Thursday, May 20, 2021 6:53 am
By Ayorinde Oluokun/Abuja
As has become usual in Nigeria in recent times, the cheering news of the release of 29 students of Federal College of Forestry Mechanization, Afaka, Kaduna State, after 55 days in captivity last recently was quickly followed by jolting, morale dampening stories of killings, abductions, arson and other crimes across the country. Criminals of various hues – terrorists, hoodlums, gunmen, bandits, Fulani herders of whatever you choose to call them cut short the celebration with their unrestrained reign of terror across the country.
Gunmen’s Insurrection In Southeast
In the Southeast, after a lull of some days, the ‘gunmen’ who have been killing security operatives for sport returned to duty on Thursday, 7 May with killing of two police inspectors during an attack on Obosi Police Station in Idemili North Local Government Area of Anambra State. The attack at the police station came few hours after the new Commissioner of Police for the state, Christopher Adetokumbo Owolabi, resumed duty.
The gunmen, believed to be members of Eastern Security Network, the militant arm of the Indigenous Peoples of Biafra also stole some AK47 rifles, a large quantity of ammunition while all the suspected criminals locked in the cells were freed before they set the police station on fire. Earlier in the day, the ‘gunmen’ had also invaded Obiozara Police Station in Ohaozara Local Government Area of Ebonyi State where they killed a police officer after which they set the office of the Divisional Police Officer and the admin building on fire.
But the biggest bloodbath for the day was in Imo State where Nigerian security forces killed at least 11 gunmen suspected to be members of IPOB. Available information indicated that the slain gunmen who were traveling in a convoy of ‘stolen vehicles’ were intercepted on their way to attack some police stations.
Security forces claimed some of the eliminated gunmen were involved in previous attacks on security assets in Ebonyi State. “The gunmen, who believed in the power of their charms, were overpowered when the troops including soldiers, policemen and other security operatives engaged them in a battle. While some of them were killed, others escaped with grievous injury from the exchange of gunfire. We also recovered all the stolen vehicles they used for their operations,” a security source told journalists. “In the last one month, the gunmen have attacked several police stations and killed dozens of security personnel for no reason. We are able to identify them as members of IPOB from their ID cards and other incriminating items recovered from them,” the source added while noting that some of the IPOB members were also involved in the audacious attacks on a prison and the Imo Police Police Command headquarters in Owerri on 5 April during which aside the burning of the facilities, 1,844 inmates were also released from custody.
Some reports had indicated that at least, 67 security operatives comprising the police, Navy and prison wardens, have been killed by the rampaging gunmen in the South East and South South since December 2020 in attacks which began soon after the leader of IPOB, Nnamdi Kanu announced the formation of ESN to ‘protect the Southeast against Fulani herders’.
Significantly, security operatives had on Saturday, 24 April, announced the killing of top ESN commander known as Ikonso during a joint military operation in Imo State few hours after reports that unknown gunmen had attempted to burning down the sprawling mansion of Governor Hope Uzondinma in his village.
Though they did not succeed in burning down the structure, they, however, killed three security operatives in the attack, which, as was later learnt, was a reprisal for the killing of Ikonso. IPOB, in a statement by its spokesperson, Emma Powerful, had described the killing of Ikonsoas “very painful.”
The group, which accused Uzodinma of working with security operatives to kill the IPOB Commander because he turned down request to head Ebubeagu, a regional security outfit announced by South-East governors vowed to retaliate the killing of its commander. The threat by IPOB was followed by series of killings of security operatives at checkpoints across the Southeast and the South-south parts of the country.
At least eight uniformed men were killed a different security check points along Omagwa to Elele road in Rivers in the 24 hours following Ikonso’s death. Similar killings, burning of security facilities as well as raid on Fulani settlements were also recorded in different parts of the Southeast while at least, two commissioners – one in Imo and the other in Ebonyi were also targeted for assassination.
To check the activities of the ‘gunmen’ the governors of the Southeast had imposed down to dawn curfew on some communities. On its part, the Governor Wike had imposed 10pm to 6am curfew all over the state till further notice in order to stop ‘faceless criminals’ planning to unleash deadly actions on the state.
