As the country recovers from the devastation caused by Boko Haram’s Thursday attack on certain newspaper offices, the Senate vocalised their condemnation and urged the government to bring an end to the group’s activities. UCHENNA AWOM, in this diary, captures the various reactions in the Senate and its effort so far.
It was indeed a week of lamentation when last Thursday, Boko Haram carried out an attack on ThisDay newspaper in Abuja and its offices in Kaduna along with that of the SUN and Moment newspapers which left in its wake death of scores of innocent people and a gaping hole in the heart of the media community.
Not surprisingly, Boko Haram claimed responsibility for the attacks and so the condemnation rhetoric commenced. It was indeed torrential laced with anger and utter hate and dejection; dejection in the sense of the feeling that beyond the blame game, Nigeria may never be the same again, particularly with the targeting of the essence of the Nigerian society.
Senate President, David Mark
Just a day after his return from Israel on medical tour, the bombers struck thus diminishing the celebration that heralded his return in good health. A shocked Mark, in a terse statement, described the bombing of the media houses as an assault on press freedom.
The Senate President called on media practitioners across the country not to be deterred by the blast saying, “We are touched by the news of the bomb attack on your outfits. It is unjust, savage, dastard and evil. As a people, we must all join hands to contain these ugly acts in our midst. We must rise to the challenge of these attacks. This is basically an assault on the freedom of the press which every journalist in our nation laboured to achieve”.
Senator Mark, however, urged media practitioners to see the assault as a challenge on their part and not to relent in the discharge of their duties as the watchdog of the society. He consoled the management of the newspapers hit by the assailants in Abuja and Kaduna while praying that God will grant the soul of victims that died in the attack eternal rest and a quick recovery for those that sustained various degrees of injury.
Senate Leader Ndoma-Egba
Senate Leader Victor Ndoma-Egba described last Thursday’s bombing of the Abuja and Kaduna premises of This Day newspapers and Sun in Kaduna as a sad, dark chapter in the history of Nigeria.
The Senate Leader said that the country’s leaders should now move away from rhetoric and act decisively by striking a “decisive blow against terror.”In a signed statement in Abuja, Ndoma-Egba expressed sadness that the defender of Nigeria’s democracy has now come under attack, an act he said must quickly be nipped in the bud.
“Today is a sad chapter in the history of Nigeria. We never thought things would get to a point where the defenders of democracy and the rights of the ordinary citizens of this country would ever come under attack.
He added, “All right-thinking Nigerians should come together to point out masterminds of this dastardly attacks. It is just not morally fair that innocent lives are plucked down in their prime at will. Nigeria is not at war and nobody should push us in that direction.”
“This one represents perhaps the darkest moment in the raging orgy of violence”
The Senate, as an institution, unequivocally condemned the simultaneous bombing of the offices of ThisDay in Jabi, Abuja and Kaduna, where also the office the SUN and the Moment newspapers were affected.
In a statement, Senate’s Spokesman, Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe said, “This one represents perhaps the darkest moment in the raging orgy of violence being wickedly prosecuted by the evil minds, who are bent on destroying the country. Targeting of media houses is simply aimed at cowing the media practitioners and shutting the voices of reasoning in Nigeria. It is an exercise in futility.
“Media houses are the mouthpiece of the society and as watchdogs should not be made to be vulnerable in the course of doing their job”.
The Senate condoled the management and staff of ThisDay, the Nigeria Union of Journalists, and the entire media community and the families of the victims. The Senate also called on the media not to be discouraged by this attempt at silencing the voice of the people. Rather the media should be emboldened to perform their social responsibility function as the Fourth Estate of The Realm.
So far what has the Senate done?
Penultimate week the Senate passed a resolution where they unanimously asked President Goodluck Jonathan to deploy all instruments of state power to crush Boko Haram. Though to some movers of the motion, the outcome ended up achieving the unintended, which means that the intention ab-initio was marred on latent fears that the outcome may go any other way, but yet it was in line with the general aspiration.
With that firm resolution, the Senate signpost a lid on any further dialogue with the dreaded sect. The irony then was that the resolution was made barely 24 hours after some Northern Elders urged the Federal Government to resume dialogue with the fundamentalist group whose gruesome and murderous activities have brought sorrow and anguish in many Nigeria homes.
Following in such spirit, it became apparent as the prayers showed that what was on the mind of the movers was to get the Senate’s nod to urge the Federal Government to pay compensation to the victims of the Boko Haram bombing in Kaduna and any other places where similar incident occurred.
It was a faux pas as the prayer was shut down even without the support of most of the movers in apparent realisation of its futility. Instead, the Senators directed its joint committee on security, comprising of National Security Intelligence, Defence and Army, Police Affairs, and Interior, to intensify their oversight functions over the security agencies with a view to improving their capabilities in handling the current security challenges.
The stern position of the Senate was sequel to a motion sponsored by Sen. Mohammed Sani Saleh (CPC, Kaduna) wherein he condemned the April 8 terrorist attack in Kaduna, which killed scores. In the lead debate, Sen. Saleh bemoaned the terrorist attacks adding that they have continued unabated nationwide despite the assurances of “our security agencies of being on top of the situation”.
He expressed sadness that the attack, which happened in the very centre of the Kaduna city in spite of the numerous road blocks and checkpoints in the city claimed mainly Okada riders, food vendors, commuters, passersby and motorists.
He added that the Kaduna blast, which was a stark reminder of the Madalla blast of last December, which also killed many people and destroyed properties worth millions and brought untold hardship on victim’s relatives and residents of the city.
The motion is one of the many motions already taken and discussed by the Senate on the same frightening issue of Boko Haram and its attacks in mostly Northern Nigeria. The Senate summoned security chiefs to present themselves and explain efforts being made to stop the menace. But in all of the motions, the lawmakers treaded softly because of its political implication, yet the blast assumed greater dimension, even introducing the alien suicide bombing in its wake.
Most worrisome was that some Senators during some of these debates advanced sublime reasons to explain the source of the actions of the group. Some blame poverty, unemployment, and bad governance as the root cause of the Boko Haram insurgency.
But this time around the Senators distanced themselves from that position and instead beamed a searchlight on the lackadaisical attitude of the elders and political leaders of the area most ravaged by the Boko Haram activities. They suddenly submerged the voice of the usuals and pointedly asked the political class and the traditional rulers in the North to do more.
That was to underscore the urgency of the situation and the need to begin to call a spade, a spade.
Expectedly, Senators who spoke on the motion warned that the country risks disintegration if the activities of the Boko Haram sect are not nipped in the bud. They also lamented the inefficiency of the security agencies as well as the porous nature of the boarders.
Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu while summing up noted that national security should be topmost on government agenda adding that if not critically tackled, it could result to anarchy. Senator Ekweremadu moved further when he called on northern governors to be fully engaged in the fight against the spate of bombings and fashion out ways to stem the tide. He stated, “We will no longer discuss and disperse, that will not happen any longer. We will set up measures to follow up on the situation. I don’t believe money is the issue, if we articulate ideas we can get the money even if we have to borrow”.
In his submission, Sen. Enyinnaya Abaribe said, “We are at war. When we are at war, we need to do the needful. We are at war with those that want the country to break up. But I don’t believe these people will break up Nigeria. It is only when we fail to do what we need to do that the country will break. Security agencies have to step up to the challenge. We are aware of the lack of cooperation among the security agencies. As we speak to you there are no boarder patrols”. He also decried that there has not been enough resolutions from the northern elders and political class as was witnessed during the militancy days and kidnapping saga.