President Muhammadu Buhari on Wednesday said the worsening insecurity in the country affects the citizens and the economy, challenging the foundation of nationhood and stands in the way of his administration in achieving its highest ambitions for Nigeria.
He made the remarks as other stakeholders expressed their views on the security situation of the country.
Buhari stated this while delivering his remarks in Abuja at the opening of a Special Summit on National Security organised by the House of Representatives.
The summit, organized as part of the Green Chamber’s response to the country’s security challenges, was to provide a platform for discussions by security stakeholders and other Nigerians in order to make far-reaching recommendations to the Executive arm of government.
The President who was represented at the event by the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Mr. Boss Mustapha, said the issue of insecurity, remains the responsibility of all Nigerians in and out of government, hence all hands should be on deck to address the challenges.
While commending the initiative of the House in organising the summit, Buhari expressed optimism that the challenges will eventually be overcome.
He called on the Legislature to use the opportunity to pass more laws to enhance the operations of national security agencies.
He also urged participants to set aside ethnic, political, religious, and other considerations in the national interest to speak frankly on the security challenges and the solutions.
Buhari said: ”This summit could not have come a better time because only a few days ago, Nigeria lost the Chief of Army Staff and a host of other Senior Military Officers in a fatal plane crash involving Nigeria Airforce Asset. This is a painful loss to the nation, the military as an institution and to our efforts to strengthen the security architecture and capacity.
”In different continents of the world, terrorism, political conflicts, racism and other forms of criminal activities continue to threaten economic development, peace and security. At the regional level; Africa these concerns subsist and continue to rage. Nigeria shares land borders with Benin, Cameron, Chad and Niger; and maritime boundaries with Equatorial Guinea, Ghana, Sao Tome and Principe. The challenges that these international borders pose to our national security and interest are enormous. The instability in the Lake Chad region alone deserves close attention. I am certain that we shall overcome just as we have done many times throughout our history. However, success at this time requires that we set aside all other considerations and commit ourselves to a common endeavour in the national interest.”
In his goodwill message, the President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan, lamented that Nigeria was currently at cross roads and its very essence of existence was under serious threat due to the activities of insurgents and bandits.
He urged both the Legislative and Executive arms of government to work more closely together by ensuring that recommendations from sessions such as the summit were implemented.
Lawan, who said the Armed Forces needed improved funding, told the session that the National Assembly was ready at all times to partner security agencies in addressing their operational challenges.
Lawan said: ”What started as insurgency in 2009 or so in the north western part of Yobe has now snowballed into full scale insurgency in the entire north east. What was not known to us in the north west is now today the home of banditry and kidnapping. The north central as we all know is not safe. It suffers the clashes between the herders and our farmers. And the recent introduction in the south east is another serious threat to the existence of this country. Where government institutions are targeted, our police and security agencies personnel are being killed on a daily basis.
”Our institutions, buildings are burnt. I believe that these are threats not only to those areas but the entire nation. And our armed forces are doing their best. I must commend our armed forces and other security agencies for doing so much with the little we are able to give them. The National Assembly has always been on the side of giving the kind of support, either legislative, or the kind of financial support that our armed forces and indeed all other security agencies require, even though we have our limits.”
The Chairman of the National Assembly further opined that a functioning local government system helps in providing security for lives and property of people, with the traditional rulers playing key roles in ensuring security in their domains.
He also called for an end to ethnic profiling, saying that criminals should be named, shamed and dealt with.
”A criminal has only one name and that is criminal. No criminal should have comfort in his ethnic enclave. Whoever, where that person is, once he is a criminal, he is simply a criminal and must be dealt with in the appropriate manner regardless of where he or she is coming from,” he added
Aligning with Lawan’s statement, the Speaker of the House, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, in his keynote address noted that the country was under attack by insurgents, bandits, kidnappers, and other criminal elements.
He said it would be difficult for the country to attain the peace it desired for development to take place if the present security situation remained unresolved.
