Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, warned yesterday that history will pass a damning verdict on the current administration if it fails to stop the senseless killings in the country.
He observed that Nigerians are fast losing confidence in the country’s security system.
Dogara noted that History would be harsh on the current administration should government fail to stop the incessant killings and other security challenges facing the country.
In his welcome address to his colleagues as they resumed for the 4th session of the 8th Assembly yesterday, the Speaker noted that the unresolved issue of rampant killing of defenseless people, including innocent and vulnerable children and women, in various parts of the country calls for a sober reflection.
The Speaker argued that whatever achievement that is being recorded by the government will not be remembered if the orgy of violence and mass killings of innocent Nigerians continue unabated.
He said, “History will have a harsh verdict for us as a Government if we fail to live up to this responsibility and it won’t matter if we succeed in other areas. Unfortunately, the stark reality now is that our citizens are fast losing confidence in our security system.
“This must not be the case. Before we ebb to the realm of anarchy, we must rise up as true representatives of the Nigerian people to salvage the situation and defend our hard-won democracy.”
He promised that the National Assembly will make concerted efforts to exploit all constitutional powers and privileges to guarantee the protection of lives and property in the entire country by security agencies.
Dogara regretted that security agencies have fallen short of expectation.
His words: “It is obvious that with the unrestrained killings being witnessed in the country, our security agencies have fallen short of the demands of their offices and the expectations of the nation. We must urgently work with the Executive Arm to facilitate the re-engineering of our security architecture to serve our collective interests and aspirations.
“There is no gainsaying the fact that the most fundamental and basic responsibility of any government is the security of lives and property. History will have a harsh verdict for us as a Government if we fail to live up to this responsibility and it won’t matter if we succeed in other areas.
“Unfortunately, the stark reality now is that our citizens are fast losing confidence in our security system. This must not be the case. Before we ebb to the realm of anarchy, we must rise up as true representatives of the Nigerian people to salvage the situation and defend our hard-won democracy”.
The House yesterday demanded forensic examination of weapons and ammunition used in the recent killings on the Plateau so as to determine the source of the weapons.
It resolved that the member representing Wase federal constituency of Plateau state, Hon Idris Ahmed Wase, who admitted to having vital information on the Plateau killings, should be a state witness and that special protection should be provided for him.
The member representing Barkin Ladi/Riyom federal constituency of Plateau State, Hon Istifanus Gyang, had in a motion of urgent national importance said no fewer than 215 persons were killed by herdsmen in the recent coordinated attacks on 15 villages and communities in the state.
Gyang expressed concern that an analysis of previous killer herdsmen attacks had shown that they are usually guerilla in nature, using sophisticated arms and machetes.
According to him, the attacks have a pattern where once a community is attacked it is cleansed by killing the native inhabitants, the houses burnt and destroyed and the vacated land taken over for occupation.
Gyang noted that the ‘killer herdsmen’ are currently occupying about 53 villages forcefully taken.
Sequel to Gyang’s motion, the House described the Plateau killings as genocide and vowed that the perpetrators and masterminds would be arrested and prosecuted.
The lawmakers also urged President Muhammadu Buhari to, beyond verbal condemnation of the attacks, take decisive action to stop the killings and secure communities that have been under persistent attacks.
The House also urged the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) to immediately provide relief materials to those displaced by the attacks in order to avert a humanitarian crisis.
The member representing Yagba East/Yagba West/Mopa-muro federal constituency of Kogi state, Hon Sunday Karimi, in his contribution, said although Section 14(2b) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) state that welfare and security of the citizens are the primary objectives of the government, President Muhammadu Buhari has not done much to improve security in the country.
He noted that during the President’s visit to United States of America (USA) recently, he blamed the endless killings in Benue State on gunmen from Libya.
The lawmaker argued that even if those unleashing mayhem on communities across the country are from outside, it is not enough for the government not to take decisive steps to stem the tide.
“The President has failed in his constitutional duty to provide security to the people. He has no solution; he is confused. He does not know what to do about it. We have a choice to remain as we were or stop the thing that is going on in the country,” Karimi stated.
In his contribution, the member representing Jos South/East of Plateau state, Hon Edward Pwajok, said it is curious that an attack occurred simultaneously across 11 villages in Plateau State for seven hours without any response from the security agencies stationed in different parts of the state.
Pwajok noted that it is worrisome that the killings in Plateau has continued even after President Buhari and Vice President Yemi Osinbajo visited the state in the wake of the gruesome murder of 215 persons.
In the Red Chamber, Senators also resolved yesterday that they will amend the constitution to enable the creation of state and community police in order to end the rampant killings in the country.
Specifically, the lawmakers decried terrorist attacks, mass killings and displacement of people from their ancestral homes and farmlands.
They insisted that the current security chiefs have failed and that there is urgent need for President Muhammadu Buhari to rejig the security architecture.
Consequently, they urged the executive arm of government to overhaul the entire security system of the country and evolve a better security action plan that will decisively tackle terror attacks threatening the continuous existence of communities in the North Central geo political zone and the entire country.
The Senators urged the executive to quickly evolve better ways to strengthen the criminal administration system to ensure truth, fairness and justice in the country.
They directed the constitution review committee to expedite quick actions to effect amendment of the constitution as regards the issue of state police.
The lawmakers maintained that if the policing of the country is not decentralised, there is no way insecurity would be properly tackled.
