Saturday 7 April 2012

Confronting Terrorism Through Legislation: How Parliaments and Executives can work together to Enhance Domestic Security

Hon. Michael Opeyemi Bamidele

Permit me to, first and foremost, express my extreme gratitude to the facilitators of this memorable event, the Global Alternative Agenda as well as the All-Africa Students Union (AASU) for the honour extended to me by inviting me to be a Guest Speaker at this august occasion and for their shared concern and passionate disposition on the scourge of terrorism in the African continent, which has prompted them to engender a dialogue such as this, with a view to unraveling the strategies to “prevent and survive terrorism” in this part of the world.
The spate of terrorist activities in Africa and around the world is quite alarming and, thus, it is increasingly causing much despair and political uncertainties to the extent that it particularly draws the attention of all well-meaning government institutions and other stakeholding formations, keeping them busy on the security concern of their respective countries and on the issues of global security as a whole.
Given the huge threats posed by terrorism to the peaceful coexistence, political stability and socio-economic development of African populations, this continent cannot but be drawn into the global war against terrorism. Internationally sponsored terrorist networks have struck at American and Israeli targets on African soils, built local cells that could strike again anytime and anywhere in Africa or recruit for operations elsewhere, having found sufficiently sympathetic elements within the African populace capable of providing safe haven for terrorists fleeing from Europe or America.

Yet, it has been argued that the vast majority of the conflict and terrorist activity in Africa is not linked to international sponsorship or any serious conspiracy against the Western world. For instance, it is instructive to note that the Lord’s Resistance Army in Uganda, the various militias in Eastern Congo, the militants in the Niger Delta, the Boko haram in the Northern Nigeria, the extremist sects in Kenya and elsewhere constitute a major security threat to the African population. It is equally notable that terrorists often seek out and have more success in developing their infrastructure in weak, rather than failed states, utilizing the relative predictability and protection of a functioning state while exploiting its weakness in terms of intelligence gathering and other security capacity as well as the marginalization of disaffected elements in its population. For the peculiar reason that Africa is replete with weak states, the African continent has increasingly evolved as a potential haven and convenient domain for trans-border and home-grown terrorist groups over the years.

Moreover, the incidence of ethnic and religious diversity and sometimes extreme discrimination, the excruciating poverty conditions which confronts many African populations, the existence of the “ungoverned space” in some places, the incessant infuse of religious tension, economic deficiency, corruption which is rampant among government officials, institutional flaws and distortions, oppressive governance, social service decline as well as infrastructural decay, not leaving out the extremist approach to politics by pseudo-democrats and autocrats in civilian garbs, have lend Africa a significant susceptibility to the growth of radical and, sometimes, foreign sponsored terrorist movements, given the prevailing societal context that is highly favorable to political violence and extremism from nihilist groupings.

It is also notable that the U.S. African Command lists the Lord’s Resistance Army of Uganda, the Army for Liberation of Rwanda, and the obscure Afrikaner Boeremang in South Africa along with a host of Islamic groups as among the “Terror Groups in Africa” alongside the Janjaweed militia in the Dafur region of Sudan and the various militia in Eastern Congo, who have been the target of the International Criminal Court (ICC) for their crimes against humanity.

It is quite interesting that the African and American responses to terrorism have been trailed by strong criticisms. The critics are very concerned that the new Africa Command and other U.S anti-terrorism programs signal an increased militarization of U.S policy in Africa. It is therefore argued by these critics that only an intensive attack on the root causes of terrorism and violence brigandage, i,e. poverty, authoritarianism, discrimination, weak states, and similar conditions, will help in effectively curbing the threats of terrorism on our continent.
Invariably, a focus that relies too heavily on security will only encourage authoritarian practices and undermine Africa’s gradual progression towards more democratic governance.
I have, therefore, chosen to emphasize the need for good governance and sustainable democracy as potent conditions for stemming terrorism in Africa, having established the incontrovertible fact that terrorism in itself, is a product of neglect, deprivation and repression, which are replete in the contemporary history of Africa.

