Nigeria: An Agenda for the Fight Against Insurgency

23 February 2021
opinion

Udora Orizu writes that the service chiefs nominees at their screening by the House of Representatives Security Committees, laid out their plans to tackle security challenges bedeviling the country.

It looks like the country maybe heading for victory in its war against insurgency with the agenda of the new Service Chiefs focusing on a repositioned and motivated armed forces that can professionally defeat adversaries.

Over the years, Nigerians have prayed and hoped for the roads to be free from kidnappers, end to insurgency, banditry and all forms of terrorism. To achieve all these, the citizens expect the new service chiefs to bring new ideas and approach to tackle these challenges.

The newly appointed Service Chiefs, at their screening last week by the House of Representatives security committees, chaired by Hon. Babajimi Benson (Chairman House Committee on Defence) assured Nigerians of their resolve to take proactive steps in tackling security challenges bedeviling the country.

The Request

Following strident calls across the country for the replacement of the Service Chiefs, President Muhammadu Buhari, finally heeded the calls and replaced them on January 26, 2021.

According to a statement issued by the President's Media Adviser, Femi Adesina, the new Service Chiefs are: Major-General Leo Irabor, Chief of Defence Staff; Major-General I. Attahiru, Chief of Army Staff; Rear Admiral A.Z Gambo, Chief of Naval Staff; and Air-Vice Marshal I.O Amao, Chief of Air Staff.

They replaced the former Chief of Defence Staff, General Abayomi Olonisakin; Chief of Army Staff, Lt-Gen. Tukur Buratai; Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Ibok Ekwe Ibas; and Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar.

The statement said Buhari congratulated the new Service Chiefs, and urged them to be loyal and dedicated in the discharge of their responsibilities.

Following the appointment of the new service chiefs, President Buhari wrote to both chambers of the National Assembly, seeking confirmation of the nominees.

In a letter dated January 27, 2021 and addressed to the Senate President, Ahmed Lawan and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, Buhari said that the screening was in compliance with the provisions of Section 18 (1) of the Armed Forces Act Cap A.20 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004.

The President urged the lawmakers to consider and confirm the nominees in the usual expeditious manner.

Gbajabiamila who read the President's letter at the plenary on February 10, for the confirmation of the new Chief of Defence Staff and Service Chiefs, set up an ad-hoc committee to be chaired by the Chairman House Committee on Defence, Hon. Babajimi Benson.

Hon. Benson, according to Gbajabiamila, is to work with the Chairmen of other security committees, Hon. Abdulrasak Namdas (Army), Hon. Shehu Koko (Air Force) and Hon. Yusuf Gagdi (Navy), their deputies and at least five members of their committees to carryout the exercise in strict adherence to Covid-19 protocols.

A Legislative Assurance from Benson

Commencing the screening on February 17, the Chairman House Committee on Defence and Chairman of the Screening Committee, Hon. Babajimi Benson said the committee plan to engage robustly and constructively with the nominees and if confirmed, provides them with all the support they would need to succeed.

Benson said Nigeria as a country was blessed with brave and gallant soldiers, many of whom have paid the ultimate price in service to the country, adding also that it was to their memories that the government must get it right with the national security and help secure the peace for which they gave their lives.

He pointed out that from the inception of the 9th House, national security has been discussed more at several times at plenary, yet, the nation is still grappling with diverse and increasing security challenges, despite some successes recorded by the gallant men and women of the Armed Forces.

Benson noted that the committee was aware of the many sensitivities around national security matters, saying, because of its desire to robustly engage the nominees to a good level of granularity across many subject areas, it decided to conduct these vigorous exchanges behind closed doors.

The Chairman said this would not only help protect national security, but more importantly, give the nominee the freedom to respond more adequately, comprehensively and expansively without any fear of an unwitting exposure of sensitive information.

Benson said, "The essence of the framers of our Constitution requiring the Service Chiefs to be confirmed by the National Assembly is to reiterate the supremacy of civil authority over the military in a constitutional democracy. We shall therefore take our role very seriously and we intend to discharge our responsibilities diligently on behalf of Nigerians.