But the fact the killing of security operatives and burning of police stations witnessed across the states last week indicate that the curfews have not succeeded in stopping the gunmen. In Rivers, despite the curfew, the decimation of alleged ESN members in Orlu last Thursday, 29 April, was followed killing of at least seven policemen were killed by rampaging gunmen during attacks in seven police stations located along East West Road in Obio-Akpor local government area of the state. “With the methodology and uniformity of the serial attacks on security agents and police stations across the South East and South South, the two zones might witness more violence. I pray that they don’t resort to attacking politicians and other eminent persons” ChidiIbeh, a chieftain of Ohanaeze Ndigbo said. I pray these gunmen don’t target convoys of politicians in the near future. Within three months, over 50 police formations have been burnt. There’s fear in the South East and South South zones over the number of ammunition in the hands of these gunmen. As at today, nobody has claimed responsibility for the attacks, nobody has made any demand Secretary,” he added.
Kidnappers Reign In the Southwest
In the Southwest, kidnappers have continued to make life hell for the people. Just as the killings of security operatives were ongoing last Tuesday, there were also reports of abduction of a police officer and three civilians in Ogun State.
The gunmen, suspected to be kidnappers, according to reports, abducted a civil servant working with the ministry of agriculture and a couple who wanted to establish a fish farm in the state on Wednesday evening at Ibara-Orile area of Abeokuta North Local Government Area of the state.
The three persons were abducted one of the policemen guarding them was killed as confirmed by the state Police Public Relations Officer, AbimbolaOyeyemi. The fears of kidnappers, most of who are also of the Fulani stock pervade the Southwest states of Ogun, Oyo and Osun States keeping the people off the highways and farmers off their farms.
Boko Haram/Bandits Expanding Territory
Unarguably, the biggest security scare for the country remained the rampaging Boko Haram terrorists who are gradually extending their terror footprint beyond the Northeast region where they have killed well over 20,000 people in the past 12 years.
Despite the best efforts of the Nigeria’s military forces and claims that they have been defeated Boko Haram has continue to unleash daring attacks on communities and facilities of the armed forces in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa State, the epicenters of their activities.
The insurgent group demonstrated its might when during an attack on military facilities in Mainok, BornoState, it not only killed scores of soldiers, but was also able to capture tanks, Buffalo operational vehicles and MRAPs. The insurgent group had of recent displaced thousands of people during their attacks on Kanamma and Geidam towns of Yobe State.
About three weeks ago, the Governor of Niger, Abubakar Bello had raised alarm that Boko Haram had joined the bandits killing, maiming and displacing people from the farms and settlements in different parts of the State.
The Governor had told journalists that while bandits have taken over about 50 villages in the state, Boko Haram members are in control of Kaure and Shiroro local government of Nigeria where they are now flying their flag. “I am confirming that there are Boko Haram elements here in Niger state, here in Kaure, I am confirming that they have hoisted their flags here. Their wives (of the villagers) have been seized from them and forcefully attached to Boko Haram members. I just heard that they have placed their flags at Kaure, meaning they have taken over the territory,” the Governor who accused the Federal Government of failing to heed his call to take appropriate action against the terrorists said.
He also sounded a warning that with Boko Haram in Niger State, the terror group is nearer to the Federal Capital Territory, FCT than it has ever been. “This is what I have been engaging the federal government on, unfortunately it has now got to this level. If care is not taken, even Abuja is not safe. We have been saying this for long. All our efforts have been in vain.
“Sambisa is several kilometers from Abuja but Kaure is less than two hours’ drive from Abuja. So nobody is safe anymore, not even those in Abuja. This is the time to act. All hands must be on deck. It is not a fight for Niger State alone. I am not waiting for anyone anymore, I am going to take action.
But the people living in Abuja have also not been spared of the agony over their safety like other parts of the country despite its status as the seat of the Federal Government. Before now, bandits who have made life hell for the states bordering Abuja have also been involved in mass abductions of people in communities like Abaji, Gwagwalada, KPegi, Tuganmaje and Kuje among others.
