REMARKS BY RT. HON. YAKUBU DOGARA AT THE PUBLIC HEARING OF THE HOUSE COMMITTEE ON DEFENCE
REMARKS BY THE HONOURABLE SPEAKER, HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES, FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF NIGERIA, HIS EXCELLENCY, RT. HON. YAKUBU DOGARA AT THE PUBLIC HEARING OF THE HOUSE COMMITTEE ON DEFENCE HELD ON MONDAY, 31ST JULY, 2017 IN CONFERENCE ROOM 034, HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES, NATIONAL ASSEMBLY COMPLEX, ABUJA.
Distinguished Honourable colleagues, Ladies and Gentlemen, it is my pleasure to join the Chairman and Members of the House Committee on Defence in welcoming you all to this Public Hearing organised by the House Committee on Defence on 6 different Bills on defence related matters referred to the Committee by the House.
2. The Bills are:
i. A Bill for an Act to amend the Armed Forces Act, Cap.A20, Laws of the Federation, 2004 to make the appointment of Service Chiefs subject to confirmation by the National Assembly, (HB.70).
ii. A Bill for an Act to establish the Security Services Welfare Infrastructure Development Commission to provide among other things NG’s, management and review the state of welfare infrastructure of the Security Services and for other matters connected therewith, (HB.83).
iii. A Bill for an Act to amend the Armed Forces Act, Cap.A20, Laws of the Federation, 2004 to provide for the appointment of Chief of Defence Staff, (HB.149).
iv. A Bill for an Act to repeal the Defence Industry Corporation of Nigeria Act, Cap. D4, Laws of the Federation, 2004 and enact the Defence Industry Corporation of Nigeria and for other related matters connected therewith, Bill, 2016,(HB.399).
v. A Bill for an Act to amend the Armed Forces Act, Cap.A20, Laws of the Federation, 2004 to among other things provide for specific duties for the Armed Forces Reserve in order to serve as a Rapid Response Mechanism with capacity to intervene in Emergency and Internal Security where the Nigerian Police is overwhelmed, (HB.411).
vi. A Bill for an Act to amend the Armed Forces Act, Cap.A20, Laws of the Federation, 2004 to provide for the Retirement age of Officers of the Nigerian Armed Forces and for other matters connected therewith, (HB.802).
3. All the Bills are sponsored by very hardworking Hon Members of the House. This also makes it necessary that a public hearing of this nature is held to ascertain the views of Nigerians and in particular all stakeholders concerned with Defence matters.
4. A brief comment on the proposed Bills seem appropriate here. With respect to HB. 70, dealing with confirmation of appointment of Service Chiefs, I must say that this bill represents the correct position of the law and judicial authorities. I will dwell a little bit on this bill as it has far reaching constitutional significance for both the National Assembly and the President.
In this regard, I wish to draw your attention to the fact that this matter was extensively canvassed in the case of FESTUS KEYAMO VS. PRESIDENT , FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF NIGERIA and 4 others, Suit No.FHC/ ABJ/CS/611/08, where the Federal High Court in a landmark decision held that S. 18 of the Armed Forces which is in pari materia with the current amendment sought by this Bill is not inconsistent with the provisions of the Constitution and therefore valid. The Court set aside the Armed Forces Modification Order, 2008, No. 50, made by President Yar’adua purportedly pursuant to S.315(2) of the Constitution, which deleted the requirement for National Assembly confirmation of appointment of Service Chiefs, as unconstitutional.
This case dramatises the danger of leaving S. 315(2) of the Constitution as part of our laws. It was meant to be a transitional provision. We will take the earliest opportunity to revisit the issue of deleting S. 315(2) from the Constitution in the ongoing constitutional review exercise, and hope that the House of Representatives will then rise to the occasion to do its duty in this respect.
What this decision means is that S. 18 of the Armed Forces Act is an integral part of the Law as currently in operation, since there was no appeal. There may therefore be nothing to amend. But I will leave it to the wisdom of the Committee to deal with as it deems fit. We must however express our thanks to the sponsor of this Bill for drawing the attention of the House and Nigerians to the issue.
5. On (HB.83), which seeks to set up the Security Services Welfare Infrastructure Development Commission, I will caution that the Committee should examine the matter carefully in order not to impede the autonomy of the various Services in providing for the welfare of their members. The Committee should also examine the need to set up yet another Commission in these austere times. But again I leave it to the wisdom of this distinguished Committee to determine.
6. With respect to (HB.149) which seeks to amend the Armed Forces Act, the Committee should determine whether deletion of S. 4 of the Act is necessary to achieve the laudable proposals of the Bill which will ensure, if passed, that the office of Chief of Defense Staff is specifically created and is subjected to confirmation by the National Assembly.
7. On (HB.399) which seeks to repeal and re-enact the Defence Industry Corporation of Nigeria Act, the Committee should carefully distinguish whether the Corporation is suitable to perform the duties of a Regulatory agency or whether it should continue to be a manufacturing entity for the defence needs of Nigerians. The stakeholders gathered here should give the Committee the benefit of their views in this regard.
8. HB.411 is a Bill to amend the Armed Forces Act, to provide for matters relating to the Armed Forces Reserve. Once again, I will admonish the Committee to consult widely with stakeholders on the need to transfer the powers of Mr President who is the Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces, to make Regulations with respect to the members of the Reserves of the Armed Forces to the Chief of Defence Staff.
9. HB.802 also seeks to amend the Armed Forces Act, to provide for the Retirement age of Officers of the Nigerian Armed Forces.
10. Permit me Honourable colleagues, Ladies and Gentlemen, to once again use the opportunity of this hearing to call for the proper equipping, staffing and training of the Nigerian Police which is the civil authority designed to protect Nigerians in a democracy in the ordinary course of events. The House of Representatives stands ready to play its part working in concert with the Executive branch towards proper funding and support of the Police to play its role. The armed Forces are doing a great job of assisting in maintenance of internal Security currently as the Police is ill equipped, improperly manned and too weak financially to perform its duties. It has also become necessary and urgent to re-examine the current architecture of policing in Nigeria to make it structurally strong and effective. The spate of insecurity, rampant kidnappings, terrorism, civil strife and threats to our corporate existence as a nation are too weighty and too important to be left unaddressed or to continue to be treated in a business as usual manner. As a Government we owe it a duty to ensure that Nigerians do not continue to die in in their numbers since the most important constitutional duty of the State is the Security and welfare of the people.
11. The armed Forces also need to be strengthened to face the numerous security challenges faced by the Country with adequate funding and necessary policy frameworks. Officers and men of the Armed Forces are doing their best in the fight against Boko Haram and other security challenges facing the Country. There is no doubt that welfare and equipping of the Armed Forces with modern tools of War aided by technology is being undertaken by the current administration, but we need to do much more. The House of Representatives will continue to do its part to support the repositioning of the Armed Forces of Nigeria to stem the tide of insecurity.
12. Finally, I wish to thank all our guests who made out time to attend this Public Hearing and urge you to generate inputs that will guide the Committee in the processing of these Bills for the benefit of our country.
13. May I therefore respectfully, declare this Public Hearing open. I wish us all a very informed, fruitful and productive deliberations as I assure that your inputs will count in the final recommendations and consideration by the House.
14. Thank you. God bless you and the Federal Republic of Nigeria.