"I can assure you that the Nominees will be grilled on questions covering a wide range of subjects. Areas in which they will be questioned include; Professional skill and experience, Nigeria's war on terror and insurgency and insecurity in general, Funding of the military, Strategic security knowledge and vision of the Nominees, Welfare of military personnel.

Laying their Agenda

The Service Chiefs nominees at their screening, laid out their programmes for the Nigerian Armed forces.

Speaking first, the Chief of Defence Staff nominee, Major General Lucky Irabor said if confirmed, his intention is to foster a better Armed Forces that is capable of making effectively, the imperatives of the constitution.

He said, "By so doing, I intend to have some pillars that are aligned with this broad focus of leadership. This may not come out as a vision because I believe that visions are meant for institutions and not individuals. As a military commander, I intend to have leadership focus in outlining the broad areas, to this, I intend to build very professional armed forces that are effective, agile, result-oriented and of course, one that is loyal to constituted authority."

In his remarks, Chief of Army Staff nominee, Major General Attahiru, promised to reposition the Nigerian Army to professionally defeat adversaries, by adopting the style that would be an integrative approach that would involve every Nigerian in providing adequate security for the country.

While acknowledging that the appointment is coming in this very trying time, Major General Attahiru promised to provide the right leadership for the Army to thrive.

He assured that the emphasis would be particularly on the role of government and role of society approach, where each and every Nigerian would be part of the security architecture to bring an end to our current problems.

He said, "The vision is embedded in the command philosophy, built on specific pillars such as readiness, the duty to country, dependability and continuous leadership development. For particular emphasis, mission readiness, training, functional manning and equipment, loyalty and sacrifice to the fatherland and continuous leadership development. We will build an Army that will be innovative in the 21st century."

On his part, the Chief of Naval Staff nominee, Rear Admiral Auwal Gambo, underscored the need for loyalty, cooperation, commitment, knowledge and skills of all officers, ratings and civilian staff of the Nigerian Navy.

He also promised to optimally harness these for the benefits of the service and the nation, adding that: "If confirmed as Chief of the Naval Staff, I intend to leverage on all factors of national location, technology, training, teamwork and synergy to re-energise the Nigerian Navy and enhance her as a well-motivated and ready to discharge her constitutional mandate and other tasks in fulfilment of the national security objectives."

In his address, the Chief of Air Staff nominee, Air Vice Marshall Isiaka Amao, unveiled plans to enhance and sustain critical airpower capability required in pursuit of national security imperatives.

He also assured on doctrinal development and joint military operations, pursue purposeful training and human capacity development, as well as ensure that weapons and equipment serviceability are sustained through elevating maintenance methods and logistic support system.

Amao also pledged to foster a disciplined workforce essential for combat readiness.

An Optimistic Magashi

In his remarks, the Minister of Defence, Bashir Magashi, who accompanied the service chiefs to the screening, expressed confidence in the ability of the nominees to make Nigerians proud in the onslaught against terrorism and other forms of insecurity.

Magashi, said the government was aware of the constitutional provision that all nominated candidates should be screened by the National Assembly before they are confirmed.

He said, "I am happy that we did not run foul of the law. Since they were appointed, we only called them designate and refused them to wear the rank of their various offices. If you see them right now, they are still wearing their old ranks.

"The CDS is supposed to be a full General, while the Service Chiefs should be Lt. Generals and equivalent. Let me assure you that the Armed Forces of Nigeria today is fully aware of its constitutional role and we are prepared more than ever before to subordinate the military to civil authority. That we will do in order to promote cohesion and national unity in the country.

"I have no doubt that those nominated by Mr President will no doubt make this country very proud. I hope the House will recognise the importance of their assignment. Today, we had a setback somewhere and as soon as we finish from here, the appropriate service chief will take care of that. I want to assure you that we will deliver on the expectations of Nigerians.

"I can assure you that the nominees will be grilled on questions covering a wide range of subjects.

