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Insecurity: Why Senate Prescribes Extra Constitutional Role

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When the Senators took turns to debate Senate Ad-hoc Committee on Security Infrastructure report between January 16 and 17 this year, AHURAKA YUSUF ISAH writes that due to the pervading anger and fury, many senators advertently or inadvertently threw civility to the winds to prescribe extra-constitutional role to tackle the nation’s state of insecurity

While suspected Fulani herdsmen were invading some communities in Logo and Guma Local Government Areas (LGA) of Benue, leading to death of over 70 people, suspected cult members embarked on killing spree in Omoku, Rivers State with over 20 persons slaughtered. The two incidents took place about the same time at the New Year day.

The dust was yet to settle on herdsmen attacks on some Benue communities; and the gruesome murders in Rivers when Fulani herdsmen on January 16 and 17, killed a monarch in Taraba State and 28 others in fresh attacks.

In the same vein, a traditional ruler, Dr Gambo Makama, and his wife in Sanga LGA of Kaduna State; while a lawmaker in the Taraba State House of Assembly, Hosea Ibi, who was initially kidnapped by unknown gunmen, was later murdered after the family had been made to part with a ransom of N25 million.

The Senate resumed from Christmas and New Year recess on January 16, 2018, the same time the already flared tempers over mind bungling killings in the country was further fueled with news of renewed killings in Taraba State.

The Senate President, Bukola Saraki, had less than a week to resumption when he directed Senate Ad-hoc Committee on Security Infrastructure to visit Benue State on January 12-14 and assess and report the situation to senate in January 16 plenary.

The 13-member adhoc committee, led by the Senate Leader, Ahmed Lawan (Yobe North, APC) submitted its report titled, ‘’Senate Ad-hoc Committee on the Review of the Current Security Infrastructure in Nigeria’’, report of the committee’s visit to Benue state 12th to 14th January, 2018.

It’s this 16-page report which led to some comments amidst fury and anger, and at the risk of sounding immodest, some of the comments smack the embroidered status and responsibility of a senator in any democratic settings. Some of the remarks in the plenary on January 16 and 17 were mere invitations to anarchy, chaos and some points were sheer prescriptions for extra-constitutional or extra-judicial rule.

In many other climes, pronouncements of some of the senators during senate sitting at the plenary on January 16 and 17, were enough to set constitutional crisis on course.

For the purpose of this discussion and space constraints, let’s illustrate with few of such comments; but it is not to say that the conduct, action or inaction of presidency or the executive penultimate or in the wake of the massacres in the country in the last three weeks or so deserve a slight degree of approval either.

Senator Ben Murray-Bruce (PDP, Bayelsa) proposed that the Legislature take over the duties of the Executive due to the latter’s lackadaisical response to the insecurity ravaging the country. According to him, the President of the Senate, Bukola Saraki, should assume the role of the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and members of Executive who are “incompetent” should be “fired, impeached or rather resign.”

‘’I stand to support this motion which is similar to what we discussed yesterday and which seems to be a recurring decimal in Nigeria. It seems to me that Nigeria is becoming a lawless country, a country with no rules and regulations, a country where there is no consequence for bad behaviours. We either have a government or we don’t, we either have security agencies or we don’t’’, Senator Murray-Bruce stated.

Senator Shehu Sani (APC, Kaduna Central), told his colleagues to call a spade a spade, by declaring that President Buhari, as the commander in chief of the Nation’s armed forces, should be told the bitter truth of non-performance in ensuring security of lives and property of Nigerians .“This is not the time for diplomacy and courtesy. This is the time to provide leadership for a nation that is in national emergency and national distress.

“Let the president wake up and protect the country. We are living in a country where there is complicit reward for violence. Things are not going right in this country, we are failing, and people are dying in their thousands, kidnappings, violence.

“There must be a clear distinction between armed herdsmen who must be confronted frontally and Fulani cattle rearers. People have lost hope in the government, we are here trying to massage the ego, we don’t want to confront the presidency and the president because people want to come back to the 9th senate, they don’t want to lose the ticket”, Senator Shehu Sani said.

