Senate and House of Representatives on Tuesday declared the country’s security system a “failed architecture” and backed the call for the establishment of state police to contain the escalating killings by herdsmen across many states.
The federal lawmakers’ decision to grant the request of many prominent Nigerians, including governors, for state police is hinged on the continued killings in the country and the inability of the security agencies to end incessant violence and murders.
The two chambers of the National Assembly have, therefore, agreed to amend the constitution to achieve this objective.
To achieve the state police structure, the House resolved to revisit amendment of 1999 Constitution so that the present federal police structure would be decentralised, while the Senate has begun the process to amend the constitution to allow for the creation of state police.
Specifically, the Senate at plenary on Tuesday mandated the Committee on the Review of the 1999 Constitution led by Deputy President of the Senate, Ike Ekweremadu, to present an amendment bill within two weeks.
The lawmakers resolved that the bill would enjoy speedy consideration.
House declares Plateau killings genocide
Also, House of Representatives declared the country’s security system a “failed architecture” and sought the establishment of state police to contain the escalating killings by herdsmen across many states.
Lawmakers specifically declared the recent killing of “over 215 persons” by herdsmen in Plateau State as “genocide,” saying that it was high time the Federal Government sought external help to confront the killer herdsmen.
Recall that on three previous attempts since the 2010, a proposal for state police was rejected by National Assembly during the amendment of the constitution.
But, as the reality of the lives being taken by herdsmen dawned on members on Tuesday, majority of them supported a resolution to amend the constitution in a bid to accommodate state police.
The House passed the resolution after five members from Plateau State moved a motion on the “Massacre of over 2015 Persons in Plateau State.”
The session, presided over by the Speaker, Mr. Yakubu Dogara, condemned the attacks and called for the recovery of over 52 villages under illegal occupation by herdsmen in Barkin Ladi, Riyom, Bokkos, Bassa and Mangu Local Government Areas of Plateau State.
Leading the debate, Mr. Istifanus Gyang alleged that the agenda of the attackers was ethnic cleansing to pave way for the occupation of land belonging to Plateau people.
Gyang urged President Muhammadu Buhari to give effect to Section 14(2) of the constitution by protecting the lives and property of Nigerians.
He added, “The attacks have a pattern, where once a community is attacked, it is cleansed by killing the native inhabitants, the houses burnt and destroyed, while the vacated land is taken over for occupation.
“The cycle is repeated and the pattern is replicated in what has clearly manifested as a land grabbing agenda.”
Majority Leader of the House, Mr. Femi Gbajabiamila, supported the motion and said that the country could no longer run away from the reality of state police.
He stated, “Our security architecture needs to be changed and the time has come for the creation of state police. Let us amend our constitution; we can even agree to fast-track it by attaching it to the pending Petroleum Industry Bill for presentation to the President.”
Chairman, House Committee on Human Rights, Mr. Edward Pwajok, recalled how herdsmen attacked 11 villages simultaneously without response from security agencies.
Pwajok said, “These attacks took place for over seven hours in 11 villages. The fact that there was no response leaves much to be desired and raises many questions. Why will the attacks continue, even as we speak, in spite of the visit of the President and Vice-President and curfew in Plateau State?
“Was the curfew meant to keep some persons at home while others could go about freely to kill? Mr. Speaker, the blood of those killed is calling for justice.”
On her part, Chairman, House Committee on Foreign Relations, Ms. Nnenna Elendu-Ukeje, urged Buhari to take urgent actions to stop the killings.
She acknowledged that there were two categories of Fulani in Nigeria, the peaceful ones carrying sticks and the killers who go about with AK-47 rifles.
But, Chairman, House Committee on Federal Character Commission, Mr. Idris Wase, blamed the killings on politicians and “powerful people.”
“Some politicians and highly-placed persons are behind these killings. They know themselves and I will say this even at the risk to my own safety. The truth has to be told if we must genuinely find solutions to these attacks and killings,” Wase stated.
History ‘ll judge us harshly over mindless killings – Dogara
Meanwhile, Dogara warned on Tuesday that history would not be kind to the current government, including the National Assembly, if the killings were not stopped immediately.
The Speaker made his views in an address to welcome members back to Abuja after Sallah and Ramadan vacation.
He said, “History will have a harsh verdict for us as a government if we fail to live up to this responsibility and it won’t matter if we succeed in other areas.
“Unfortunately, the stark reality now is that our citizens are fast losing confidence in our security system. This must not be the case.
“Before we ebb to the realm of anarchy, we must rise up as true representatives of the Nigerian people to salvage the situation and defend our hard-won democracy.”