More interestingly, the topic for which I have been commissioned to engage this intellectual gathering today, namely “ Confronting Terrorism through legislation: How Parliaments and Executives can work together to Enhance Domestic Security’’, has essentially made my job easier, in that it affords me the unique opportunity, as a legislator at the National Assembly of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, to examine the various ways and manners by which the parliament can partner with the Executive arm of Government to arrive at certain laws and policy measures that are tangential to curbing the menace of terrorist activities, particularly in Nigeria and in the African continent as a whole.
 As stated earlier, my long years of diverse experience as a former student leader, pro-democracy activist, human rights advocate, public interest litigator, civil rights lawyer and three-term member of the Lagos State Executive Council being such a very volatile environment, has left me with no other option than to pitch my tent with those who argue in favour of democracy and good governance as a panacea to the fragility of African nation-states as well as their susceptibility to organized violence and insurrection.

Based on the foregoing, the kind of legislative intervention much advocated for in this paper is that which seeks to strengthen the efforts aimed at national transformation vis-a-vis the restructuring of the political and economic institutions, the constitutional review process and the law reform measures relevant to national rebirth, the essence of which include the deepening of democratic values and practices, the desirable expansion of the political space for greater participation, the equitable distribution of national wealth to all citizens as well as the provision of basic needs to the people through steady infrastructural growth. I am strongly persuaded that a sustainable partnership between lawmakers and government administrators with a view to inventing durable laws and policies capable of eradicating poverty and expanding civil rights would essentially help in no mean manner, in reducing the menace of terrorist activities on the African continent.

To enable me do justice to this dialogue, it is pertinent for me to quickly make some theoretical clarifications on some of the terms featuring in the thematic content of this discourse. Thus, the terms that are relevant in this context are namely: Terrorism, Legislation, Parliament, Executive and Domestic Security.

(A)          TERRORISM
                Terrorism originated from the term “regime de la terreur”, which was used during the French Revolution. The original connotation of this term was positive during the French Revolution because its leaders believed that the results of their actions were to create a new and better society.
Maximilieu Robespierre portrayed terror “as nothing but justice, prompt, severe and inflexible” which made it to emanate from a sense of virtue.
It was much later in history that terrorism became synonymous with “abuse of office and power”.
According to the African Union Plan of Action, ‘’terrorism is a violent form of transnational crime that exploits the limits of territorial jurisdiction of states, differences in governance systems and judicial procedures, porous borders, and the existence of informal and illegal trade and financing networks”
In the recent time, the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) defines terrorism as “the unlawful use of force or violence against persons or property to intimidate or coerce a government, the civilian population, or any segment thereof, in furtherance of political and social objectives’’.

The 6th Edition of the Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary defines the term “Legislation” as “the process of making and passing laws”. In the same vein, the Good Level English Dictionary portrays “legislation” as “the act of making a law or laws’’. In other words, legislation as a noun refers to a law or a set of laws passed by a parliament, certain laws or statutes enacted.
The process of law making is generally an arduous task that requires a long period of deliberation and consideration of the many interests and implications of the bill. The first stage of lawmaking in the parliament is the identification of the need for a bill.
The bill can be a new one, introducing a new idea not yet covered by an existing law. It can also be an amendment to an existing law, which is adjudged to be inadequate either because of some changes in the policies of the government or changes in the society, e.g. the anti-corruption law passed by the National Assembly in Nigeria, which addresses corruption more than previous laws that have been found inadequate and inconsistent with the current enforcement demands.

It can also be that the existing law is considered to be infringing on another fundamental human right, and this is always concerned with the issue of repealing military decrees and enactments.
A bill can be initiated by anybody but only a member of the House or the Senate can introduce it on the floor of the House or Senate. There are three categories of bills, namely: Executive Bill, Member Bill and Private Bill. Executive Bills are often initiated by the Executive branch of Government.

