SPEECH AT NEEDS ASSESSMENT WORKSHOP OF THE SECURITY SECTOR RELATED COMMITTEES IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
ADDRESS BY RT. HON. YAKUBU DOGARA, SPEAKER, HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES, FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF NIGERIA ON THE OCCASION OF THE CAPACITY BUILDING/INTERACTIVE NEEDS ASSESSMENT WORKSHOP OF THE SECURITY SECTOR RELATED COMMITTEES IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES, ORGANISED IN COLLABORATION WITH POLICY & LEGAL ADVOCACY CENTRE (PLAC) ON MONDAY, 3rd JULY 2017 AT TRANSCORP HILTON HOTEL, ABUJA.
I am delighted to welcome you to this very important workshop to discuss the pertinent issue of reforms to the security sector through legislative oversight.
2. Since Nigeria’s return to democratic rule in 1999, the country has been faced with the challenge of establishing accountable, democratic control over the security sector. Given Nigeria’s past military experience, security issues have been firmly under the control of the Executive, thereby causing most security agencies to be insulated from certain levels of transparency and accountability.
This past experience which saw a powerful military exercise absolute control and authority over the machinery of government has translated to the current challenge of getting these institutions to subject itself to legislative scrutiny. The often seen consequence of this is inadequate and inefficient delivery of security to citizens, as well as lack of accountability and transparency as it relates to security expenditure. The House has consequently, recently amended the Public Procurement Act to make the Armed Forces more accountable in procurement matters.
3. As the arm of government representing the Nigerian people and responsible for making laws for the peace, order and good governance of the country, the National Assembly has the task of deciding how best to respond to these challenges and maximising the opportunities presented for reforms such as this present gathering entails.
4. At the inception of the 8th House of Representatives in 2015, we adopted a Legislative Agenda to guide the work of the House and therein, committed to taking legislative initiatives to respond to the various security challenges being faced by the country. In the same Agenda, we committed to taking further measures to improve on our oversight process and mechanisms, which is one of the major themes that would be discussed today. Our presence here today underscores our commitment to this goal.
5. We have made efforts by trying to meet the budgetary needs of the security sector, and it is indeed, a fact that the security sector receives a major allocation in the country’s annual budget. This is borne out of the need to respond to the insurgency in the North Eastern part of the country, as well as various security challenges such as kidnapping, armed robbery etc. in other parts of the country.
6. Related to the constitutional powers of the National Assembly to appropriate funds and thereby allocate funds for security is the power to ensure that such monies or funds appropriated are used in a transparent and accountable manner and for the purpose for which they have been given. The National Assembly’s powers of legislative oversight cannot therefore be overemphasized. Indeed S.217 of the Constitution spells out the duties and responsibilities of the Armed Forces of Nigeria, which includes – defending Nigeria from external aggression; maintaining Nigeria’s territorial integrity and securing our borders from violation from a Land, Sea or Air; suppressing insurrection and acting in aid of civil authorities to restore order when called upon to do so by the President.
7. It is worrisome that Nigeria is effectively permanently in a state of emergency as the Armed Forces are deployed in more than 28 States of the Federation in peacetime. The Armed Forces have virtually taken over routine Police work in Nigeria. It is no longer acting in aid of civil authorities but has become the civil authority itself!!
8. In line with parliamentary best practices, the House has Standing Committees specially mandated to oversight agencies in the security sector. These Committees include the House Committee on Defence, House Committees on Army, Navy, AirForce and House Committees on Police and also National Intelligence. We realize that a fundamental practice in advanced democracies around the world is that security sector institutions submit to democratic governance and I believe that these Committees are committed to fully exercising their mandate to ensure that not only are these institutions held accountable, but also that that they are strengthened to ensure a secure and stable Nigerian environment that is favourable to investment and sustainable economic development.
9. While we have made reasonable efforts towards this process through the related standing committees in the form of Bills and Resolutions to investigate the pressing needs of the security sector and make necessary recommendations, we acknowledge the need for enhanced capacity and competencies of Members and support staff for addressing these. This event is therefore of critical importance in exploring this issue and coming up with recommendations.
10. It is important to mention that any recommended steps or actions in furtherance of security sector reforms should include building of public awareness and engagement with the citizens that we represent as this is key to giving ownership and legitimacy to the outcomes of such actions.
11. Finally, let me on behalf of the House of Representatives and the security sector related committees gathered here, thank the Policy and Legal Advocacy Centre (PLAC) and British High Commission for their support and collaborative partnership with the House of Representatives. We appreciate their effort to engage foreign technical expertise via their partnership with the Geneva Centre for the Control of Armed Forces (DCAF) to share comparative experiences and best practices in security sector oversight from other democracies.
12. My Honourable colleagues, ladies and gentlemen, it is now my singular honour and privilege to declare this workshop open and to wish us all most fruitful deliberations.
13. Thank you and may God bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria.