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Snoring while the roof is on fire

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By Owei Lakemfa

THE invasion of the hallowed  chambers of the Senate on Wednesday while the Distinguished were in session, was dramatic but not unexpected. We are lucky that the invaders were not out to physically attack the Senators, otherwise, there might   have been some casualties amongst them more so when  the hoodlums walked in the midst of the Senators and even came face to face with the presiding officer. Given the amount of time it took the thugs to force their way into the chambers, fighting those at the entrance, snatching the mace and making their get-away, the National Assembly, NASS, complex should have been locked  down. That it was not, is symptomatic of the low level of security in the country. There were even no security cameras and video surveillance systems that captured the brigands’ arrival and escape from the Assembly complex. None  in the streets to show their escape route.

The successful attack on the Senate, was no wake-up call; if legislators were to awaken, they would have done so over the years when state legislators were being physically attacked and even sacked by thugs. Thugs on August 1, 2017 invaded the Kogi State House of Assembly while in session, beat the legislators and locked up the complex without security forces lifting a finger not to talk of arresting even one of the over 100 hoodlums. The same legislators were physically attacked in their official quarters, beaten and forced out without the perpetrators who were identified, being brought to book. In the same state, five minority legislators were allowed to sack  15 majority legislators without  any repercussion.

The Sargent at Arms officers of National Assembly struggling Senate Chamber MACE with some hoodlums who were allege to be sponsored by the Suspended Senator Omo-Agege that invaded Senate Chambers at National Assembly Abuja Wednesday. Photo by Gbemiga Olamikan.

Far back in November, 2006, five legislators out of the 24 in the Plateau State House of Assembly impeached then  Governor Joshua Dariye,  and the NASS which knew that the constitution provides for a minimum two thirds to impeach the governor, looked the other away. It did not think it was a sacrilegious offence for which it should have shut-down in protest or strived to bring perpetrators to book. That illegality like some others such as the January, 2006 impeachment of Governor Rasheed Ladoja, were fully backed backed by the Federal Government. Once the NASS as an institution, condoned illegalities against legislators, invasion and the misuse of State Assemblies to violate the  constitution, they should expect that such brigandage   can spread to its hallowed chambers.

So the real insecurity we face in the country is not the breach of the NASS security even if it be termed ‘treason,’  the real insecurity is the almost daily massacre of Nigerians by  highly mobile brigands who target  our rural and semi-urban regions and food- producing areas.  From April 14-15, they massacred 32 Tiv villagers across the Southern Senatorial District of Nasarawa State. Despite an estimated 15,000 fleeing victims flooding the streets of the state capital, Lafia, the Police Command on the third day of the attacks still claimed ignorance. Yet, the Police  was expected to have prevented such massacres in the first place or be the first respondents.

A day after these attacks, in neigbouring Benue State, the same blood thirsty hoodlums  killed four policemen in Logo, one of the two local governments in which they had massacred 73 Nigerians this  January. An interesting point is that the Police Command in its statement, said  its “personnel  came under attack by insurgents…” That precisely is the point the Nigerian state has been shying away  from  making  over the years; what the country is witnessing is not ‘herdsmen-farmers clash’ or “communal clash,” it is an insurgency which is an attempt by armed people to take over or control the country by force.

The Secretary to the Government  of the Federation, Boss Mustapha said on April 19 at the opening ceremony of the Federal and States, Security Administrators Meeting, FSSAM in Katsina that, excluding recent attacks, “Within  the last  few months, we have recorded a total of over 30 incidences which have claimed  (the ) lives of  more than 257 persons within this year alone.” Amnesty International statistics show that in January alone,    168 were killed and that between  2016 and 2017, 717 persons were killed in these attacks.

The ethno-religious,  socio-economic, cultural, political, regional or national origin of the insurgents  should not be the issue, what is important is defeating them, protecting the citizenry and preventing our  country from being overrun. We cannot allow a daily harvest of corpses in our villages and towns or just debate  in the social media the intention of the attackers, what matters is how we take them on and take them out.

Given the reality of the situation, we need to declare war on the insurgents and declare a state of emergency. The people should be taught how to identify the insurgents, the nature of the insurgency, the insurgents’ motives and why they seize and keep territories.  Another basic step is where territories have been taken, and villages occupied, the government needs to retake such places, secure them and assist the people to return to continue their normal lives.  We must not continue to increase the number of Internally Displaced Persons, IDPs, camps. Already, we have the third largest number of IDPs after war- ravaged Iraq and Syria.

In the face of imminent attack, or during attacks, our people need to know how to raise the alarm  without endangering their lives or compromising the security of people around them. Of all fundamental human rights, the right to life is the most basic and nobody can enjoy human rights  if he is dead.

I reiterate that it is immaterial   whether the insurgents are Nigerians or foreign invaders, what is  important is that we are able to exterminate them. We have to realise that we are at war, and our leaders must put the country on war footing against the insurgents.

A situation where the governor of a state who is also the chief security officer tells the people to arm themselves with stones and fight off insurgents armed with sophisticated weapons, is a show of desperation.

Nigerians must not be allowed to get to that stage before we react adequately to the challenge. We have to wake up from our slumber and put off the fire raging in our roof. We have no other country but Nigeria; we must defend her.

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