Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC) in collaboration with Transparency International-Defence, Security Programme, with support from UK-AID organised a one-day legislative retreat in Lagos for chairmen, members and clerks of security committees of the House of Representatives. The aim is to achieve healthy and sustainable coordination of the various defence reform bills before the National Assembly. Nnamdi Ojiego reports
Nigeria has been witnessing a series of unending crises from ethnicity to religion and lately insurgency. This constantly places the country in a bad light on the global stage.
On September 10, 2020, Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC) organised a one-day retreat to identify and analyse active bills in the defence sector, highlight reforms, identify accountability component, the role of civilian and oversight agencies and entry points for civil society engagements.
In attendance were the Chairman, House Committee on Defence, Mr. Benjamin Benson; Chairman, House Committee on Army, Abdulrazak Sa’ad Namdas ; Chairman, House Committee on Navy, Yusuf Adamu Gagdi; Deputy Chairman, House Committee on Air Force, Abbas Adigun; Member, Committee on Air Force, Tyough Robert Aondona ; Member, Committee on Air Force, Eta Edim Mbora; clerks of security committees, Executive Director of CISLAC, Auwal Ibrahim Rafsanjani, CISLAC Conflict Advisor, and Salawudeen Hashim among others.
In his opening remark, Rafsanjani said the dialogue became imperative given the need for key stakeholders to interface on a variety of issues such as the Defence Management Bill, Armed Forces Revamp Bill and the proposed Armed Forces Service Commission.
“Let me begin by saying that the parliament is responsible for setting the legal frameworks, adopting the budget and overseeing defence and security activities. It can only exercise these responsibilities in full if it has broad access to information, the necessary technical expertise, and the power and intention to hold the government to account. However, the variety and technicalities of the issues involved, the significant size and complex organization of security personnel and, frequently, the secrecy of the security sector, make it particularly difficult for parliamentarians to work effectively,” he said.
Speaking further, Rafsanjani stressed that the oversight function of the parliament over the defence sector cannot be over-emphasised. “Oversight of the sector is indeed a crucial, but by no means the only pillar of democratic governance of the defence sector,’’ he added.
The CISLAC boss added that Nigerians needed to know what the parliamentary update is as it regards to defence budget performance.
Commending CISLAC for a robust discourse, Gagdi, who is
the Chairman, House Committee on Navy, said defence is an issue that concerns all and sundry.
According to him, the bedrock of any society is adequate security, adding that if the National House of Assembly approved money for defence, the Nigerian armed forces shouldn’t be having issues acquiring equipment to combat insurgency.
On the Maritime Bill, he said it has been signed, adding that some of the roles allotted to NIMASA are obsolete.
“Any orgnaisation that plays a security role is vital to the stability of the country. Any bandit, whether on water, sea or on the ground projects the country’s image in a bad light.
He enjoined all arms of government must unite to address the security issues.
On how to make the defence effective, Adigun, Deputy Chairman, House Committee on Air Force, said internal forces are undermining the security situation in Nigeria.
Adigun, who served in the United States Navy where he retired before joining politics, said: “I remember when I came in I moved a motion which centered around the welfare of the security personnel. I said the meagre resources were not enough to buy uniform and equipment to secure the society.”
Adigun asked rhetorically, “how do you send somebody to war without the right equipment?”
He further challenged Nigeria’s security intelligent community to rise to the occasion.
In his goodwill message, Benson, Chairman, House Committee on Defence, commended CISLAC for the initiative.
While he admitted that the Nigerian Armed Forces are capable of defeating insecurity, he said a nation cannot have economic growth without security. According to him, “another impediment is non-availability of equipment. What are we doing about the purchase of weapons? There is an international conspiracy against Nigeria in the area of acquiring modern equipment to address security challenges. These conspiracies also stem from the requirements by countries that sell arms.”
After over four hours of robust dialogue, participants recommended that it is important to bring together the executive and legislative arms of government as well as Civil Society Organizations in strategic engagements of this sort to enable a more robust interaction for more effective results.
It was agreed that CISLAC should collate international laws and best practices that legislators can utilize, contextualize and incorporate in Nigeria to move the security sector reform forward and achieve optimal results.
Participants also called for a timeline within which the executive should submit its national budget to the legislature, beyond which penalties should be applied for late submission.
It was also said that intelligence and security studies should be taught in schools while recruitment and training locations for recruits should be decentralized.