In recent times, parents and guardians in communities in the outskirts of the territory had to hurriedly withdraw their students from schools following news that of buildup of hundreds of suspected Fulani militia in Sabon-Wuse, a border town with Niger State. The FCT Administration was forced to react to the panic withdrawal, assuring parents of safety of their children. ‘’We are assuring the general public of the safety of our pupils in all schools in the FCT. There is no need for parents and pupils to panic because our schools are safe from bandits and kidnappers,” the FCT Administration Education secretariat said in a statement by its Director, Administration and Finance, Mallam Leramoh Abdulrazaq.
Yet, the fears of the parents and guardians cannot be totally dismissed given that the bandits have in addition to pillaging and kidnapping of villagers have been targeting schools in neigbouring states. Reports indicated that about 730 students have been abducted by bandits in Zamfara, Katsina, Niger and Kaduna States in the Northwest since December 2020.
While most of the students have been released after payment of ransoms, the developments have resulted in closure of hundreds of schools in the affected areas. In Kaduna, while there were celebrations of the release of Afaka students, parents of 14 students abducted from Greenfield University were still in agony over the fate of their wards.
Indeed, the bandits had threatened to kill the remaining students in their custody if their demand for N100 million ransom and motorcycles are not met. The bandits had earlier killed five of the students, hence, their threats were not taken lightly. But Kaduna Governor, Nasir- El- Rufai had insisted that he will not pay ransom or engage in any form of negotiation with the bandits.
Indeed, the Governor had consistently insisted that the best way to deal with the bandits is to ‘kill them all.’ As a result, the distraught parents were left to explore other options for getting the students out of the stranglehold of their captors with controversial Islamic cleric Sheikh Ahmed Gumi, playing the role of go between them and the bandits.
Yet, analysts insist that the wisdom in the decision of El-Rufai not to pay bandits can be seen in the fact that states like Zamfara and Katsina where the Governors had tried to appease the bandits with money and other gifts, including vehicles, motorcycles and cattle.
However, such appeasements have not stopped the bandits from attacks on the rural communities in the states during which they continue to abduct and kill villagers. The Governor of Zamfara State, Bello Matawalle has already indicated that he will now go full blast against bandits, their informants, collaborators and weapons suppliers following the failure appeasement approach. “The action became necessary in order to fully address the resurgence of armed banditry activities in some parts of the state which is being aided by the people who are living mostly in the cities and providing information to the bandits in the bushes,” Matawalle said while playing host to AminuTambuwal, the governor of Sokoto State who came along with his council members to commiserate with him over the recent bandits attack in some parts of the state which claimed nearly 100 lives.
Nigerians Helpless, Buhari Unresponsive
Benue Governor, Samuel Ortom had after another killing attributed to Fulani herdsmen in one of the internally displaced persons camp in the state last week accused President Buhari of being insensitive to killings , banditry and abductions going on in various parts of the country. Commenting on the spate of insecurity in the country, Governor Samuel Ortom had lamented that the Nigerian government has been overwhelmed by the criminals. Ortom spoke while reacting to series of killings attributed to Fulani herders in communities across his state.
Speaking in the same vein, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Nigeria lamented that Nigeria seem to be on the path of destruction with pervasive insecurity in all parts of the country which the government has failed to respond to. “We are speedily getting there. Police stations are being burnt, our gallant military men and women are being killed, barracks are attacked, IDP camps are attacked, farmlands are invaded, youth unemployment is at its highest, private sectors are not giving enabling environment to thrive, and appointments to offices are not reflective of our diversities; the complaints are almost endless – could the sounds signalling a collapsing nation be louder than this?,” the CBCN said in a statement on Thursday signed by its president, Augustine Akubeze.
According to the body, the President should focus his energy, time and resources on how to tackle the pervasive insecurity rather that responding to criticisms about its performance. The Catholic Bishops issued the statement in response to an earlier claim in a statement by Buhari’s Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina, the army and the DSS of alleged attempt to overthrow the President by some religious and political leaders over growing insecurity in the country.
