no power to reorder the sequence of elections, stating that it was an attempt to usurp the constitutional powers of INEC and declaring the action unconstitutional, null and void and should be revered by the National Assembly.
He alleged that it was only 36 out of the 360 members of the House of Representatives were present in the Green Chamber the day the amendment to the Electoral Act was carried out there, while the Senate did not form a quorum on the day it was passed in the Red Chamber.
His words: “The Electoral Act that is being amended today, is a product of well considered research by the INEC committee in the Senate; it went through full deliberation on the floor, and it was passed.
“36 people in the House of Representatives cannot determine the faith and the destiny of 360 people in the House, which is now carried over in the of 109. Yes, if a conference committee is set up to reconcile the differences, the least we are owed is for this amendment to section 25 to be deliberated.”
Painful enough to the Buhari supporters, all the struggle put forward by Senator Omo-Agege to attract Saraki’s attention and persuade him to yield to his argument ended as futile efforts because the President of the Senate could not reverse his already made up position.
In another spirited effort to nullify the passage of the report, Senator Kabiru Gaya (APC, Kano South) rose through another point of order to argue that it was against the Senate rules for a conference committee report to be adopted without being debated at the committee of the whole.
Gaya’s argument was however, knocked off by Saraki, who referred him to rule 53(6) of the Senate standing orders, which prevents the apex legislative chamber from revisiting any matter that had been ruled upon.
“Distinguished colleagues, I’m just entertaining all these points of order being raised over the just passed 2010 Electoral Act (Amendment) Bill for the sake of understanding ourselves better on an issue, which is of national and not selfish interest,” he said.
Obviously not satisfied with the explanation, another senator, Abdullahi Adamu (APC, Nasarawa), disrupted the proceedings further with another point of order, under which he argued that the sequence of elections included in the Act was illegal.
According to him, section 76 of the 1999 Constitution vests the power to organise, conduct and fix dates for elections in INEC, which in spirit, also includes order of elections as earlier announced by the electoral body.
But rather than providing solution to the disagreement, the argument offended Saraki, who declared that section 25(1) of the Electoral Act, which deals with sequence of elections has nothing to do with organising, conducting and fixing dates for elections. Just as he did to other speakers, who were antagonistic to the adoption of the report, the President of the Senate ruled him out of order and called on the Senate Leader, Ahmad Lawan (APC, Yobe North), to proceed with the next item on the order paper.
Pro Buhari senators walk of plenary
The pro Buhari senators felt humiliated by Saraki’s ruling, and in a prompt reactionary move, Adamu and nine other senators immediately stormed out of the chamber to the Senate’s press centre, where they briefed journalists, expressing their grievances and total opposition to the action of the President of the Senate in midwifing the adoption of the report in a manner they said lacked due process.
The senators who walked out of the chamber included Abdullahi Yahaya (APC, Kebbi North), Ibrahim Kurfi (APC, Katsina Central), Abu Ibrahim (APC, Katsina South), Abdullahi Gumel (APC, Jigawa North), Binta Masi Garba (APC, Adamawa North), Ali Wakili (APC, Bauchi South), Andrew Uchendu (APC, River East) and Benjamin Uwajumogu (APC, Imo North).
They all took turns to speak against the adoption of the controversial report, declaring it as a constitutional breach, which would not see the light of the day since according to them, it was targeted against President Buhari. Senator Adamu, who led the group said that they already had 59 signatures of senators against the insertion section 25(1) into the Electoral Act.
However, the protesting lawmakers did not provide proof that the group actually secured 59 senators on its side because they were unable to produce a signed list of the claimed number of supporters.
“Though we are 10 here now, we can assure you that as at this morning, not less than 59 senators have expressed their opposition to the illegal sequence of elections included in the Act. Perhaps that was the reason why the Senate president refused to follow the due process when report on the Act was to be adopted in the Senate.
“Section 25(1) of the Act reordering the sequence of elections from the one earlier released by INEC last year is a law targeted at an individual which to us is totally in bad faith and will not be allowed to stand,” he said.
At this point, Senator Omo-Agege, who is a lawyer by training, boasted that he won his election in 2015 on the platform of the Labour Party and not APC, but that as a senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, it would be wrong for him to keep quiet on the basis of partisan interest, when wrong things were being done by politicians who swore to uphold and defend the constitution of the land, and by extension, the people.
The senators also claimed that many members of the Conference Committee, which first adopted the contentious insertion, did not sign the document including the chairmen of the INEC committees of the Senate and the House.
They also brandished the signature page to support their claim. Also, contributing at the briefing, Senator Binta Masi Garba, said that the hurriedly passed Electoral Bill was nothing, but handiwork of an individual who might be thinking that he was holier or greater than the state. “An individual cannot be holier than the state and besides, power is transient and is given by God,” he said.
She pointed out that those behind the new sequence of elections were more or less enemies of the country by not considering the economic implications it would have on the economy, noting, “if INEC, based on economic problems at hand mapped out two layers of elections, why coming up with three segmented sequence of elections?”
Counter press briefing
In a swift reaction to the briefing of the pro-Buhari senators, Senate’s spokesman, Aliyu Sabi, and Chairman, Senate committee on INEC, Suleiman Nazif, in a counter press briefing, said the amendment was not targeted at anybody, but carried out in national interest.
According to them, aside the contentious section 25(1) of the amended Act, six other core areas of electoral processes were worked upon with the aim of deepening democratic process in the country, pointing out that “we did it in the best interest of Nigerians and not for any selfish agenda.”
Asked what the Senate would do if President Buhari decides to veto the bill based on the raging controversy, Sabi, who represents Niger North Senatorial District on the platform of the APC said: “When we get to the bridge, we shall determine how to cross it.” On his part, Nazif denied the allegation that he did not sign the report, showing the document’s signature page where he duly signed to prove that he endorsed the report totally.
