There was a rift in the Senate Chambers on Tuesday over the composition of the appointees in the National Defence Council (NDC) and the National Security Council (NSC).
A few lawmakers mainly from the South East of the country alleged that President Muhammadu Buhari has deliberately side-lined the region in the list of nominees serving on the NDC and NSC.
The disagreement began after Victor Umeh (Anambra, APGA) moved a motion for ‘urgent need to appoint a representative of the South-East into the National Defence Council and the National Security Council.’
Mr. Umeh expressed concern over the fact that none of the Service Chiefs as appointed to both councils is from the South-East of Nigeria contrary to the federal character as provided by the constitution.
Umeh said, “The Senate is further worried that the Defence and Security Advice relayed to the President by members of the Defence and Security Councils (which excluded Security Officers from the five states that make up the South-East of Nigeria) may not likely represent fair and equitable Security Situation of the South-East of Nigeria.”
Umeh requested the membership of both councils to be reconstituted so that an officer from the South-East is included as a Service Chief for equitable representation.
Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe (Abia-PDP) accused Mr. Buhari of deliberately excluding the South East in his appointment.
Abaribe quoted from Section 5 (1) A and B of the constitution where the president is mandated to be fair to all regions in his appointments.
Abaribe said, “What we are saying is the fact that despite the provision of the constitution, despite the options that are given, there is a deliberate attempt not to let some part of this country to be part of the security architecture and that, we are saying is not so good for this country.”
The Senate Deputy Majority Leader, Ibn Na’ Allah however, attacked the mover of the motion, stating that his presentation was a misinterpretation of the provision of the constitution.
Na’ Allah stated that “It has never been since independence that the policy of any government will be to deliberately exclude a section of this country.”
Senator Barau Jibrin (Kano-APC) also disagreed with Mr. Umeh saying that the National Security Council already has a South East representative.
“The assertion by Mr. Umeh is not correct. It is misleading. He omitted the fact that the Minister of Foreign Affairs who is from the south-east, Emeka Onyeama, is a member of the National Security Council. I, therefore, call on Senator Umeh to apologize for misguiding the Senate.”
The Senate President, Bukola Saraki, subsequently ruled for the case to be ‘noted’ as the lawmakers could not reach a consensus.
Bottomline: This is going to be an issue for President Muhammadu Buhari in certain regions of the country in this election season. The president’s appointments – not just in the security council – have been frequently criticised for not being representative of tribes, regions, gender and age demographics.