28 March 2013

Nigeria: Senate, Security Chiefs in Six-Hour Session

Photo: Vanguard
Arms discovered in Kano.

Senators yesterday asked security agencies to explore alternative strategies apart from the use of force in their fight against insurgency, in the wake of resurgent violence in parts of the North.

At an emergency closed-door meeting with security chiefs that lasted for about six hours in the Senate chambers in Abuja, the lawmakers said it was clear use of force alone could not end the shootings and bombings and so it was time other options were considered.

The meeting was attended by the Chief of Defence Staff Admiral Sa'ad Ola Ibrahim, Chief of Army Staff General Azubuike Ihejirika, Chief of Naval Staff Vice Admiral Dele Ezeoba, Chief of Air Staff Air Marshal Alex Bade, Director General of the State Security Service (SSS) Mr. Ita Ekpeyong, and Deputy Inspector General of Police for Administration Mr. Suleiman Fakai, who represented the Inspector General of Police.

After the session, which started at 10.25am and ended at 4.23pm, the security chiefs declined to talk to journalists, while Senate President David Mark merely said they briefed the Senate on the security situation in the country.

At a news conference shortly after, Senate spokesman Enyinnaya Abaribe said the meeting was aimed at finding out "what the problems are and also to be able to work with the security agencies to bring the very serious security problems we have to possible resolution." He did not give details.

But senators told Daily Trust that during the meeting, lawmakers told the security chiefs that the use of force in the fight against the Boko Haram insurgency had not produced much result so far. The Senate therefore urged them to explore alternative strategies.

"We engaged them in a very rigorous questioning session on the level of insecurity in Nigeria. Every senator was given the opportunity to ask questions, but the security chiefs told us they were doing their best," one of the senators said, asking not to be named.

"We told them frankly that the single approach of force they have been using is not working. We then urged and directed them to explore other alternative strategies to fight terrorism. But we didn't suggest any alternative strategy to them."

Daily Trust also learnt that in their presentations the security chiefs said they would not oppose granting amnesty to members of the Jama'atu Ahlis Sunnah Lid Da'awati wal Jihad, otherwise known as Boko Haram, if the Federal Government decides to do that.

"They told us they will not advise the government to the contrary on the issue of amnesty to Boko Haram as a means of ending the spate of violence," a senator said.

The security chiefs assured senators that they were adopting new strategies to combat terrorism, as well as fashioning ways of addressing allegations of high-handedness on the part of the security forces.

"They also revealed that they were looking at ways of ensuring that men of the Joint Task Force do not engage in extra-judicial killings and other violations of human rights in areas they are drafted to maintain peace. All men of the JTF are currently being sensitised about this," he added.

Another senator, who was also at the meeting, told our correspondent that the service chiefs confirmed that the recent reported attempt to bomb Lagos was real and they assured that preventive measures were taken.

'Senate satisfied with briefing'

Addressing journalists after the session, Abaribe said the Senate was satisfied with the briefing by the service chiefs.

"We're satisfied with the level of interaction and the commitment of the security agencies to making Nigeria a far safer nation. We are also calling on all Nigerians to cooperate with them to help us to resolve the issue. We promised that we would continue to have regular interactions with security agencies and this is one of those interactions."

Asked if senators made any specific suggestions on how to tackle insecurity in the country, Abaribe said, "What we got was just briefings. Any other option is a policy decision that will be taken by the government. Policy decisions are not made in a briefing session like this.

"We devoted the whole plenary session which lasted for about six hours to interacting with the security chiefs and heads of other security agencies to find out what the problems are and to be able to work with the different security agencies to bring the very serious security problem we have to the soonest possible resolutions. We are satisfied with the level of interaction and the commitment of the security agencies in Nigeria to making Nigeria a safer place.

"We promised we would continue to have regular interactions with the security agencies and this is just one of those interactions. What we got was briefings from the different security agencies. There were no resolutions reached. It is not in our place to reach resolutions with them. They just gave briefings and we are satisfied with the briefings."

This is the first such interaction between senators and security chiefs this year. It came just over a week after the bus park bombing in Kano, which killed at least 22 people according to the official death toll.

The Kano attack, as well as the resurgent killings in Borno and Yobe states, came after months of lull in the activities of insurgents whose campaign of violence in parts of the North left thousands dead since 2009.

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