The parliament is the group of people who are elected to make and change the laws of a country. The parliament represents the legislative arm of Government whose primary responsibility is to make laws, while the duty of oversight functions remains a secondary role.
The primary function of the legislature as enshrined in Section 4 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria is the enactment, repeal and review of laws for the whole country and the entire citizenry, to ensure peace, order and good government of the Federation, especially with respect to any matter included in the Exclusive Legislative List (Part 1 of the second Schedule) and the Concurrent list (First Column of Part II of the second schedule).
This provision maintains that the legislative powers of the Federal Republic of Nigeria are vested in the National Assembly, which is the highest law making body in the country. Nigeria operates a bicameral system of legislature i.e. having two chambers. The first chamber is referred to as the Senate while the second chamber is known as the House of Representatives. If a state makes a law that contradicts the one made by the National Assembly, such a law is null and void to the extent of its inconsistency. There are three legislative lists: the exclusive, the concurrent and the Residual lists. Subjects contained on the Exclusive list where only the National Assembly is empowered to make laws, includes currency, foreign policy, petroleum, military and paramilitary forces, space, aviation etc concurrent list is concerned with subjects such as education, transport, communication, health and the rest. Residual lists on which Local Government make their laws include subjects like land, chieftaincy, road, health etc.
The state Government can also make laws on the Residual list just like the Local Government. However, only the National Assembly is empowered to make laws in  the three areas.
(D)          EXECUTIVES
The Executive branch of Government at the federal comprises the President, his vice-president and Ministers.
The executive arm implements the policies and programmes of the Government at all levels and enforce the laws made by the legislatures. It comprises the Federal, State and Local Government Executive Councils, the Police and other law enforcement agencies, the Electoral Bodies, the Armed Forces, the Civil Service and other service Commissions as well as other statutory agencies, Commissions, Committees, and Departments under their supervision and control. Any bill initiated by a Minister or the President himself, which is to allow them carry out their statutory responsibilities, falls under the category of an Executive bill.
All Executive bills are initiated and presented by the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria via a letter to the Speaker of the House of Representatives and President of the Senate.

                Domestic Security Operations are actions and policies embarked upon by the Government of a country which are incidental to the protection of the sovereignty of the country as well as peace, welfare, security and orderliness among the citizenry.
Domestic Security initiatives are usually deployed against any form of internal insurrection or external aggression.
This is emphasized in the provisions of chapter II (Fundamental Objectives and Directive Principles of State Policy), section 14 (2b) of the Nigerian Constitution which stipulates that “the security and welfare of the people shall be the primary purpose of government”.
For this reason, the Nigerian Police and the armed forces comprising the Army, the Navy and the Air force have been saddled with statutory responsibility of not only maintaining peace, law and order (in the case of the police) and also in the discharge of defence duties ( by members of the armed forces) especially during the period of deep internal insurrection e.g. civil war, coup d’etat, treason, mutiny etc, and also in the light of war conditions between Nigeria and other country (ies) as the case may be.

Terrorism in Africa has been linked to the historical antecedent of corrupt and oppressive military regimes that have dominated most of African countries over the years. For instance, West African governmental rule is rooted in colonial domination, which is reputed for traditionally operating as a police state. Buttressing this assertion, U.S. Ambassador Ronald D. Palmer once opined that West African governments operated by oppressing their people. According to him, “it is useful to remember that colonial administrations ran what were essentially police states whose legitimacy rested on a monopoly of force. The lesson was not lost on local observers. The key to power was the gun, which brought the key to the treasury”.

Regrettably, this bizarre approach to governance had been inculcated in most of the West African predecessors during the post-colonial era. The resultant poor and ineffective governments had eventually made West African regions very vulnerable to terrorist strongholds.

The second most important factor that is connected to the germination of the seeds of terrorism in Africa is the incessant military take over of the reins of power in many African countries, especially from the early 1960s to the late 1990s. In “Military Coups in Africa – the African “Neo-Colonialism That is self-inflicted’’, Major  Jimmi Wangome writes thus:
“… as government after government fell victim to the coup d’etat across the continent, the new military rulers accused the civilian governments of everything from corruption and incompetence to mismanagement of the national economy. However, experience in Africa has shown that the military are no better than civilians when it comes to running governments. Rather than solve African contemporary political and socio-economic problems, military coup d’etat in Africa have tended to drive the continent into even further suffering and turmoil”.
In summary, both the post-independence African governments and the military regimes that followed them failed woefully in providing the basic needs for their citizens across the continent, especially in the West African region.
Given that 75% of the population in West Africa lives under a governmental system that cannot provide basic services to the people, the highly charged atmosphere engendered amidst extreme poverty conditions and state repression, served as an impetus for terrorists to propagate corruption and terror within West Africa.

