The Call by Legislature for the Executive to Declare State of Emergency on “Security” is Tantamount to Abdicating Its Responsibility – by Dr. Adoyi Onoja


Summary: Since the beginning of the problem called “security” almost immediately after the military were forced out of power in 1999, both the legislature and the executive at the federal levels had intervened, in the effort to search for solutions. As a result of the association of “security” with the military, intelligence and law enforcement (MILE) and the control of these agencies by the executive, there was the view that “security” was the problem of the executive. To this extent, there was little or nothing the legislature can do contribute to finding solution beyond acceding to the executive’s often perennial demand for fund in sourcing for solution.


Nigeria’s premier legislature, the National Assembly, is saddled with the task of reviewing and amending existing laws and/or evolving and making new laws within the exclusive legislative list. The National Assembly has once again demonstrated that it is either unaware and/or ill-equipped to take up the responsibility in the matters of finding innovative and creative indigenous solutions to the problems bedevillng Nigerians and Nigeria in tandem with democracy governing ideology. One of these problems is the so-called “security”.

Since the beginning of the problem called “security” almost immediately after the military were forced out of power in 1999, both the legislature and the executive at the federal levels had intervened, in the effort to search for solutions. As a result of the association of “security” with the military, intelligence and law enforcement (MILE) and the control of these agencies by the executive, there was the view that “security” was the problem of the executive. To this extent, there was little or nothing the legislature can do contribute to finding solution beyond acceding to the executive’s often perennial demand for fund in sourcing for solution.

At the level of solution, the question was essentially focused on the “how” to tackling the “security” problem. The “how” included getting more men into the military and the police, equipping these services with vehicles, kits, arming them with weapons and taking care of their welfare.

With the birth of the political economy of “security”, the ante was upped significantly by the interests managing this “security”. The beginning of the crisis in the north east laid the foundation of the protracted and unending industry called “security”. At the helm of affair of this “security” is the fraternity called the military, intelligence and law enforcement (MILE) on the one hand and on the other hand the elected/appointed political class. It was the birth of an alliance that succeeded in creating every imaginable crisis in every part of Nigeria to blow up or to securitize the “security” problematique.

With this development, “security” was no longer the problem of the executive alone. The legislature joined in the search for solution and as I noted there was only one solution in sight each time the “security” problem became news headline – more funds. Consequently, there was competition by both the executive and legislature in convening conferences, seminars, workshops, colloquiums etc. all in the bid to combing for solutions to the rising “security” problem. It was characteristics of the sixth, seventh and eighth legislatures. In the final analysis, there was a one size fit all solution emerging from these parleys – it was more funds for the so-called the agencies of “security”.

Yet there was no end in sight as the “security” crisis continued. In the last six years of President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration, the scale was upped to tipping level with the quality and quantity of “security” challenges in the polity. In what reeks like demonic sarcasm, typical of the forces or coalition that birthed the administration, the administration that was voted in power because of its supposed superlative credentials in tackling “security” is now on record for its “cluelessness” in the matter called “security”.  From inheriting Boko Haram and an incipient farmer-herders conflict, the administration heightened those and added the novel “banditry” and “kidnapping” and the solutions of negotiating and paying ransom.  Therein goes the justification behind the call by the legislature for the executive to declare a state of emergency on “security”. 

The call by the legislature is within the FAILED how can security be achieved paradigm. The call by the legislature is not on the long overdue paradigm shift to what is security. Within this failed and failing paradigm, the attention is on the executive and not the legislature. Should the focus be on the yet-to-be tried paradigm of what is security, it is the legislature that would lead the search.

The National Assembly’s recent call for Mr. President and indeed the executive to declare a state of emergency on “security” clearly depicted that the members of the Assembly have yet to distance self from the past and learn from the present – the present being the governing ideology or democracy in place since 1999. By the past I am referring to the military/authoritarian tradition that was the baseline of socialisation for most Nigerians.

