Nigeria: What We Discussed With Security Chiefs - Senate

The appearance of the service chiefs at plenary was in response to an invitation by the Senate last week.

At The Thursday meeting between senators and security chiefs, both parties discussed insurgency, banditry, terrorism and other forms of insecurity in Nigeria as well as the plans to contain them, Senate President Ahmad Lawan disclosed. The meeting, from which journalists were barred, lasted over four hours.

The appearance of the service chiefs at plenary was in response to an invitation by the Senate last week over the security situation in the country.

The security chiefs present at the meeting include the Chief of Defence Staff, Lucky Irabor; Chief of Army Staff, Ibrahim Attahiru; Chief of Naval Staff, Awwal Gambo and the Chief of Air Staff, Isiaka Amao.

Also present were the Director Generals of the State Security Service, National Intelligence Agency and the Defence Intelligence Agency as well as the Acting Inspector General of Police, Usman Baba.

Apart from the briefing, lawmakers had also resolved that the Senate leadership should meet with President Muhammadu Buhari, to seek ways of mitigating the security challenges bedeviling the country.

Outcome of the meeting

Although Mr Lawan simply said the discussions focussed on insecurity and the way forward, the Senate spokesperson, Ajibola Basiru, told journalists that the lawmakers were briefed on security and the analysis of the various operations and theatre of activities that the security personnel are engaged in.

The senators were also briefed on the topography across the six geopolitical zones, the complexities and the challenges being faced and ways to ensure a long lasting peace and security for the country.

Although prior to Thursday's meeting, Mr Lawan appealed for understanding from his colleagues should the security chiefs request for a supplementary budget, Mr Basiru said money was not discussed.

"We did not talk about money. We did not talk about figures. We had a high level discussion on general challenges and requirements for us to have an efficient and effective security," he said. "The details of what ever will go into supplementary appropriation can only be worked upon by the Ministry of Finance, which is an executive arm together with our relevant committee and such are not matters that we will go into details."

"Of course, everybody knows that security is a serious matter for which you cannot take with levity when it comes to ensuring appropriate appropriation for that. We are ready to receive a supplementary budget. We don't have any doubt that there is synergy among the various security agencies. In fact, from the nature of the briefing that we received, it reassured us as elected representatives of the people that there is indeed a synergy.

"For instance, we have a tremendous status quo report that a lot has gone into stemming the tide of insecurity in Nigeria. Perhaps, if not for that synergy and the efforts that have gone in terms of operationalising and putting the Nigerian security organisation, particularly the Air Force in proper shape, perhaps we would have been in a more terrible situation. So, the story is about how far we have gone but then there is room for improvement and we are committed to that improvement," he said.

The lawmaker also disclosed that some "perspectives as to what happened recently in Chad was also considered" during the meeting.

He said the Senate had confidence in the security chiefs.

"So it is a very thorough discussion and I also believe that the forthrightness of the leadership of the security agencies showed the seriousness that they attached to that exercise. So, I believe that going forward, the confidence has been built between the security chiefs on one hand and the Nigerian parliament on the other hand and that would be a good signal of what we expect in the future."

In a separate interview with journalists, the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Army, Ali Ndume, said security matters that are not supposed to be disclosed to the press, were discussed.

He accused the media of not supporting the war on terror.

"Part of the discussion that affects you is that Nigerian press is not part of the fight against insurgency. Many journalists are just looking for something that will cause sensation when reported. That does not help us," he said, refusing to explain further.

Like his colleagues, he assured that the Senate is concerned and necessary measures will be taken to curtail rising insecurity in the country.

Thursday's briefing comes amidst growing cases of kidnappings, robbery and killings across the nation. It also comes weeks after the Niger State government confirmed that Boko Haram was operating in the state.

The Senate had also mandated its leadership to meet with President Muhammadu Buhari and brief him about insecurity in the country.

It also mandated its Committees on Foreign Affairs and National Security to meet with the minister of foreign affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama, and the Director-General of the Nigerian Intelligence Agency, Ahmed Abubakar, on the regional implications of the insecurity in the country.

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