By Ignatius Okorocha
Efforts by Senator Victor Umeh( Anambra Central) to get President Muhammadu Buhari to consider the appointment of a representatives of the South East geopolitical zone in the National Security council and National Defence Council yesterday threw the Senate into a rowdy session.
This was as some All Progressive Congress ( APC) Senators from the Northern part of the country vehemently rose against the motion justifying President Buhari’s lobe-sided appointment of members of the two councils.
In his remark, the Senate president of the Senate Bukola Saraki while seeing reasons in the letters of the motion and at the same time not wanting to stop the tension being generated by motion tactically suspended further debate on the matter saying that he has noted the prayers of the motion.
The motion, titled “Urgent need to appoint a representative of the South East into the National Defence Council and National Security Council”, was sponsored by Senator Victor Umeh (APGA Anambra Central) during plenary.
Senator Umeh, in the motion urged President Muhammadu Buhari to reconstitute membership of the Council, and also enjoined him as the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, appoint an officer from the South East as Service Chief for equitable representation of the people of the region in the Council.
He explained that by virtue of Section 153(1)(g), more particularly third schedule part 1 of the 1999 Constitution, the Council shall comprise of the President as the chairman, Vice President as deputy chairman, Minister of Defence, Chief of Defence Staff, Chief of Army Staff, Chief of Naval Staff, Chief of Air Staff, and such other members as the president may appoint.
He said: “The exclusion of the South East from appointment of Service Chiefs will continue to cause the feeling of alienation, neglect and consequential agitation among the people of South East”.
“The inclusion of the South East among the Service Chiefs will automatically accord them membership of the National Defence Council and National Security Council and will go a long way in assuaging their feelings of isolation and neglect”.
Senator Umeh was also “convinced that immediate appointment of an officer from the South East as Service Chief will enhance the feeling of oneness among the South Easterners towards other parts of Nigeria”.
He explained that the Council are constitutionally empowered to advise the president on matters relating to defence of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Nigeria, and those relating to public security, including those effecting any organization or agency established by law for ensuring security of the country.
The lawmaker therefore expressed expressed worry that none of the Service Chiefs as appointed to the Council comes from the South East region “as firmly enshrined in the Constitution through the spirit and principle of federal character”.
Contributing to the motion, Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe (PDP Abia South), who wondered why Buhari excluded the region from the Council, alleged misinterpretation of the Constitution by the President.
Senator Abaribe, who said he had, in the past, led the South East caucus in the National Assembly to the President on the matter, alleged that “it’s a deliberate attempt not to include the region as part of the security architecture of this country”.
Deputy Leader of the Senate, Senator Bala Ibn Na’Allah (APC Kebbi South), however, accused sponsor of the motion of “gross misunderstanding of the provisions of the Constitution on the matter” and warned against politicising security issues in the country.
Senator Na’Allah, who cautioned the Senate to be extremely careful on its position on the matter, maintained that “it has never been a deliberate policy of any government since 1999 to exclude any section of the country”.
Speaking in the same vein through a point of order, Senator Barau Jibrin (APC Kano North), described the motion as misleading and asked its sponsor to apologise to the lawmakers for misleading them.
He argued that the Ministers of Internal Affairs, and Foreign Affairs, which are members of the Council were omitted by Senator Umeh in his motion, stressing that the incumbent Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyema hails from the South East.
Also coming from a constitutional point of order 153(g), Senator Mao Ohunabuwa (PDP Abia North), said it’s a security matter that should not be trivialised and therefore sought the support of his colleagues on the matter.In his ruling, the senate president, Dr. Bukola Saraki, said though the motion was well highlighted by Senator Umeh, noting that it was difficult to reach a consensus and as such he refused to call for the adoption of its prayers, but only said it’s well noted.Meanwhile Umeh had while fielding questions from journalists said he considered the non inclusion of the South East representative in the National Defence Council as an aberration, noting that since the zone formed a major ethnic group in the country and should be carried along on issues concerning the security of the country.According to the lawmaker, the South East geopolitical zone so many caliber of personnel in the military that are qualified to be appointed in to the service chiefs cadre or membership of the Defence council.