There are implications in the call by the legislature for the executive to intervene and not just intervene but to declare emergency on “security”. The first implication is to reinstate and reaffirm that “security” is a matter for the executive only. The second implication is that the legislature knew this “security” and knew it was the task of the executive. The third implication is that in spite of the failure of this “security” in the last twenty years and in particular the last six years despite the fact that the head of this executive was elected ab initio on his promise to tackle this “security”, the legislature saw nothing wrong in saddling the same executive with the resolution of the failed and failing “security”.

The fourth implication is that the legislature believed that the law on “security”, if there is one, is sufficient and adequate and thus require no review, update and/or outright reinvention. The fifth implication is that regardless of the failed, failing and set to fail “security” even if a state of emergency is declared, the legislature is convinced that the question that should be asked of “security” was “how” and not “what”. This is the reason the legislature threw the matter to the executive. The sixth implication is that the legislature is willing to surrender its powers once emergency is declared on “security”.

The seventh implication is that the legislature seemed unaware that there is difference between “security” as practiced under military rule and the representative rule that commenced from 1999. If this is the case the legislature ought to investigate and interrogate the constitutional provision under which the prevailing practice called “security” was anchored. This is with the knowledge that this “security” did not satisfy most Nigerians hence they jettisoned the governing authority behind the “security” in 1999. Nigerians jettisoned this “security” for another security that remained undefined, uncharted and ungoverned since 1999. Defining, charting and governing this security is the sole task of the legislature – the National Assembly – in conjunction with the state and local government assemblies.

The eight implications is that the legislature has never bothered to investigate and interrogate the references to “security” in the 1999 Constitution, the framers of the Constitution and compare this to their socialised notion of “security” within the dispensation in place beginning in 1999. The ninth implication is that the supposed “security” which equate to the military, intelligence and law enforcement (MILE) is not referred to as “security” in any documents creating these institutions. The military i.e. the navy, air force and army is task with defence on sea, air and land; the intelligence i.e. the Department of State Service (DSS), National Intelligence Agency (NIA) and the Defence Intelligence Agency (DIA) are tasked with collecting intelligence inside Nigeria, outside Nigeria and of defence type inside and outside Nigeria and; the law enforcement i.e. police, civil defence etc. are tasked with maintenance of law and order and protection of persons and property. The task of the MILE is therefore not “security”.

The ninth implication is the Nigerian penchant for imitation without domestication and indigenisation – a tendency that gave birth to the so called “security” that failed, is failing and continues to fail. The “security” in question imitates the outward reality of the practice of National Security of the United States without the complement of the history, experience and reality (HER) that is behind this National Security. The philosophy and legislation of the National Security Act of 1947 had its foundation stone laid in 1607. To concentrate on the outward face of America’s National Security i.e. the military, intelligence and law enforcement as the Nigeria’s own “security” is to miss the contexts and contents of National Security that the MILE’s logistics and muscle assist the United States to access anywhere and everywhere in the world.

Unlike the executive that is under pressure and is looked upon and blamed for the “security” condition in the country, the legislature is not under such pressure from the public. Yet the legislature, in the context of democracy, has never asked and answered the question what is security as it is known today. The legislature has never asked and answered the question what should security be within the democracy dispensation in place since 1999. This is even with the spectacular and successful failure of this “security”.

Yet the reality of buck passing should be that the legislature, in its inertia, ignorance and irresponsibility, should take responsibility for the failure of “security”. This is because it has refuse to ask and answer the question what is security; it has refuse to investigate and interrogate the governing ideas in place including the so-called “security” as the legislature should; the legislature is satisfied with the prevailing “security” even when the 1999 Constitution did not provide for security and/or if it did, it was in a different context and explained a reality that Nigerians overwhelmingly rejected in 1999; even when it is the task of the legislature to provide the philosophical idea that it then passes into law for the executive to implement.

The problem with “security” is not “how” which is what the call for emergency power for the executive represented. The problem with “security” is “what” and this question has never been asked and answered by any governing system in Nigeria whether military or elected. Not asking and answering the question what is security is even more poignant for the sole reason that this issue called security, if examined etymologically, epistemologically and philosophically, is at the heart of the convulsions in Nigeria for all time. The arm of government charged with conducting this investigation is the legislature. It is not the executive.

