By Chesa Chesa, Ignatius Okorocha and Isuma Mark
Abuja — With the resurgence of terrorist activities and mass murder of innocent Nigerians in the country’s north east zone in recent times, the Senate on Wednesday, charged President Muhammadu Buhari to stop the reign of terror as quickly as possible by exploring his constitutional powers.
The call followed a motion by Senator George Sekibo, representing Rivers East Senatorial Distirct, supported by 35 others from both the majority All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), which addressed widespread concerns over the rising spate of killings and destruction being perpetrated by the Islamist terrorist sect.
The Red Chamber also condemned the sect’s continued assault on Nigerians, especially in the troubled zone.
To show the seriousness attached to the matter, Senate President Bukola Saraki, is to a delegation to visit Internally Displayed Persons (IDPs) camps and some affected places.
The motion is entitled: “Establishment of Presidential Intervention Committee on the Rehabilitation of North-East zone.”
Many are not surprised that the issue of insurgency is engaging the attention of the Senator soon after it reconvened on Tuesday for plenary after a five-week vacation since June 21, 2015, given several cases of attacks recorded since May 29, when Buhari assumed office.
Indeed, the murderous sect has become more daring, going for high profile targets as sensitive as the localities of the top security chiefs recently appointed by President Buhari to drive his military campaign to quell the terrorist group.
Boko Haram has at different times invaded the native homes of the newly appointed National Security Adviser, Babagana Mongunno, a retired Army General, and the Chief of Army Staff, Major-General Tukur Buratai, killing scores of their kinsmen. The violent sect also set several houses ablaze, leaving hundreds of people homeless.
The latest attack on Monguno was being executed just as Monguno and the service chiefs were having their first meeting with President Buhari in Abuja on Tuesday, June 16 when their appointments were made public by the Presidency, claiming about 43 lives, with several other persons critically injured.
Earlier, Boko Haram, had on the previous Friday, attacked the villages of Kalwa, Misala and Gwollam, all under Monguno Local Government area of Borno State. They also killed no fewer than 40 of the villagers either by gunshots or slitting their throats.
Haruna Bukar, a senior member of the Vigilante Group of Nigerian, in Monguno Local Government had been quoted in media account of the massacre that the villages had been under consistent attacks from the insurgents in the last one year.
According to him, “many villages under Monguno Local Government areas are being attacked almost on daily basis”.
Since then, there has been other attacks on Buratai, but the latest, which occurred on Monday was however different as the insurgents were repelled by military troops.
Time To Act
Sekibo, who began the discussion, expressed worry at the Federal Government’s inability to rehabilitate and rebuild infrastructure of areas that have been reclaimed from the insurgents. He further observed that it was a strong sign of disintegration.
“Since the inception of the insurgents’ assaults in the region, several government’s institutions such as educational and health, as well as the police, customs, immigration and military barracks have been completely destroyed with no offices and facilities for use by the institutions (that were) affected.
“Thousands of personal buildings and properties, social amenities and infrastructures, such as electricity and telephone services have been destroyed and, therefore, not in service in many parts (of) the zones. The livelihood of many indigenes of the area have been disrupted such that majority of the people are either in IDP (internally displayed persons) camps, or are helplessly roaming the streets without any hope for their future.”As a war torn area, these affected people have no one to go and ask for alms or support of any kind. Such a situation, where people are kept without hope for a future would encourage them to give up themselves as recruits of the Boko Haram organisation, as there seems the possibility of them having food for sustenance from the sect or engage in other sinister activities that could inadvertently affect the nation negatively.
“(The Federal) Government’s inability to rehabilitate and rebuild infrastructure of areas that have been taken back from the insurgents is a strong sign of disintegration. (The Senate) knows that security and welfare of the people shall be the primary purpose of government, as provided in Section 14(2)(b) of the 1999 Constitution as amended.
“(The Senate) further knows that the National Assembly may make laws for the federation or any part thereof with respect to the maintenance and securing of public safety and public order and providing, maintaining and securing of such supplies and services as may be designated by the National Assembly as essential supplies and services, vide Section 11(1) of the 1999 Constitution as amended,” Sekibo said.
The motion further prayed Buhari to establish a presidential intervention committee on the rehabilitation of the North-East.
Following the motion, the Senate directed its Committee on Special Duties to monitor the well-being of all IDPs in the country, as well as the implementation of the Presidential Intervention Committee; and commend the security men that have died, as well as those fighting Boko Haram.
Service Chiefs’ Screening
To give bite to President Buhari’s campaign against the insurgents and other cases of insecurity, the Senate is set to screen the newly appointed service chiefs.
Appearance of the service chiefs before the Senate was rescheduled to next Tuesday, instead of today.
Announcing this, Senate President, Bukola Saraki, on Wednesday, said the new service chiefs would be screened during plenary by 11am, by the Committee of the Whole.
The new service chiefs are: Major-General Abayomi Gabriel Olonishakin as Chief of Defence Staff; Major-General T.Y. Buratai as Chief of Army Staff; Rear Admiral Ibok-Ete Ekwe Ibas as Chief of Naval Staff and Air Vice Marshal Sadique Abubakar as Chief of Air Staff.
The letter for confirmation of the appointments, Saraki pointed out, was in accordance with the provisions of Section18 (1) of the Armed Forces Act, 2004.
Meanwhile, President Buhari, also on Wednesday, was in Yaoundé, capital of Cameroon, to discuss ways of tackling the Boko Haram menace with his counterpart, Paul Biya, as part of a two-day working visit
Commenting on the plight of some 40,000 Nigerian refugees in Cameroon, forced to flee their homes, because of the terrorists, the President said the Federal Government would ensure their safe return and rehabilitation very soon.
According to Buhari: “We also have about 1.5 million Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in Nigeria and we have a programme of rehabilitation and reintegration into the society for them, which involves providing shelter and schools to the displaced persons.”
For Cameroon’s information minister, Issa Tchiroma Bakari, both leaders would “discuss the best means of eradicating this new form of belligerence and the strategies to reduce Boko Haram.”
Buhari also said although his administration is yet to formulate a foreign policy direction, Nigeria would respect the ruling of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) ceding the Bakassi Peninsula to Cameroon.
The Federal Government, he stressed, would ensure the faithful implementation of the Green Tree Agreement, which regulates the ceding of Bakassi.
“Since Nigeria allowed the case to go to court (ICJ), and we lost, we have to abide by it,” an Aso Rock statement quoted him as saying.
The President urged Nigerians in Diaspora, especially the over four million living in Cameroon to be law abiding in their host countries.
Responding to a question on the voting rights of Nigerians in Diaspora, the President promised that his administration would revisit the issue, which would require legislation from the National Assembly.
He pledged to do everything possible to bring positive change to Nigeria, saying that “despite the numerous challenges confronting us, the future of our country is bright.
“You all know very well that your fellow Nigerians are resilient, hard-working and patriotic. These qualities have always seen us through our most difficult national challenges and they will do so now.”
On the fight against Boko Haram, the President assured Nigerians that the current security challenges are not insurmountable, stressing the his administration’s determination “to end this callousness against our innocent citizens. The defence of the territorial integrity of Nigeria and the protection of lives and properties of Nigerians and all those who live in the country are out top priorities.
“We shall explore all reasonable options to enable us to bring this rebellion to an end,” he vowed.
Buhari would depart Cameroon for Abuja today, after addressing a joint press conference with his host, the statement added.