The Speaker while saying that previous and current approaches to addressing the challenges of insecurity have not yielded the desired results, called for a united and coordinated security approach to contain the menace.
Gbajabiamila commended President Buhari for supporting the summit, adding that the President had assured him that the recommendations of the summit would be given due attention and implementation.
Also speaking, the Sultan of Sokoto, Muhammadu Sa’ad Abubakar, said government at all levels should quit the talks on insecurity and get to work.
He advised the federal government to implement resolutions reached at previous forums rather than creating new summits.
Abubakar said: ”Now things are really very bad and it’s a fact. I’m happy to hear that the two leaders of the National Assembly are saying that in public. Let’s not deceive ourselves that things are alright, things are not alright and we know and we see it. For some of us we’ve seen so much in our life. From the time I became Sultan till now, for 11 years plus, we have been having such gatherings to talk about Nigeria, national security, development and so on. We have talked and talked, we have talked at Northern Governors Forum level, talked at National level where I I happened to be the chairman of that body, we have talked and talked.
”In the last few months we have had serious gatherings like this with the highest leadership of this country. Today we are here once again on the same issue of National Security. Enough of this talks, let’s work, let’s work the talk , the more we sit here and talk, the more time we waste in getting real actions . We know the problems. I will not say anything here that I have not said in the last 7 years. We know the problems and I thought we are coming for a closed door program with the leadership of the House of Representatives and other stakeholders. My own take on this summit is yes, it’s important to sit and talk but it’s more important to implement what we talked about. We can’t just continue to talk and not implement.”
The Sultan also chided politicians who say some things in the open and act differently behind closed doors.
According to him, ”Certain things our leaders do, you say something in public and they clap for you, you go back to your comfort zone and throw everything away. That’s why I say whatever you do God is seeing you, and as leaders God will ask us to account for the leadership he gave us here on earth and we must account for our deeds. I call on our leaders to fear God, do what’s right, don’t look at ethnic, religious or personal interest while you’re carrying out your duties.”
On his part, the Ooni of Ife, Oba Adeyeye Enitan Ogunwusi, opined that insecurity cannot be solved without youth involvement.
He accused the lawmakers of abandoning the youths at the grassroots while they enjoy their lives in the cities.
He said lawmakers should engage the youths rather than hold such meetings and repeating what has been said a lot of times.
He said: ”It is very idiotic and stupid for us to be doing the same thing over and over again and expect a different result. We will continue to get the same results. Let us be very truthful and honest to ourselves in this country, we all know the problems. How well are we carrying along these people in that age bracket. But whenever we want to go for political posts and appointments, we go back to them. We know the good, the bad and the ugly in their category. As traditional rulers, they are the most active in our system. Let us tell ourselves the truth, they are hungry and they are angry. I repeat: they are hungry and they are very angry. All of us that are here, I will be very happy if anybody can raise up their hand and say ‘I can go to my constituency, my local government area, and I can stay there in peace for one week.’ Who can do it here? Including our gatekeepers, who can do it here? Including the Senate President, including the Speaker. But you left the traditional rulers; you left district heads, the baales to continue to stay there. And you are saying all will be well in this country.
”Let us change our style. You leave this age bracket. If there will be problems, you give them guns to start to move around. You will never see anybody above our age in our comfort zone here that is really ready to face the music. It is very important for all of us to know that we are not all safe; we are not safe at all. Let us engage a lot of youth organisations that are very relevant; that understand the local government administration and governance within every district and locality of this country. You have neglected that category completely. What is the essence of you being a politician that you cannot even move around freely? You cannot! Do you think only Abuja is Nigeria? Or Lagos? Thirty-six states of this country, people are there and you left them. You abandoned them. And you are making laws and administering. What are you administering? I do not know. So, let us talk to ourselves very seriously. On this note, I want to thank the organisers and I want to tell us that, enough of talking the talk, let us walk the talk.”