They also stated that there is need for the National Assembly to enact a law on peace and conflict resolution to foster harmony and unity of the country.
They resolved that a bill for state police, peace and reconciliation should be passed in the National Assembly within two weeks.
The resolutions of the Senate followed a motion by Senator Jonah Jang (Plateau North) on the gruesome killings of persons in Barkin Ladi, Byom and Jos South, Plateau State recently.
According to Jang, while about 250 persons were killed by suspected herdsmen and several villages ransacked, scores were displaced and many that were injured are receiving treatment in various hospitals.
Calling for lasting solutions to the gory situation, the Senators accused President Buhari of laxity towards ensuring that the killings are abated.
They queried the situation whereby members of a particular group have always claimed responsibility of the killings but are never apprehended.
Notably, Senator Kabir Marafa (Zamfara Central) stated that the killings in the country have gradually become a business, as the perpetrators unleash mayhem with full collaboration of indigenes, just as he insisted, however, that the killings have no religious bias.
Ruling on the matter, Senate President Bukola Saraki said the killings are totally unacceptable and must be condemned in its totality.
He said, “These are acts of criminality and we should not encourage any other colouration to it. Be it religious, this is criminality and as such we have a role to ensure that we must address this criminality.
“We believe there is need for urgent review of the security architecture. We must not only see from the point of view that there is danger to security. There is also danger if we really believe that we are going to push our economy; it is going to become stagnant. As Senate, we must come up with our own actions as well. Let us address the ones within our control”.
CSOs Storm N’Assembly, Tackle Lawmakers Over Constituency Projects
Meanwhile, a coalition of civil society groups under the auspices of Citizens’ Action to Take Nigeria (CATBAN) stormed the National Assembly yesterday protesting the alleged padding of the 2018 budget by federal lawmakers.
The protesters demanded the scrapping of constituency projects and called on the duo of Senate President Bukola Saraki and Speaker Yakubu Dogara to step down from their positions immediately over the matter.
CATBAN also called on the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to wade into the budget padding scandal and prosecute perpetrators in order to save the National Assembly from public ridicule.
President Muhammadu Buhari had a couple of weeks ago accused the National Assembly of cutting funding of critical and strategic developmental projects amounting to N347bn in the budget, unilaterally jerking up allocations of others and introducing new ones to the tune of N578bn without consulting the executive arm of government
But the National Assembly swiftly denied the allegations by Buhari, saying it acted based on its constitutional powers and the need to spread projects evenly across the country.
The protesters, who laid siege to the main entrance gate of the National Assembly, were however prevented from gaining entry into the complex by armed policemen, a situation which led to a standoff for hours.
Led by the national convener of CATBAN, Comrade Ibrahim Garba Wala, the coalition said as a civil society organisation in the business of monitoring budget process over the years, it was painful that the 2018 budget, as passed by the National Assembly, followed the regular path of “stealing” in the name of bogus constituency projects.
“It should be emphasised that in spite of the wishy-washy response of the National Assembly justifying its distortion of the 2018 Budget, there is ample evidence to show that they indeed shortchanged their constituents who elected them to make laws for the good governance of the country,” Wala said.
They added that the upward review of the oil benchmark for the budget from $45 to $50 by the National Assembly was “selfish” and done in bad faith in order to satisfy the greed of few lawmakers.
“This to us is a grave offence against the sensibility of Nigerians. CATBAN therefore demands that this issue should not be swept under the carpet as an internal affair of the National Assembly.
“Finally, we call on the president of the Senate, Bukola Saraki, and Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, to immediately step down from their offices as they have shown that they lack the requisite credibility and moral capacity to hold these positions of authority,” they added.
Meanwhile, Speaker Dogara yesterday urged President Muhammadu Buhari to assent to the constitutional amendment Bill, which provides for early submission of budget proposals to the National Assembly by the executive.
This, according to him, would allow orderly appropriation process.
The Bill stipulates that the president shall prepare and lay before each House of the National Assembly estimates of revenue and expenditure 90 days before the end of the fiscal year.
It was transmitted to President Buhari along with other constitutional amendment Bills, some of which have been assented to by the president.
Dogara said issues about the budget reforms and budgeting process would be addressed once the bill is signed into law.
His words: “It is as a result of this that the National Assembly proposed an amendment to the section to require the President to submit the Appropriation Bill not later than 90 days to the end of the financial year.
“The President has not yet signed this Bill which is so critical to an orderly Appropriations process. Let me use this opportunity to remind Mr President of the fact that if this Bill does not become law, any talk of an orderly appropriations process would be mere cheap talk.
“It is important to reiterate once again that the National Assembly has the constitutional powers, duty and responsibility to intervene in the budgeting process to ensure equity, federal character and even distribution of projects and amenities to all nooks and crannies of this great country as direct representatives of the people.
“It is also important to emphasise that the 2018 budget benefitted from active cooperation and consultation between the Executive and Legislature during the Appropriation process. No doubt, Nigeria’s budgeting processes is in need of further reforms and that is why the National Assembly took the bold initiative to introduce the Budget Process Bill that is expected to lay out, timeliness that will guide the appropriation process from conception to passage.
“But for this Bill to be passed, section (81) subsection (1) which gives the President power to prepare and lay before each House of the National Assembly AT ANY TIME estimates of revenue and expenditure in the financial year must be amended”.
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