Service Chiefs debacle and Nigeria’s rocky opposition

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Military Service Chiefs in crucial meeting with Buhari
Military Service Chiefs in crucial meeting with Buhari

 

With the worsening security situation in the country and the number of people killed daily, it may be expedient for the government to change the Service Chiefs after five years in the saddle since the verdict of the people of Nigeria is not in their favour. This is what democracy is all about and doing otherwise is totally undemocratic

By Goddy Ikeh

ALTHOUGH the present Nigerian government is still battling with insurgency in the midst of Covid-19 pandemic, banditry, kidnapping and corruption, but it has deliberately failed to utilise the windows provided in a democratic dispensation in tackling these myriad of challenges. Many prominent Nigerians as well as members of the National Assembly have on a number of occasions called for the change of Service Chiefs since their efforts in battling insurgency and other criminal activities threatening the peace and stability of the country are not good enough.

The same scenario played out when the Senate of the 8th Assembly rejected twice the nomination of the acting chairman of the EFCC and it took the Presidency five years to realise why the Senate stood its ground on the issue despite all forms of distractions.

When the Service Chiefs were named at the inception of the APC-led administration headed President Muhammadu Buhari in 2015, the observation made by some Nigerians was the skewed nature of the composition of the elite military and service team. The usual explanation was that the appointment was in line with seniority, which is cardinal in military matters. But not long after, Nigerians were told that it was the desire and prerogative of the president to work with the people he knows and can trust. And in one of his reactions to the criticisms on the skewed nature of his appointments, the president said that he could not give positions equally to the zone that gave him fewer votes than the zones that supported him more during the polls.

However, with the recent report that 2,732 persons were killed in Nigeria between April and June this year and other unfolding developments in the country like the increase in Boko Haram attacks, kidnapping, banditry, rapes and corruption in government institutions and agencies, Nigerians started crying out to the authorities, the United Nations and some Western powers to assist in rescuing the country. The president had even in one of his meetings with Service Chiefs told them that their efforts at tackling insurgency and the killings across the country were not good enough and demanded more positive and coordinated efforts from them.

Unfortunately, the 9th Assembly, which has been touting absolute support to the Executive and speedy passage of any bill from it, could no longer feign ignorance of the deplorable security situation in the country, broke its silence for the second time with its recent call on the Service Chiefs to step aside to enable a new set with new ideas to tackle insecurity across the country.  In July, the Senate in one of its resolutions adopted after deliberating on a motion on the rising number of casualties among soldiers and other security agencies, demanded the sack of the Service Chiefs.  During the deliberations, the Senate was informed of the hundreds of soldiers, who were deserting the army.  This was not the first time the lawmakers demanded the sack of the Service Chiefs. In January this year, the lawmakers called on the president to sack the service chiefs and appoint new ones after their deliberations on the motion on national security challenges and the need to restructure the nation’s security architecture.

In the same vein, the Minority Caucus of the House of Representatives, has joined their colleagues in the Senate to call on President Buhari to change the service chiefs for their dismal performance in office. The Leader of the Minority Caucus, Ndudi Elumelu, reiterated the call for the sack of the Service Chiefs by the lawmakers.

In a statement he signed on Friday, July 31, Elumelu said: “The Minority Caucus of the House of Representatives is alarmed by the Thursday attack on the convoy of the Governor of Borno State, Baba Gana Zulum by suspected bandits, insisting that the sad incident has again reinforced the urgent need to review the nation’s security architecture.”

He urged the presidency to implement the recent resolution of both chambers of the National Assembly asking president Muhammadu Buhari to sack the Service Chiefs.

He also noted that” the attack on the state governor and other dastardly activities of the insurgents in various parts of the nation, have further reinforced the urgent need to inject new hands with fresh ideas to handle the nation’s security architecture” According to Elumelu, “the worsening security situation in the country under the current Service Chiefs has reached an unbearable state to the extent that insurgents have the temerity to attack an armed convoy of a state governor. “This is more so with the insistence by Governor Zulum of compromising of security system in the area, allegedly creating opening to the attack; a position that validates the call for immediate reorganizing of the nation’s security architecture.

“The entire nation is distressed by the incessant mindless killing of our citizens and pillaging of defenceless communities by insurgents, bandits and kidnappers, which have brought indescribable agony, anguish and torment to innocent Nigerians.

“We the opposition lawmakers hereby in the strongest terms restates the call to President Muhammadu Buhari to honour the resolution of the National Assembly and immediately remove the Service Chiefs and bring in new hands to effectively confront the security challenges confronting our nation,” the Vanguard newspaper quoted the statement as saying.

It recalled that the Senate and the House of Representatives, at separate times in the past resolved to call on the President to sack the Service Chiefs. The President has, on all these occasions, ignored the calls.

But the latest call by the opposition Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, to the president to resign for his inability to tackle worsening insecurity across the country and his attempt to shield corrupt officials in the recent revelations of monumental corruption in two government institutions, appears to have jolted the presidency and the minister of information and culture.

The national chairman of the PDP, Uche Secondus, told a news conference in Abuja in July that “What we are witnessing in our country today is a total collapse of the nation, the country is on ventilator gasping for air, under such circumstance, President Buhari should do the honourable thing required of an elder statesman in situations like this, ‘throw in the towel’ and save the country from ruins.”

Speaking on the theme “Nigeria in a free fall, as corruption, insecurity engulf the Nation”, Secondus lamented the absence of attention to critical issues and that it was becoming very clear to all that “the ears we are targeting are deaf as nothing on ground shows that there is a government in this country”.