Also, Ejika Mbaka, a reverend father and former supporter of the President had asked Buhari to resign or be removed from office over the state of insecurity in the country. On its part, the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party, PDP had warned that the 2023 general election might not hold because of the pervasive state of insecurity in the country. “Herdsmen are also menacing in the West; gunmen causing havoc in the East; and the militants in the South; all killing, looting, raping, maiming and burning down homes. The situation is bad; Nigerians all over are living in fear. We are worried Abuja is not even safe. It is no longer politics. We got alert of plots to bomb and burn down our airports. We urge the federal government to declare a national state of emergency in security. There is the need to call a national conference to discuss the insecurity in the country,” Chairman of PDP, UcheSecondus said during a recent press conference in Abuja.
Many Nigerians are also concerned that the President has refused to speak directly to the people on the security challenges, preferring instead to hide under the veneer of spokespersons. There is also a sense that the President is not listening to suggestions from other Nigerians on how to tackle the security challenges.
For example, the House of Representatives had called for declaration of a state of emergency in the areas where the insecurity problems are very grave. Some other commentators, like Nobel Laureate, Professor Wole Soyinka had asked the President to seek foreign help.
In addition, there have been suggestions that the President should initiative the process of establishment of state police while more personnel should be recruited into the military in addition to procurement of more equipment for the armed forces.
The President has not responded to these suggestions, though it has been holding meetings with the service chiefs in response to the increasing anarchy in the land in the past two weeks. But the president has not spoken to the people on what his plans and this must change, according to the Catholic Bishops: “In every democracy, the welfare of the citizens is of great concern to the President. From time to time, Presidents address the people and give an account of the state of affairs in the country. In Nigeria, we hardly hear directly from our President. Most of the time, we hear from ‘the Presidency.’ Nigerians did not elect presidential media spokespersons.”
Buhari Will Tackle Security Challenges
However, the Presidency had insisted that though he may not be speaking directly to Nigerians, Buhari is concerned by acts of violence going on around the country and will take appropriate action on them in accordance to his constitutional mandate.
Presidential spokesperson, GarbaShehu who said this in a statement added that Buhari would continue to keep security, police and the armed forces on their toes to calm the troubled waters around the country. According to him, the president is concerned and has always condemned the rising levels of incidents, especially the killings and violence in various parts of the country.
He, however, solicited the support of every Nigerian to enable the President to succeed in the task. “President Buhari took an oath to defend the life and property of every citizen, a duty he takes seriously and is committed to ensuring. Those citizens regardless of their affiliations, who either incite, sponsor or are proven to be abettors of these atrocities will face the law squarely and be answerable for their crimes against our fellow citizens and nation.”
But Nigerians will want the President to demonstrate his concerns more by taking steps to rein in the anarchy sneaking in around Nigeria rather than mere expression of sympathies and condolences.
Insecurity: What Buhari Should Do
Mr. Femi Falana, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, in this interview with ADEMOLA ADEGBAMIGBE, offers solutions on how President Muhammadu Buhari can successfully tackle insurgency, banditry, kidnappings and other forms of insecurity in Nigeria
Our soldiers receive accolades outside Nigeria, yet they cannot defeat insurgents.
What is the problem?
The Nigerian armed forces are lauded from time to time by the United Nations, African Union and ECOWAS for enormous contributions to peace keeping operations in Africa. It was the ECOMOG led by Nigeria which restored political stability in war torn Liberia and Sierra Leone. It was also the ECOMOG that prevented President Yahya Jammeh from plunging The Gambia to a civil war due to what the Late Chief Obafemi Awolowo once referred to as ‘tenacity of office’. Regrettably, the same armed forces have not been able to defeat the rag tag army of the satanic Boko Haram sect. The reason is not far- fetched. Our troops are willing to fight but they lack the vital military hardware to wage the war on terror. The troops are also not motivated by the military oligarchy and the federal government. The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed once disclosed that the sum of $15 billion earmarked for arms procurement could not be accounted for. Recently, the National Security Adviser, General Babagana Monguno also revealed that another sum of $1 billion approved for arms procurement last year had been diverted. It has just been confirmed by the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Honourable Femi Gbajabiamila that out of the money budgeted for the defence annually only nine percent of the total budgetary allocation to the Nigerian armed forces is spent on equipment while the balance of ninety three percent is spent on recurrent overhead, salaries and welfare. The system has to be reviewed as a matter of urgency in the interest of national security.
