There was uproar on the floor of the Senate on Wednesday when the Minority Leader, Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe, called for the immediate resignation of the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.).
Abaribe made the call at the plenary, where he was reacting to a statement by the President, who on Tuesday said he was taken aback by the increasing insecurity in the country.
The Senate minority leader said the resignation became imperative in view of the Buhari regime inability to curtail the alarming security challenges confronting the country.
Abaribe spoke after the Senate Leader, Yahaya Abdullahi, presented his motion on rising security challenges in the country.
Although the Senate was divided on Abaribe’s demand for President’s resignation, senators, who commented on the insecurity in the country, were unanimous in berating Buhari for failing to sack the service chiefs despite their dwindling performances.
Also, there was outrage in the country over the President’s statement as groups including the Ohanaeze Ndigbo, backed the call on the President to sack the service chiefs.
But the calls by Abaribe and other prominent Nigerians elicited an angry reaction from the Presidency, which described the Senate minority leader as an arm chair critic.
Buhari, while addressing eminent indigenes of Niger State at the Presidential Villa on Tuesday, had said he was taken aback by banditry and other forms of insecurity in the North-West and other parts of the country.
The President’s position was in sharp contrast with that of his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina, who, on Sunday, said insecurity was not as bad as it was being reported by the media.
In the last three months, bandits and insurgents have been attacking residents and troops in Zamfara, Niger, Katsina, Borno and many other states.
At the Senate plenary on Wednesday, Abaribe said the attitude of the President to insecurity in the country surprised him.
Abaribe said, “When I was coming this morning, I saw the newspaper headlines; ‘Mr president, Commander-in-Chief expresses shock at the level of violent crime.’
“In other words, Mr President was expressing surprise. But in accordance to our Rule 53(13), I will not go into that, but I will only say, Mr President (of the Senate), in pidgin English, this surprise, surprised me.
“You have told us that on this solemn day that we are discussing this matter; that we may not at any point be partisan and I want to tell you Mr President, if you didn’t insist that we should not be partisan, I would have called out the presidential spokesman, Femi Adesina.
“Adesina, who, when the Christian Association of Nigeria leaders complained about the killing of a priest, turned around and said CAN was acting like a political party.
“Now that we are talking about it here, let me hear him say that all of us are acting like a political party; when somebody is complaining about these incessant deaths in this country.
“We have to get to the root of this matter. I can only say one thing, those who live on propaganda will die by propaganda. It is a matter of life and death.
“Everything was being done to make sure that the hard work that was supposed to be done in securing Nigeria was not done because certain people did not do their work and preferred to cover the eyes of Nigerians with propaganda.
“All the time that we wasted in Nigeria trying to find all these excuses for non- performance has now come to stare us in the face.
“Reality is no respecter of persons. It is that reality we are facing now. Senator Sani Musa is shouting every day his people are being killed in Niger. We just took one (a motion) from Jos; a student who was murdered in the full view of everybody with a pistol. Yet, we are being told that they (Boko Haram terrorists) have been defeated.
“Nigerians did not elect the Inspector General of Police. We did not elect the Chief of Staff. We did not elect the service chiefs. We did not elect the National Security Adviser.
“We elected the government of the APC in 2015 and reelected them in 2019. The reason we reelected them was that they continued to tell us they had a key to security.
“When you want to deal with a matter, you go with the head, so we will go with the government and ask this government to resign because they can no longer do anything.
“Yes, the Nigerians voted a government into power and that government even said, ‘if we don’t perform, stone us, we are going with the stones to stone them now because they are no longer performing.”
There was an instant noise in the camps of the majority and minority caucuses of the red chamber which lasted for a while before the President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan, brought the rowdy session under control.
Some senators hailed the submission of Abaribe while others described it as unnecessary.
However, when the uproar subsided, Senator Abdullahi Adamu, said Abaribe’s submission was unnecessary.
He wondered why Lawan had not stopped Abaribe earlier because senators should be seen as statesmen. He urged the Senate President to demand an apology from the minority leader.
Adamu, an APC member from Nasarawa West, however admitted that Abaribe had legislative immunity to express his views.
He said, “There is no doubting the fact that we do face security challenges in the country, anybody who says otherwise is only pretending.”
The President of the Senate appealed to his colleagues to approach the security issue with caution. He, however, did not ask Abaribe to apologise.
Senators divided over state police creation
The chamber was, however, thrown into another rowdy session when the senators protested the rejection of the state police creation by the Deputy President of the Senate, Ovie Omo-Agege.
Omo-Agege’s predecessor, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, and many lawmakers are currently championing the reintroduction of the State Police Bill in the 9th National Assembly.
The bill suffered a setback in the 8th Senate, but the federal lawmakers alarmed by the rising crime rate across the country believe that it is the right way to go.
