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Takeaways from Reps’ National Security Summit

There is no gainsaying the fact that Nigeria is facing one of its worst security challenges in recent history, which calls for concern among every patriotic citizen.

It was out of patriotism, concern for the deteriorating security situation in our dear nation and the responsibility bestowed on them by the country’s constitution, as representatives of the people, that the 360 members of the House of Representatives unanimously and unprecedentedly constituted a Special Committee on National Security on March 17, 2021.

For the seriousness that it deserves, the Special Committee is headed by the Speaker, Rep. Femi Gbajabiamila, himself, with the remaining nine principal officers as well as 30 other lawmakers as members.

The panel is to undertake a comprehensive study of the issues and challenges of national security and recommend innovative and practical solutions for implementation.

So, the Special Committee hit the ground running in earnest where it held several behind-the-scenes meetings and consulted widely before coming up with modalities for a national security summit, the type never witnessed before.

Part of the consultations was the commitment the Speaker was able to extract from the President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Muhammadu Buhari, for the Executive arm to implement the recommendations arising from the Security Summit.

Before the kickoff, the Special Committee called for memoranda from Nigerians, and like never before, our compatriots responded, patriotically speaking of course.

Initially billed for Monday, May 24, 2021, through Friday, May 28, 2021, the summit was postponed by two days to Wednesday, May 26, in honour of a major stakeholder, the late Chief of Army Staff, Lieutenant-General Ibrahim Attahiru, and 11 other military men, who died in an air mishap on May 21.

When the summit took off, it was an avenue for frank talks, but most importantly, there was no room for apportioning blame as the Speaker aptly captured in his speech. Rather, all that was needed from the thousands of Nigerians who painstakingly articulated their ideas for a way forward was to proffer solutions. And so it went.

Speeches, remarks, comments, goodwill messages and observations were made in the open. But as is always the case with issues such as this, the meat of the summit was discussed at the closed-door sessions so as to give all stakeholders the latitude to speak directly and frankly to the issues without jeopardizing national security.

Interestingly, Nigerians have shown that they are as concerned as their representatives on the issue. In what could best be described as the height of patriotism, thousands of memoranda – qualitative ones at that – were received from Nigerians, which formed part of the technical session of the summit.

To kickstart the summit, Speaker Gbajabiamila’s speech captured the essence of the Green Chamber’s intervention. His message centred on the need for joint efforts by governments and all Nigerians to overcome the rising insecurity in the country. And the message resonated well among the participants.

Nobody is in doubt that Nigeria is currently under attack by insurgents, bandits, kidnappers and other criminal elements, which called for a united and coordinated security approach to contain, as adequately articulated by Gbajabiamila.

Worthy of note was the fact that “previous and current approaches to addressing the challenges of insecurity have not yielded the desired results.”

A confirmation that the recommendations from the summit are most likely to be implemented by the Executive arm came when President Buhari, represented by the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Boss Mustapha, expressed satisfaction with the action of the Green Chamber.

Agreeing with the position earlier taken by the Speaker, the President said addressing the security challenges required the support of all Nigerians.

He commended the House for coming up with the summit and said it could not have come at a better time.

Then came the turn of the President of the Senate and the chairman of the National Assembly, Distinguished Senator Ahmad Ibrahim Lawan.

While commending the leadership of the House for organizing the summit, Lawan said: “…Nigeria is at a crossroads today. The very essence of the existence of this country is under serious threat.”

In finding solutions to the security challenges, Lawan noted that the legislative perspective is essential. He then appealed to the Executive arm to implement the outcome of the summit and urged Nigerians to continue supporting the security agencies.

The traditional institution was also adequately represented at the summit. First to speak among the traditional rulers was the Sultan of Sokoto, His Eminence, Muhammadu Sa’ad Abubakar.

The Sultan said: “Let’s not deceive ourselves that things are alright. We’ve had many discussions on the issue of national security. I think enough of these talks. Let’s walk the talk because the more we sit and talk, the more time we waste.

“It’s good that we have this kind of forum, and I want to thank the Speaker for thinking out loud to convene this programme.”

The Ooni of Ife, His Royal Majesty, Oba Adeyeye Enitan Ogunwusi, was of the view that the youth, whom he said constitute over 70 per cent of the population, should be adequately engaged.

There was also a goodwill message from the Obi of Obinugwu, His Royal Majesty, Eze (Dr) Cletus Ikechukwu Ilomuanya, who shared in the views of the two top traditional rulers above, noting that “the security situation in the country is alarming.”

The summit ended on Saturday, May 29 with a resounding assurance from the Speaker, who said the House would soon come up with far-reaching recommendations and forward same to the Executive. The Speaker also thanked all the stakeholders that participated in the summit.

All said, for me, the major takeaway from the summit was in the area of coming up with proactive legislation that will change the way and manner security matters are handled in the country.

As announced by the Speaker on Tuesday, June 8, 2021 at plenary, a set of Bills arising from the security summit would be presented and speedily treated by the House. Consequently, nine of the Bills were presented the following day. He noted that the contributions received from Nigerians informed the legislative action.

The newly introduced security-related Bills are the Armed Forces Act (Amendment) Bill, 2021; Police Act (Amendment) Bill, 2021; National Security and Civil Defence Corps Act, 2003; National Security and Civil Defence Corps Act, 2007; ECOWAS Convention on Small Arms, Light Weapons and Ammunition (Ratification and Enforcement) Bill, 2021; 2021; Economic and Financial Crimes Commission Act (Amendment) Bill, 2021; Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Act (Amendment) Bill, 2021; Customs and Excise Management Act (Amendment) Bill, 2021.

There is also a Bill on the amendment of Sections 215 (5) and 315 (5) of the constitution, which seek to establish judicial review of police actions and to strip certain laws from the constitution to make it possible for their reform through regular legislative processes.

As for the ECOWAS Bill, it seeks to ratify the ECOWAS Convention on Small Arms, Light Weapons and Ammunition as well as ensure enforcement same in Nigeria.

The other Bills are intended to reform Nigeria’s national security statutory framework and address the issues of overlapping mandates resulting in inter-agency rivalry and lack of cooperation amongst the security agencies. Another aspect is to make community policing operational so that communities and the police can work together to protect the citizens. The bills are part of the first phase of the legislative interventions on national security by the House, according to the Speaker.

Other takeaways from the summit are the fact that it both the Executive and the Legislature are on the same page on issues of insecurity; that the situation is not a hopeless one as there are ways to tackle it with the right political will, and that the outcome of the summit – its recommendations – are most likely to be implemented by the Executive arm as that falls purely under its purview.

With the Reps’ National Security Summit, hopefully, Nigerians will soon see the light at the end of the tunnel.

*Krishi is the Chief Press Secretary to the Speaker, House of Representatives, Federal Republic of Nigeria.

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