- To fix CCTVs on highways, license states to use drones
- Saddens by persistent traffic gridlock in Apapa
- Shi’ites suspend protests, sue FG over proscription
- Amnesty International condemns sect’s ban
Davidson Iriekpen in Lagos, Omololu Ogunmade in Abuja and John Shiklam in Kaduna
President Muhammadu Buhari Wednesday unfolded a two-pronged approach to stem the spike in cases of kidnapping, killing and banditry that have worsened the security situation in the country.
Under the impending security regime, which the president unfurled when he hosted traditional rulers from the South-west at the State House, Abuja, states are to be licensed to deploy drones to monitor their environments, closed-circuit televisions (CCTVs) are to be deployed in major highways, which criminals have turned into their theatre of operations.
In addition, the police are to be equipped with technology to improve their efficiency in fighting crime while the nation’s security architecture would be overhauled to give it more vigour.
The president unfolded his plans to deal with the security crisis on the same day that the Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN) otherwise known as the Shi’ite group, announced that it was temporarily suspending its street protests to demand the release of its leader, Sheik Ibrahim el-Zakzaky, and plans to contest its proscription by the federal government in court.
Besides the security crisis, the president also wednesday expressed sadness over the persistent chaotic situation around the ports in Apapa, Lagos State.
The president, according to a statement by one of his spokesmen, Mr. Femi Adesina, while responding to an address by the traditional rulers, led by the Ooni of Ife, Oba Adeyeye Ogunwusi, promised to equip the police with advanced technology with a view to improving their capacity to fight crimes.
He said: “Working with state governments, we intend to beef up the equipping of the police force with advanced technology and equipment that can facilitate the work of the security agencies.
“We will be issuing directives to the appropriate federal authorities to speedily approve licensing for states requesting the use of drones to monitor forests and other criminal hideouts. We also intend to install CCTVs on highways and other strategic locations so that activities in some of those hidden places can be exposed, more effectively monitored and open to actionable review.
“This administration will continue to do everything necessary to protect the lives of all Nigerians and ensure that every Nigerian in every state is safe and that our people can live in peace and harmony; regardless of ethnicity, religion or region. As a government, we remain committed to the ideals of our democracy, particularly entrenching the rule of law and the sanctity of life.”
Buhari assured the monarchs and Nigerians that his administration would not mollycoddle criminals and would enforce the law, prosecute lawbreakers and provide a safety environment to allow them to carry out their daily activities without fear.
“We need security to deliver on our many programmes to the people. There can be no prosperity if there is no security. This is not only a message of hope, but a call to action to all of us as we seek ways to secure our country.
“On our part, as the federal government, we are ready to deal decisively with anyone that is fomenting this spate of criminal activities by every means necessary. We intend to deal severely with those evil Nigerians inciting violence for political ends,” the statement quoted Buhari as saying.
The president acknowledged significant security challenges in the South-west and other parts of the country, saying that it was such understanding that culminated in the ongoing consultations embarked upon by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo with some traditional rulers “so that together we can proffer solutions to the lingering security problems in the South-West and other parts of the country.”
“These consultations are important because traditional rulers form a critical part of governance structures, especially in their respective communities, where they feel the pulse of the people being the closest to the populace at the grassroots level.
“As a government, at all times, we need your active collaboration as we continue to deal with crimes of kidnapping, banditry and other forms of unlawful and criminal attacks resulting in needless deaths and causing fear among our people,” he added.
The president promised to be focused on his election promises, assuring the monarchs that he would change the security architecture of Nigeria and he would need their cooperation to do so.
He said: “When Nigerians voted massively for us in 2015, we focused on three areas – security, economy and fighting corruption. We have not relented on this promise and we will not.
“Let me be very clear about our firm resolve to change the security architecture of Nigeria. It is one of the top priorities for this government but we won’t be able to achieve this goal without the support and input of you, our royal fathers.
“As the traditional authorities in your communities, government and the security agencies will be relying on you to monitor the several different communities and people coming in and out of your areas.
“We hope that, for instance, traditional rulers would be able to observe new entrants into the community by requesting leaders of such ethnic groups to notify the traditional authorities of new intakes, thereby creating the opportunities for the gathering of actionable intelligence, which tracks such movements in and out of communities thereby offering early warning signals.”
The president outlined some of the interventions already lined up to tackle insecurity including community policing, police intelligence and more recruitment of police gathering.
He also pledged to deploy the military whenever necessary to complement the work of the police, including possible deployment of troops on certain highways on a temporary basis, and the use of the Air Force assets to bomb hideouts of criminals.
Earlier, the Ooni and other traditional rulers had individually apprised the president with security challenges facing them in the South-west and called on him to support their efforts in addressing the issues.