Even during the civil war Nigeria never witnessed this level of senseless killing carnage, abductions and destruction of properties. Section 14(2)(b) of the Constitution prescribes that the security and welfare of the people shall be the primary purpose of government. Since the government can neither secure the people nor provide for the welfare of citizens, there are calls for regime change. The Buhari administration should stop insulting, blackmailing and intimidating Nigerians. For example, a senior lawyer in his 80s, has called for a six-month military rule to restore law and order in the country. Chief Robert Clark, SAN, has, before now, embraced the anti-corruption agenda of the Buhari administration. But he is now completely frustrated. The military have promptly reacted and rejected the call for intervention. They have also pledged their loyalty to defend democracy. That should have ended the matter.
No doubt, many nationality groups have called for the bulkanization of the country, others have called for restructuring or power devotion. Out of frustration, young people are leaving the country, declaring for asylum abroad. Many even risk their lives by travelling to Europe through the Mediterranean Sea. Thousands have teamed up with terrorists, bandits, kidnappers, armed robbers to wreck havoc on the society. In view of worsening insecurity in the country there has arisen the urgent need to recruit more police personnel, train and motivate them to handle the challenge of internal security. President Buhari owes it a constitutional duty to halt the reckless killing of unarmed citizens by terrorists, bandits, kidnappers, armed robbers and other hardened criminals.
Critics raise the issue of lack of motivation. You have given legald efence to the rank and file. What are the factors that contributet o their lack of motivation?
Section 179 of the Armed Forces Act permits all members of the armed forces to complain to higher authorities. And the complaint shall be addressed by the authorities. But the provision is violated as soldiers are asked to obey orders before complaining. It is a colonial policy which ought to have been discarded. The Armed Forces Act enacted by a military dictator in 1993 ought to be reviewed to ensure that the rights of military personnel are respected. The appellate courts have repeatedly called for the review of many provisions of the military law to make it conform with the tenets of rule of law under a democratic dispensation. But the call has been ignored. It is no longer sufficient to appropriate fund for prosecuting the war on terror. The executive and legislative bodies ought to put in place a mechanism for monitoring the disbursement of the fund earmarked for equipping the armed forces and the police. The routine briefing in camera of the defence committees of the National Assembly by service chiefs in camera ought to a serious engagement for monitoring the performance of the troops on the field. Recently, the immediate former chief of army staff, General Yusuf Buratai disclosed that the war on terror would last for the next 20 years. He was asked to take a bow and become an Ambassador. Here is a man who had said that the Boko Haram sect had been technically downgraded or defeated. He was not asked to justify his earlier statements that the insurgents had been defeated. After the screening exercise President Buhari has given the new service chiefs an ultimatum of three months to wipe out the insurgents. As our Ambassador to a foreign country, General Buratai is going to defend the presidential deadline of 3 months within which to eradicate terrorism in Nigeria. How will the country be respected in the comity of nations? So, the national assembly should take its oversight functions much more seriously. You would recall that while the wars were raging in Iraq and Afghanistan the heads of the governments of both United States and United Kingdom paid unscheduled visits to the war front to address the troops. In the case of Nigeria, the President should pay unscheduled visits to the troops instead of meeting service chiefs regularly in the Presidential villa. Sometime in November 2019, the Vice President of the United States, Mr. Mike Pence visited the US troops in Iraq. So, if President Buhari is otherwise engaged he should assign some of these responsibilities to the Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo SAN.
