•Says 73 unmanned forests taken over by bandits
•Calls for extradition of Simon Ekpa
•Rising cost of aviation fuel hindering war against terrorism, declares CAS
•We’re operating in difficult environment, IG laments
•Afenifere urges Tinubu to issue executive order for creation of multi-level police
Adedayo Akinwale in Abuja
The Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), General Christopher Musa, has revealed that some recently arrested Boko Haram terrorists in the North-east planned attacks from the prison in connivance with prison warders. Musa disclosed this yesterday, when he appeared before the House of Representatives, alongside the service chiefs and the Inspector General of Police (IGP).
The CDS said about 73 unmanned forests had been taken over by bandits. He called for the extradition of Simon Ekpa, the self-acclaimed leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), from his operational base in Finland.
Chief of Air Staff (CAS), Air Marshal Hassan Abubakar, decried the rising cost of aviation fuel, saying it is hindering the war against terrorism in the country.
The IGP, Kayode Egbetokun, lamented that the police were operating in a difficult environment, stressing that the current manpower in the police is grossly inadequate, and the criminals also know this.
Relatedly, the pan-Yoruba socio-political organisation, Afenifere, called on President Bola Tinubu to promptly issue an executive order to allow state and local governments in the country to set up their own police forces, as practised in other heterogeneous and large countries.
Musa decried the corrupt attitudes of some prison warders in the North-east, and alleged that they aided arrested Boko Haram terrorists in planning their operations.
He stated, “The issue of correctional facilities. In the North-east, when we were debriefing some of the arrested Boko Haram, they were able to tell us how, from the prison, they could plan operations out in the field. They pass funds across.
“They use some of the warders there. We are not saying all of them are corrupt. They use their accounts and the deal is that anyone whose account is used, they share it 50/50. Those are the challenges.”
Musa lamented that media reportage in the country often glorified bandits and terrorists but demoralised soldiers.
He said, “Most times we think security is only the responsibility of security forces. I say no, everybody has a responsibility to play.
“We can never be everywhere. So we need educational sensitisation programmes for all Nigerians to understand that security is everybody’s responsibility. What you see, you talk about it. You don’t just keep quiet and say that this is for the police or the army. Everybody has a role.
“We need to have a system, where we can train from schools, from primary school, where Nigerians can be made to understand they need to take ownership of security. The awareness will be made easier.”
The defence chief said they had realised that the magic wand to address insecurity was good governance, adding that anywhere there is good governance, insecurity goes down.
He explained that security did not connote only military security, but included food, health, social, and education security, saying all these always play a role, and whenever good governance is lacking, there would be problems.
The CDS stated, “In the North-east, we are able to achieve so much because we have an element of good governance. We have seen governors that are willing and doing things to make the people happy and that is why we are having the cases of success we are having.
“As I mentioned earlier, the issue of Improvised Explosive Device (IEDs) has remained the most potent threat that we have. They put these IEDs on the ground and because there are no roads, a vehicle climbs it and everyone in that vehicle is either killed or dismembered.
“So, this becomes a problem. If people cannot eat, if people are hungry, no matter how you tell them to keep the peace, they will not and that breeds criminality. Those are the aspects we are looking at, particularly good governance.”
Musa also complained about the country’s porous borders, stressing that there are about a thousand border crossings, where people come in and out without check.
He stated, “That is where we have the movement of light weapons and small arms. Human trafficking is rampant. It is important that we must establish good border control, so that we can know the people coming in and going out.”
Musa added that Niger State alone had over 73 unmanned forests, saying these are places where non-state actors operate.
He alleged that the judiciary was frustrating the war against terrorism in the country.
According to him, “The issue of judiciary. I have been in the North-east. There were a lot of Boko Haram elements that have been captured. We have kept them for five/six years. We, the armed forces, can arrest but cannot prosecute.
“Some of them have been found wanting but no prosecution. We are keeping them for this lengthy period – everyone is accusing the armed forces in keeping them against their human rights but we cannot prosecute.
“Another aspect of the judiciary is that you use all your effort to make an arrest, you hand them over, and before you enter your vehicle, the man has been released on bail. Now, you have risked yourself in doing that, by the time he is released, he goes to tell the people the person that arrested him.
“Now your family members or you are at risk. It is getting to a state, where the security forces do not want to make any effort. We have the issue in the South-south. A lot of the ships – the last ship that was arrested, was arrested 10 years ago – the ship went and changed its name, changed its colour and came back again.
“Ten years they were arrested again. By the time you hand over the ship, before you know it, it is released. I think that is one area we must look into. We must have a special court to look into it. That is why we arrest and destroy them because the longer we keep them, it becomes a problem because we come under pressure to release them.”
In the South-east, Musa said, “Simon Ekpa has become a menace to this country. The country must act on it diplomatically. Finland is having a freeway encouraging him to do what he is doing. His utterances and actions are affecting what is happening in Nigeria.
“We should never allow that. Our foreign service should step in. It is either we invite the ambassador to come and explain why they are protecting him. And he is doing us more harm because by his utterances, a lot of people have been killed.”
