Wanton killings and complicit National Assembly
Lamentation of the Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, in reaction to gruesome killings in the land signposts more of legislative lame duck than executive’s helplessness to tackle insecurity. Clearly, the Lawan-led Ninth Assembly is not in want of evidence of a failed administration. The Houses are also abreast of the constitutional antidote to bad leadership that has been woeful in providing security and welfare, and has owned up to one. Therefore, for the Senate President to ignore constitution provisions on checks and balancing, and turn jeremiad, is a political detour that sabotages legislative powers in a democracy.
In modern democracy, it is not by accident that there is separation of power among the trio of executive, legislature and the judiciary arms of government. Pioneering thinkers on separation of powers had the foresight of executive rascality, if not inefficiency, for which the legislature should be the watch guard while the judiciary should act as the umpire. But that logic appears to be sitting precariously on its head in Nigeria with the all-important borderline between executive and legislative arms now eroded by the Ninth Assembly.
Lawan, at a 63 birthday forum, expressed worries over spate of killings by all manner of criminals, saying Nigerians are tired of carnage. Few days before the gathering, over 200 Nigerians were killed by terrorists in Zamfara. Lawan, however, “believed that things can be turned around for better within the remaining one and a half years left for the administration.” The damning evidence of failure notwithstanding, the Senate President still affirmed that the Ninth Assembly has corroborated well with the executive arm in giving dividends of democracy to Nigerians within the last two-and-half years. But the proof of that magnanimity is to the contrary.
Section 14(2)(b) of the 1999 Constitution, as amended, provides that the primary function of government is security and welfare of the people. President Muhammadu Buhari also promised to secure the people in 2015, and as a rebuke to the failings of his predecessor in office, he was elected. In the almost seven years of Buhari, the country has fared worse both economically and in insecurity. In the two-and-a-half years of Lawan’s reference, more criminal gangs have been emboldened to gruesomely murder more Nigerians. In the last 30 days alone, at least 250 people have been killed by terrorists in Zamfara and Plateau states. Reports have it that a total of 1,031 people were killed in June 2021 alone, with the trio of Zamfara, Kebbi and Niger states taking the oddly familiar lead. Beacon Consulting, an Abuja-based security risk management and intelligence consulting company, estimated that no fewer than 390 others were abducted in 205 incidents recorded in 34 states. More than 800 students were abducted in 2021.
Majority of the schools in the northern part of the country have shut down, further pushing the toll of out-of-school children in Nigeria to 10.5 million! Mr. Lawan, these are not dividends of democracy but proofs of culpable failure of leadership.
Sections 88 & 89 of the same Constitution empower the legislative arm with the power of oversight to check corruption, inefficiency and abuse of power of the executive and administration of law. A truly flustered National Assembly should have asked: where was the Commander-in-Chief, and his armed forces when these citizens were getting killed? A legislature that truly represents the people that gave them the mandate should inquire: where is President Muhammadu Buhari’s leadership when terrorists freely rape and slaughter parents and children in their beds? Where are the security agencies when farmers are murdered right in the middle of a-day job and their farmlands destroyed? What of the protective arms of the state when bandits and kidnappers alike raid school dormitories and roads for hours, and abduct scores of students and travellers for millions of ransom? These harrowing narratives run afoul of the constitution and Buhari’s fidelity to the Nigerian people. Indeed, all of these are gross misconduct and Section 143 of the 1999 Constitution authorises the two chambers to initiate the process of impeachment. It is the checks and balancing responsibility that rests squarely on the shoulders of the National Assembly and its leadership. To do otherwise is to be complicit in the malfeasance.
Lawan’s leadership of the Senate has not shown legislative exemplarity that is worth remembering. In his unpretentious romance with the executive, Lawan has consistently pledged to rubber stamp every request of the president, unmindful of accountability or consideration of impacts on the Nigerian masses. To Lawan belongs the infamous verdict that “any request from President Muhammadu Buhari to the National Assembly is good for the nation.” And that shoe-shining manifestly showed in the sequence of external borrowings that has pushed Nigeria’s foreign loan stock to its all-time high of $45.2 billion – a whopping 366 per cent increase from what Buhari inherited in 2015. It is under the same leadership that bills of obnoxious anti-people contents have got hearing at the hallowed chamber. Lawan’s leadership too never raised an eyebrow on nepotism and ethnic chauvinism in Buhari’s appointment.
It is the same for wanton killings that has never got more than a murmur, a political sound bite of being “tired” and few crocodile tears at plenary, all from the lawmakers that approved N1 trillion to fight insecurity in 2022.
It is sad that the executive and leadership of the legislature have connived to hang out and dry Nigerian masses. But to other conscientious members of the National Assembly, if they are still there, it is their duty to wake up and speak truth to power. Nigeria is in need of a rescue mission than the current administration has ever lived up to. A real rescue mission will foreclose a silly defence of a government ‘‘trying its best.’’ Effort without result is not good enough and it rings hollow. Ideally, a sincere government should be accountable for all actions and inactions, as well as add value for every kobo entrusted. A government incapacitated to deliver security and welfare to the people is unfit and should not last another day in office.
The National Assembly should rise from its reptilian obeisance to the executive and squarely question sheer maladministration that is fast pushing the country to the brink. Members may think they are insulated and should not meddle in security affairs. But that is shortsighted delusion that is akin to living in fools’ paradise. In the end, the failure will not be of Buhari alone but also of the legislature that egged him on for too long.