John Davis, in his book, “Africa and the War on Terrorism’’ posited thus, “viewed collectively, al-Qaeda utilizes political violence as a source of recruitment and propaganda, the result of which has increased instability and chaos in countries within the continent”.
This portends that if ineffective governmental structures prevail, terrorist ideologies have the opportunity to firmly root themselves within a society, in order to fulfill the voids created out of incompetent rule.

In the case of Nigeria, the pervasive institutional approach to crime prevention and control, which over relies on government’s sole control of the means of coercion to effect attitudinal changes through state-induced violence, instead of redressing the root causes of the alarming rate of criminality, has continued to fuel the proliferation of armed bandit gangs and terrorist movements across the nation.
It is instructive to note that the falling standard of living, increasing poverty, rising unemployment, rampant corruption and expanding social inequality, among other problems, have combined to produce an army of idle, despondent and dangerous youths. Since Nigerian independence, successive generations of politicians have also been noted to be fond of playing on religious and ethnic primordial sentiments to manipulate their people and to provoke political violence as a means of negotiation for power and the loot of national treasury.
Nigeria, the most populous country in Africa, has the largest Muslim population on the continent of Africa. Invariably, Muslims account for over 65million in Nigeria. The Muslim north is particularly poor and rank below standards elsewhere in the country especially in terms of literacy, health status and economic activity.
More significantly, the incidence of de-industrialization that has taken place in the Northern part of Nigeria is quite worrisome, for example, in the industrial cities of Kano and Kaduna due to inefficient production capacities of indigenous plants and the influx of cheaper consumer goods from China and other Asian countries.
It is more disheartening that one major textile company that has operated in Nigeria for decades now has an employment profile that has since declined from 22,000 to 7,000 over a decade.

Also, the general attitude of the Northern Nigerian people about the United States has been characterized with sharp criticism of U.S. policies in the Middle East. In fact, the United States is considered to have a traditionally negative policy towards Muslim states. It is, therefore, not surprising that Osama bin Laden once declared Nigeria as a prime target for his Islamic / Jihadist revolution.

A recent development in the Northern part of the country has shown vividly that al-Qaeda or similar terrorist groups are most likely to have penetrated some parts of Nigeria. This is contrary to the fact that mainstream Islam in Nigeria is reputed to have a long tradition of its own in structure, continual adjustment, and overall moderation. The main influences are through the two Sufi traditions: the Tijaniyya and the Quadiriyya, which have been rivals but are also sources of reform and stability.
A long existing radical religious sect, the Maitatsine, erupts in violence every few years. Though the sect appears to be entirely indigenous but it is yet to be ascertained whether or not it enjoys the support of any of the international terrorist groups.
In 2006, however, a new group, which named itself the Taliban, launched an attack in the North-eastern city of Borno. In April 2007, the same group launched a more serious attack in Kano, killing 13 policemen and wounding five other victims. In the resulting battle, the Nigerian military reported twenty-five Taliban members were killed. Members of this strange and mysterious group were reported to be usually dressed in long while gowns, communicating to one another in a language not native to Northern Nigeria.

In the recent times, this group, lately referred to as “Boko Haram” has assumed a more notorious identity owing to the spate of sporadic bombing of public institutions, national assets,  diplomatic edifice, churches and mosques as well as the gruesome cold-blooded assassination of innocent citizens who are perceived enemies of the group.
Among the structures recently attacked by members of the “Boko haram” were the Louis Edet House (the National Headquarter of Nigeria Police Force), the United Nations Building, the Catholic Church in Madalla, etc.

However, it is quite intriguing that some of the suspects arrested in connection with those cold-blooded bombing and assassinations were reported to have escaped from detention cells where they have been kept through an alleged connivance with some top brass police officers despite the sad reality that the death toll arising from “Boko haram” attacks is now well over 2000 within a few months.

The impunity with which these misguided Islamic fundamentalists carry out their brazen operations, coupled with the acute inefficiency of the nation’s security forces to contain them, speaks volume of the low security profile of Nigeria, her instability potentials as well as her incongeniality for steady local and foreign investments in the recent time.

