• Monday, April 15, 2024
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BusinessDay

Worsening insecurity raises questions over lawmakers’ oversight

Nigeria’s children face extreme poverty

The rising insecurity in the country has made security experts and analysts question the effectiveness of the National Assembly’s oversight function of holding security agencies accountable.

The 1999 constitution confers on the National Assembly oversight powers to expose corruption, inefficiency, or waste in the execution or administration of laws within its legislative competence and in the disbursement and administration of funds appropriated by the Acts.

The Senate, the upper chamber of the National Assembly, has several committees that oversee the activities in the security sector, including the committees on national security and intelligence, airforce, army, navy, defence, police affairs, and interior.

Kabiru Adamu, managing director of Beacon Consulting, a security risk management and intelligence consulting company, expressed concern over the weakness in the Senate’s oversight function, particularly in holding security agencies accountable.

He said both chambers of the National Assembly should improve their oversight role on security agencies in the country rather than their usual invitation to security chiefs.

“The process itself is not effective. There are committees on security in the National Assembly; those committees are meant to do oversight. Budgetary provisions for the security department were given based on certain promises. If those committees had done their work, the National Assembly would have a report on the performance of the security agencies. The oversight, as far as I am concerned, is almost zero,” Adamu said.

“In my opinion, the Senate doesn’t have the benchmark; if you’re going to do this thing scientifically, they have to place it using a baseline. As an example, what are they measuring the performance of these security chiefs with? It’s anecdotal, it’s based on sentiments. Yes we are worried that the level of insecurity in the country is bad, but if you’re going to approach it scientifically, in a manner that will be productive, you have to use metrics,” he said.

Chidi Omeje, an Abuja-based security analyst, described the Senate’s summons of security chiefs as “symbolic theatrics”.

“The ritual of summoning security chiefs has become too recurring to make any sense. Each time they invite security agencies, I just see it as a dramatic way to make Nigerians think or feel they are working. The solution to our problem is not summoning security chiefs; these are symbolic theatrics. The dramatic invitation of service chiefs doesn’t make sense, it has never achieved any result.”

The Senate has repeatedly invited heads of security agencies. For instance, in December 2020, the Red Chamber summoned military chiefs after the abduction of about 330 students from a secondary school in Katsina.

Barely after five months, the upper chamber, in May 2021, summoned the service chiefs. In August 2022, the Senate summoned them again; they invited them in December 2023, following the brutal attack on several communities in Plateau that left hundreds of people dead.

In January 2024, the Senate invited all security chiefs as the spate of banditry, killings and other forms of criminality worsened, even in the nation’s capital. The Senate however put the interface on hold to enable senators to campaign for bye-elections.

The interface, eventually held on February 13, ended after about nine hours behind closed doors. After the meeting, the Senate passed a vote of confidence on the security chiefs and heads of security agencies in attendance.

Senate President Godswill Akpabio said: “After listening to the security chiefs, the Senate is convinced that serious measures are already being carried out against criminals in the country by the various security agencies. Such actions are indeed yielding results with the arrest of many of the criminal non-state actors within the last few days which would surely bring about a secure and safe country for us all.

“The Senate is particularly impressed with the arrest of about 90 percent of those who perpetrated heinous crimes across the country in recent time.”

This comment came amid worsening insecurity across the country. The Beacon security intelligence report for January shows that the nation recorded 1,022 fatalities, a 15.88 percent increase from 882 fatalities in December 2022, and 36.45 percent increase from 749 fatalities in January 2023.

A total of 727 violent attacks were recorded in the same month, a 12 02 percent increase from 649 incidents in December, and a 93.87 percent increase from the 375 fatalities in January 2023.

There were a total of 726 abductions, up 39.88 percent from 519 abductions in December 2023, and 249 percent from 208 abductions recorded in January 2023.

Meanwhile, Nigeria has seen a dramatic increase in its defence spending in recent years but analysts believe it has yet to make a dent in insecurity.

The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute said military expenditure in Nigeria rose from an average of $23.4 million in 1960 to an all-time high of $4.47 billion in 2021.

Mike Ejiofor, a former director-general of the Department of State Services, said the National Assembly needs to work on rejigging the security architecture, working with the executive to allow for state policing to address security challenges.