President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday debunked insinuations that insurgents operating within the country, especially Boko Haram, have more money and sophisticated weapons than government forces.
President Buhari also queried security chiefs on how terrorists in the North East get arms, despite closure of the nation's borders with neighbouring countries.
The President spoke as the Nigerian Governors Forum, NGF, urged him to consider a security "bail out" for the states, in view of the enormity of resources they commit in support of the military and the police.
This is even as the Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria, CBCN, yesterday asked the federal and Kaduna State governments to stop the current spate of killings in Southern Kaduna now.
Speaking at the virtual meeting with members of NGF Security Committee and heads of security agencies at the Council Chamber, Presidential Villa, Abuja, President Buhari called for improved intelligence sharing among different security agencies.
The three-hour meeting, attended by six governors, representing each of the six geopolitical zones, focused on the country's security policies and approaches in tackling internal security challenges, with a charge that intelligence-gathering and sharing must be optimized for the nation to secure itself.
The meeting harped on the need for a joint strategy to bring various conflicts to an end within time limits, while field commanders would take measures to protect civilian communities as a confidence-building mechanism between the military and those communities.
Lost trust to be regained
The various stakeholders at the meeting said when the trust that had been lost between both parties was re-established, there would be improved cooperation in intelligence-gathering and sharing.
The meeting also agreed that poverty and youth unemployment were at the root of the nationwide security challenges, and needed to be addressed with greater vigour by all tiers of government.
According to a statement issued by the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Mallam Garba Shehu, the President used the opportunity to dispel commonly held assumptions that terrorists in the North-East have far more weapons and money than government, and that what is left of them are "mere scaveng-ers desperate for food, raiding shops and mar-kets, and killing innocent persons in the process."
The statement further stated that President Buhari expressed concern that "in spite of the fact that borders with neighbouring countries had been shut, bandits and terrorists continued to have access to small weapons.
"These terrorists are in the localities. How is it that they are not short of small arms?" he queried the security and intelligence chiefs.
"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 meeting.
"The services have resources; yes, they need more, and mobility, and are doing their best, but there is need for better gathering and interpretation of intelligence. Our intelligence-gathering must be improved."
More arms coming, Buhari tells Governors
The President informed the governors of the imminent shipment of weapons and aircraft from Jordan, China and the United States, but again asked for patience on the part of the public because the new weapons and aircraft must be manned by trained fighters and pilots who must first receive appropriate training.
He also expressed satisfaction with the level of support from neighbouring countries in the war against terrorism.
"They are cooperating with us. On Boko Haram, we are making progress with Benin, Niger, Chad and Cameroon," he said, while restating that intelligence-gathering must improve to be able to track small arms in the North-West, North-Central and North-East states," the President said.
President Buhari also expressed satisfaction with the level of naval activities in the Gulf of Guinea, using 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.
"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."
Governors demand security bailout
In their submissions, anchored by NGF 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 as factors heightening insecurity in 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 the $1 billion they allowed the President to withdraw from the Excess Crude Account for weapons procurement two years ago.
The governors, therefore, urged the President to consider a "bail out" 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 virtual meeting had Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, Secretary to the Government of the Federation, SGF, Boss Mustapha, the National Security Adviser, NSA, Major General Babagana Monguno, retd, and the Chief of Staff, Prof Ibrahim Gambari, physically present.
The governors that joined virtually were chairman of the NGF security council and governor of Kogi State, Yahaya Bello, Senator Douye Diri of Bayelsa, Prof. Babagana Zulum of Borno, David Umahi of Ebonyi, and Babajide Sanwo-Olu of Lagos.
Also physically present were Chief of Defence Staff, General Gabriel Olonisakin, Chief of Army Staff, Lt. General Tukur Buratai, Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Ibok Ekwe Ibas, Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar, Inspector-General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, and the Director-General, Department of State Services, DSS, Yusuf Bichi.
Also in attendance were the Director-General, National Intelligence Agency, NIA, Ahmed Rufa'i, Chief of Defence Intelligence, Air Vice Marshall Muhammed Salihu Usman, Minister of Defence, Bashir Magashi, and Minister of Police Affairs, Mohammad Dingyadi.
Catholic Bishops to FG, Kaduna govt: Stop the killings now
Meanwhile, the Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria, CBCN, has asked the federal and Kaduna State governments to stop the current spate of killings in Southern Kaduna now.
The CBCN in a statement, titled "INSECURITY IN NIGERIA: STOP THE KILLING Now," signed by the President and Archbishop of Benin City, Augustine Obiora Akubeze, and addressed to all Catholics and other Nigerians, expressed disgust about the persistent killings, saying Nigerians were tired of the situation.
"We are all tired of this situation. We do not want any politician to politicize the killing of Nigerians. There should be one response from everyone, and that is, the killings must stop. Our hearts are bleeding, and we are more troubled when we hear of the massacre currently going on in Southern Kaduna.
