There were anger and uproar in the House of Representatives on Tuesday over a move to invite President Muhammadu Buhari following Saturday’s killing of no fewer than 43 farmers in Zabarmari, Borno State.
Some lawmakers believed the President owed Nigerians an explanation on what his administration is doing to halt the killings; other vehemently opposed the move.
Following heated arguments and an executive session later, the House resolved to invite the President.
A formal invitation is expected to be dispatched to him.
The sharp division among the lawmakers forced the House into an executive session, which lasted about 30 minutes.
Before then, opposing camps angrily confronted each other over the motion.
The motion of urgent national importance was sponsored by Ahmed Satomi, Mohammed Tahir Monguno, Zainab Gimba, Muktar Betara, Mallam Bukar Gana, Haruna Mshelia, Ahmadu Usman Jaha, Ibrahim Mohammed Bukar, Usman Zannah and Abdulkadir Rahis.
Speaker Femi Gbajabiamila invited one of the sponsors of the motion to amend the prayers inviting the President.
Presenting the motion, Santomi, the lead sponsor, excluded the invitation and asked for the declaration of a state of emergency on insecurity.
However, coming under matters of privilege, Jaha (APC Borno) expressed displeasure that the prayer was excluded after it was collectively agreed by the sponsors, insisting that it be included and the President invited to brief the House.
He said: “Mr Speaker, I stand here on behalf of the displaced people of Borno state who elected us. For your information, I was elected by those people, including those in the internally displaced persons (IDP) camps to protect their interest.
“All the lawmakers from Borno resolved that prayers of the motion should remain the way it is. My name is there as a co-sponsor of the motion.
“I realised that by the time he was reading the motion, he eliminated some prayers that we have all agreed that is going to be passed here.
“I give up my life for my people. So, I fear nobody except God. The other prayer that he didn’t put is that we are going to invite Mr President to come and explain to the House on the security situation.
“These security forces have been given all the support to do the job. If we invite them, they will say they don’t have enough equipment.
“Yesterday (Monday), the President said he has given them all the support to do the job. Unfortunately, they fail to do it.
“Secondly, I said on the floor of this House that we are not taking the battle to their doorsteps.
“Everybody resolved that yes, they are not taking the battle to their doorsteps. Yesterday (Monday), the President confirmed that this time, they should be taking the battle to their doorsteps.”
Efforts by the Speaker to make Jaha withdraw the prayer failed as he insisted that all members from Borno State who sponsored the motion should agree first.
Gbajabiamila said it would not be ideal to invite the President because security matters cannot be discussed in public.
He said: “This is an appeal from the chair. We are talking about security matters.
“You and I know that the channel of discussion of security matters such as this will not be to invite the President to come and disclose issues of security and what they are doing. It will be counterproductive.
“The prayer is all-encompassing. By asking the President to declare a state of emergency, which is part of the prayers, it allows for extraordinary measures.
“That singular prayer is more important than the President coming to tell us anything. So, it is an appeal so that we don’t react based on the passion we feel. Honourable Jaha, I am appealing to you because of what is involved.”
Tempers flared when the House Leader, Alhassan Ado Doguwa (APC, Kano) said security issues were too delicate to be brought to the floor of the House.
Shehu Koko (APC, Kebbi) said the leadership of the House should interface with the President instead on the issue in view of the fact that security should not be discussed in the open.
Members who supported the invitation of the President refused to allow Koko to make his point as they shouted him down with “no”, “no”, “no”.
Gbajabiamila expressed disappointment with his colleagues’ behaviour, saying: “I am a little disappointed by these shouting down. So we are going to dissolve into an executive session to resolve this issue.”
On resumption from the executive session, the Speaker invited Jaha to move his amendment.
Jaha said: “Mr Speaker, I want to move an amendment that the President does come to the House to explain to explain the security situation in the country.”
The motion was unanimously adopted by members present, even though there were indications that many of the lawmakers had vacated the chamber shortly after the executive session.
Santomi said the exact number of people killed in the incident was not yet known as over 44 dead bodies were recovered and buried, all of them slaughtered, along with six others with serious injuries even as many more residents were reported missing.
He spoke of the urgent need for the President to reorganise the country’s security architecture.
In addition to inviting the President, the House wants the government to declare a state of emergency on the security situation.
It asked the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to involve the people of Zabarmari community in the Anchor Borrowers’ Programme.
The House also resolved to investigate the readiness of the Defence Industries Corporation of Nigeria (DICON) to manufacture arms and ammunition in view of the seeming frustration to procure weapons for the armed forces from other countries.
A motion to amend the main motion by Deputy Minority Leader, Toby Okechukwu, that firearms law be amended to allow eligible Nigerians to bear arms was not allowed to scale through.