Details have emerged surrounding the refusal of the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), to sack the service chiefs after meeting with the President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan, and Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, over the deteriorating security situation in the country at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, on Monday.
This came days after both chambers of the National Assembly passed resolutions on the security situation to formally present the resolutions to Buhari.
While the House urged the President to sack the service chiefs and appoint new ones, the Senate sought the imposing of a state of emergency on insecurity.
Findings by Saturday PUNCH on Friday indicated that though Buhari at the meeting saw reasons in the position of the House, in particular, he was not obliged to act immediately as requested by the lawmakers.
A top National Assembly official told Saturday PUNCH that the President did not want to appear like he was taking directives from the legislature.
The official said, “The President was on the same page with the National Assembly but did not want to seem he was under the directive of the National Assembly.”
It was learnt that the legislators argued that given the current cordial relationship between the President and the legislature, Buhari should act on the resolutions, just as he expected the lawmakers to act on his requests.
The source said, “There was the argument that for reciprocity he should act on the resolutions of the National Assembly since he too expected the lawmakers to yield to his proposals to the National Assembly.
“But the President felt he would decide by himself if he needed to (sack the service chiefs), not because the National Assembly said so. He is not taking directives from them.” However, the President was said to be “truly embarrassed” by the security situation and admitted so to Lawan and Gbajabiamila at the meeting.
“He is buying time. What is not certain is when he will do it. He will allow some time to pass. If you know the President, he will not act now simply because the legislature wants him to sack the service chiefs.” Speaking with State House Correspondents after the one-hour meeting, both Lawan and Gbajabiamila admitted that the case of the service chiefs was a key issue mentioned among the general discussions on insecurity.
When Lawan was asked a specific question on whether the sacking of the service chiefs was discussed with Buhari, he said, “We discussed everything that matters as far as the issue of security of this country is concerned.
“We believe that we must be able to provide the necessary equipment and welfare for the armed forces and the police to ensure that they can operate and perform efficiently and effectively.”
When asked what Buhari’s response was, Lawan said the President agreed with the National Assembly that the security situation required urgent attention.
He said, “Mr President was forthcoming. Of course, as the leader of this country, he is more worried than anybody else about the situation.
“So, we are on the same page that we should do whatever it takes to ensure that the security agencies can perform better than they are doing now.”
When asked again whether he thought replacing the service chiefs would bring immediate solutions, Lawan said the security situation had reached a “tipping point” that needed the intervention of all Nigerians, including whatever decisions the government had to take to bring succour to the people.
Gbajabiamila said “changes” would be witnessed by Nigerians soon, following their discussions with Buhari.
Buhari, not in haste to sack service chiefs – investigations
Meanwhile, those expecting the President to sack his service chiefs may wait a little while because an investigation conducted by Saturday PUNCH revealed they might not lose their jobs soon.
Our correspondent, who spoke with some senators on condition of anonymity after a closed-door session on Tuesday, learnt that the service chiefs might spend an additional year in office.
A senator from the South-West said the issue of the service chiefs was discussed extensively at the meeting between Buhari, Slawan and Gbajabiamila on Monday.
The Senator said, “The Senate President briefed us on the outcome of the meeting. From what he said, the President is not considering the sacking of the service chiefs for now.
“He has sought the understanding of the presiding officers on the issue and had promised to ensure a positive action in the areas of insurgency and insecurity across the country.”
A Senator from the North-East also said the President would not sack the service chiefs now, based on the briefing by the Senate President.
He said, “The Senate did not adopt the sacking of service chiefs resolution. It is the House of Representatives. I don’t believe that they should go. I am of the firm belief that our military will do better in the fight against insurgency with adequate funding and recruitment of more energetic personnel.”
A Senator from the South-South, who spoke vehemently against the service chiefs during the Senate debate on Wednesday, also confirmed that Lawan’s briefing had shown that Buhari would not sack the service chiefs immediately.