•Assures military has resources to fight insurgents
•Govs demand security bailout
•Politicians exploit insecurity for personal gains, Zamfara gov alleges
By Omololu Ogunmade, Chuks Okocha in Abuja and Onuminya Innocent in Sokoto
Nigeria is expecting to take delivery of military weapons and aircraft from Jordan, China and the United States to reinvigorate its anti-terror war, President Muhammadu Buhari said yesterday.
The president at a virtual meeting with the Security Committee of the Nigerian Governors’ Forum (NGF), represented by one governor from each of the six geo-political zones of the country, however, urged Nigerians to be patient and not to expect a dramatic change in the ongoing efforts to combat insurgency because fighters and pilots to operate the new weapons and aircraft must first be trained.
Buhari also dismissed assumptions that Boko Haram was better equipped and funded than the armed forces, saying that the military has greater resources to fight the terrorists even though they may need more.
During the meeting, the governors demanded security bailout from the president, citing the $1 billion they allowed him to withdraw from the Excess Crude Account (ECA) to procure weapons as a justifiable reason for their demand.
In a related development, Zamfara State Governor, Mr. Bello Matawalle, has accused politicians of being responsible for the insecurity facing the country, saying they cause it to advance their political interests.
Buhari’s meeting with the governors was also attended by service chiefs and other heads of security agencies.
The three-hour meeting came barely 24 hours after Buhari presided over a security meeting attended by North-east governors and security chiefs where the governors implored the president to equip the police in the North-east to bridge the gap in the military’s handling of the war against Boko Haram.
A statement by presidential spokesman, Malam Garba Shehu, said the governors told the president about their contributions to fight insecurity by giving the federal government the nod to withdraw $1 billion from the ECA.
The governors, therefore, urged the president to appreciate their gesture by giving “security bailout” to the 36 states to enable them to address the enormous security challenges confronting the states.
The statement added that during the submissions of the governors, coordinated by NGF Chairman and Governor of Ekiti State, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, the governors listed factors fuelling insecurity in the country to include: poverty, unemployment, the trust deficit between the military and civilians as well as the inflow of small arms into the country.
“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.
“The governors also pointed to the problem of coordination among military and security chiefs and played up their own security roles, which included $1 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 “bailout” for security for the states in view of the enormity of the resources they now expend in support of the military and the police,” the statement added.
However, Buhari dismissed assumptions that Boko Haram was better equipped and better funded than the armed forces, saying the military has greater resources to fight the terrorists, even though they may need more.
The president’s clarification came barely 24 hours after he had blamed the lingering insecurity challenges in the North-east on lean resources of the federal government, which he said had been compounded by the outbreak of COVID-19.
But at the meeting with the governors, the president clarified that terrorists are not better equipped than the armed forces neither are they richer than the federal government, noting that the terrorists are “mere scavengers desperate for food, raiding shops and markets and killing innocent persons in the process.”
The president said: “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 expressed concern that despite the closure of borders with neighbouring countries, bandits and terrorists have continued to acquire small weapons.
He added: “These terrorists are in the localities. How is it that they are not short of small arms?”
Buhari said he was satisfied with the level of support Nigeria was getting from neighbouring countries in the war against terrorism.
“On Boko Haram, we are making progress with Benin, Niger, Chad and Cameroon,” he added.
He restated that intelligence gathering must improve if small arms would be tracked in the North-west, North-central and North-east states.
The president said he was also satisfied with the level of naval operations in the Gulf of Guinea, with the deployment of 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.”
Buhari was also quoted as saying: “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.”
The meeting ended with calls for a joint strategy to tackle insecurity within a limited time frame, with a further resolution that field commanders would take measures to protect civilian communities as a confidence-building mechanism between the military and the communities.
It expressed hope that when the loss of trust between both parties is restored, there will be improved cooperation in intelligence gathering and sharing.
The meeting also resolved that at the root of security challenges facing the country are poverty and youth unemployment and hence, the agreement to address them with greater vigour by all tiers of government.