Another big problem facing Nigeria in terms of security is the violent activities of the militias in Nigeria’s oil producing region of the Niger Delta.
It is an irony of history that this region produces at least 80 percent of Nigeria’s wealth, the bulk of its foreign exchange earnings and almost all of its government revenue; yet the region has been noted as the centre of extreme environmental degradation and shows little, if any, benefits in schools or hospitals or other gains from the precious commodity it provides.
Given its nature as a riverine area, its rivers and streams have been irreversibly damaged from oil and gas spills, its soils equally damaged (which impedes farming activities), and the population is left with little employment either from the traditional sources such as fishing or farming or from the oil industry, which is largely capital intensive and dependent for its personnel on highly skilled workers, not general local labour. After decades of failure in addressing such conditions and inadequate response from both oil companies and the Nigerian Government, younger and very militant members of the region took up arms in the 1990s.

It is regrettable that what began as a demand for better conditions, reparations and employment has now snowballed into a different thing entirely. The militants, in collaboration with corrupt officials including some high-ranking officials, have become engaged in stealing (known as bunkering) of oil. Though the rates of theft are contested, but the proceeds could well exceed $I billion annually. A large part of the proceeds go into the purchase of even more sophisticated arms. Due to their mastery of terrorist activities, the Niger Delta are now capable of not only hitting local oil stations, and occasionally local oil company offices but attacking offshore installations and taking on armed conflict with the police and the army. They regularly kidnap oil workers of varying nationalities, usually releasing them after sometime, but some have been reportedly killed in the process.
The militias have also succeeded in shutting down a significant portion of Nigeria’s legitimate productions that is up to 200,000 barrels per day or sometimes more than this from Nigeria’s over 2 million daily capacities, contributing to the sharp rise in crude oil prices on the global market.

Another serious dimension that terrorism took in Nigeria was the gale of armed kidnapping and heavy extortion of money from innocent relatives of top government officials, politicians, captains of industry, popular musicians, and nollywood entertainers. The kidnappers grow their trade on the assumption that there is no justice and equality in the management of the society, to the extent that people are not encouraged to work and conscientiously earn decent living. The kidnappers see one man’s wealth as belonging to all but only appropriated by the more powerful. Hence, their resort to arms and ammunition to become powerful in order to join the loot in a different version.
The kidnap saga is another fallout of the growing mass unemployment of youths which is compounded by the alarming ignorance of the young school leavers, arising from low quality profile in educational exposure and the extremely poor condition of living among Nigerian people. This is against the stupendous display of wealth and the provocative gaiety of those whose rise to fame and power could only be traceable to few moments of lawlessness or defiance of law and public order. 

Larry Diamond in his intellectual piece, “Winning the New Cold War on Terrorism” stated categorically that “one of the main sources of terrorism is chronically bad governance. The international campaign against terrorism can thus be characterized as a new Cold War: a strategy for victory requires the creation of regimes that can achieve universal goals of freedom and development”.
This assertion of Larry Diamond was buttressed by Samuel M. Makinde in “Terrorism, Counter-terrorism and Norms in Africa” where he opined thus:
“Indeed, while it is reasonable to argue that terrorism is a threat to norms, rules and institutions, it is also possible to show that terrorism is a product of norms, rules and institutions. Terrorism is driven by the same factors that make security possible; the need for development, health care, education, self-determination, democratic governance, human rights, emancipation and human dignity. Terrorism may be a threat to international law and other conventions, but it is also motivated by some of the values that underpin international norms, rules and institutions”.
According to Kofi Annan, former UN Secretary – General, Good governance is perhaps the single most important factor in eradicating poverty and promoting development. Good governance among other things is participatory, transparent and accountable, effective and equitable and it promotes the rule of law. It ensures that political, social and economic priorities are based on broad consensus in society and that the voice of the poorest and the most vulnerable are heard in decision-making over the allocation of development resources.
Some of the core characteristics of good governance are:
(1)                PARTICIPATION:  All men and women should have a voice in decision-making, either directly or through legitimate, intermediate institutions that represent their interests. Such broad participation is built on freedom of association and speech, as well as capacities to participate constructively.

(2).         RULE OF LAW: Legal frameworks should be fair and enforced impartially, particularly laws on human rights.
(3).         TRANSPARENCY: Transparency is built on the free flow of information. Processes, institutions and information are directly accessible to those concerned with them and enough information is provided to understand and monitor them.
(4).         RESPONSIVENESS: Institutions and processes try to serve all stakeholders.
(5).         CONSENSUS ORIENTATION: Good governance mediates differing interest to reach a broad consensus on what is in the best interest of the group, and where possible, on policies and procedures.
(6).         EQUITY: All men and women have opportunities to improve or maintain their well-being.
(7)             EFFECTIVENESS AND EFFICIENCY: Processes and institutions produce results that meet needs while making the best use of resources.