According to Senator Isah Misau (APC, Bauchi), he berated President Buhari for surrounding himself with incompetent people who “take decisions anyhow.”

“So many incompetent people are holding so many positions. Fifty per cent of the ministers are not performing. Since the president assumed office, he has not taken any decision to move this country. Todayd we are seeing it and everybody is avoiding it, nobody wants to say anything.

“Today, the DG NIA that was just appointed, is he qualified to be there? He’s not qualified. This is the person that failed two exams, we know. He failed two exams and just because he is close to people taking decisions, he was appointed. This Attorney General is becoming a nuisance, going to court to stop Maina (probe) and we are still here.

“When we were on holiday, so many people were going behind that they should try and remove the senate president. And it was a minister that was spearheading that thing. What is the reason, they said that the senate president would leave APC that they should create problems for him (Saraki). What kind of country is this? Everything is about religion, about tribe.”

According to deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu ‘’Nigerians are not the only people worried, the international community, especially the intelligence and security communities are of the view that war is coming to Nigeria. We must not sit back and watch this to happen.

‘’This brings me to the most important provision of our constitution, which is Section 14(2)(b). This section of the constitution says that the principal purpose of government is the security and welfare of the people. Every day, we cite this provision; every day we sit here to observe the ritual of one minute silence; we condemn the killings and sympathise with the victims. I am getting tired of all these. For us to get the full impact of the provisions of section 14(2)(b), is that we must have a just society. We must have peace and security before we can talk about infrastructure and all the other good things of life.

‘’In order to ensure that the rulers or leaders will be able to live up to expectations in respect of social contract, the coercive powers of the state must be involved. We have the police to deal with internal security and we have the armed forces to deal with external aggression. So, if in spite of these coercive powers of the state, people are being killed and there is no protection of those lives, which social contract entails, then the constitution, the principle of social contract envisages consequences. Some of these consequences are also provided in modern constitutions and that is why we have things like impeachment of chief executives; that is why we have recall of parliamentarians; that is why people and governments are voted out in elections.

In the 70s, when coup d’etat were prevalent, the courts in different jurisdictions came to the conclusion that coup d’etat was a legitimate process of removing a government that does not live up to social contract. Lately in North Africa, the issue of revolution, the Arab Spring, also demonstrated that revolution can achieve that process. We have come to a situation where we must put a break, we must halt the drift otherwise those consequences await all of us because we are in government.

So, what do we do? I have listened to the recommendations of the Committee and I subscribe to all of them entirely. Let me also add that in addition to the security summit recommended by the committee, which is also apt, I think that the government should look at the provisions of Section 305(3) of the constitution dealing with state of emergency.

Section 305 (3) says inter alia: “The President shall have power to issue a Proclamation of a state of emergency only when: (a) the Federation is at war; (b) the Federation is in imminent danger of invasion or involvement in a state of war; (Remember I said the international community is saying war is coming) (c) there is actual breakdown of public order and public safety in the Federation or any part thereof to such extent as to require extraordinary measures to restore peace and security.

We are not away from these circumstances and when I am talking about a state of emergency, it is not about removing a state governor and replacing him with a sole administrator. No, the constitution does not envisage that. It is about taking extraordinary measures to safeguard the peace and unity of the country, to protect the lives of the individuals. Countries have declared state of emergency in the whole nation.

When I am talking about state of emergency, I am not talking about state of emergency in Benue, Plateau or Zamfara. I am talking of the state of emergency in the entire country to enable government to take extra ordinary measures. If you look at chapter 4 of the constitution that deals with human rights when there is state of emergency, certain rights are curtailed in other to achieve the results of the state of emergency.

I believe we have come to that. Egypt adopted state of emergency for many years. It is something we have to consider in order to take extraordinary measures which otherwise we cannot take unless there is a state of emergency. When that happens, the Federal Government should have a massive deployment of our armed forces in order to reclaim all those proliferated arms all over the country.

