Nigeria: Senators Divided Over Buhari's 'Lopsided' Security Appointments

President Muhammadu Buhari.
23 October 2018

Some senators on Tuesday had heated argument over composition of the National Defence Council and the National Security Council.

While some of the lawmakers alleged that President Muhammadu Buhari deliberately side-lined the south east, by not appointing anyone from the region, others said the president made his appointment with consideration of federal character.

The arguments came after Victor Umeh (Anambra, APGA) moved a motion for 'urgent need to appoint a representative of the South-East into the National Defence Council and the National Security Council.'

Mr Umeh expressed worry that no Service Chief as appointed to two councils is from the South-East of Nigeria contrary to federal character as provided by the constitution.

"The senate is further worried that the Defence and Security Advice relayed to the President by members of the Defence and Security Councils (which excluded Security Officers from the five states that make up the South-East of Nigeria) may not likely represent fair and equitable Security Situation of the South-East of Nigeria," he said.

He prayed the president reconstitute membership of the councils and appoint an officer from the South-East as a Service Chief for equitable representation.

First to comment was Enyinnaya Abaribe (Abia-PDP), who accused Mr Buhari of deliberately excluding the South East in his appointment.

Quoting Section 5 (1) A and B of the constitution, Mr Abaribe said the constitution mandates Mr President to be fair to all regions in his appointment.

"Mr President does not have an option," he said. What we have seen is a deliberate. I repeat, a deliberate misreading of the constitution as to the powers of Mr President to decide on his own to determine who he can appoint.

"I'm very glad that in the motion of the matter of what constitutes the defence council. Section H says such other members as the president may appoint which gives Mr President the option to co-opt people from outside the service chiefs in whichever way that he wants.

"What we are saying is the fact that despite the provision of the constitution, despite the options that are given, there is a deliberate attempt not to let some part of this country to be part of the security architecture and that, we are saying is not so good for this country."

Senate Deputy Majority Leader, Ibn Na' Allah, attacked the mover of the motion, noting that his presentation was a misinterpretation of the provision of the constitution.

"The position taken by Senator Umeh is a gross misunderstanding of the provision of the constitution. There is a clear distinction between what is called the officer corps and appointment.

"Section 219 makes it imperative for the president to make appointment and bring such to the Senate for confirmation where everyone is represented. The entire list in the motion sponsored by Senator Umeh were brought here. The senate found it convenient and expedient to at that time to approve that appointment and everybody was in the senate.

"At the recruitment level, the army, navy and air force does what they call federal character. But all are called and few are given. It will not be the fault of the Nigerian Army that for example that five candidates are brought from Kebbi and three ran away after the course or they commit an offence.

"At this stage, let me say that it has never been since independence that the policy of any government will be to deliberately exclude a section of this country."

Also, Barau Jibrin (Kano-APC) attacked Mr Umeh. He said the National Security Council already has a South East representative.

"The assertion by Mr Umeh is not correct. Its misleading. He omitted the fact that the Minister of Foreign Affairs who is from the south east, Emeka Onyeama, is a member of the National Security Council. I therefore call on Senator Umeh to apologise for misguiding the senate."

He was promptly confronted by Mao Ohabunwa (Abia-PDP) who said the motion dwells more on the National Defence Council.

"If you look at the motion from the beginning, its talking about the National Defence Council, he said. "Everything in this country should be inclusive. Its not about federal character we agreed at the section of joining the force but what we are saying is that national council made up of about eight people. I don't see anything difficult to use his power, consult other persons. I don't see anything wrong for inclusiveness to appoint someone from the south east to be part of this council."

The Senate President, Bukola Saraki, merely ruled that the issue be 'noted' as the lawmakers could not reach a consensus.

"If we take different parts of the constitution, we can see different parts that support the argument. It's not a motion that we'll be able to get a consensus for because of different interpretation. The points have been well highlighted and I think, in my own view, this is not a motion that we'll be able to reach consensus on. I will like to rule that what you have raised is noted," he said.

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