(8).         ACCOUNTABILITY: Decision-makers in government, the private sector and civil society organizations are accountable to the public, as well as to institutional stakeholders. This accountability differs depending on the organization and whether the decision is internal or external to an organization.
(9).         STRATEGIC VISION: Leaders and the public have broad and long-term perspectives on good governance and human development along with a sense of what is needed for such development. There is also an understanding of the historical, cultural and social complexities in which the perspective is grounded.

However, it is instructive to note that poor governance in West Africa has helped to increase terrorist activities on both the national and the international levels. For example, the inability to provide stable governance was evident when al Qaeda was linked to the smuggling of diamonds from Sierra Leone and then selling them in Liberia. This lack of governance and oversight allowed money laundering to occur and helped al Qaeda to fund their terrorist activities.
According to Cilliers: “in this manner al Qaeda was able to use the cover of violently chaotic conditions in these two countries (Sierra Leone and Liberia) to launder money and buy arms, evading the effective surveillance or sanction by the international community including US counter-terrorism forces”.
Also worthy of note is the fact that domestic forms of terrorism are highly pronounced in many African countries, which are by-products of several intra and inter conflicts not unconnected to ethnic, clan, tribal and religious rivalries. When poor governance is allowed to prevail in a country, it becomes a yardstick or opportunity for terrorist groups to organize and capitalize on the weakness of the country’s political and socio-economic fragility.
It is quite intriguing that of the forty-one sub-Saharan African nations, only a few (Senegal, South Africa, Ghana, Nigeria, Benin, Botswana, and Mauritius) allow their people the right to vote and choose their own leaders. Among these counties listed, only two (Botswana and Senegal) permit, in the true sense of it, freedom of expression and criticism of government policies.

Douglas Farah, in a speech before the House Committee on International Relations Subcommittee on Africa at the United States Congress, Apirl 2, 2004, stated thus:     ‘’the conditions that favoured al Qaeda in West Africa: corruption; conflicts over natural resources that are little studied or understood; lack of government control in vast  area; the emergence of sophisticated organized criminal networks; all continue to exist’’.
The region is potentially prone to terrorism given the historical and cultural factors coupled with the extreme conditions of political instability, poverty, socio-economic and governance crisis and conflicts that have continued to ravage it.
For example, Nigeria, the supposed giant of Africa and the most populous black nation in the world, gives a dismal picture of poverty and underdevelopment, which naturally makes her a potential sanctuary for terrorists. Since her independence in 1960, Nigeria has witnessed 28 years of military rule and despotism out of her 52 years. This is a vivid indication that coups have been the mode of transfer of power from different generations to the other. In Nigeria, a peculiar history of military dictatorship or autocratic rule has fostered a legacy of governmental rule that can be classified as one which practices patrimonial rule and clientelism. This approach to governance has culminated in the evolution of poorly run governments that practice injustice with attendant inequality and inequity to the detriment of the vast majority of the country’s population.
West Africa boasts on the fact that it produced the first country, Ghana, which gained her independence in 1957 from European colonial rule. However, it is disheartening that this region experienced the first successful military coup d’├ętat in January 1963 in Togo. The military coup d’├ętat continued throughout the region from 1963 to 2003, touching fifteen of the sixteen countries. Cape Verde and Senegal have been fortunate to avoid any successful overthrow of its government by the military or other rogue forces. Although, Senegal did have one coup attempt in 1962, it eventually failed. Consequently, the prevailing political instability in West Africa is basically an offshoot of the nature of power transfer as well as the content of the governance offered by successive military and civilian dictatorships which conditioned Africa’s contemporary history. 

