President Muhammadu Buhari and State Governors Tuesday ended their meeting on the state of the nation’s security with calls for a joint strategy to bring various conflicts to an end within time limits, while field commanders would take measures to protect civilian communities as a confidence-building mechanism between the military and those communities.
During the meeting, the governors “urged the President to consider a ‘bail out’ for security for the States in view of the enormity of the resources they now expend in support of the military and the police,” according to statement signed by Malam Garba Shehu, Senior Special Assistant(Media and publicity to the President after the meeting.
Shehu also noted that “It is hoped that when the trust that has been lost between both parties is re-established, there would be improved cooperation in intelligence-gathering and sharing.
He disclosed further that the meeting also agreed that poverty and youth unemployment are at the root of the nationwide security challenges, and needed to be addressed with greater vigour by all tiers of government.
The three-hour meeting coordinated by President Buhari, and attended by the Vice-President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, heads of defence, security and intelligence agencies, and members of the Security Committee of the Nigerian Governors’ Forum represented by one governor from each of the six geo-political zones (in a Virtual Format), focused on the country’s security policies and approaches in tackling the internal security challenges with a charge that intelligence-gathering and sharing must be optimised for the nation to secure itself.
The President used the opportunity to dispel commonly held assumptions that the terrorists in the Northeast had far more weapons and money than the government, stressing that what is left of them are “mere scavengers desperate for food, raiding shops and markets, and killing innocent persons in the process.”
He also expressed concern that in spite of the fact that borders with neighbouring countries had been shut, bandits and terrorists continued to have access to small weapons.
“These terrorists are in the localities. How is it that they are not short of small arms?” he queried the security and intelligence chiefs.
According to President Buhari, “We have said enough on the need for them to rejig their operations. I am glad that there is better synergy and cooperation which are very important. I have directed the Service Chiefs to meet among themselves in-between the National Security Council meetings. The services have resources; yes, they need more, and mobility, and are doing their best, but there is a need for better gathering and interpretation of intelligence. Our intelligence-gathering must be improved.”
The President informed the Governors of the imminent shipment of military weapons and aircraft from Jordan, China and the United States, but again asked for patience on the part of the public because the new weapons and aircraft must be manned by trained fighters and pilots who must first receive appropriate training.
President Buhari also expressed satisfaction with the level of support from neighbouring countries in the war against terrorism.
“They are cooperating with us. On Boko Haram, we are making progress with Benin, Niger, Chad and Cameroon,” he said, while restating that intelligence-gathering must improve to be able to track small arms in the Northwest, North Central and Northeast States.
The President also expressed satisfaction with the level of Naval activity in the Gulf of Guinea, using newly-acquired equipment, but demanded that hard-to-reach areas of Lake Chad where Boko Haram terrorists have found new havens, as well as the forests now inhabited by bandits, must be accessed and rid of nefarious elements.
“The Chief of Defence Staff has spoken about their study of the forests and their potential danger to security. We must make sure we follow the bandits and terrorists, but there must not be deforestation in view of the climate situation,” said President Buhari.
In their submissions anchored by their Chairman, Governor Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti State, and Governor Babagana Zulum of Borno State, the Governors highlighted the problems of poverty, unemployment, trust deficit between the military and civilian populations and the inflow of small arms into the country.
Shehu said, “the Governors also pointed to the problem of coordination among military and security chiefs and played up their own security roles which included USD1 billion they allowed the President to withdraw from the Excess Crude Account for weapons procurement two years ago. They, therefore, urged the President to consider a ‘bail out’ for security for the States in view of the enormity of the resources they now expend in support of the military and the police.”
In another development, a former deputy governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Dr Obadiah Mailafia, disclosed that some repentant terrorists revealed to him that a serving Northern governor was the commander of the Boko Haram sect.
Mailafia said this on ‘Morning Crossfire’ programme on Nigeria Info Abuja 95.1FM on Monday.
Mailafia, who was the Presidential candidate of the African Democratic Congress in the last election, said he had a chat with two repentant terrorists, who identified the Northern governor to him.
He said Boko Haram had already infiltrated Southern Nigeria, adding that their plan was to spark a second civil war.
He said, “Some of us also have our intelligence networks. I have met with some of the bandits; we have met with some of their high commanders, one or two who have repented, they have sat down with us not once, not twice.
“They told us that one of the Northern governors was the commander of Boko Haram in Nigeria. Boko Haram and the bandits are one and the same. They have a sophisticated network. During this lockdown their planes were moving up and down as if there was no lockdown. They were moving ammunition, moving money, and distributing them across different parts of the country.
“They are already in the South, in the rain forests of the South. They are everywhere. They told us that when they finish these rural killings, they will move to phase two. Phase two is that they will go into urban cities, going from house to house killing prominent people.”
Meanwhile, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Nigeria (CBCN) has again expressed their worry over the insecurity ravaging parts of the country.
In the face of this concern, they have declared 40 days of joint prayers against terrorism and banditry.
The Bishops, in a statement issued in Abuja on Tuesday, also decried the pervasive corruption in the land and the nation’s dampening economic outlook. They, therefore, passed a verdict, saying the Federal Government had failed to keep its core campaign promises of security, corruption eradication, and economic growth.
The statement signed by CBCN President, Archbishop Augustine Obiora, on behalf of all the bishops reads: “We, the members of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Nigeria have been following the recent events in Nigeria closely.
“We continue to hear of increasing insecurity and unabated acts of terrorism in Northern Nigeria. So, we are all tired of this situation.
“We do not want any politician to politicise the killing of Nigerians. There should be one response from everyone, and that is; the killings must stop.
“Our hearts are bleeding, and we are more troubled when we hear of the massacre presently going on in Southern Kaduna. We want all the people suffering the incessant attacks in Southern Kaduna to know that all Catholics in Nigeria are praying for them.
“We call on the Federal and the Government of Kaduna to bring a complete stop to the killing of innocent people. The loss of the life of any Nigerian does not help to further the agenda of any religious ideology or the ambition of any politician.
“The perpetrators of the killings must be brought to justice. Where there is no justice or justice is not seen to be done, there cannot be peace. Where there is no peace, there cannot be development.
“Any Government, State or Federal that wants peace must work for justice for everyone. There will never be sustained development built upon the bloodshed of innocent people brutally murdered by religious fundamentalists without any recourse to justice for the victims.
“We need not remind Nigerians that the present Federal Government came to power, promising Nigerians, the eradication of corruption, a guarantee of security to life and property, and rapid growth in the economy.
“The creation of jobs, and an enabling environment that engenders growth of the private sector; a significant increase in the supply of electricity to Nigerians, affordable and quality health care to Nigerians, and the revamping of the educational sector were the promises the Government continues to make.
“Many Nigerians, irrespective of political party affiliation, will affirm that these promises have remained a far cry. We strongly appeal to Nigerians to unite together in calling the Federal Government to give priority to these areas of our lives.
“To all Catholics, we request that you join in praying for forty days, starting from 22 August 2020 and ending 30 September 2020, the eve of Nigeria’s Independence Day.
“On Independence Day, let us join in praying to start from 12.noon. We appeal to each Bishop to encourage the faithful in his Diocese to participate fully in this prayer for God to save Nigeria.
“Finally, as we pray, we know that God wants us to do what is humanly possible to ensure that there are prosperity and freedom for every Nigerian.
“Let us not harbour hatred for anyone. We must be instruments of forgiveness and reconciliation. We must be on the part of justice for all and peace in Nigeria. “May God grant eternal rest to all who have lost their lives to the violence in Northern Nigeria and other parts of the country. May God give us the courage to work for justice and peace in Nigeria.”