Tackling insecurity with legislation

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With seven proposed security related legislations, the Senate appears poised to battle growing insecurity in the country headlong, writes Sanni Onogu

 

 

THAT the red chamber has been consistent in its demand for the restructuring of the security architecture of the country is not in doubt. What may be uncertain is the willingness of the government to heed the numerous resolutions of the Senate to tinker with the gaping security structure to help address the deteriorating security situation in the country.

Determined to change the apparent unworkable face of security architecture in the country, the Senate believes that some radical measures should be adopted. For the Senate, the traditional security inclination has failed the country hence the need to think outside the box for possible solution of the security challenges in the country.

 

Pot pourri of bills

 

The Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, has never left anybody in doubt that where necessary, the Senate and indeed the National Assembly would support the fight against crime through enactment of appropriate legislations. That may have informed the proposition of a barrage of security related bills pending in the upper chamber. Although, some of the proposed legislations appear flatly dead on arrival, others are mostly unpopular like the hate speech and social media bills also pending in the Senate.

Expectedly, the unpopular bills have attracted unsavory comments against the Senate.

The sponsors of the proposed controversial legislations seem to be unperturbed, determined to push ahead despite scatting attacks on their persons and the institution of the Senate.

Perhaps one of the most unpopular security bills is the proposal for the establishment of a “national agency for the education, rehabilitation, de-radicalization and integration of repentant insurgents in Nigeria bill, 2020.” Sponsored by a former Yobe State Governor, Senator Ibrahim Geidam, the bill has already scaled the crucial first reading in Senate.

The promoter of the bill believes that the agency when established would “help to counter the violent and poisonous ideology that the Boko Haram spreads as well as enable some convicted or suspected terrorists to express remorse over their actions, repent and recant their violent ideology and re-enter mainstream politics, religion and society.”

But no sooner was the bill introduced in the senate chamber than it came under a barrage of attacks. Senators, lawyers and other Nigerians were vehement in their opposition to the bill. Chairman of the Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption (PACAC), Professor Itse Sagay, said the bill was “risky” even though not totally out of place. “I would say it is a risky concept, although it happens. “So, we have to be very careful about it,” Sagay advised. Emeka Ngige (SAN) on his own part, described the proposed agency as unnecessary. “I think the sponsor of the bill may have good intentions in proposing it but in truth the creation of such an agency is totally unnecessary,” Ngige said.

Senator Istifanus Gyang was even more frontal in his attack on the bill. The Plateau North Senator asked the leadership of the Senate to throw the Bill away. Gyang in a statement by his Special Adviser on Media and Protocol, Musa Ashoms, said that the Bill should be rejected because of its “obvious negative implications for the security of the nation.”

“The bill is not only uncalled for but assaults the sensibility of Nigerians in view of the fact that most of the victims and communities affected by insurgency, banditry and violent attacks are still suffering from neglect and lack of the much needed government attention and intervention despite repeated calls.

“The victim communities displaced by insurgency and banditry from their ancestral homes are the ones to be rehabilitated and reintegrated as against terrorists and bandits that are responsible for their pain and plight,” Gyang declared. He added that such an agency, if established, could end up as “breeding” haven for “terrorists.”

In view of the virulent opposition against the bill, it may qualify at the end of the day as one of the notorious bills to have been considered by the ninth Senate.

The “National Commission against the proliferation of small arms and light weapons and for related matters, 2020,” is another bill aimed at tackling insecurity in the country.

Sponsored by the Senator representing Kogi West, Smart Adeyemi, the bill seeks to create an agency to halt the proliferation of small arms and light weapons.

Senator Adeyemi in his lead debate on the general principles of the bill said the proposed commission is essentially to coordinate and implement activities to combat the challenge posed by small arms and light weapons in Nigeria, in line with the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) protocol on small arms and light weapons.

One of the objects of the bill, he said, is “to identify the sources and main routes of small arms, ammunitions and light weapon” that find their way into the country. He added that the agency would also help to identify why the illicit trade thrives in the country and liaise with the relevant authorities, agencies and organizations with the aim of tackling the menace.

The agency, Adeyemi further said will also help to itemize and identify “promoters, users, patrons and reasons for the illegal activities” as well as curb insecurity in the country.

