•Insists country not a failing state
Chuks Okocha in Abuja and Vanessa Obioha in Lagos
The federal government yesterday squared up to the International Criminal Court (ICC) and some human rights groups, notably Amnesty International, accusing them of frustrating efforts to tackle the nation’s security challenges.
It accused them of constituting themselves into another ‘fighting force’ against Nigeria, harassing security forces and threatening them with investigation and possible prosecution over alleged war crimes and human rights abuses.
The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, at a press conference in Lagos to review the achievements of the federal government in 2020, also faulted the position of those he described as “jaundiced analysts and their lapdogs,’’ who declared that Nigeria is a failing or failed state due to its security challenges.
He said: “Nigeria is fending off attacks on many fronts, not just from terrorists and bandits, but also from some human rights organisations and the International Criminal Court (ICC), which seem to have colluded to exacerbate the challenges facing the country in the area of security.
“While our security agencies continue to battle these bandits and terrorists, the ICC and some international human rights organisations, especially Amnesty International, have constituted themselves to another ‘fighting force’ against Nigeria, constantly harassing our security forces and threatening them with investigation and possible prosecution over alleged crimes against humanity and war crimes. Unfortunately, a section of the local media has been parroting these organisations without weighing the impact of their constant threats on the security of the nation.”
The minister condemned what it described as the “unbridled attempt to demoralise our security men and women as they confront the onslaught from bandits and terrorists.”
He stated that Nigeria will not surrender its sovereignty to the ICC as it did not join “the ICC so it can become a pawn on the court’s chessboard. It beggars belief to see that a nation that is fighting an existential war against bandits and terrorists is constantly being held down by an international body which it willingly joined.”
“ICC, Amnesty International and their cohorts should desist from threatening our troops and putting the security of our country in jeopardy. Enough is enough,” Mohammed said.
He expressed regrets that the ICC and Amnesty International based their allegations on fake news and disinformation, citing the CNN report that alleged that the army shot unarmed protesters at the Lekki Tollgate during the EndSARS protest.
“As you are aware, we called CNN out and also petitioned the network. Though they acknowledged receipt of our petition, we have yet to hear from them on what actions they intend to take to prevent a recurrence of the fake news they peddled about Nigeria. I can assure you, that the matter is far from over,” he added.
The minister also allayed fears of fresh lockdown as cases of COVID-19 continue to spike.
He said President Muhammadu Buhari had no intention of imposing any lockdown, but lamented that Nigerians are not obeying the health guidelines such as wearing of face masks and social distancing to curtail further spread of the virus.
Mohammed also faulted the position of those describing Nigeria as a failed state, saying that the gloomy prediction would not come to pass.
He added that the country would rise to become a more respected member of the comity of nations.
“You would remember that for the past two decades or so, some pseudo-analysts have been predicting the country’s implosion.
“That has not happened, hence they have found a new watchword – failing or failed state!
“It’s all a ruse aimed at depicting Nigeria as being in a constant state of anarchy so they can achieve their nefarious objectives for the country,’’ he said.
According to him, notwithstanding the antics of the analysts who constituted themselves into another ‘fighting force,’ the country has made tremendous progress in tackling bandits and Boko Haram terrorists.
“If Nigeria was not a ‘failing’ state when a large slice of its territory equivalent to the size of Belgium was under the occupation of Boko Haram, which collected taxes, installed and deposed emirs, is it now that no territory is under the terrorists that Nigeria will be a failing state?
He added: “If Nigeria was not a failed state when bombs were raining on towns and cities in Kano, Kaduna, Plateau, Borno, Yobe, FCT and other states, is it now that such bombings have stopped that Nigeria will be described as a ‘failing’ state?
“If Nigeria was not a ‘failing’ state in those years that Christian and Muslim worshippers needed to be screened to even enter their places of worship, is it now that the siege on places of worship has ceased that Nigeria will be described as a ‘failing’ state?’’ Mohammed said it was sad that many people had forgotten where the country was in terms of the state of insecurity just a few years back.
The minister praised the military and other security agencies for their patriotism and commitment to the anti-terror war.
“Thanks to our security agencies, we have just celebrated another Christmas and New Year without a rain of bombs. Few would remember that in 2010, 2011 and 2012, Christmas eve or Christmas Day attacks left hundreds dead or injured.
“What about the attack on the UN Complex in Abuja in August 2011; the bombing of media houses in Abuja and Kaduna in April 2012 and the killing of about 40 students in Mubi, Adamawa State, in October 2012?
“Have we forgotten that over 80 towns and villages were attacked and razed, with casualties, by Boko Haram in Borno State alone? Have we forgotten the constant attacks on military and security formations?
“The federal government has sustained the fight against terrorists, bandits, kidnappers and other criminal elements across the country, especially in the North-east and the North-west. The President has continued to provide all the necessary platforms on land, air and sea to support the fight against criminals and terrorists in the country,” he added.
Mohammed also attacked the Peoples Democratic Party, (PDP) for what it described as its lack of imagination and depth.
He stated that PDP’s role as an opposition is restricted to “bad mouthing.”
Mohammed said: “Let me also take this opportunity to condemn the constant infantile press releases by the unserious, unimaginative and drab opposition, which misconstrues opposition as constantly shooting down anything the government of the day does or bad mouthing whatever Mr. President does or says.
“There is more to opposition than predictable and bring-it-down-at-all-cost media interventions. They messed up in government, and they are messing up even more in opposition. No lessons learnt either way.”
However, the PDP fired back at the minister, saying it will continue to hold the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the President Muhammadu Buhari government accountable for misgovernance in the country.
According to the National Publicity Secretary of the PDP, Kola Ologbondiyan, “the PDP is not playing bad belle politics. We are simply holding the APC and the Buhari administration accountable. Our criticisms will continue to hold the administration accountable. We are not criticising for the fun of it. Things are just bad.
“We are offering constructive criticism. We are not playing the type of brigandage media attack that the APC played in 2013 to 2015. We are simply holding them accountable on what they have done and what they have failed to do.”
He said the APC is afraid because the party has lost touch with Nigerians as the people are merely counting the days for the end of the Buhari administration.