‘’We hear about stranger elements in the killings and then we hear about ECOWAS Protocol. When we have a state of emergency, it enables us to take extraordinary measures, which now also gives us the impetus to say we are closing our borders for 12 months to make sure that this doesn’t happen again because that is what state of emergency envisages. Then, we can go the extra mile of justifying it through the international law principle of the doctrine of necessity and then be able to secure our borders’’, Ekweremadu stated.

However, Senator Abdullahi Adamu (Nasarawa-APC) who took offence at his choice of words, especially by Senator Misau, advised they should not be seen appropriating the inherent power conferred on them to argue anything in the plenary but to conduct and express themselves like statesmen.

“I will not accept anybody coming here virtually calling the President by his name. Calling operatives of government by their names and condemning them. It’s not right. Make your points within the laws. Comment that there is insecurity, nobody is saying you shouldn’t say so but you don’t say so in a way of inciting the public, it’s wrong.”

As earlier observed above, arguments of some of the senators were made out of seated anger triggered by frustrations at their constituencies, ongoing quarrels of some of them with their state governors, intra and inter-party politics, subsisting senate-presidency cold war; among others.

Senate adjourned its sitting on December 19, 2017 amidst furry and anger for Christmas and New Year celebrations and to resume on January 16, 2018, saying that their promise to pass the 2018 budget before the end of 2017 was no longer feasible because of inconsistencies and abysmal performance of the 2017 budget.

Keeping one’s temper in check can be challenging, except he or she reverts to one form of anger management or the other to keep anger in control.

Even then, the Romans that found the institution of senate ensured the body functioned as their most important seat of government. They named it senatus  which derives from senex meaning ‘old’ and meant ‘assembly of old men’ with a connotation of wisdom and experience. Members were sometimes referred to as ‘fathers’ or patres, and so this combination of ideas illustrates that the Senate was a body designed to provide reasoned and balanced guidance to the Roman state and its people. Therefore, senate literally means “board of old men’’ or “assembly of elders”; and sometimes refered to as statesmen.

This why perhaps Robert Bolt, in his book, A Man of All Season (1968) noted that ‘’When statesmen forsake their own private conscience for the sake of their public duties … they lead their country by a short route to chaos’’.

According to Professor Rufus Fears, ‘’a statesman is not a tyrant; he is the free leader of a free people and he must possess four critical qualities: a bedrock of principles; a moral compass; a vision and the ability to build a consensus to achieve that vision’’.

Governors had earlier approved the sum of $1 billion from the Excess Crude Account (ECA) for the purchase of weapons to combat insurgency in the North East and by extension, in other parts of the country. Though Saraki refused to allow a debate on the ECA fund during plenary session on December 21, 2017, but insisted that the $1 billion must not be withdrawn from the ECA, by Buhari’s government until it’s approved by the senate. It is same body that is decrying avalanche of insurgent activities in the country.

But it is however necessary for the Presidency to play by the rule. Many Senators still nurse grudges seriously in their privacies as most of them survive on their official allowances only which were hardly paid, their constituency projects were not funded or executed by executive arm, bonuses, accidental earnings or moneys for Sallah, Xmass , new year and so on have all stopped. Senators feel they are being starved. Those beaten or stoned back home attribute their ordeal to lack of money to take care of their constituents. It’s commonly said, though differently, that no one beats a child and still insists the child must not cry.

The Federal Government has cross-appealed at the Supreme Court against the judgement of the Court of Appeal that reversed discharge and acquittal of the Senate President, Saraki by the Code of Conduct Tribunal on three-count charges but freed him in a 15-count charge, saying the apex court should restore all the 18 count charges. But, if this Saraki’s false asset declaration case has become an impediment and is constituting a nuisance for the smooth running of this government, it is not out of place to direct prosecutors to nolle prosequi or decline to further pursue the case against Saraki; in exchange for good dividends of democracy for Nigerians. After all, when two elephants or two arms of government fight, the grasses or Nigerians respectively suffer.

 

QUOTE:

In many other climes, pronouncements of some of the senators during senate sitting at the plenary on January 16 and 17, were enough to set constitutional crisis on course.

 



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