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Buhari at green chamber: What Nigerians want lawmakers to tell Mr. President

By Seye Olumide (Lagos) Adamu Abuh, John Akubo, Sodiq Omolaoye and Segun Olaniyi (Abuja) Ann Godwin (Port Harcourt)
06 December 2020   |   4:32 am
President Muhammadu Buhari’s failure to sack alleged underperforming service chiefs despite calls by concerned Nigerians, has continued to draw the ire of stakeholders, even as hope wanes over the Federal Government’s capacity to contain worsening insecurity.

Muhammadu Buhari

• Curbing Security Challenges May Take A Long Time – FG
• Retaining Service Chiefs Unhelpful To President, Military – Na’Abba
• FG Must Fish Out Fifth Columnists In Military, Govt, Audit Spending On Insurgency War – Junaid Muhammed
• Don’t Expect Solution To Insecurity From Buhari/Reps Parley – Yakassai
• Buhari Lacks Courage To Sack Service Chiefs, Who Don’t Have Integrity To Resign – Kadiri

President Muhammadu Buhari’s failure to sack alleged underperforming service chiefs despite calls by concerned Nigerians, has continued to draw the ire of stakeholders, even as hope wanes over the Federal Government’s capacity to contain worsening insecurity.

And in what looks like a tacit admittance of its inability to get a grip on the dire security challenges, the Federal Government, yesterday, said, it may take a long time to tackle the country’s mounting security challenges.

This is as elders statesmen across the country under the aegis of Coalition of Nigeria Elders for Peace and Good Governance (CONEPAGG), also, yesterday, condemned the Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen. Tukur Buratai’s warning to officers of the Nigerian Army against any attempt to scuttle democratic governance. They maintain that the alarm sounded by Buratai was diversionary and aimed at deflecting Nigerians’ attention from the failures and gross lack of capacity displayed by the service chiefs.

Also unimpressed by the president’s strides in securing the country, the Coalition of Northern Groups (CNG), yesterday, said that the Buhari-led administration has failed the region, urging residents to mobilise funds to protect themselves from terrorists attacks. 

Last week, members of the House of Representatives vowed not to hold back punches whenever Buhari appears before them over his refusal to sack the service chiefs.

Spokesperson of the House of Representatives, Mr. Benjamin Kalu, who gave the indication in Abuja, explained that Buhari’s refusal to sack the service chiefs would definitely be explored as part of the solution to the security challenge plaguing the country.

Kalu (Abia, APC) said: “The service chiefs’ issues will be one of the issues that the House will discuss with the President. We are looking for solutions. It’s not about the visit of the President; it’s about solution seeking, and we are looking for strategies that would help us find solutions. 
What we want from him is to do an analysis of the security sector to understand its weaknesses and strengths. If we believe that not changing the service chiefs is a weakness, we will mention it as well… We will lay everything on the table for him to see so that he will know what we think based on what we’ve been informed by our constituents. It’s going to be a discussion.”

Kalu, who described Buhari’s resolve to appear before the lower legislative chamber as historic, explained that the House had no choice other than to relate with the service chiefs in line with its mandate to exercise oversight over ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) of government.

HOWEVER, for weary citizens who have been looking up to the government to play its constitutional role of protecting them, the Federal Government’s admission that it may take a long time to tackle insecurity constituted a dampener.

The Minister of Defence, Major General Bashir Salihi Magashi (rtd), while speaking at the passing out parade of 108 Cadets of Direct Short Service Commission Course 27 (DSSC 27), at the Nigerian Naval College, Onne, Rivers State, said the COVID-19 pandemic and the #EndSARS protest have further worsened the complexity of human security, thereby making it difficult for quick fixes to effectively combat security challenges.

Magashi, was, however, quick to point out that the situation was not hopeless, stressing that President Buhari has continued to demonstrate full support for the Nigerian Armed Forces, through the resourcing of operational requirements, and improved personnel welfare.