For the National Assembly to delegate the search for solution to “security” to the executive within the existing failed and failing practice of “security” is the zenith of role abdication. Since the solution to “security” problem has always been within the same failed and failing “how” paradigm presumably because the “what” of “security” is known to both the executive and legislature with the “how” being the appropriation of more money, the purported buying of equipment and the deployment of the military, intelligence and law enforcement failed, the onus to ask the “what” question on “security” is the responsibility of the legislature.

The National Assembly owed Nigerians the debt of asking and answering the question: what is security, whose security, what is a security issue and how can security be achieved. The National Assembly owed Nigerians this debt since 1999 when they were empowered to begin the reconstruction of all governing ideas in order to engineer and reengineer Nigerians and Nigeria within the democracy tenets. For reasons of ignorance, laziness and upholding group interest, the National Assembly did not see the need to examine all extant documents on security in Nigeria within Nigeria’s history, experience and reality (HER) through studying, thinking, observing and comparing (STOC).

The logistics – STOC – exist for the Assembly and is generously paid for by the taxpayers. Not only is the 1999 Constitution ambiguous in all of its fifteen (15) references to security either as “national security” or “security”, there is no place “security” which is the independent variable in national security, cyberspace security, human security, food security or whatever is added to security, was ever defined. Unless there is the philosophy or nature, meaning and purpose of security, every other attachment or prefix to security is meaningless and useless in the Nigerian context.

This pretty much explained the shelve value of the National Security Strategy (NSS) first launched in 2014 and re-launched in 2019. The NSS’s singular value, apart from serving as Nigeria’s lead document on “security” in bilateral and multilateral engagements, is as ornament adorning the shelves of the Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA), its principal compiler and other ministries, departments and agencies of government unfortunate to have copies. This reason is that the NSS has no role in any public conduct of ministries, departments and agencies of government and the private sector on “security” since it came into being in 2014. This is singularly for the reason that any strategy requires a philosophy cum policy.

The NSS has no policy to drive it. So, where did the conception of “security” driving the NSS come from? As in the confusion over “security” in the 1999 Constitution beginning with the first two mentions of “security” in Section 5 subsection 5 and Section 14 subsection 2b, Nigerians are supposed to assume they know what is the security that drives the NSS. The ideal is for the horse to pull the cart. In the matter of the NSS, there is a cart without a horse. The horse is supposed to be assumed or discerned by only the initiated. What is “security” in this present context is esoteric.

The National Assembly has once again failed Nigerians. The National Assembly would rather concentrate on mundane issues in its intervention in reviewing, amending and/or evolving and making new philosophical ideas into laws for the executive to implement. It is worthy to remind the National Assembly that “security” is Nigeria’s major undefined, uncharted and ungoverned space that takes up a third of Nigeria’s gross domestic product most of which ended up in the pockets of the MILE and the elected/appointed political class. This “security” cannot be left ungoverned considering its cost to Nigeria’s coffer. Therefore the call for the president to declare emergency on an undefined, uncharted and ungoverned “security” is to open another opportunity for another round of heist of public fund when the outcome is failure all the way.

The proper thing to do is to ask and answer the question what is security, whose security, what is a security issue and how can security be achieved. These questions represent philosophy, policy and strategy. The National Assembly, charged with making laws for the governance of Nigeria, under the 1999 Constitution (a Constitution that is the leading cause of Nigeria’s myriad of problems) is responsible for asking these questions and not the executive.

Any declaration of a state of emergency on “security” – a known unknown – is another verifiable failure in the making that the legislature should take responsibility for if and when it happens.

This is no time for another buck passing.


Key Recommendations:

  • The call for the president to declare emergency on an undefined, uncharted and ungoverned “security” is to open another opportunity for another round of heist of public fund when the outcome is failure all the way.
  • The proper thing to do is to ask and answer the question what is security, whose security, what is a security issue and how can security be achieved. These questions represent philosophy, policy and strategy.

About the Author: Dr. Adoyi ONOJA teaches history and security courses in the Department of History and in the graduate programme on Security and Strategic Studies in the Institute of Governance and Development Studies, Nasarawa State University, Keffi. 

Keywords: Security, Legislature, Executive, MILE, National Assembly, National Security Strategy,

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