The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Yakubu Dogara, has said with the deployment of the Armed Forces to more than 28 States of the Federation in peacetime, Nigeria is effectively permanently in a state of emergency.
This is just as he added that rather than complement civil authorities in maintaining law and order in the country, the Nigerian Armed Forces have now become civil authorities on their own, carrying out routine duties of police.
The Speaker made the remarks at a capacity/ Interactive Needs Assessment Workshop of Security Sector Related Committees in the House of Representatives, organised in collaboration with Policy and Legal Advocacy Centre.
Making reference to Section 217 of the 1999 constitution, the speaker described as alarming, a situation where Nigerian Armed forces are deployed to 28 states despite the country being at peace time.
“It is worrisome that Nigeria is effectively permanently in a state of emergency as the Armed Forces are deployed in more than 28 States of the Federation in peacetime. The Armed Forces have virtually taken over routine Police work in Nigeria. It is no longer acting in aid of civil authorities but has become the civil authority itself.
“S .217 of the Constitution spells out the duties and responsibilities of the Armed Forces of Nigeria, which includes – defending Nigeria from external aggression; maintaining Nigeria’s territorial integrity and securing our borders from violation from a Land, Sea or Air; suppressing insurrection and acting in aid of civil authorities to restore order when called upon to do so by the President,” Dogara stated.
Speaking on the resolve of the National Assembly to ensure that all funds allocated for security purposes are judiciously used and accounted for, he added, “Related to the constitutional powers of the National Assembly to appropriate funds and thereby allocate funds for security is the power to ensure that such monies or funds appropriated are used in a transparent and accountable manner and for the purpose for which they have been given. The National Assembly’s powers of legislative oversight cannot therefore be overemphasized.”
Dogara explained that in line with parliamentary best practices, the House has constituted Standing Committees specially mandated to oversight agencies in the security sector.
He enumerated the security related Committees to include the House Committee on Defence, House Committees on Army, Navy, AirForce and House Committees on Police and also National Intelligence.
“We realize that a fundamental practice in advanced democracies around the world is that security sector institutions submit to democratic governance and I believe that these Committees are committed to fully exercising their mandate to ensure that not only are these institutions held accountable, but also that that they are strengthened to ensure a secure and stable Nigerian environment that is favourable to investment and sustainable economic development”.
While acknowledging the security challenges in the country, Dogara assured that the House will continue to come up with legislative measures and oversight mechanisms to address such challenges.
“This past experience which saw a powerful military exercise absolute control and authority over the machinery of government has translated to the current challenge of getting these institution to subject itself to legislative scrutiny. The often seen consequence of this is inadequate and inefficient delivery of security to citizens, as well as lack of accountability and transparency as it relates to security expenditure. The House has consequently, recently amended the Public Procurement Act to make the Armed Forces more accountable in procurement matters.
“At the inception of the 8th House of Representatives in 2015, we adopted a Legislative Agenda to guide the work of the House and therein, committed to taking legislative initiatives to respond to the various security challenges being faced by the country. In the same Agenda, we committed to taking further measures to improve on our oversight process and mechanisms, which is one of the major themes that would be discussed today. Our presence here today underscores our commitment to this goal”.
“We have made efforts by trying to meet the budgetary needs of the security sector, and it is indeed, a fact that the security sector receives a major allocation in the country’s annual budget. This is borne out of the need to respond to the insurgency in the North Eastern part of the country, as well as various security challenges such as kidnapping, armed robbery etc. in other parts of the country”.
The Speaker also noted that the House has recorded a lot of progress in initiating bills and motions through its standing committees in furtherance of security sector reforms.
“While we have made reasonable efforts towards this process through the related standing committees in the form of Bills and Resolutions to investigate the pressing needs of the security sector and make necessary recommendations, we acknowledge the need for enhanced capacity and competencies of Members and support staff for addressing these. This event is therefore of critical importance in exploring this issue and coming up with recommendations”.