The Nigerian Senate was thrown into confusion on Wednesday over a bill initiated to establish an Armed Forces Commission. There was over uproar by some senators opposing the bill while some others supported the bill for further legislation.
The Senate Minority Leader, Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe, had at the Wednesday sitting, led the deliberation on the bill for the Establishment of the Armed Forces Commission 2021, presented for second reading.
The federal legislators expressed strong opposing views on the bill. Those supporting the bill argued that such a commission would correct the imbalance in appointments in the Armed Forces of Nigeria. senators opposing the bill contended that the commission would instigate more disunity in the country. The proposed bill seeks to ensure that appointment of service chiefs and the hierarchy of the military commands reflects federal character as provided by the constitution.
Senator Abaribe sustained his argument, pointing out that the constitution mandates the National Assembly to establish commission. Abaribe maintained that the bill “seeks to among other things, address the ‘lopsided appointment’ of heads of security agencies by the president.”
The senators, however, rejected the bill in a voice vote but Senator Abaribe requested a division, which implies that lawmakers should vote individually.
There was stalemate, compelling the Senate to go into a closed-door session.
The President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan, at the end of the closed-door session, pacified the Minority Leader, Senator Abaribe, begging that the entire Senate appeals to Abaribe to withdraw Order 73 he invoked which called for a division.
The senate leadership, perhaps, sensed the danger in allowing a division, which may enable senators to vote according to their conscience and the goal of preventing the bill may be defeated.
Senator Abaribe obliged the appeal, and withdrew the bill, but to represent it another day after consultation.
Contents of the bill:
The Bill seeks to establish the Armed Forces Services Commission to ensure that the composition/appointment of Service Chiefs of the Armed Forces of the Federation reflects the Federal Character of Nigeria in the manner prescribed in section 217 (3) of the 1999 Constitution.
The National Assembly shall,
(a) In giving effect to the functions specified in section 217 of the 1999 and
(b) with respect to the powers exercisable by the President under section 218 of the Constitution; establish a body that shall comprise such members as the National Assembly may determine and which shall have the power to ensure that the composition of the Armed Forces of the Federation reflects Federal Character of Nigeria in the manner prescribed by section 217 of the Constitution.
The function and powers of the Commission shall be to:
Have the power and authority pursuant to section 219 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended) to ensure that the composition/appointment of Service Chiefs of the Armed Forces of the Federation reflects Federal Character of Nigeria in the manner prescribed in section 217 (3) of the 1999 Constitution.
Ensure that the functions specified in section 217 of the 1999 Constitution; and the powers exercise by the President in the appointment of Service Chiefs and officers Corps and other Ranks of the Armed Forces of the Federation in section 218 of the 1999 Constitution reflects the said section.
Recommend to the President from among the best and most qualified, most educated, and most experienced members of the Armed Forces of the Federation for appointment as:
(i) Chief of Defence Staff
(ii) Chief of Army Staff
(iii) Chief of Air Staff
(iv) Chief of Naval Staff
(v) Director of Military Intelligence, and Heads of other Arms-bearing Security Agencies and ensure that such appointments reflect the Federal Character of Nigeria.
Recommend to the President the removal from office as Service Chiefs and Head of other Arm-bearing Security Agencies on grounds of misconduct, abuse of office, breach of any section of the Constitution, the Armed Forces Act, or any other Act of the National Assembly.
Approve promotion from among the best, most competent, and qualified others as Heads of Military formations/branches such as General Officers Commanding Divisions of the Nigerian Army and their equivalent in the Navy and Air Force.
Provided that in making such recommendations the Commission shall observe the Federal Character principle and adopt an equitable template to spread the Offices of the Service Chiefs, and Others Corps and other Ranks of the Armed Forces of the Federation among the six geo-political zones of the country.
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