Defence Chief: Briefing N’Assembly Publicly will Jeopardise Security Operations

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Abayomi Olonisakin
Abayomi Gabriel Olonisakin

Shola Oyeyipo in Abuja

The Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), Gen. Gabriel Olonisakin, has stated that the top echelon of the nation’s security system was not favourably disposed to speaking publicly on military operations to avoid divulging military strategies which could compromise its activities and endanger the lives of troops.

Olonisakin made the clarification Monday when the service chiefs finally honoured the invitation of the leadership of the House of Representatives, after the Speaker, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, postponed a meeting slated for last week Friday over the non-appearance of the security chiefs.

Also, responding to the opposition of the House leadership to proxies sent to last week’s botched meeting, the CDS maintained that the officers who represented the service chiefs were adequately qualified to brief the National Assembly on military operations in Nigeria.

However, Gbajabiamila disagreed with his position, insisting that the House needed to be brought up to speed on the activities of the military in securing Nigeria and also to enable the lawmakers know how to intervene in the aspects of appropriation and legislation.

Gbajabimila, who said the National Assembly and the security chiefs were “fully in tandem and we are on one page,” added: “I myself, together with some members, have been to Borno, I have been to Katsina, I have been to Zamfara, all in the last couple of months because of the level of concern of the House and, if we have gone that far, then I believe it is important.

“I did go to Borno and other places, it is important that you have made giant strides over time and that is why we are concerned that these giant strides, all of a sudden seem to be retrogressing and that is why we called for this meeting.

“I believe when you said ‘open forum such as this,’ I believe you must have been talking about the cameras, the journalists and those who are not part of the leadership of the House, because I would not call the meeting of the leadership (we are in one government), an open forum.

“So, I hope I didn’t misunderstand you when you said this will be more or less a monologue as opposed to dialogue. ‘You will listen to our concern and get back to us.’ I don’t think that is what the purpose of this meeting is,” he said.

The Speaker assured the CDS that the House would be cleared for a closed-door meeting to pave the way for the lawmakers and the security chiefs to have a dialogue as opposed to a monologue.

He added: “We will have a dialogue and you will tell us what your concerns are, where we can help and we will give you our own, of course. You are the experts. It’s the reason why we have called this meeting.

“It’s not supposed to be for public consumption. So, on that note, you can clear the house, so that we can go into the meeting.”

Gbajabiamila noted that the service chiefs had been invited to collaborate as “we have been doing all along on the security situation in Nigeria”.

He admitted that to a very large extent, things had improved, regretting the sudden uptick in the security situation.

The Speaker further said: “I don’t know if we have moved from yellow to red as they would say in some other countries. That is the reason why we have called this meeting to find out what the challenges are, why there is a sudden uptick. What can be done? It has come at a time when the budget is about to be presented; in the next week or two. So, it is very timely.

“Money challenges too – what can the House do? And that is why we are here and I believe it is very important. Security is one of the challenges of the government. We have an obligation to arrest the situation whenever we can.”

In his speech at the meeting held in Room 301, House of Representatives wing of the National Assembly, Olonisakin had noted: “It is understandable that there must be some concerns about the security situation in the country. We are here to listen to those concerns that you have, that you need to express to us and address, of course with your support.

“However, I need to state that military and operational strategies are not usually discussed in open forums such as this, because we may inadvertently be giving valuable information to the adversary through such discussions. This could compromise our ongoing operations, put the lives of our troops at greater risk and jeopardise future plans.

“I will therefore crave the indulgence of the House leadership to allow us to listen to your concerns, observations and suggestions, and get back to you in a more appropriate forum. I thank you for your time and your support.”

He expressed the appreciation of the service chiefs to the leadership of the House of Representatives for the opportunity given to them to interact with the leadership on an issue dear to the hearts of Nigerians, which is the security situation in the North-east and indeed every part of Nigeria.

“As the representatives of the Nigerian people, we recognise the concerns of the House and indeed the entire National Assembly on this issue.

“I need to add that as the Chief of Defence Staff, my inability to be here in person last week Friday was due to an equally urgent interaction at the Presidency, while the Chief of Army Staff was out of the country at that time. That notwithstanding, our various chiefs of operations were here to represent us.

