Insecurity: Will Buhari honour Reps’ summon?

Joshua Egbodo writes on the House of Representatives summon on President Muhammadu Buhari over incessant killings by herdsmen and armed bandits across the country.

Yet another summon

It wouldn’t be the first time the lower house of the National Assembly has issued such an invitation. Exactly about a year ago, a similar invitation, which was however not honoured to date, was given to the president.

Last week’s motion, which came under matters of urgent public importance by Honourable Mark Gbillah, was adopted by members on the floor, with part of the resolution demanding that President Buhari appear before the house to address Nigerians on the widespread insecurity in the country.

Gbillah, who represents Gwer-east /Gwer-west federal constituency of Benue state, had prayed the house to also declare that Buhari’s failure to act in line with its call would be tantamount to agreeing to the opinion held by Nigerians that the administration had failed in its responsibility of protecting the citizens’ lives and property.

Before the motion

Prior to the motion, President Buhari had during a meeting with the nation’s security chiefs, reportedly directed them “to deal ruthlessly” with the criminals, sparking debate on whether the security chiefs needed such directives to perform their legal duties, or if the president’s directive was not more of an indictment on the security system, as it suggested that the chiefs may after all been treating the criminals with kid gloves.

What the house wanted to know within 48 hours

Titled; “Resurgence of the incessant and annual massacre of innocent Nigerians across the country by alleged bandits and killer herdsmen, the gradual occupation of affected communities by these attackers and the lack of adequate rehabilitation and relief materials”, the house in its resolution on the motion, which Speaker Yakubu Dogara did not allow debate on, requested that “the President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces to address the house and the entire nation within 48 hours”.

Reluctance to declare herdsmen as terrorists

The house further demanded some explanations from Buhari on “his inability and the inability of his administration, since inception, to declare the killer herdsmen as terrorists, to enable the armed forces to take commensurate action against them.

Failure of troops to stop killings

It was also expected of the president to explain “The inability of the Armed Forces under his watch to stop the recurring death of scores of innocent Nigerians annually from systemic attacks by killer herdsmen and alleged bandits, and the gradual occupation of the affected communities by these herdsmen despite countless assurances and statements by him, promising to stop these attacks.

Ineffective responses in the face of attacks

President Buhari was perceived to be biased in the handling of the killings, and in most cases tacitly respond to a seriously condemnable issue. The house, therefore, resolved that he explains “his selective and ineffective responses to the killing of Nigerians by herdsmen, especially when they occur in certain parts of the country like Benue state.

Measures in place

It also wanted answers to questions of “the immediate measures he (Buhari) intends to employ as the Commander-in-Chief to provide the armed forces, including the police, with the required resources (equipment and welfare, etc) to confront and dislodge the killer herdsmen from their known hideouts, establishment of permanent presence in immediate proximity to affected communities and provide a timeline within which these attacks by killer herdsmen and alleged bandits will be curtailed, so Nigerians can return to their ancestral homes and means of livelihood.”

The task team, and what it would do

The house also resolved to raise an ad hoc committee to interface with the presidency regarding the queries, as well as engage with the Minister of Defence, Mansur Dan-Ali, Chief of Defence Staff and service chiefs, state governments and relevant stakeholders “in a public hearing to determine permanent solutions to the killing of innocent Nigerians by killer herdsmen and alleged bandits, including the complicity of any Nigerian or group in the perpetration of these killings and land grabbing”.

A similar summon earlier

The house last year, following a motion by same Honouable Gbillah over alleged reprisal attacks by men of the Nigerian army for the killing of their colleagues and the general insecurity in the country, also asked the president to appear before it to explain certain things. As deliberations rages over the state of insecurity across the country, Honourable Bashir Babale moved an amendment prayer that the president be made to personally appear, and it was unanimously adopted.

Members were then angry at the president for his perceived inability to take his service chiefs to task, so they can live up to expectations. In fact, a vote-of-no-confidence was passed on the service chiefs by the house.

“We seem to be laying the foundation for Nigeria to be declared a failed state. If we are not able to act to nip this matter in the bud, international agencies will have to come in.

“Almost every day, we move motions relating to killings. Is it that we are just coming to lament for the sake of it or what? The time has come for leaders of the National Assembly to sit down with Buhari and summon the security chiefs and interrogate them on these issues”, Edward Pwajok, a member from Plateau state argued then.

But in a television interview in response to the summon then, a presidential spokesman Mr Femi Adesina explained that his principal, Buhari will respond appropriately when the resolution is officially communicated to him, a statement many saw as reinforcement of the popular assumption that resolutions of the parliament are “mere advisory”.

With no definite date for the president to appear, the issue has not been revisited for over a year since the resolution was passed. Questions are therefore being asked on whether it would be a different ball game this time. There are those who have argued that a Nigerian president is too powerful to be summoned by any house of the parliament.

The power to summon

However, some analysts have pointed out the constitutional provision that gives power to any of the houses of the National Assembly, or any of their respective constituted committees, to summon “anybody”, which was argued to include the president, for the purposes of obtaining information relating to any matter it has powers to legislate on.

They also pointed out the attitude of leaders in more advanced democracies, where issues of this nature are usually of no consequence, stressing therefore that it is nothing too big for a sitting president to honour an invitation of the parliament, especially when the matter in question is on security of the citizens, who he has sworn to protect.

Would Buhari honour the call?

Would the President honour the summon this time? The answer to this may not be clear, as many are of the opinion that it is most unlikely to happen. The 48 hours ultimatum has expired, with yet no official reaction to the matter. Would the house take any other action this time, if the president failed to honour its summon? This also may be in a matter of time, and followers of the issues have also concluded that it is most unlikely.

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