"Areas in which they will be questioned include professional skill and experience, Nigeria's war on terror and insurgency and insecurity in general, funding of the military and strategic security knowledge and vision of the nominees as well as welfare of military personnel."

Justifying the Screening

Meanwhile the letter from the President informing the House and seeking the confirmation for the appointments of service chiefs was seen as a mistake, as

according to the Constitution, the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria is bound by law to seek the approval of the National Assembly, precisely, the Senate for the confirmation of whoever he nominates for any position.

In line with the provisions of the 1999 constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended), the screening of any appointee of the President is the exclusive right of the Senate

But as the House screened the nominees last week, the lawmakers justified carrying out the exercise.

Chairman of the Screening Committee, Hon. Babajimi Benson, in his remarks on the day of the screening, said the nominees were presented for confirmation in accordance with the provisions of Section 18 (1) of the Armed Forces Act, Cap A20 Law of the Federation of Nigeria 2004.

Corroborating, Benson's statement, the Spokesman of the House, Hon. Benjamin Kalu, told THISDAY that the House just like the Senate has the constitutional power to carry-out the exercise.

Kalu cited Section 18, subsection 1 of the Armed Forces Act, Cap A20 laws of the federation of Nigeria 2004, which he said reveals that Buhari was in order when he sent a letter to the House of Representatives on the 27 January 2021 asking for the screening of Service Chiefs.

He also made reference to a 2013 court case filed by the current Minister of Labour and Employment, Mr. Festus Keyamo against the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, in which the Supreme Court held that it is the duty of the National Assembly, not just the Senate to the exclusion of the House.

According to him, "In 2015 under the Hon. Dogara as the Speaker of the House, President was sworn in on May 29, and he changed the Service Chiefs in July and because the House at the time has not been able to form the various committees, an adhoc committee was set up to screen the Service Chiefs. So it's not the first time we are doing so.

"Recall that this matter was before the court in 2013, in a case that was sent to court by the current Minister of Labour, Festus Keyamo against the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria where he claimed that the appointment of the service chiefs didn't follow the constitutional provisions.

"As you know a combined interpretation of two very important sections of our statutory provisions, will reveal that what we are doing currently is in order. One is the provisions of section 218 sub 4 of the constitution, which says the National Assembly have power to make laws for the regulation of the powers exercisable by the President as commander in chief of the armed forces of the federation and then the appointment, promotion and disciplinary control of members of the armed forces of the federation. If you read that in conjunction with section 18, subsection 1 of the Armed Forces Act, Cap A20 laws of the federation of Nigeria 2004, it reveals that the President was in order when he sent a letter to the House of Representatives on the 27 January 2021 asking for the screening of Service Chiefs.

"So we are not acting on our own but on the precedence laid in the last administration when he came on board in 2015, and also in line with the decided case of the Supreme Court on the matter I just referred to where the Supreme Court held that it is the duty of the National Assembly, not just the Senate to the exclusion of the House of Representatives."

Will the Service Chiefs live up to the Expectatuon of Nigerians?

As the security heads are undergoing screening by both chambers of the national assembly, there's renewed hope for the citizenry, who believes there will be a renewed onslaught against insurgents, bandits and other criminal gangs whose despicable activities have shot issues of insecurity into a national emergency. All eyes are now on them to deliver where their predecessors failed.

QUOTE

Commencing the screening on February 17, the Chairman House Committee on Defence and Chairman of the Screening Committee, Hon. Babajimi Benson said the committee plan to engage robustly and constructively with the nominees and if confirmed, provides them with all the support they would need to succeed. Benson said Nigeria as a country was blessed with brave and gallant soldiers, many of whom have paid the ultimate price in service to the country, adding also that it was to their memories that the government must get it right with the national security and help secure the peace for which they gave their lives.

He pointed out that from the inception of the 9th House, national security has been discussed more at several times at plenary, yet, the nation is still grappling with diverse and increasing security challenges, despite some successes recorded by the gallant men and women of the Armed Forces

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