Owing to loss of some grounds to the insurgents by the armed forces in 2014, the military hierarchy decided to divert public attention from the criminal diversion of the huge fund earmarked for procurement of arms and ammunition by a coterie of senior officers. The authorities decided to make sacrificial lambs of some military officers and other ranks. Among the officers charged with war crimes were two generals. Scores of other soldiers were charged with conspiracy and mutiny. Basically, the offence committed by them was that they demanded for weapons to conduct the counter insurgency operations in the North East region. Our defence team including a retired Major, Femi Oyebanji, represented majority of the defendants in the military courts. The accused military officers were discharged and acquitted apart from one whose rank was reduced. Out of the 60 soldiers defended by us the charges were withdrawn against 2 while 58 were convicted and sentenced to death. In defending the defendants we had drawn the attention of the military courts to section 179 of the Armed Forces Act which permits a soldier, rating or aircraftman to make a complaint to his commanding officer and that he shall not be penalised for having made a complaint. The complaint of the convicted soldiers pertaining to lack of adequate weapons to fight terrorism was made in accordance with the provision of that law. But in total disregard of the law the two courts-martial convicted and sentenced the 58 soldiers to death. 12 other soldiers were charged with similar offences. They too were convicted and sentenced to death. They were defended by other colleagues. As the Nigerian Army had no facilities to put others on trial for committing the same offence over 3,000 soldiers were dismissed.
We made a strong representation to the confirming authorities on their behalf of the convicted and dismissed soldiers. In particular, we referred to the case Cpl. Oladele & 22 others v Nigerian Army where the appellants were convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment by a court-martial for staging a protest at the airport in Cairo, Egypt over the failure of the military authorities to pay them the medical allowance due to them. The Court of Appeal quashed the conviction and penalty of life imprisonment imposed on the appellants on the ground that members of the armed forces have not denounced their membership of the Nigerian society and as such they are not excluded from the enjoyment of all the fundamental rights outlined in chapter 4 of the Constitution. That profound judicial pronouncement was made by the Court of Appeal in 2003 under the current political dispensation. We also alluded to the criminal diversion of the billions of Naira appropriated by the national assembly for procurement of arms and ammunition for the counter insurgency operations by a coterie of army generals. The military authorities had no choice but to review the cases. The over 3,000 dismissed soldiers were recalled while the death sentences of the 70 soldiers were commuted to 10 years imprisonment. The authorities made it clear to me that they could not pardon them so as not set a dangerous precedent in the military. However, we have secured the release of 4 convicts at the Court of Appeal while we are pursuing the cases of the others at the Supreme Court. Meanwhile, we have also approached the Federal High Court to challenge the authorities of the Nigerian Correctional Centre for not releasing the convicted soldiers from prison custody as they are qualified for the presidential amnesty granted to certain categories of inmates.
You have also defended some cops. What do you say to that?
In 1980, the Maitatsine riot occurred in Kano in 1980 whereby the fanatics overpowered the police and the military had to be brought in to restore law and order. The authorities decided to equip the police to deal with any further threat to internal security. The Shehu Shagari administration acquired adequate equipment for the police. But in January 1984, the Buhari/Idiagbon military junta confiscated the weapons and gave them to the Nigerian army to prevent the police from staging a coup. Since then, successive regimes have failed to equip the police. It is so bad that the police force has to rely on equipment provided by members of the police including criminal suspects. The country is paying dearly for the utter neglect of the police by the Nigerian neocolonial State. Members of the Nigeria Police Force engage in corrupt practices because there is no sanction for impunity. By a twist of irony, Nigerian police officers are always ahead of their counterparts from other parts of the world in peace keeping operations. About 5 years ago, I was in Guinea Bissau to attend a conference. I met a contingent of police officers from Nigeria. I was very proud as a Nigerian when the officers were commended by the local officials for their incorruptibility and commitment to duty. As I later found out, the officers were supplied with the necessary tools, paid well and trained to respect the people and not to lord it over them. But in Nigeria, the training of police personnel in the police colleges is colonial, brutish and dehumanising. Police men and women are trained to have contempt for the people. They are made to believe that political activists, trade unionists and students are enemies of the peace of the society. As soon as they graduate from police colleges the police personnel engage in anti democratic policing. In a classical case of misdirected antagonism, police personnel subject the people to intimidation and harassment, extort money from them, torture and engage in extrajudicial execution of the suspects. Through accidentally discharge of bullets a number of innocent members of the public are killed, from time to time.