Shi’ites Suspend Protests, Sues FG over Proscription
The Shiite group also wednesday announced that it was temporarily suspending its street protests.
It said the protests being used to call for the release of el-Zakzaky, his wife and others was suspended to give room for “some new openings” into the resolution of the matter.
This is coming as the international human rights watchdog, Amnesty International, has condemned the federal government’s proscription of the sect, describing the action as a suppression of freedom of religion and association.
A statement by the President, Media Forum of IMN, Ibrahim Musa, said the suspension of the protests would also give room for the proper prosecution of the court case instituted by the group against its proscription.
“The Islamic Movement in Nigeria do hereby announce to the general public and the international community that it has temporarily suspended its Free Zakzaky street protests to allow for some new openings into the resolution of the problems, especially the court case instituted by our lawyers on the proscription order made by the federal government this week.
“It has taken this step in good faith out of respect for some eminent people and groups, whose input in the resolution of the problems appears genuine and we sincerely hope an amicable way could be found to solve the crises surrounding the illegal detention of our leader for almost four years now.
“If at all any protest occur anywhere in the country, it might be this notice hasn’t reached those in the field or this message is misunderstood or it is some security agents who are mischievously behind it as they have been doing in an attempt to smear our image and be seen as unruly people rather than as victims of savage oppression since 2015,” the sect said.
The IMN, led by el-Zakzaky, was categorised as terrorist group last week. The classification followed the fatal shooting of a police chief and a reporter with Channels TV during a protest on July 22 in Abuja.
Although the federal government blamed the Shiite protesters for the killings, the movement rejected the allegations.
However, Amnesty International has condemned the federal government’s proscription of the Shiite movement, describing it as a suppression of freedom of religion and association.
“The proscription of IMN is a deliberate attempt to divert attention from crucial issues including justice for the massacre of over 350 in Zaria in December 2015 as well many other IMN supporters killed by security agencies over the years.
“The fact that authorities have not indicated any attempt to investigate and ensure justice in all incidences involving IMN clearly shows a government resolve to deprive them of their fundamental human rights.
“We insist that Nigerian authorities ensure justice in all cases involving all Nigerians, including IMN,” Amnesty Nigeria spokesperson, Isa Sanusi, said in a statement wednesday.
Buhari Saddened by Persistent Gridlock in Apapa
Meanwhile, Buhari yesterday in Abuja said he was saddened by the persistent chaotic situation around the Lagos ports in Apapa.
The president’s concern came two months after the presidency had ordered the immediate decongestion of Apapa ports and its environs.
Osinbajo had on May 22 issued an order directing a special task force to, within two weeks, clear the traffic gridlock, which has made Apapa ports and its environs difficult to access.
But about four weeks after the directive was issued, the gridlock still persisted, prompting the presidency to extend the directive by another two weeks.
However, another four weeks after, only a little improvement has been achieved.
Speaking while receiving members of the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) in the State House, the president decried the development, stressing that the situation remained a challenge.
However, he said the federal government was working with the Lagos State Government to end the menace.
“I must admit that the Apapa gridlock still remains a challenge. It saddens me that businesses have had to suffer as a result of this. We are doing our very best working with the Lagos State Government to bring an end to this issue,” he said.
The president who assured his guests of the federal government’s continuous support for the private sector, said in the last four years, his administration had invested heavily in infrastructure and supported banks to provide loans to traders.
In addition, the government has signed executive orders to support local content and has focused on ease of doing business with a view to aiding investments.
He said the decision to widely consult the private sector on Africa Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) agreement underscored government’s interest in sustainable and inclusive growth.
According to Buhari, investigations have shown that whereas the service sector of the economy is doing well, the story is not the same with the manufacturing sector.
Against this background, he said manufacturers could exploit the opportunities presented by AfCFTA to aggressively expand the frontiers of their operations to meet the demand on the African continent.
He also told the group that the next set of negotiations is aimed at ensuring that machinery is put in place to protect the interest of manufacturers, imploring the guests to support the government in this area.
“Our studies revealed that although the services sector was doing ok, other key job creating sectors such as manufacturing and processing were still lagging behind. This is evident by the fact that intra-African trade only accounts for 14 per cent of Africa’s total trade. As a continent, our consumption is mostly of goods imported from outside the continent.
“We viewed this as both an opportunity and a threat. It is an opportunity as Nigerian manufacturers can aggressively expand to meet the huge demand across the continent. It is a threat as one can abuse the rules of origin to flood the market with imports from outside the continent thereby destroying jobs here at home,” he stated.
Earlier, LCCI Chairman, Mr. Babatunde Ruwase, had commended the president on the signing of AfCFTA, saying it will promote continental economic integration as well as the growth of member countries.