The Senate on Tuesday asked heads of the country’s armed forces to step down following the killings of soldiers fighting insurgency and banditry in parts of northern Nigeria.
But the Presidency, in its reaction, disagreed, saying it is the prerogative of President Muhammadu Buhari to appoint and sack the service chiefs
Debating a motion moved by the Chairman of Senate Committee on Army, Senator Ali Ndume, the upper chamber of the National Assembly said service chiefs should leave for “new ideas” to handle the nation’s security challenges.
Ndume said his motion tagged, ‘Matter of urgent national importance,’ was on the rising number of casualties among the Nigerian armed forces and other security agencies.
The call by the senators came barely a month after the President of the Senate, Dr Ahmed Lawan, met with the President over the rising insecurity in the country.
In an interview with the State House correspondents after the meeting, Lawan said security chiefs should live up to their expectations or be shown the way out.
Despite Lawan’s admonition, there have been increasing killings of both soldiers and civilians by bandits and the Boko Haram insurgents.
There were reports that 20 soldiers, who were returning from an operation, were ambushed and killed by Boko Haram insurgents on the Maiduguri-Damboa Road on July 7.
Last week, more than 200 soldiers in the North-East and other theatres of operation, who cited “loss of interest,” resigned from the Nigerian Army.
But the Chief of Chief of Army Staff, Lt.Gen. Tukur Buratai, in Katsina last week said the service chiefs had not disappointed the President and the nation.
At the Senate plenary on Tuesday, the service chiefs received a barrage of criticisms, following the motion moved by Ndume.
The Borno State senator said various reports on the rising number of casualties among the Nigerian Army and other security agencies were worrisome.
He said, “Just recently, 24 soldiers were ambushed and killed along the Gambua – Maiduguri Road in Borno State. At least, 19 personnel were wounded, while nine were declared missing in action.
“It is disturbing that in Katsina, again about 20 soldiers were also ambushed and killed while several others were wounded. The number of civilian casualty is not known.
“The senate appreciates the sacrifice of our armed forces in the fight against insurgency, banditry and protection of the territorial integrity of Nigeria and several other security assignments given to them.”
“If the trend continues, it will have serious implications on the fight against insurgency, banditry and other forms of criminality in the country.
“Recently, it was alleged that over 236 soldiers voluntarily resigned their engagements with the Nigerian Army.”
The Vice-Chairman of the Senate Committee on Customs, Senator Francis Fadahunsi, proposed an additional prayer which demanded that service chiefs should step down
Fadahunsi said, “The additional prayer is that the present crop of service chiefs should step down for the new ideas to come in so as not jeopardise security system.”
Fadahunsi’s prayer was seconded by Senator Betty Apiafi.
The Senate President ruled on the prayer and it was overwhelmingly supported by all the senators in attendance.
Lawan said, “The spirit of this motion is that our armed forces are trying very hard just like the President (Buhari) said.
“Their good is still not enough but we need to continue to encourage them. We need to continue to provide for them. They lay down their lives on behalf of all of us.
“It is very sad that some of them are deserting and are alleged to have deserted the war front. We need to get to the bottom of this.
“Our joint committees should be able to verify this allegation that over 200 soldiers deserted the war front. Those that are dead we will observe a minute silence.
The Senate, therefore, asked the service chiefs to down aside so that the President, could appoint new ones with fresh ideas.
The Senate observed one minute silence in honour of the fallen heroes and urged the Federal Government to urgently provide modern equipment to enhance the operational capabilities of the armed forces.
Those, who contributed to the motion, lamented the implication of the disturbing development, stressing that it was capable of frustrating the war against insurgency and banditry.
They noted that many members of the armed forces who were scared of losing their lives, had started resigning from the military.
The Leader of the Senate, Yahaya Abdullahi, said, “The issue that now faces us is that the readiness of our armed forces to really confront these challenges is now under a lot of pressure and this pressure is reflected in the amount and number of soldiers we are losing due to ambush by terrorists and bandits.”
It’s President’s prerogative to sack or appoint service chiefs – Buhari’s aide
But the Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina, said the appointment and sacking of service chiefs remained the prerogative of Buhari.
Adesina said this in a statement titled, “Service chiefs: Position of Presidency on resolution by the Senate.”
Adesina said, “The Presidency notes the resolution, and reiterates that appointment or sacking of service chiefs is a presidential prerogative, and President Muhammadu Buhari, in his capacity as Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, will do what is in the best interest of the country at all times.”