The meeting focused on the country’s security policies and approaches in tackling the internal security challenges bedeviling the country with a charge that intelligence gathering and sharing must be intensified to enhance the security of the country.
Present at yesterday’s meeting were Vice President Yemi Osinbajo; Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Mr. Boss Mustapha; the National Security Adviser (NSA), Maj. Gen. Babagana Monguno (rtd.); and the Chief of Staff, Prof. Ibrahim Gambari.
Some governors who joined the meeting virtually are Yahaya Bello (Kogi), Douye Diri (Bayelsa), Babagana Zulum (Borno), David Umahi (Ebonyi) and Babajide Sanwo-Olu (Lagos).
Security chiefs at the meeting were Chief of Defence Staff, Gen. Gabriel Olonisakin; Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen. Tukur Buratai (who was represented); Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Ibok-Ete Ekwe Ibas; Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar; the Inspector-General of Police (IGP), Mr. Mohammed Adamu; and the Director-General, Department of State Services (DSS), Mr. Yusuf Bichi.
Also present were the Director-General, National Intelligence Agency (NIA), Mr. Ahmed Rufa’I; Chief of Defence Intelligence Agency, Air Vice Marshall Muhammed Usman; Minister of Defence, Maj. Gen. Bashir Magashi (rtd.); and the Minister of Police Affairs, Mr. Maigari Dingyadi.
The governors were led by members of the NGF’s Security Committee, headed by Kogi State Governor, Mr. Yahaya Bello.
Politicians Exploit Insecurity for Personal Gains, Matawalle Alleges
Meanwhile, Zamfara State Governor, Mr. Bello Matawalle, has accused politicians of being responsible for the insecurity challenges bedeviling the country.
Governor Aminu Waziri Tambuwal of Sokoto has also advocated that a special provision should be set aside without going through appropriations to increase funding for the Nigerian Army and other security agencies in the country.
Tambuwal, and his Zamfara State counterpart, were special guests yesterday at the Nigerian Army Special Army Super Camp 4 at Faskari, Katsina State.
Matawalle said: “We, the politicians, are to be blamed for the intractable security challenges bedeviling our communities. It is evident that some politicians exploit insecurity for political gains. These unscrupulous politicians would hardly commend the military for their successes at the battlefronts.
“However, they would be eager to rush to the media to report attacks by bandits or other miscreants.”
“For these crops of politicians, politics is not about genuine commitment to the wellbeing of the people; it is all about power and nothing more.”
He, however, maintained that safeguarding and ensuring security was not just the responsibility of the president, the governors and the service chiefs but also that of every patriotic citizen.
Tambuwal advocated that a special provision should be made to increase funding for the Nigerian Army and other security agencies in the country.
“There is a need for proper and structured funding of the army and other security agencies in the country to enable them procure superior weapons to that of their adversaries. You need funding. Funding is key to combating insecurity in any country.
“There should be a special security funding not only that derived from routine appropriations,” the governor noted, emphasising: “Any constitutional means of getting funding for the army and other security agencies should be explored.”
In a statement issued by his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Mr. Muhammed Bello, the governor was quoted as commending Buhari for directing the effort to establish the Army Super Camp.
Tambuwal further noted that if more equipment could be procured for the Army, more resounding successes will be achieved.
He also gave kudos to Buratai for doing a great job in ensuring that the operations of the camp is seamless, adding that “Sokoto has recorded more peace, which is an opposite of the weeks preceding the operation of Ex Sahel Safety.”
He explained that now farmers and villagers who left their farms when banditry was raging are now back.
The South-Eastern part of the state, the governor said, is witnessing a return to normalcy.
On the efforts made by the Northern governors to complement those of the security agencies, the governor said they agreed to pursue a carrot and stick approach.
“We in Sokoto State are still continuing with the non-kinetic measure. No matter how long it takes in a battle, you must come back to the round table. So, why wait until issues escalate? The kinetic and non-kinetic processes are simultaneously going on in Sokoto,” he explained, adding that the Northern governors are trying to reform existing laws to punish kidnappers and other perpetrators of crimes associated with banditry.