Senate begins process to create state police
Senate mandated the Committee on Review of 1999 Constitution led by Deputy President of Senate, Ekweremadu, to present an amendment bill within two weeks.
The senators resolved that the bill would enjoy speedy consideration, saying that it might be passed before they proceed on their annual recess by the end of July.
This was part of the prayers of a motion moved by Senator Jonah Jang (PDP, Plateau-South) on recent killings in Plateau State, which were unanimously granted by the Senate.
Tempers flared as senators spent over two hours to debate the rising spate of killings across the country. While some called for a restructuring of the nation’s security architecture, others called for the removal of current heads of security agencies.
The prayers by Jang and unanimously granted by the Senate include condemning “the terror attacks, mass killings and displacement of the people and occupation of their ancestral homes and farmlands.”
Jang also prayed that the Senate urge the executive “to overhaul the security architecture of the country and emplace a better security action plan that would decisively tackle violent terror attacks threatening the continuous existence of the communities in the North-Central geopolitical zone and Nigeria.”
Senator Adamu Aliero however asked that the prayer be amended to read, “Overhaul the security architecture in such a way that if violence happens in a particular location, the security agents assigned to protect that area together with the community leaders should be held responsible.”The amended prayer was granted.
Senate President, Mr Bukola Saraki, said the executive had failed to act on previous resolutions by the legislature on security matters.
Saraki said, “Whether there was an initial action of aggression or reprisals, either way it is, it is totally unacceptable and we must condemn it in the totality. I think that is crucial. These are acts of criminality and we should not encourage any other colouration to it, be it religious or ethnic; this is criminality. As such, we have a role to ensure that we must fight this criminality.
“We have spoken on many platforms and made suggestions on the part of the executive, on the fact that we believe that there is the need for an urgent review of the security architecture. Somebody did mention that the debates in the House of Lords also raised this one point.
“How do we think that our economy will attract investments with this kind of climate? It cannot happen. So, we must see it not only from the point of view that there is danger to security, there is also danger if we want to push our economy, it will just become stagnant.”
Saraki also said leadership of the Senate would visit Zamfara State for an on-the-spot assessment of the security situation in the area.
I lost one of my aides in Plateau massacre – Aliero
Mr Adamu Aliero (Kebbi-Central), who lamented the killing of his aide while driving through Plateau, said, “A major step has to be taken. All perpetrators of this heinous crime should be arrested and prosecuted. There should be no sacred cow.”
Ekweremadu, who commiserated with Aliero on his aide’s murder, stated that the killings would continue until the country’s security structure was reviewed. He thanked the British Parliament for discussing the security crisis in Nigeria to show its concern.
He said, “It is not just about Plateau, it is about citizens and inhabitants of this country who lost their lives and have their properties destroyed because we have not been able to live up to the expectation of our constitution which is to protect lives and property.
“A few weeks or about a month ago when the matter came up about the killings in Zamfara, Benue and Nasarawa states, I remember that I made the point that it would happen again and it did happen. Let me say again today that it will happen again. It will continue until we are prepared to do the correct thing; to do what civilised countries of the world are doing, which is to take seriously the provision of necessary security architecture that can protect the lives and property of Nigerians.
“Do we have such security architecture in Nigeria today? The answer is simply, no. Are we making efforts to provide it? The answer is also no. That is why it is happening and that is why it will continue to happen.”
Also, Mr Joshua Lidani (Gombe-South) decried that security agencies had failed to check the killings by arresting and prosecuting the killers.
A visibly angry Senator Isah Misau (Bauchi-Central) also recalled that he predicted the endless killings about two years ago. He however argued that community and state police was not the solution to the security crisis. According to him, the problem is as a result of leadership failure.
Misau proposed that the Federal Government should be fined up to N50m for every life lost to the crisis, noting that the financial burden would force the government to prevent further killings.
In another prayer, Mr Solomon Adeola (Lagos-West), proposed that the Senate “should commission the Committee on Constitution Amendment, with immediate effect to put machinery in motion with the intention of amending the constitution to accommodate creation of state and community police.”
Commenting on the prayer, Saraki asked that a timeframe be set for the amendment.
Responding, Mr Barnabas Gemade suggested two weeks. His proposal was seconded by Ekweremadu.
Reading out the prayer, Saraki said, “The Senate hereby directs that the bill on Peace and Reconciliation, the Police Reform Bill should be passed within the next two weeks, and that the Constitution Review Committee within the next two weeks should bring forward the amendment for state and community police.” It was unanimously granted.