“These are senior officers who coordinate all operational matters at the various service headquarters and are adequately qualified to respond to your questions.

“I wish to put on record that contrary to insinuations, our inability to be here on Friday was not a deliberate act to disrespect the institutions of the National Assembly but due to the reasons I have earlier stated. We hold the National Assembly in the highest regard and wish to express our appreciation for your support and encouragement,” he said,

With respect to the security situation in the North-east, especially Borno State, he said everyone was aware that the Armed Forces, in collaboration with other security and intelligence agencies have been contending with insurgency and terrorism for many years now.

He added that indeed, the counter-terrorism and counter-insurgency operations in the North-east predate the current administration, noting that despite the challenges being faced, appreciable progress had been made.

According to him, the Armed Forces continue to re-strategise to address the changing operational situation and tactics of the insurgent terrorists.

He pointed out that the army had achieved better integration of land and air power, as well as greater coordination with other security and intelligence agencies through regular, strategic meetings at the highest level of commands and down to the chains of commands.

On the much debated super camp, Olonisakin said: “The Super Camp concept was borne out of our need to re-strategise to meet changing operational conditions in the North-east. I want to assure the leadership of the House that we will continue to do all we can to ensure peace and security in our country, in line with our constitutional mandate despite the challenges.”

Also present at the meeting which went into over two hours closed-door session were the Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Ibok-Ete Ekwe Ibas; the Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshall Sadiq Abubakar; the Comptroller-General Immigration Service (CGIS), Muhammed Babandede; the Director-General, Directorate of State Service (DSS), Mr. Yusuf Bichi; representatives of the Chief of Army Staff, Lieutenant-General Tukur Buratai; and the Inspector-General of Police (IG), Mr. Mohammed Abubakar Adamu, as well as chairmen and deputy chairmen of all the relevant committees of the House of Representatives.

According to Gbajabimila, who said the National Assembly and the security chiefs are “fully in tandem and we are on one page,” he said “I myself, together with some members, have been to Borno, I have been to Katsina, I have been to Zamfara, all in the last couple of months because of the level of concern of the House and, if we have gone that far, then I believe it is important to…I did go to Borno and other places, it is important that you have made giant strides over time and that is why we are concerned that these giant strides, all of a sudden seem to be retrogressing and that is why we called for this meeting.

“I believe when you said ‘open forum such as this,’ I believe you must have been talking about the camera, the journalists and those who are not part of the leadership of the House, because I would not call the meeting of the leadership – we are in one government; an open forum.

“So, I hope I didn’t misunderstand you when you said this will be more or less a monologue as opposed to dialogue. ‘You will listen to our concern and get back to us.’ I don’t think that is what the purpose of this meeting is.

“We will clear the House and it will just be you and the leadership of the House and then we will have a dialogue as opposed to a monologue. We will have a dialogue and you will tell us what your concerns are, where we can help and we will give you our own…of course, you are the experts. It’s the reason why we have called this meeting. It’s not supposed to be for public consumptions. So, on that note you can clear the house, so that we can go into the meeting.”

Gbajabiamila said: “We have invited the Service Chiefs to collaborate as we have been doing all along on the security situation in Nigeria. To a very large extent, things have improved but unfortunately, there is a sudden optic in the security situation. I don’t know if we have moved from yellow to red as they would say in some other countries that is the reason why we have called this meeting to find out what the challenges are, why there is a sudden optic, what can be done – it has come at a time when the budget is about to be presented; in the next week or two. So, it is very timely.

“Money challenges too – what can the House do? And that is why we are here and I believe it is very important. Security is one of the challenges of the government. We have an obligation to arrest the situation whenever we can.”

Also present at the meeting that went into over two-hour closed-door session are the Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Ibok-Ete Ekwe Ibas and the Chief of the Air Staff, Air Marshall Sadiq Abubakar; the Comptroller-General Immigration Service (CGIS), Muhammed Babandede; the Director-General, State Security Service (SSS), Mr. Yusuf Bichi; representatives of the Chief of Army Staff, Lieutenant-General Tukur Buratai and the Inspector-General of Police (IGP), Mr. Mohammed Abubakar Adamu and chairmen and deputy chairmen of all the relevant committees of the House of Representatives.