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Tuesday, June 18, 2024

Security Concerns on Front Burner in Senate – OLA AWONIYI

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Perhaps even more than the ailing economy, a worsening security situation has given Nigeria the most concern over the past few years.

It is an ugly phenomenon that has bothered every law-abiding Nigerian, the National Assembly and the government. Despite several measures and huge resources deployed against it, the tide of the menace of violent crimes has not turned in many parts of the country.

It is so worrisome that some people wonder if government is doing anything about the situation. Some even query the essence of a Parliament in the country if it has failed in helping to arrest the situation.

However, the federal lawmakers have often demonstrated that they are as much concerned as the ordinary citizens who can no longer sleep with their eyes closed.

Indeed, there have been a series of interventions from the National Assembly ranging from convening a security summit, passage of security-related bills and motions and increasing Appropriations to the security sector year in year out. Yet, the unfortunate situation continues to fester.

This concern again came to the fore on 30th December, 2023 when the Senate interrupted its Christmas/New Year recess to pass the 2024 Appropriation Bill. This followed a motion by Plateau Senator Diket Plang who drew the attention of the Upper Chamber to the horrendous killings on Christmas eve by unknown gunmen who invaded communities in Bokkos and Barkin-Ladi Local Government Areas of Plateau State.

The security issue took a better part of the plenary that day even before the main business of the day was attended to. The debate on that day ended with a resolution to summon the Security Chiefs to interact with the Upper Chamber early in the New Year.

By the time the Senators returned from their Christmas/New Year recess on 30th January, 2024, insecurity in the country had assumed an even more worrisome dimension. Again, the issue took the centre stage at the plenary on their first legislative day of 2024.

As soon as the President of the Senate, Godswill Obot Akpabio read his welcome address, the Senate Minority Leader, Abba Moro, was on his feet, raising a Point of Order to draw the attention of the chamber to killings in some communities in his Benue South Senatorial District.

The Senate President was hesitant in using his discretionary power to allow Senator Abba Moro proceed with his motion. “I have over five people with matters of urgent national importance. Most of them have to do with insecurity,” Akpabio told his colleagues.

It was evident from his voice that he was touched emotionally by the state of security across the country. Akpabio then suggested that the Senate went into a closed door session to assess all the motions to determine which one to consider first.

After the closed door session, the Senate suspended all other items on the Order Paper, consolidated all the motions that were related to security issues into one “collective motion on the spate of insecurity in Nigeria” and allowed the Senate Leader, Michael Opeyemi Bamidele, to present it on behalf of the 109 Senators.

The Senate, as stated in the motion, noted with sadness the rising spate of killings, kidnappings, banditry and other criminal activities across the country.

It further noted specifically the brutal killings in some communities in Agatu and Logo Local Government Areas in Benue State, the various kidnappings within the Federal Capital Territory where victims were killed after the kidnappers had collected ransom, several cases of kidnappings all over the country where huge ransom have been paid and several of the victims still got killed, the recent killings of two traditional rulers in Ekiti State and the abduction of primary school pupils in Emure Ekiti, the unfortunate bomb explosion at Bodija, Ibadan in Oyo State where not less than five lives were lost and several residential houses, schools, hotels and religious worship centres destroyed and also the killings of several residents of Mangu, Bokkos and Barkin Ladi communities in Plateau State.

It was against this backdrop that the Senate did “invoke the earlier resolution to invite the Security Chiefs for an interacting session with the Senate, with a view to resolving the insecurity that is plaguing the country.”

Before the adjournment that Tuesday (30/01/2024), the Senate President announced that the outcome of their engagement with the Security Chiefs this week would be discussed with President Bola Ahmed Tinubu. Because, according to him, “we have a responsibility to collaborate with the Executive, to contribute our ideas to ensure that our constituents and ourselves including our children can sleep with their two eyes closed.”

Speaking further on the same subject, Akpabio said “security is everybody’s business and without security we cannot have progress. As this 10th Senate is working with our colleagues in the House of Representatives, we are very determined to make laws, resolutions, oversight aimed at ensuring rapid progress of the country and immediate improvement in the economy of Nigeria. This will not be possible without a secured Nigeria.”

By the time the Senate engages the Security Chiefs this week, it is expected that the new cases that happened between the last adjournment and their resumption this week will be taken on board. This includes the brutal killing of another monarch, Onikoro of Koro-Ekiti in Ekiti Local Government Area of Kwara State and abduction of two people, including the king’s wife.

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