Good governance within the context of the Nigeria’s peculiar situation should be targeted towards the rebuilding of the state; the urgent restructuring of the institutional and structural arrangement to do away with the pervading deformities in the social, economic and political spheres as well as the legitimization of democratic power through the adequate political representation of the citizenry based on the demands of the constitution.
It is instructive to note that economic growth and sustainable development are only attainable in such climes where peace, mutual co-existence, tranquility and progress prevail. War-ravaged environments, or rather potential terrorist enclaves are not likely to witness steady growth and democratic sustainability.
It is, therefore, essential for the Executive arm of the Government to engender a sustainable partnership with the parliament with a view to addressing some of the critical challenges facing Nigeria.
Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen, some of the contemporary challenges of the Nigerian state are as follows:
1)      The strategic development of the capacity for societal transformation and the reconciliation of different groups –which translates to the reconciliation of various ethnic groups and the building of bridges across religious and gender interests and the institutionalization of a sustainable nationwide campaign towards new forms of nationalism;
2)      The maintenance of the principle of rule of law and public order, for the protection of lives, properties and investments in a manner that ensures that the state does not drift towards authoritarianism;
3)      The innovation and implementation of clear-cut effective programmes aimed at poverty eradication, with emphasis on the reduction of rural poverty and urban mass unemployment especially among the able-bodied youth and young school leavers;
4)      An aggressive pursuit of social development objectives – the educational and health sector should be prioritized as the bedrock for development in other sectors;
5)      The modern construction and maintenance of social infrastructure such as roads, rails, seaports and airports as well as the energy facilities necessary for rapid industrial development;
6)      The realization of and conscious impartation of the principle that leadership must not only be transparent in its actions, but must of necessity, be accountable in line with the democratic mandate. The era of personalization of national assets and the blatant corruption or rent seeking behaviour of some leaders must be put behind us as a nation.
Against this backdrop, it is imperative that effective legislative delivery in defence of our common heritage, national peace, unity, internal cohesion and territorial integrity must be sacrosanct in terms of the partnership envisioned between the Legislative and Executive arms of Government, especially at the national level.
For us to effectively stem the growing tide of terrorism and violent brigandage in our body politic, it is essential that these two arms of Government must continue to cross-fertilize ideas between each other, seek the support and understanding of each other and provide an enabling atmosphere for the soft-landing of relevant legislations incidental to the maintenance of peace and orderliness, democratic development and national transformation. For example, through the instrumentality of Executive Bills, the Executives led by the President and his Ministers can sponsor a variety of life-transforming bills into the parliament and then seek the genuine understanding of the Senate and House of Representatives, not leaving out the sacred need to also keep the civil society well abreast of the basic intents and prospects behind every Government’s legislative proposal to the parliament.

Based on the expediency of national security, social development demands and international pressures, the Parliament may as well lobby the Executives for them to see the need for an urgent legislation in response to the varying demands of the public. To this extent, the capacity of any Government in delivering effectively the dividends of democracy lies strongly, among others, on the extent of integration between the Parliament and the Executive arms of Government.
Following a critical appraisal of the pungent challenges facing us as a nation, it is my candid view that one really needs to mention some salient areas awaiting urgent synergy among state actors in Nigeria for the lasting sustainability of our domestic security and effective redress of terrorist pressures in Nigeria, nay Africa.