However, due to the pressure mounted on the State by the human rights community the national assembly has enacted the Administration of Criminal Justice Act 2015, Anti Torture Act 2017, Police Trust Fund Act 2019 and the Police Establishment Act 2020. As these enactments are predicated on human rights it can be said that there exists an enabling environment exists for policing with respect for human rights. For instance, the Anti-Torture Act has prohibited and criminalized the infliction of torture on any suspect. Any police or security officer who subjects a suspect to is liable to be prosecuted and jailed for 25 years if convicted. If the suspect dies as a result of torture the officer involved will be tried for murder. Under the Police Act, the arrest of relatives in lieu of wanted criminal suspects, the practice of arresting for civil wrongs have been prohibited. A lawyer shall be attached to every police station to monitor compliance with the human rights of suspects. By virtue of the Police Trust Fund Act 0.5% from the federation account and 0.005% of the net profit of all companies shall be paid into the Fund. I believe that if implemented the Police Trust Fund Act 2019 will guarantee funding for training and accommodation for police personnel. It is high time the Nigeria Police Force was replaced by the Nigeria Police Service which will be monitored and superintended by representatives of mass based organisations and the government. Unless that is done the police cannot succeed in maintaining internal security.
Instead of concentrating attention in prosecuting the counter insurgency operations members of the armed forces have taken over the management of internal security of the country to the extent of mounting road blocks on many roads. Sometime in October 2019, the Nigerian Army headquarters directed soldiers to mount road blocks and subject the population to ‘operation positive identification’. To move on the road, every citizen was required to be in possession of their national identity card, driving licence or voters’ card. The policy was reminiscent of the apartheid era in South Africa when blacks were made to carry pass to move in certain parts of their own country. To prevent such baseless humiliation of the Nigerian people I had to challenge the operation in the Federal High Court. In his memorable judgment delivered on July 20, 2020 the Honourable Justice Rilwan Ankawa declared the operation illegal and unconstitutional as the army lacks the power to subject the people to any form of identification. In view of the war on terror being prosecuted by the government all members of the armed forces should be withdrawn from the task of maintaining internal security which is constitutional preserve of the Police. Let the armed forces concentrate on the defence of the country from external aggression.
What, therefore, can Buhari do? People talk of drones, CCTV…
Security is technology based. In addition to effective intelligence gathering gadgets like CCTV cameras, drones and tracking devices have to be acquired by the government. A few months ago an American was abducted in Niger Republic. The family of the abducted ignored the demand for payment of ransom as they were issued by the American Government that he would be rescued safe and alive. Through the deployment of drones the den of the bandits was located while troops were dispatched to storm the camp of the criminals where the abductee was kept. Without any respect for our sovereignty a place in northern Nigeria was used for the operation. The abductee was rescued while two of the kidnappers were killed. Instead of forcing parents of kidnapped school children to pay ransom running to hundreds of millions of Naira the Federal and State Government ought to acquire drones and train the officials to use them for successful rescue operations.
Since all sim cards are required to be registered has the government found out how bandits and terrorists are in possession of so many telephone lines with which they call and negotiate ransom with family members of kidnap victims. Why has the government failed to use tracking devices to trace bandits and other criminal elements terrorizing the society? The Jonathan administration awarded a $470 million contract for the installation of CCTV cameras in Lagos and Abuja. The money was diverted. Why has the government failed to use the anti-graft agencies to recover the money, fix the cameras and jail the contractors? The Lagos State once announced plan to install 10,000 CCTV Cameras. Why was the plan abandoned? Nigerians have to be mobilized to hold the governments accountable at all levels.
You have travelled far and wide, what is the system of policing out there that Nigeria can adopt?
We do not need to copy any foreign model. Under the colonial regime the policy of posting police personnel to serve outside their places of birth was deliberate. It was meant to facilitate the intimidation of communities an alien police force. The colonial practice of posting soldiers to serve outside their states of origin has to stop for the purpose of gathering intelligence police officers must understand the language and culture of the community to be secured by them. Section 214 of the Constitution provides that there shall be the Nigeria Police Force and that there shall be no other force established in any part of the community. It is also provided that there shall be the Nigeria Police Council which shall administer, organize and supervise the police. The body is constituted by the president, the 36 state governors, the Chairman of the Police Service Commission and the Inspector General of Police. But the body does not meet. Hence the President has been adhered to hijack the police. Two years ago, the police wanted to recruit 10,000 police personnel, the Inspector General of Police and the Police Service Commission could not agree on the modalities for the recruitment and they had to drag themselves to the court. Curiously, the Nigeria Police Council did not call them to order. Sometimes in 2018, I was compelled to approach the Federal High Court to compel the president to convene regular meetings of the council to monitor, review and address the crisis of internal security in the country. The national assembly saw merit in my case and denied to incorporate a section in the Police Establishment Act 2020 which provides for at least two meetings of the council per annum and as occasions may demand. For reasons best known to them the government have failed to requisition regular meeting of the council.