Represented by the Chief of Defence Staff, General Gabriel Olonisakin, the minister said: “Nigeria and the entire Gulf of Guinea has in the last few years been challenged by asymmetric and emerging security threats emanating from insurgency, militancy, economic sabotage and anti democratic forces. It is pertinent to mention that the military service is operating in a growing complex and ambiguous environment that are difficult to contend with. Accordingly, our nation and indeed the entire Gulf of Guinea has, in the last few years, been challenged by asymmetric and emerging security threats emanating from insurgency, militancy, economic sabotage and anti-democratic forces.

“The COVID-19 pandemic and the civil unrest has further demonstrated the frailty and complex nature of human security. Apparently, there are no quick fixes to effectively combat security challenges bedevilling our dear nation.

“I am equally glad to note that in assisting sister services in the North East operations against Boko Haram insurgents, the Nigerian Navy has continued to spearhead internal security operations in the Niger Delta region against militancy, piracy, sea robberies and crude oil theft.

“It is, therefore, of utmost necessity that the Nigerian Armed Forces continuously build institutional capacity, through effective systematic and robust training merged with requisite capacities to defend the territorial integrity of Nigeria from both external and internal aggression.”

ACCORDING to the CNG, which was reacting to the recent massacre of innocent farmers in Zabarmari, it was high time Buhari resigned for failing to protect the lives and property of Nigerians.

The coalition also faulted the appeal by Governor Babagana Zulum of Borno State for government to engage the services of foreigners to fight Boko Haram.  
Addressing a press conference, yesterday, in Abuja, CNG spokesperson, Abdul-Azeez Suleiman, said even though Zulum’s appeal was borne out of desperation and concerns for the safety of his people, it was only idealistic and unrealistic “because the Nigerian military has the capacity to fight the war if not for lack of political will.”

While describing as “insensitive” and “callous” responses by presidential aides on the renewed killings, it said such comments exposed the misleading claims that the military had decimated the insurgents and confirmed that security units involved in the fight had turned the war into a milking cow and money-spinning industry.

“Buhari’s implied endorsement of these insensitive responses suggests that the Federal Government is not humbled by the enormity of the Borno killings, and affirms the fears that obviously, the concerns from many Nigerians on how the security infrastructure could be improved, and leadership of the military could be made more effective, have made and shall make no impression on the presidency.

“With no evidence of a willingness on the part of President Buhari to honour his oath to provide security over Nigerians, and the fact that it is no longer in doubt that he has lost control over the imperatives of protecting the nation and people of the North in particular, a constitutional duty that he swore to uphold, CNG restates that President Buhari and his administration have failed totally in the vital area of protecting the lives and properties of citizens.”

THE CONEPAGG while reacting to Buratai’s warning that some generals were being approached to scuttle democracy and that his eyes were on them said: “Democracy has come to stay. We will not tolerate any agent of destabilisation. The years of military misadventure in politics have never carried us anywhere. It is over,” he had warned.

The elders called on the president not to hearken to the military chiefs’ antics through the army boss, charging him to go ahead to relieve them of their positions before the country is completely overrun by adversaries.

In a statement signed by its National Coordinator, Zana Goni, Coordinator South West, Prof. Adebola Adeboye; Coordinator South East, Dr. Ugwuanyi Emeka; Coordinator North West, Sheik Ibrahim Mohammed, and Coordinator of South South, Dr. Solomon Dagogo among others, CONEPAGG insisted that President Buhari must not look back again in sacking the service chiefs.

In the statement, the elders described Buratai’s coup warning as the “distractive and diversionary statement meant to attract attention from the seat of power at a time the whole Nigeria is calling for their removal. 

“Nobody is planning any coup, as a matter of fact, Nigerians are happy with democracy. They are only fade up with insecurity and all the service chiefs, who in spite of their seeming failures, have failed to toe the path of honour and resign from their offices,” they said.

ONE of those forewarning Nigerians against expecting any positive outcome from the Buhari/representatives parley is Malam Tanko Yakassai, who told The Guardian that the lawmakers would only exploit the opportunity to score cheap political goals and impress their constituents.