1). Access to arable farmland has serious implication for food security since most Nigerians, especially the rural populace, are predominantly farmers. To guarantee access to fertile land by ordinary Nigerians, there comes the urgent need to review the Land Use Act to redress the current land tenure system in the country;
2). Aggressive pursuit of integrated rural development through the prioritization of Small Towns and Village Recovery and Development Bill to restore economic fairness to the rural areas in the scheme of national revenue allocations as well as the provisioning of rural infrastructure to stem the alarming rate of rural – urban drift and the attendant urban population explosion, urban criminality, environmental degradation and huge gap between available resources and demands in the cities;
3). Effective implementation of Poverty Alleviation Programme is tangential to peace, harmony and sustainable democracy in Nigeria where well over 70% of the nation’s population are reportedly living below the International Poverty Line of One U.S Dollar per day. To reduce the growing hostility between the ‘haves’ and have-not’, the National Directorate of Employment (NDE) must be further strengthened  through relevant legislations for the mass generation of self-employment opportunities while the National Poverty Eradication Programme and the National Economic Empowerment Development Strategy (NEEDS) must be seriously overhauled and adequately funded to provide social safety nets  for the poor and the vulnerable and to bridge the widening gulf of social inequality;
4). Given the alarming rate of corruption in Government circles, a country such as Nigeria, that endures a culture of impunity as exemplified by widespread corrupt practices must be prepared for reprisal action from the downtrodden, which often manifest in the form of violent outbursts and spontaneous attacks. It is, therefore, a matter of national security expediency that more legal teeth must be given to our anti-graft agencies by the parliament while the Executive, through the Police and other relevant statutory agencies, should ensure that the enforcement and investigation processes are not only very effective and efficient but must eschew selective treatment, executive lawlessness, high-handedness and political persecution of perceived enemies;
5). It is imperative now for us as a nation and in the interest of national security, common good, economic prosperity and development, that we must go back to the era of true federalism as practiced in the Nigeria’s First Republic. This, among other things, portends that the Nigerian State must be restructured and its power relations must be based on the principles of equity and justice in the distribution of federal resources and positions as well as the redistribution of functions of greater responsibility and resources to reduce the lure of central or federal power.
Equally, a true fiscal federalism whose revenue allocation formula is based on the principle of derivation would go a long way to redress extreme poverty condition and under-development in many economically disadvantaged regions in the country. This calls for a critical legislative intervention that aims to review the current 13% derivation formula stipulated in the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria;
6). The operation of a mono-cultural oil dependent enterprise is the bane of our economic crisis as a nation. It is essential for us to prioritize the two major real sectors:  Agriculture and Manufacturing. Those two sectors must be the focus of the state plan for food security, gainful mass employment and the foreign exchange advantages arising there from. An action-driven synergy between the Parliament and the Executive arm of Government is seriously needed in this area for us to arrive at a stable and strong legislative framework that would place these sectors in such vantage positions as to make them meet the global standards in terms of management, production and delivery, so as to help in boosting our economy;
7). We must also embark on the aggressive provisioning of social needs, by ensuring that public resources are used to address problems in the areas of education, health care services, housing, transport, etc. The full exercise of legislative powers by the parliament with respect to appropriation and oversight monitoring in consonance with the Executives in the genuine pursuit of the common good would help essentially in this regard. The quarterly delivery of budget performance reports by the Ministries, Departments and Agencies of Government (MDAs) for legislative review, would serve this purpose when this is prioritized by all concerned institutions, including the civil society organizations.
Other burning issues of national pedigree awaiting drastic legislative interventions include the lingering issues of Political delineation, Gender sensitivity, Minority interests, Ethnic Nationality, National Census Review, Creation of New States and Local Governments, the Issue of State Policing and also the Sharia Law regime in the Northern Nigeria.

The hallmark of contemporary development thinking is the adoption by all stake holders of Government, of mechanisms and policy measures that promote democracy and good governance, which, among others, advance the principles of accountability, transparency, probity, inclusivity, mutual cooperation, support and understanding as well as the sustenance of noble values, traditions, norms and institutions that are critical to national growth, prosperity and progress.
 Stemming the growing trend of terrorist activities in the African continent and Nigeria in particular, requires the painstaking collaboration of all state actors in the innovation, implementation and genuine evaluation of laudable polices, laws and programmes capable of eradicating poverty and restoring human dignity.
Given the grave consequences associated with the prolonged military dictatorships across the continent of Africa: the militarization of the civil populace and the criminal debasement of democratic values and institutions, any transformative agenda that aims at bringing lasting peace, tranquility and development to Africa’s failing states must of necessity, prioritize the need for socio-economic and political restructuring in redressing the hitherto existing structural deformities that have been the bane of violent outbursts and discontents from the aggrieved sections of the civil populace.
It is instructive to note that when good governance becomes the basis for all leadership pursuits and power positioning, when economic growth and sustainable development are the driving motives of all Government actions and considerations, when the Executives do not hesitate to collaborate with the Legislatures in the ultimate quest for the common good, when poverty is drastically reduced and peoples’ rights are adequately protected, it is certain that terrorist movements and spontaneous violent agitations would become less attractive to the citizenry. The earlier we realize this fact, the better for us as a people and as a nation. I am convinced this approach will work for Nigeria, just as I have no doubt that it will work for Ghana and the rest of the African Continent. Let us work and keep the faith together in this regard.
I thank you all for your esteemed audience and understanding. I wish you all journey mercies of Almighty God as you go back to your various destinations.

Hon. Michael Opeyemi Bamidele
Chairman, House Committee on Legislative Budget and Research
House of Representatives
National Assembly
Abuja, Nigeria.


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