The most serious aspect of security, social security is not seriously addressed by the government. According to the Nigerian Bureau of Statistics there are over 11 million unemployed young people in Nigeria. More tertiary institutions are being established by the Federal and State governments as well as private individuals without addressing the creation of job opportunities for them. In recent times, many unemployed graduates have been attracted to all manners of crimes including kidnapping and other violent crimes. In addition to the growing army of unemployed people not less than 14 million out of school children roam the street. We have the highest figure of out of school children in the world. The governments are not addressing the crisis even though terrorists and bandits recruit from the multitude of street boys and girls. Not surprisingly, the northern states that have refused to adopt the Child’s Rights Act are now bed of terrorists and terrorism. 25 out of the 36 states have adopted and enacted Child’s Rights law. The 11 states that have failed to adopt the law are hotspots of terrorism and banditry. I have called on the national assembly to amend the Universal Basic Education Act to allow the Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC) to remove children from the street and enroll them in schools in view of the reluctance of state governments to address the crisis.
Questions have been raised about the huge security votes that governors receive. Yet, there is insecurity in their domains. Whati s wrong?
As the term suggests, security votes are secret. Although we operate a democratic government information pertaining to security votes is not in the public domain. But according to Transparency International, security votes are about N240 billion. Apart from other top political office holders in Nigeria collect security votes. A suit was on filed by a civil society body in the Federal High Court for the abolition of payment of security votes. One of the co-defendants, an anti-graft agency opposed the suit. When I investigated the matter I found out that head of the anti-graft agency collects security vote of N10 million per month. Since the security votes are used to provide vehicles, security gadgets and other logistics for security agencies in every state. The fund for security should be budgeted for and made open in a transparent manner. Security votes should be abolished for all public officers.
Many have advised FG to hire mercenaries to fight insurgents. Do you agree?
No serious nation hires mercenaries to defend it against external aggression. Our armed forces can defeat the insurgents if they are mobilized and motivated. Sometime last month, President Buhari asked President Biden to come to the aid of Nigeria in fighting insecurity and insurgency in Nigeria. As if that was not sufficient, President Buhari pleaded with the United States to relocate Africom to Africa after the army of occupation had been rejected by the governments and people of Africa who believe that the African High Command and the ECOMOG are capable of restoring law and order in troubled spots in the continent.
During the struggle for the decolonisation of the Southern African region the United States and other western countries wanted African countries to abandon the Movement for the Peoples Liberation of Angola (MPLA) and join imperialism in its constructive engagement with the apartheid forces. In rejecting the dubious agenda the Nigerian military leader, the Late General Murtala Mohammed told the West that “Africa has come of age”. Even the Olusegun Obasanjo military regime nationalised the British Petroleum and renamed it African Petroleum. About three decades later, Nigeria lost the moral and political leadership in Africa as it became a pariah nation as it was found wanting for gross abuse of human rights. It was at that juncture President Nelson Mandela said that Africa was expecting Nigeria to provide leadership for the continent. It is unfortunate that the federal government does not seem to appreciate the position of Nigeria in the comity of nations. A few years ago, President Obama summoned African leaders to a meeting in Washington to discuss some problems plaguing the continent. President Goodluck Jonathan ought to have rejected the insulting invitation on grounds that Presidents Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton and George Bush had visited Nigeria. Since Nigeria did not reject the insulting summons from President Obama the President of France, Mr. Emmanuel Macron too has just hosted African leaders led by President Buhari in Paris to discuss issues relating to Africa including terrorism, insecurity and coronavirus pandemic. It is hoped that Nigeria will, once again, be in a position to compel leaders of western countries to learn to treat their African colleagues with respect and dignity.