Besides, he lamented that the proliferation of SALW had been a serious issue in the international agenda since 1998 and equally constituted a threat that has been “eating into the survival of emerging nations in the international scene especially in Africa.”

“It is a phenomenon that is destabilizing the peace, development and threatening the national security of sovereign nations. The complications of illegal arms and weapons of terror worldwide informed the United Nations (UN), to come up with a programme of action to prevent, combat and eradicate the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons.

“However, in nearly all of the conflicts, the diffusion of illegal arms and weapons of terror, particularly from the industrialized nations to the developing world, has played a decisive role in the escalation, intensification and resolution of these conflicts.” He said that SALW are not only readily available, but easy to use and “have been the primary or sole tool of violence in almost all conflicts in every part of the globe.”

“These weapons of terror are in the hands of irregular troops operating with scant respect for international and humanitarian law, they have taken a heavy toll on human lives, with women and children accounting for nearly 80 per cent of the causalities.

“The proliferation of these weapons affects the intensity and duration of violence and encourages militancy rather than a peaceful resolution of unsettled differences.

In Nigeria, this has become a serious security challenge.

“There is general insecurity as most parts of the country experience high level crimes perpetrated using illicit arms. The UN estimated that a substantial percentage of the illegal arms that are in circulation in West Africa are in Nigeria.

“This has fuelled violent conflicts as witnessed in the Niger Delta, Kidnapping in the South East, armed robbery pandemic in the South West, Ethnic/Religious Violence on the Plateau, and the Boko Haram operations in the North-East, a situation which has plunged the nation into a serious state of insecurity. Uncontrolled arms have also impacted on the country’s democracy and development negatively.

“Electoral violence by gun-wielding thugs and assassinations of several political leaders since 1999, have jeopardized free and fair elections in many states of the federation.

“The illicit trade thrives because the return on investment is very high, if the smuggler is not caught,” Adeyemi said.

 

Security Related Bills

 

Other security related bills include the proposal for the establishment of the Nigerian Army University in Biu, Borno State which recently scaled second reading in Senate. The Bill was sponsored by the Chairman, Senate Committee on Army, Senator Mohammed Ali Ndume.

To make the institution attractive to non-Northeast dwellers, the Bill abolished the catchment area policy presently obtainable in most federal tertiary institutions across the country.

The Bill which has scaled first reading in Senate, barred the University from imposing any restriction on anybody on account of religious beliefs.

According to the Bill: “No person shall be required to satisfy requirements as to race, including ethnic grouping, sex, place of birth, family origin, religious or political persuasion, as a condition for becoming or continuing to be a student in the University.

“No person shall be subjected to any disadvantage or accorded any advantage in relation to the University.”

Also being considered by the upper chamber is a Bill meant to give legal backing to the Nigeria Police Academy, Wudil, Kano. The sponsor of the Bill, Senator Haliru Jika (Bauchi Central), lamented that the institution is yet to be recognized by law despite commencing academic activities in 1988.

He noted that the institution previously operated at two temporary campuses, namely: the Police Training School, Challawa, Kano, where cadet Inspectors were trained; and the Police College, Kaduna, where Cadet Assistant Superintendents of Police (ASPs) were trained.

According to him, the two campuses were merged and relocated to its permanent site in Wudil, Kano, after its formal commissioning on April 2, 1996, by then Head of State, General Sani Abacha, with the expectation that the academy will be affiliated to a University for degree awarding courses.

He, however, added that the Federal Government upgraded the Academy to a degree-awarding institution and the National Universities Commission, accordingly, recognised the Academy as the 37th Federal University and 124th University in Nigeria.

Senator Jika lamented that in spite of that, the training institution is yet to be backed by any law, a situation that has predisposed certificates and degrees awarded by the Academy not to be recognized both nationally and internationally.

“It is the recognition of the inappropriateness of the absence of a legal framework for the Nigeria Police Academy and the urgent need to reposition and enhance police effectiveness through proper training as means of fighting the seemingly intractable challenge of insecurity in our country that has necessitated the proposed enactment of a new law to strengthen the Nigeria Police Academy, in consonance with the dictates of international best practices.

“Nigeria needs an institution capable of producing qualitative, skilled and intelligent officers able to meet the manpower needs of its Police Force.

