Nigerians are aghast at how malleable the 9th National Assembly has become in the hands of the Executive. That is against the constitutional role of the National Assembly as a check on the activities of the Judiciary and the Executive. Thus, Nigerians are wondering how in the face of daring national issues the National assembly appears relaxed, unperturbed. BIYI ADEGOROYE reports
Last Tuesday, the Nigerian Senate, in what has been described as a historic action, observed one-minute silence a whopping eight times at plenary, before the commencement of legislative duties. The action, unprecedented in what has become a recurring practice at the National Assembly, coming as a prayer before a motion was observed on behalf of those killed in various parts of the country. That included Dr. Ahmed Gulak, a former presidential adviser, who was killed in Imo State last weekend. At the occasion, a demurred President of the Senate, Dr. Ahmad Lawan, stated that legislative interventions must be stepped-up by the National Assembly to protect Nigerians against the spate of insecurity in the country. Indeed, the spate of insecurity in the country, manifested in the number and frequency of kidnapping, murder and attacks on public infrastructure, spiraling inflation and unemployment, daily question the capacity of the All Progressives Congress-led government.
Interestingly, the implementation of a robust security action plan to protect citizens and critical national infrastructure across the country by the Nigeria Police yielded some fruits last week with the arrest of 84 notorious criminal suspects and smashing of their weapon manufacturing company within the past one month.
In the heist, 45 sophisticated firearms and ammunition including 1-GPMG, one -LAR rifle, 17-AK47 rifles, two- Pump Action rifles, 20- locally fabricated firearms, three-single barrel guns, 9899- live ammunition of different calibres, 80-fake vehicle number plates, one- Toyota Camry with registration number. No. AA 792 HJA and one-Toyota Corolla LE with Reg. No. QAP 622 AA, were recovered from the suspects in the operations.
Though the success recorded offered a glimmer of hope when compared with the excuses and contradictory utterances from the presidency and top government officials, shortly thereafter, about 180 students were kidnapped in Niger State, which is gradually assuming notoriety for being the hotbed of kidnapping in the country.
Speaking on the issues recently, the PDP Minority Caucus of the National Assembly led by the Senate Minority Leader, Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe, accused President Muhammadu Buhari of not only breaching the constitution but also being ‘absent from duty’ in the face of grave insecurity facing the country.
“The Minority Caucus of the National Assembly expresses very strong concern about the ineptitude and the inability of the APC-led government to arrest the drift to anarchy of our nation at this time.
This APC-led government, at inception and during campaigns prior to 2015 elections, made promises to the Nigerian public, the first of which was that they were going to deal with security challenges within their tenure. “Sadly and most unfortunately, from 2015 to date, rather than resolving the security situation, the APC-led Federal Government has rather broadened the security challenges.
So, from the problems of the Northeast, it has spread to other parts of the country. Virtually all parts of Nigeria are now beset with one security challenge or the other.
They also frowned at the government’s economic strategy which they said “has led us to the very high inflation that we have today, devaluation of our Naira to the height that we never expected and has also concomitantly brought out unemployment and has led the government to contemplate, as we see today, to raise the price of fuel, electricity tariff and all manners of charges on helpless Nigerians.”
Abaribe said after due consultations, the caucus “will at the appropriate time, utilise all constitutional methods and measures available after consultations with his colleagues to do the needful to save the country from collapse.”
Similarly, the apex Yoruba sociopolitical group, Afenifere last week, restated its call for President Muhammadu Buhari to resign or step aside over his alleged inability to address insecurity and the dwindling economic challenges facing the country.
At the 95th birthday celebration of Chief Reuben Fasonrati, the Acting National Leader of the group, Chief Ayo Adebanjo, said the Buhari-led government has incapacitated the country and had failed to address the increasing wave of insecurity and downturn of the economy.
Adebanjo said that with the series of challenges confronting the country, Buhari ought to have resigned long ago without being forced to, since he had failed the people of the country, adding that there is no better time to leave but now.