Omo-Agege, in his contribution, vehemently opposed the creation of state police on accounts of paucity of funds crippling the states and possible abuse by the state governors.
A former governor of Ogun State, Senator Ibikunle Amosun, supported the creation of state police and attempts by regions to set up security outfits.
He said releasing adequate equipment to the regional and state security personnel would solve the insecurity challenges.
Senator Oluremi Tinubu also expressed support for the creation of state police. She described the fears being expressed in some quarters, as unnecessary.
Senator Adamu Bukachuwa from Bauchi State sought the recognition of the traditional institution in crime prevention.
He said they were supposed to be given the task of monitoring their people and organisng local security men to protect them.
Senator Opeyemi Bamidele noted that the unity of Nigeria was threatened. He supported the idea of restructuring the security architecture. He also said state police should be established to tackle all forms of insecurity.
Senator Emmanuel Bwacha from Taraba State supported the creation of the South-West security outfit, Operation Amotekun, because the police had failed to protect Nigerians.
Senator Sam Egwu, who also supported state police, said governors should be empowered to protect their people, saying no foreigner would come in if states were in charge.
Senator Ibrahim Shekarau (Kano) also threw his weight behind the creation of state police.
He said, “When I was the governor of Kano State, Hisbah guards were established. He called for the recruitment of more police personnel and adequate funding.
He said the Federal Government was recruiting 10, 000 policemen every year but that 6, 000 policemen were retiring every year.
Others who supported state police were Abubakar Yusuf and Olubunmi Adetunmbi and Sunday Omor.
However, Senator Gabriel Suswan said the creation of state police would solve no problem.
He demanded the restructuring of the police with a view to empowering them for effective performance.
Senator Danjuma Goje from Gombe State disagreed with the proponents of state police, claiming that governors would take advantage of it to perpetuate themselves in power.
He said, “The creation of jobs and setting up empowerment strategies would solve the problem of insecurity in the country.”
Senators ask Buhari to sack service chiefs
Meanwhile, Senator Betty Apiafi from Rivers State, led the call for the sack of the security chiefs, saying that they had outlived their usefulness. The service chiefs were appointed by Buhari in 2015.
Senator Rochas Okorocha from Imo State also called for the immediate sacking of the service chiefs, claiming that they had outlived their usefulness.
Senator Matthew Urhoghide said findings by the 8th Senate indicated that there was no inter-agency cooperation among the security agencies in the country. He said approving huge sums of money for them would continue to be wasteful.
Senators Opeyemi Bamidele, Elisha Abbo, Adeola Olamilekan, Urhoghide, Sani Musa, Gabriel Suswan and Emmanuel Bwacha also said the service chiefs should go.
Senator Tolu Odebiyi called for the mopping up of arms and checking of the nation’s borders.
He said proper identification of most Nigerians and foreigners would also check activities of the criminals.
Senator Aisha Dahiru-Ahmed (Adamawa) said poor leadership and unemployment contributed to insecurity.
Senate sets up ad hoc panel, summons IGP
The red chamber which extended its sitting hours to 4:25pm to enable members to engage in robust debate, resolved to set up a 17-member panel to collate the views and come up with a report within two weeks.
Lawan asked the panel headed by the Senate Leader to hold talks with heads of military and other security agencies and come up with realistic and effective solutions to the worsening security situation in the country.
The Senate also asked the Inspector-General of Police, Abdullahi Adamu, to appear before it at plenary on Wednesday next week.
Meanwhile, Abaribe’s call for Buhari’s resignation attracted diverse reactions on Wednesday.
Resign or be sacked, Reps tell service chiefs
The House of Representatives debated the killings by Boko Haram in the North-East based on a motion moved by the Chief Whip, Mohammed Monguno.
The lawmaker representing Chibok/Damboa/Gwoza Federal Constituency of Borno State, Ahmadu Jaha, called for the sacking of the service chiefs, saying their efforts had failed to stop insurgency in the North-East.
Jaha said, “I know what I am saying; I know that tomorrow people can come for me. I am calling for the immediate removal of all the service chiefs and their immediate replacement with competent ones. The truth of the matter is that they have overstayed and the officers under them are not stimulated (motivated) to work, perform and to end this war. This is my position.”
The lawmakers, who were initially divided over whether the service chiefs should resign or be sacked, later resolved to “call on all the service chiefs to resign immediately, failing which the President should remove them.”
Buhari’s comment distressing – PDP
The main opposition party, the Peoples Democratic Party, described the statement by Buhari that he was surprised by the heightened insecurity across the country as defeatist and demoralising.
The PDP, in a statement its National Publicity Secretary, Mr Kola Ologbondiyan, said by the comment, the President displayed a disheartening dereliction of duty.
He said, “Such a statement from a Commander-in-Chief, who promised to lead from the front, is distressing as it further exposes an abdication of duty and shows that Mr President is not even abreast of his major task in governance which is the security of lives and property.