“No effort is being made from any angle to halt the on-going free fall being witnessed in all fronts in the country. Nigerians have become helpless and have come to accept and live like citizens of nations without leader and with no direction.” he said.

On the spate of insecurity, the PDP chairman noted that “having exhausted their propaganda of winning the war on terrorism only in their press releases, as reality endowed on all, both the military and political leaders are now helpless and confused.”

“What the Nigerian Senate did on Tuesday (July 18), when it asked the service chiefs to resign was to show to the world that there is no executive arm of government in place,” he said.

He expressed worries that not even during the three-year brutal civil war did Nigerians witness as much as over 300 soldiers absconding their duties and pouring abuses on their commander. “Only poor leadership from the military and the polity can drag down morale of soldiers to such pitable level. The Presidency rising immediately to challenge the Senate shows also the level of confusion in the system.” he said.

On corruption, Secondus said: “Since Transparency International said few years ago that the worst corruption was going-on in Nigeria under this regime, the situation has continued to worsen.”

The PDP Chairman claimed that “corruption has now become a bazaar with no pretense about it with all critical agencies of government, including the anti-graft body themselves grossly engulfed in it.”

He lamented that “the nation’s economy is walking to depression because we are least in recession and it’s being fast tracked by the widening scope of corruption involving operatives at the high places.”

Secondus argued that “the free for all corruption going on all over the place leaves us with the impression that the country is dying and there has been a scramble for what one can get out of it before the final demise.”

According to him, rather than confront the already exposed corruption cases, the government deliberately takes cautious steps to play it down with a view to protecting their members who are neck deep in the growing sleaze.

“As we speak, the big corruption cover up is on-going in critical sectors, the Nigeria Ports Authority, NPA, the Maritime Sector, the Customs, the Federal inland Revenue Service, FIRS, Nigeria Social Insurance a Trust Fund, NSITF, North East Development Commission, NNPC crude Oil sale to China etc,” he said, adding that nothing brings out the exact character of President Buhari’s administration to corruption than the on-going free for all fraud at the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, where the so called forensic auditors sent in by the President to unearth a fraud are themselves becoming visible accomplice to the crime.

He urged Nigerians not to be distracted by the drama playing out at the various fraud case hearings whether in Aso Villa with Ibrahim Magu or at the National Assembly with two Ministers Akpabio and Chris Ngige, entertaining Nigerians. “They are designs to remove public attention to the real issue” local media reports quoted Secondus as saying.

In a swift reaction to the call for the resignation of the president, the presidency said that President Buhari would not resign. In a statement issued on Friday, July 24, the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, said his principal would not heed to calls made by the PDP. “President Buhari will not resign. He is determined to continue the crusade against corruption, both legacy and recently unearthed cases, that are found to be shabbily handled, and in some cases unattended to by past administrations,” the statement said.

He accused the PDP of launching what he describes as a whirlwind campaign that promotes “undemocratic values, the latest manifestation of which is the call for President Muhammadu Buhari’s resignation for allowing audits and investigation into several agencies of government, including the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC.”

While noting that the opposition helps democracy to strive, Shehu alleged that the “leading party in opposition is afflicted by a life-threatening sickness, the undemocratic pandemic as a result of which they are trading away the nation’s democratic values”.

According to him, the PDP cannot scare the government from probing the grave allegations made against the Ministries, Departments and Agencies, adding that failure to do so will amount to a historic betrayal of public trust.

He, therefore, insisted that the opposition party cannot subject the nation’s democracy to “subterranean attacks and continue to pretend that they are well-meaning”.

The minister of information and Lai Mohammed, followed soon after with the assurance that President Muhammadu Buhari would not resign over the reported cases of monumental corruption in some institutions in the country.

Mohammed told a news conference on Tuesday, July 25, in Abuja that the anti-graft war not waning and the government would not spare anyone implicated in corrupt practices. You are all aware, Nigerians have recently been inundated with allegations of monumental corruption in a number of government agencies, including the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), the Nigeria Social Insurance Trust Fund (NSITF) and the anti-corruption agency, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).

“Many, especially naysayers, have misinterpreted these developments as a sign that the Administration’s fight against corruption is waning. In fact, the main opposition PDP has latched on to the developments to call for the resignation of Mr. President, a call that is nothing but infantile.

The minister disclosed that the government has recovered looted funds in excess of N800 billion and secured over 1,400 convictions. He explained that the fight against corruption is not about loot recovery or convictions alone. “We are also putting in place enduring institutional reforms that will deter acts of corruption.

“Here we are talking about the Treasury Single Account (TSA), the Whistleblower Policy, the expansion of the coverage of the Integrated Payroll Personnel and Information System, as well as the Government Integrated Management Information System and the Open Government Partnership and Transparency Portal on Financial Transactions, among others,” he said, adding that the fight against corruption, which is a cardinal programme of the government, is alive and well.

Despite these reactions from the presidency and the information minister to the call by the PDP for the resignation of the president, many Nigerians are wondering if the nation is not fast drifting away from the growth trajectory promised by the APC-lead administration when all its cardinal programmes of fighting corruption, improving power supply, defeating Boko Haram and improving the economy and rescuing the naira from further decline and above all, the powerful pledge that “ I belong to everybody and I belong to nobody” are all crashing like a pack of cards just one year into the second four-year tenure of the administration.

– Aug. 1, 2020 @ 17:29 GMT |

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