He said: “et me make it very clear that I have signed on the concurrence committee report. I don’t know where that came from but I signed it. This is it, signed by me (displaying the report’s signature page) and if you go to the clerk, it is also signed by me.”
Commenting on the allegation by the opposing senators that the amendment reordering sequence of election targeted Buhari, he said” “I am not aware if the sequence of election is being targeted at anybody.
What I know is that as Chairman of the Committee on INEC in the Senate, I have a responsibility and I chaired the concurrence committee of both the House and the Senate. “But politics is dynamic.
What I know is that there are reasons for elections, people have different reasons for why elections should start from the top to down and from down to top. In the past, we have had elections from the top to down. I don’t know if anybody questioned that. In the past also, we have also had elections from down to top. I don’t know if anybody questioned that.”
Piecemeal restructuring won’t guarantee true federalism –Sowunmi
Public affairs analyst, Mr. Biodun Sowunmi, speaks with WALE ELEGBEDE on killings by herdsmen, the Third Force movement and the restructuring of the country
The killings by the herdsmen haven’t abated despite the promises of government. What do you think makes the killing spree to continue?
The inability of the Federal Government to halt the rampaging herdsmen militia is a clear demonstration of lack of political will and cold complicity on the part of the Muhammadu Buhari administration. Let no one be in doubt about the capacity of our security forces.
These gallant officers are disabled by the body language of the President and utterances bordering on the justification of the senseless loss of lives by some government ministers and security chiefs, consequently fuelling the killings going on in our country.
How best can the menace be tackled and do you support the proposed cattle colonies?
The primary duty of any responsible government is to protect lives and property.
The Buhari administration is found wanting in this regard. What should normally be the strength of the government is now its weakness. I mean the centralisation of our policing system has created a weak institution that tends to look up to the sitting President for a signal to crack down on criminality such as the menace of the herdsmen. What needs to be done has been articulated by Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo and the governors.
They have correctly stated that federalising our policing system through the creation of state police is the right trajectory. Hence, we need to restructure the country now in order to save lives. The idea of creating cattle colony is anachronistic. Cattle colony belongs to the 18th and 19th centuries.
We are in the 20th century, where ranching is the modern way of rearing cattle. There is no country rearing cattle in a colony that is a leading producer / exporter of beef or milk. So, the Federal Government should embrace new method rather than an outdated practice of cattle colony. I think it is only Pakistan and one other backwater country that still have cattle colony.
The APC Committee on restructuring seems to be serious on delivering its mandate. Do you think they can birth the restructuring you and others have been canvassing for?
The APC has decided to swim with the tide. Nigerians have been clamouring for restructuring. To be fair to APC, the party did promise it through devolution of powers.
But it was foot-dragging until when it became obvious that something has to be done about the agitations for true federalism. What APC has done with its proposal is to also create another problem for oil-rich states or zones.
Their agenda is to retain the proceeds from oil wells on the water while the states keep the ones on land. However, I am pessimistic. If APC is thinking of submitting its restructuring agenda to the National Assembly, then we are most unlikely going to restructure the country before the 2019 elections. What the Federal Government needs to do is to convene a referendum on the 2014 Confab or convoke a sovereign national conference.
The call for state police has been accepted by the presidency and the governors. Are we seeing restructuring already or you don’t support this piecemeal approach?
This is a fire brigade approach and a dumb attempt to still retain unitary rule. The piecemeal approach must be rejected by all. It is simply not going to work. We need to practice federalism in its real sense and not a mish-mash political system. Even if we introduce State Police, what about mining, power, etc. There are no federal indigenes or residents.
We only have residents/indigenes of the different ethnic nations making up a country called Nigeria. So, the introduction of state police alone will not satisfy those of us bent on saving Nigeria from total collapse.
We need to create a new structure that assigns defence, immigration, customs, and foreign affairs to the coordinating centre (federal government) and allow the federating states or components to be responsible for other functions.
What is your take on the call by former President Olusegun Obasanjo for a national coalition?
I endorse the need for a third force. The APC and PDP are gradually sinking the ship of the Nigerian state.
We have been moving from one crisis to the other. It is now time for all progressives and well-meaning Nigerians to join forces to build a new Nigeria. Obasanjo’s prescription of a third force is the vehicle to challenge the entrenched interests that PDP and APC are representing. But the panacea to Nigeria’s headaches is to restructure to have a truly federal Nigeria.
Are you worried about the growing rate of underage voters in the country?
The 2019 general elections integrity is already compromised with the high level of child voters recorded in the North.
This trend started in 2003 and it has gotten to the pinnacle with what l saw in some states in the North where political parties mobilised the children below 18 years to register, it’s very sad. The truth is that votes buying on the election day is less dangerous than when children in millions are allowed to vote. INEC can’t pretend was not aware of this ugly attitude
POLITRICKS: Curing Amosun’s favour ahead of 2019
The battle for who succeeds Governor Ibikunle Amosun in Ogun State is gaining momentum as over 20 aspirants have already declared for the governorship seat.
Apart from the gubernatorial aspirants who are working hard to emerge as All Progressives Congress (APC) flag bearer in the forthcoming 2019 elections, some party chieftains and aides of the governor are also strategically positioning themselves to be at advantage positions in the scheme of things.
Knowing the importance of curing the favour of the governor, some aspirants during Amosun’s 60th birthday took to the media, both broadcast and print media to shower praises on the governor.
Some even went further to paint the social media red with congratulatory messages on their respective platforms.
Politricks also noticed that some of the aides and political associates of the governor used either his personal pictures or photographs they took with him as their DPs on the various social media platforms.
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