Yakassai who was presidential liaison officer to late President Shehu Shagari reiterated his call for the removal of the service chiefs. Said he: “I spoke on this issue immediately Buhari extended their tenure. Then, I said it was wrong for the president to extend their tenures, and I gave some reasons in support of my position. I said they have done their best and their best was not sufficient to solve the problem. There is, therefore, a need to look for some fresh people in the hope that the new people may come with better ideas and strategy to tackle the problem in the hope that the new ideas may provide solutions that would effectively resolve the issue.

“I also said that retaining people after the expiration of their terminal period would be counterproductive because it would lead to frustration in the system, as officers who are aspiring to occupy offices would become disgruntled, and no put in their best. 

“I also said the decision by the president to retain them after reaching retirement age will be inimical to the security structure of the country by making men in these services lose hope of reaching the highest position in their career. I still hold this position,” Yakassai concluded.

A former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Mr. Ghali Umar Na’Abba, is in sync with Yakassai views, hence in support of the sack of the service chiefs.

According to him, the continuous retention of the service chiefs was in breach of laid down rules and regulations. “I think it is unhelpful for both the President and the military for him to be perceived to be violating the rules of engagement and due process, “ he said.

FOR a former Minister of Defence, Dr. Olu Agunsoye, the country’s intractable security situation is now being politicised such that Buhari feels that he cannot remove his security chiefs just because Nigerians are asking him to do so. 
Agunloye told The Guardian that the country’s security architecture has completely broken down to the point that the solution is no longer removing service chiefs, but an overhaul of the entire architecture.
According to him: “One of the factors that have destroyed our security architecture is that some people believe that their being in office is an ethnic right, and not a privilege because the current crops of security chiefs ought to have resigned voluntarily before now.”
He added that for Nigeria to restore internal security goes beyond the removal of the service chiefs. “We need a strategy and an approach, which this government does not seem to have, and is also unwilling to have.”
On his expectations from the planned parley between Buhari and representatives, Agunloye said:
“I wouldn’t expect our lawmakers to start singing a song to Mr. Buhari to remove the security chiefs; they should rather present to him, a new strategy of how security can be restored in the country, and if need be, work out joint modalities on how to ensure fairness, justice and equity in the nation’s security architecture.”

ON his part, a Second Republic lawmaker, Junaid Muhammed, challenged Nigerians to first find out how many military brass hats that are also agents of Boko Haram.

Muhammed alleged that many top military officers and some high-ranking politicians in governments were fifth columnists, who have remained in the system to imperil the nation. If the country cannot find out these wolves in sheep clothing, then “we are all going to waste our time fighting insurgency.

“The amount of money that we have spent on this war and the billionaire generals that we have created is unbelievable. How I wish the next president of Nigeria, or next head of state, head of military government or whatever will have the courage to simply investigate how much we have spent on the so-called insurgency war in the North East, if not in other parts of the country,” he stated.

IN the same vein, a former member of House of Representatives, Mr. Bimbo Daramola (who represented Ekiti North Federal Constituency) said the state of insecurity has gone beyond the clamour for service chiefs’ replacement.

“We are at a stage where the entire security apparatus in Nigeria must be addressed to the least security agent. This must include the way we equip our security personnel, and the salaries that they are paid. Otherwise, even if Buratai and Co., are replaced, the result would be same, if the needful is not done.”

SENATOR Alex Usman Kadiri, who represented Kogi East from 1999 to 2003, yesterday, said it was a shame that Buhari does not have the courage to remove the service chiefs, and they don’t have the integrity to resign.

“The fact of the matter is that it was President Muhammadu Buhari who appointed these service chiefs. They are now in their sixth year in office, and everything they have done has failed. May be they don’t know what failure means. Buratai was not appointed to build a military university in Biu, Sadiq Abubakar was not appointed to build an air force university in Bauchi. They were appointed to head the army and the air force at a time there was insurgency war to prosecute in Nigeria, and they have been unable to quell the insurgency, full stop.”