30 December 2011

Nigeria: Smoke Out Boko Haram Sponsors, Jonathan Orders Security Chiefs

Barely 24 hours after the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) declared that the Christian Community was fast losing confidence in federal government's ability to protect Christians' rights to religious liberties and life, President Goodluck Jonathan yesterday ordered top security chiefs to track down the sponsors of Boko Haram.

The president gave the marching order at a meeting with the National Security Adviser (NSA), General Andrew Azazi (rtd); the Inspector General of Police (IGP), Hafiz Ringim and other security chiefs at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.

LEADERSHIP gathered that the president had at the meeting with the security chiefs directed them to engage in a thorough overhaul of their operational strategies in dealing with the Boko Haram saga.

A source who attended the meeting told LEADERSHIP that Jonathan warned angrily that government would not spare any security officer who fails to act promptly on any information concerning the activities of the terrorist group.

The source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, quoted the president as telling the security chiefs to "Go after those involve in this heinous act. We must stop this Boko Haram madness".

The president, LEADERSHIP recalls, had on Wednesday night told leaders of CAN, led by Pastor Ayo Oritshejafor that he was contemplating an overhaul of the security apparatus in the country.

Speaking to State House correspondents immediately after the meeting, the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), Air Marshall Oluseyi Petirin disclosed that the President has taken decisive actions to restructure the security apparatus in the country.

He added that while the enormity of the challenges dominated the agenda of yesterday's meeting, with the new strategy being put in place by the president, "a lot of things," he insisted, "will change in the days ahead."

The Inspector General of Police (IG), Mr. Hafiz Ringim, had also while addressing State House correspondents in a separate interview said it was not easy to fight terrorism.

He said, "Well, we are all worried. Terrorism is not an easy matter at all. Terrorism is everywhere all over the world, particularly here in this country. As you are aware, it is a very new phenomenon here. We have not had this kind of thing before and we are just having it now. So, we are all scrambling to find our feet and face it squarely. That is what we are doing."

He added that President Jonathan's concerns about the security challenges in the country led to the emergency security meeting where the service chiefs and top security chiefs reviewed "the situation, where we were, where we are now and where we need to be.

"Security agencies and most importantly Nigerian police have made a lot of gains which have not come to the fore. I want to seize this opportunity to talk to everyone of us to remain resolved and resolute to join in the fight against this cankerworm that will not leave anyone of us if we do not put our acts together. This is something that should galvanize us in our quest to remain together and also to bring down the scourge", he stated.

He further assured that the police and other security agencies were ready to protect the lives and property of the ordinary Nigerian in the days ahead.

He said, "We are prepared more than ever before and I want to assure you that if we had not done what we did in Yobe State, if we had not done what we did in Kaduna State, indeed if the Nigerian police force had not done what it did in Kano, the recovery of the suicide bombing vehicles, the story would have been a different one. l assure members of the public that the Nigerian police force and indeed all other security agencies are now ready more than ever before to face these challenges".

Commenting on the number of arrests so far made, Ringim said, "The arrest of these terrorists has been going on for a long time. Many, many of them have been arrested and many of them are in detention. They are in the process of being prosecuted. The issue is not the number of arrests; the issue is the cooperation that all the security agencies need from each and every one of us in order to get to the bottom of this matter."

"So far we have arrested hundreds of them but that Is not the issue, these people to my mind are just the foot soldiers and we need to get strong evidence through the cooperation of members of the public so that we will be able to get to the leaders, masters and organisers of these people," he added.

On the declaration by Christian leaders to revenge the attacks on their members, the IG said, "Definitely, people are agitated and this Boko Haram terrorist group is not attacking only Christians, they attack everyone that is on their way including members of the armed forces and the police and other security agencies. From among us there are Muslims and there are Christians.

"I don't think it is a case of Muslims versus Christians or Christians against Muslims. That is why I am urging each and every one of us in this country to come together to lend a hand so that we can fight this scourge".

Meanwhile, President Jonathan will January next year hold a stakeholders meeting in the Presidential Villa to address the menace of Boko Haram whose actions have exposed the porous nature of the nation's security system.

The Boko Haram sect has been attacking some public and religious institutions in recent times with the latest attacks at the St. Theresa's Catholic Church, Mandalla, which led to the death of 35 people and 60 with multiple injuries. The Chief of Army Staff (COAS), Lt. Gen. Ihejirika, a few days ago, organized a workshop for officers and men in Abuja where new approaches to contain the sect were adopted. Jonathan was said to have resolved to call for a stakeholders meeting possibly in January where a multi-dimensional solution is expected.

LEADERSHIP checks revealed that the idea originated from the meetings the President held with the Sultan of Sokoto, and the leadership of the CAN as an aftermath of last Sunday's attacks in four different states in the North.

The Sultan was said to have disowned the sect as anti-Islamic and asked the Federal Government to do whatever it could to contain them, describing the sect as "an embarrassment to Islam".

The CAN leadership reportedly rattled the President with a threat of reprisals if the sect attacks any church nationwide during the New Year Eve or New Year Day services.

President Jonathan was said to have appealed to the Ayo Oritsejafor-led CAN and informed the Christians leaders of his plan to meet all religious and traditional rulers possibly in January as a way of finding lasting solutions to the menace.

Meanwhile, all military and police buildings as well as other public instructions in Abuja are being kept under the eagle eye of security operatives. Roads passing near some of them have been cordoned off in an attempt to prevent any further embarrassment from the Boko Haram sect which has threatened to strike again this weekend.

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