“The PDP is particularly worried about this apparent display of leadership failure as Mr President ought to be receiving a daily brief from his service chiefs on the actual situation on the ground.
“His comment therefore speaks volumes about the manner with which the security of our nation is being handled at the highest level despite the huge resources reportedly committed to security issues by the Buhari administration.”
He also said the party would want Buhari to resign. Ologbondiyan said, “The party (PDP) therefore backs the call by the Senate Minority Leader, Senator Eyinnaya Abaribe, asking President Buhari to resign.”
Buhari was expressing an honest opinion, says ACF secretary
But the Secretary General of the Arewa Consultative Forum, Mr. Anthony Sani, said it was not enough for the President to resign simply because he shared his honest view on the security situation in the country.
Sani, in an interview with The PUNCH, said, “While I appreciate the concerns about the recent surge of attacks leading to the killing of some innocent people – thereby hyping insecurity – I do not share the views of those who call for the resignation of President Buhari for expressing his honest view of surprise at the recent surge.
Buhari’s statement deceptive – Afenifere
The pan-Yoruba socio-cultural group, Afenifere, dismissed Buhari’s claims that he was surprised by the murderous activities of bandits in parts of the country, saying he was playing games with the sensibilities of Nigerians.
Afenifere’s spokesman, Yinka Odumakin, accused the President of duplicity, adding that his statement showed that he was engaging in Taqqiya (deception).
He catalogued the various attacks by terrorists and bandits across the country, noting that the Presidency had always acknowledged the bloodshed and rising insecurity in the country without providing any solution.
He stated, “We see his statement as playing games with our sensibilities. When Fulani herdsmen killed over 21 people in Benue State on January 1, 2018, did he not invite Governor Samuel Ortom to the Presidential Villa, where they advised him to tell his people to learn how to live with their killers? We want to say that Taqqiya (deception) should have a limit.”
On its part, the Ohanaeze Youth Council said it supported the call for Buhari’s resignation.
OYC National President, Igboayaka O. Igboayaka, explained that Ndigbo had lost confidence in the security architecture and the leaders of the country.
Igboayaka pointed out that Buhari’s body language indicated that he lacked the political will and capacity to tackle the security challenges affecting Nigeria.
Admission of insecurity shows failure of security chiefs – Ohanaeze
The apex Igbo socio-cultural organisation, Ohanaeze Ndigbo worldwide, said that the President’s admission showed that his security chiefs had failed and he should do the needful, adding that their retirement was overdue.
President General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Chief Nnia Nwodo, who spoke to one of our correspondents in Enugu, said, “His admission implies his commanding officers have failed. He should do the needful and should stop promoting people on the basis of where they come from but on the bases of their performances. He should stop retiring people on the basis of where they come from but on the bases of their inefficiency.”
The Deputy Executive Director, Civil Empowerment and Rule of Law Support Initiative, Majirioghene Etemiku, in an interview with The PUNCH, condemned the President’s statement.
He said, “This is not what anyone would expect from a Commander-in-Chief; a man getting daily or monthly briefings from the Army, Navy, Air force, the Police, and the Department of State Services.”
Abaribe, an arm chair critic – Presidency
But the Presidency hit back at Buhari’s critics, particularly Abaribe, saying the Senate Minority leader should resign.
It said the lawmaker should resign for failing to honour the bail bond he secured for the leader of the Indigenous Peoples of Biafra, Nnamdi Kanu.
In a statement by Buhari’s media aide, Mr Garba Shehu, the Presidency called Abaribe an arm chair critic.
It said, “President Buhari to resign on what basis? Just because some characters think that President Buhari should resign, then they expect him to quit? That call does not represent the opinion of the country. This is the opinion of an armchair critic, known for making strange comments.
“If a leader like President Buhari needs to resign, there are millions of other Nigerians who need to resign, including Senator Abaribe, who unlocked the door to enable the escape of traitorous and treasonable suspects.
“He signed the bond for the court to release Nnamdi Kanu on bail, from which moment the suspect disappeared into the thin air.”
Reacting, the Buhari Media Organisation accused the PDP of taking the president’s statement out of context.
The Chairman of BMO, Niyi Akinsiju, said Abaribe’s statement was typical of a desperate opposition lacking morality and with “ennobling precedent, to take issues out of context.”
“The truth is in black and white as reported by the media. President Muhammadu Buhari while hosting a delegation of eminent people from Niger State explained the variant of violence that had recently erupted in northwest Nigeria and other parts of the country, describing it as an evil plan against the country because, unlike the BokoHaram insurgency which he confronted in 2015, this new threat to the peace of the country has no ethnic or religious underpinnings, even as he observed the likely consequences of banditry on the nation’s agricultural sector.”