“The present security challenges in many parts of our country and the complexities of modern policing make it imperative that Nigeria continues to have a stream of middle level officers equipped with competences, backed by sound academic background, high professional and moral standards into its Police Force, for effective law enforcement and selfless service to the nation,” Jika said. The Bill has been read for the Second time and referred to a relevant committee for further legislative work.

Similarly, a Bill seeking to establish the Nigerian Civil Defence Academy, Pandogari, Niger State, has scaled Second Reading.

The Bill was sponsored by Senator Sani Musa (Niger East).

In his lead debate Senator Musa said: “The proposal for the establishment of the Nigeria Civil Defence Academy is a fall out of several internal security challenges we face as a nation which is clearly becoming overwhelming to our security agencies.

“It has become apparent that efforts have to be made to develop the capacities of supportive security organs such as the Nigeria Civil Defence Corps, who are expected to in conjunction with the Nigerian Police provide internal security, and to attain the highest standards of professionalism.

“This Academy will provide strategic leadership training to the Civil Defence Corps which is most desirable in our national security matters and will also act as a think-tank on domestic security frameworks and it will be an important platform in shaping up the Community policing system. The Academy will develop a broader outlook and understanding, out of which would grow a broader strategy.”

 

Curbing Youth Restiveness

 

The Senate has also moved to curtail youth restiveness in the Niger Delta region by tackling the root cause of the menace. It said that the problem of environmental degradation must be tackled through requisite technology to be provided by an institution entrusted with that mandate.

To this end, it has commenced the consideration of a Bill which seeks to tackle the Ogoni environmental challenge in the South South geopolitical zone. The Bill for an Act to establish the Federal University of Environment Technology last week passed second reading in the upper chamber. According to the sponsor of the Bill and Senator representing Rivers South-East, Barinada Mpigi, if approved, the university would be located at Saakpenwa, in Ogoni land.

Senator Mpigi in his lead debate argued that the establishment of an institution of higher learning in the area would provide the manpower needed to tackle the environmental degradation caused by years of oil exploration and exploitation. He noted that the proposed specialised university would be the first of its kind in Africa.

In their contributions, Senators Barau Jibrin and Ibikunle Amosun, among others, supported the Bill when it was debated.

Senator Jibrin, who is also the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Appropriation, submitted that the proposed university would also be of tremendous benefit to other environmentally challenged parts of the country. He said the environmental institution would train professionals to tackle both the menace of erosion in the South-East and desertification in the Northern region.

Senator Amosun, a former Governor of Ogun State, concurred with both Senators Mpigi and Jibrin. The Ogun Central Senator said the establishment of the university would also reduce youth restiveness.

Senate President Ahmad Lawan sees the flurry of security, education and environment bills in the Senate as a deliberate undertaking by the ninth National Assembly to tackle insecurity through legislation. Lawan made the disclosure in his concluding remarks on three bills before the Senate which seek to establish the Nigeria Civil Defence Academy, give legal backing to the Nigeria Police Academy and to establish a Commission against the proliferation of small arms and light weapons.

He noted that the Bills are part of the National Assembly’s contribution to the sustainability and eventual winning of the ongoing war against insurgency and to ensure peace in troubled communities. He added that the bills are meant to create institutions dedicated to providing enduring solutions to the nation’s security and economic logjam. According to the Senate President, the National Assembly remains committed to ensuring that the security situation in the country is vastly improved.

 

Conclusion

 

Lawan said: “For the last two weeks or so, or even more, the Senate has been discussing and debating on security related motions for days. This is our commitment to our country. We want to see the security situation improve, and that is why we are doing this.

“We are dealing with this by trying to institutionalize certain situations that will provide enduring arrangements and solutions to the situation we face today.

“So, we will push this to ensure that we pass all these bills, and I’m sure Mr. President will assent to these bills because all the three or four bills are security related, none of them is frivolous or bills trying to play to the gallery.

“They are bills that are so important to the security architecture of this country, and infact when you talk about training, it is key and central to getting the kind of competent and qualified security personnel.”

It is however hoped that when these lofty laws are realised, the Federal Government will summon the needed political will to implement their provisions in such a way that they will not only remain paper legacies but be of lasting benefit to the country.