The CAS, on his part, bemoaned the rising cost of aviation fuel, which he said was hindering the war against terrorism in the country. He stated that the delay in budget funding was a significant challenge, considering that about 85 per cent of Nigerian Air Force capital budget was for procuring military hardware abroad.
Abubakar stated, “The astronomic rise in aviation fuel prices and the introduction of surcharges has adversely affected Nigerian Air Force air operations, considering its large fleet.
“The situation continues to worsen with the cost of Jet A-1 fluctuating at N1,150 per litre as against the budgeted N360 per litre. The need for an intervention fund to the Nigerian Air Force as an independent importer of Jet A-1 fuel to sustain air operations, while reducing the financial burden on the government, may thus suffice.
“The consistent delay in budget funding is a significant challenge, bearing in mind that about 85 percent of the Nigerian Air Force capital budget is for procuring military hardware abroad.
“Since hardware by original equipment manufacturers are time bound, delay in budget funding may lead to late delivery due to late payment. Timely disbursement of approved funds would surely solve this challenge.”
Abubakar further lamented the complexity in targeting terrorists within the populace, and explained that the contemporary operating environment was characterised by terrorists, who situated themselves among the general populace. He said this made targeting complex in view of the need to avoid collateral damage.
“Thus, the Nigerian Air Force kinetic operations are supported by credible intelligence to minimise undesired casualties,” he said.
The IGP said the police operated in very difficult environment, and the manpower in the force was grossly inadequate, and the criminals knew this.
He stressed that the United Nations ratio of one police officer to 400 civilians was not attainable in Nigeria as at today. He said the ratio in country was one to 1000, which suggested that they had to double the manpower.
Egbetokun stated, “We have 1,537 police divisional headquarters across 774 local government areas. But getting operational vehicles for the divisions is difficult.
“Each of these divisions requires at least four functional patrol vehicles. But we have divisions, which don’t have any patrol vehicles as of today.”
The IGP also told the legislators, “Training in the police is still inadequate. The welfare of personnel is nothing to write home about. Funding is critical to achieving the mandate of the Nigeria Police.
“Unfortunately, the citizens are not interested in our excuses for underperformance. What the citizens want; they want us to serve them. We are ready to serve them. We need your cooperation. We need funding. We need more manpower.”
Meanwhile, Afenifere expressed concern about the spate of internal security breaches in various parts of the country in recent times, and insisted on multi-level policing.
National Publicity of Afenifere, Jare Ajayi, in a statement, called on Tinubu and relevant security agencies to up the ante in tackling the menace.
Afenifere raised the concern against the backdrop of rising security incidents, including the gruesome murder of a 62-year-old grandmother, Iyanuoluwa Adamolekun, at her Similoluwa area, Agbaluku Arigidi Akoko in Ondo State.
Afenifere listed other cases to include kidnapping incidents at Saki, Okaka and Ipapo, Oke ogun, Oyo State within a month; Fulani herders’ attacks on farmers in Afon, Ipokia, Ogun State, Iwere-Ile, Komu and Otu in Oyo State; amputation of a 12-year-old Fulani boy in Mayaki, Niger State; and killing of Rev. David Musa of ECWA in Obajana, Kogi State on October 14, 2023.
The organisation also noted the abduction of about 15 church members in Ondo State in September, the narrow escape of Yobe State Governor Mai Mala Buni from terrorists, the death of two police officers last weekend, and massacre of some farmers in Benue State, among others.
Afenifere expressed worry over the rustling of cows in the north eastern and north western regions of the country as well as the prevention of farmers from freely accessing their farms.
It said in the statement, “The latter has, naturally, led to a deficit in food items, thus, occasioning high costs of food items that are available. This was compounded by the high cost of transportation due to the removal of fuel subsidy, among other things.
“To worsen the situation, schools are being targeted by criminal elements, as reports have it that no fewer than 34 students were kidnapped in five incidents between September 22 and October 15, 2023 alone. Some of the incidents included the abduction of over 24 students of the Federal University, Gusau, in Zamfara State on September 22.
“The development informed the recent decisions by the Nigeria Police Force and Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSDC) to announce a plan to jointly come up with ‘Safe School Initiative’ in higher educational institutions across the country.”
Afenifere stressed that it was a known fact that the army was for the maintenance of the country’s territorial integrity, while internal security was the major responsibility of the police, according to the constitutional provisions.
It stressed that the efforts of the police and allied security agencies had not yielded the desired results because of the inherent structural error, adding that the police and other security agencies in the country are centralised in the nation’s capital, Abuja.
Afenifere said, “It means that there is an urgent need to decentralise and empower the security agencies if the insecurity that is fast consuming the nation is to be brought under control.
“As we have been shouting for about two years now, the president is enjoined to promptly give an Executive Order allowing states and local governments in the country to set up their own police forces, as is being practised by various countries that are heterogeneous and large.
“Machinery can then be set in motion for the National Assembly to quickly amend the relevant sections of the constitution, accordingly. The time to do so is now, if a stop is to be put to the avoidable loss of lives, properties, declining economic activities due to fear of being kidnapped and the trauma that these acts of banditry are causing the people.”