Adebanjo said: “I have told them that in a better and civilised country, he should have gone long ago. If he has self-respect, he should have gone because everything has to fall. “What is he presiding over? Is it over corruption, security, education?
Law and order have broken down in the country for the past three years. It is only because Nigerians are over tolerant of despots; that is why he is still there”. A possible reason for the lawmakers ‘silence according to Abaribe was that the lives of members of the opposition have been under threat for daring to speak out against the Federal Government.
Abaribe and his group therefore, as a caucus, suggested that immediate steps should be taken by governments at all levels to set up proper security infrastructure whether in the mode of State Police or other constitutional reforms to arrest the drift of the nation. Senate Leader, Abdullahi Yahaya, in his response, described Abaribe’s comments as capable of overheating
an already charged polity. “In all our deliberations, the entire Senate including the Minority, had discussed exhaustively in a very robust, transparent and patriotic favour to arrive at our concrete resolutions. A case in point is the current invitation to engage the Service Chiefs,” he said. To worsen matters, the leadership of the National Assembly was quick to criticise efforts by the 17 Southern governors to address the matter. In what is now described as the Asaba Declaration, the governors had called for restructuring and review of revenue formula as well banning of open grazing in the region, among others. Lawan had berated the 17 Southern governors, who at a meeting in Asaba Delta State, called for urgent dialogue to resolve contentious national issues such as restructuring and ban on open grazing, among others.
Lawan cautioned the governors against taking a regional stance in the quest to solve the country’s multi-faceted problems, stating that the same governors have devolved powers in their states, neither have they allowed local government and judicial autonomy.
Furthermore, some senators and media aides of the Senate President have argued that the National Assembly was doing its best in the face of current realities.
For instance, Senator Abdulfatah Buhari, APC, Oyo North, said Lawan’s comment on the ‘Asaba Declaration’ was his personal opinion and not that of the Senate. Reacting to Lawan’s comment, Buhari said that the President of the Senate, like every other Nigerian, was free to express his opinion on national issues without hindrance, stressing that his views should not be mistaken for the position of the Senate.
“The Senate President is entitled to his opinion. I am also entitled to my opinion. What is my business with his comment and what is his own business with my comment. How can I be angry with another person’s comment? “He did not say he was talking on behalf of the Senate.
He said if you are talking of restructuring, let us start from you. Go and meet your local government chairmen, listen to the Judiciary, House of Assembly. “If I stand here in the Senate, I am immune even against the Senate President or the President of the country. You dare not, as a member of the State House of Assembly, talk against your governor.
But Chief Martin Onovo, the presidential candidate of the National Conscience Party, (NCP), said that from all indications, the National Assembly is not spineless since it has constitutional powers to address national issues especially at these critical times. To him, Nigeria is a very dysfunctional place.
“Materialism, corruption and selfishness are the norms. Many of the next Assembly members are not outraged as they are beneficiaries of the dysfunctional system.” He added that their failure to check the executive was borne out of sectional agenda even when the President is wrong.
“In addition, despite the dictatorial disposition of the government, many legislators are intimidated and do not want to be treated like Mr. Omoyele Sowore whose freedom has been unduly constrained for a very long time. Now, he has also been wounded by a gun shot. “Many citizens are currently intimidated, including judges and journalists. So, sectionalism, blackmail, bribery and intimidation have been employed to control the legislators.
Do not forget that the leadership of both Chambers was imposed by President Buhari, using the party. Even the leadership of the National Assembly has been confessing publicly that they are a ‘rubber stamp’. So, it may be difficult to get the National Assembly to check the President.
“What action did the National Assembly take when it was brought to its knowledge (as if they were ignorant of it) that every necessary thing should be done to improve the security situation and ensure that leadership of the security agencies and other key appointments should reflect the Constitutional principle of Federal Character principle?”