"We want all the people suffering the incessant attacks in Southern Kaduna to know that all Catholics in Nigeria are praying for them.
"We call on the Federal Government and the government of Kaduna State to bring a complete stop to the killing of innocent people. The loss of any Nigerian life does not help to further the agenda of any religious ideology or the ambition of any politician.
"The perpetrators of the killings must be brought to justice. Where there is no justice or justice is not seen to be done, there cannot be peace. Where there is no peace, there cannot be development. Any government, state or federal that wants peace must work for justice for everyone.
"There will never be sustained development built upon the bloodshed of innocent people brutally murdered by religious fundamentalists without any recourse to justice for the victims," the statement read.
The Bishops reminded Nigerians that the present federal government came to power, promising Nigerians the eradication of corruption, a guarantee of security to life and property, and rapid growth in the economy.
The administration, according to the Catholic Bishops, also promised to create jobs and an enabling environment that engenders growth of the private sector; a significant increase in the supply of electricity to Nigerians, affordable and quality health care to Nigerians, and the revamping of the educational sector are the promises the government continues to make.
They said: "Many Nigerians, irrespective of political party affiliation, will affirm that these promises have remained a far cry. We strongly appeal to Nigerians to unite together in calling on the Federal Government to give priority to these areas of our lives."
The Bishops appealed to all Catholics to observe a month-long intercessory Prayer... ." one Our Father, three Hail Marys, and one Glory Be to the Father every day after the Angelus for 40 days, starting from August 22, 2020, to September 30, 2020, the eve of Nigeria's Independence Day. "On Independence Day, let us join in praying the five decades of the sorrowful mysteries, starting from 12.00 noon," the CBCN stated.
The Bishops appealed to each Bishop to encourage the faithful in his diocese to participate fully in this prayer for God to save Nigeria.
"Let us not harbour hatred for anyone. We must be instruments of forgiveness and reconciliation. We must be on the part of justice for all and peace in Nigeria," they stated.
Group lauds OPSH
Also, Global Peace and Life Rescue Initiative, GOPRI, yesterday commended men of Operation Safe Haven, OPSH, for apprehending suspected bandits and criminals who have been terrorising Southern Kaduna.
Some suspected criminal elements likely to have been involved in the attacks and isolated killings in the area were arrested last weekend by security operatives
Sector Commander of Operation Safe Haven in Kafanchan, Colonel David Nwakonobi, had said eight suspects were arrested at different locations with dangerous weapons in their possession during the operation carried out by the task force.
Items recovered from the suspected bandits paraded by security operatives in Kaduna included locally fabricated pump action guns, locally made pistols, 9 mm ammunition, machetes, and motorcycles.
Reacting to the success of security operatives,GOPRI said it was highly elated that the painstaking and tireless efforts by OPSH and other security agencies to arrest the ugly situation in Southern Kaduna had started yielding positive results.
The group, working on sustainable peace building in Southern Kaduna and other restive parts of Nigeria, in a statement by its Executive Director, Amb. Melvin Ejeh, said the success was a step towards ending the attacks and isolated killings in Southern Kaduna
Ejeh said he was optimistic that given the development, the end to the persistent attacks and isolated killings in the area was near.
The humanitarian group, with interest in peace building across the country, described the arrest of the suspected bandits and criminals as a major breakthrough in the ongoing efforts by the military to end the persistent attacks that had seen many lives and property lost in the area.
Ejeh thanked President Muhamamadu Muhammadu Buhari and the military authorities in establishing OPSH to oversee Southern Kaduna, Plateau and environs, saying it had to a large extent lived up to its responsibility. He particularly thanked the OPSH commander, Major General Chukwuemeka Okonkwo, for what it called "his relentless efforts and genuine commitment" to seeing to the end of the crises that had seen many lives and property lost.
According to him, the military outfit responsible for security in Plateau, parts of Bauchi State and Southern Kaduna should be supported and encouraged.
The group, which noted that security agencies alone couldn't end the onerous task of restoring total sanity to Southern Kaduna, called on community leaders and residents alike to
support the military in terms of intelligence gathering and reports of suspicious movements as well as suspected criminals to the military.
" We are, therefore, appealing to communities to give timely and accurate information to the security agencies, since they can't be everywhere.
"We must learn to see the security agencies as our own instead of sitting on the fence and waiting for an attack to happen before we start blaming the security agencies, ... .we must also be bold enough to expose criminal elements in our midst," Ejeh added.
Insecurity benefiting some politicians -- Zamfara governor
In a related development, Governor Bello Matawalle of Zamfara State has said some politicians have been exploiting insecurity for personal gains. Speaking at the Special Army Super Camp 4 in Faskari, Katsina State yesterday, the governor said those fuelling insecurity were not interested in the well-being of the people.
"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 this crop of politicians, politics is not about genuine commitment to the well being of the people; it is all about power and nothing more.
"I, therefore, urge the security agencies to deal decisively with anyone found politicising security, no matter how highly placed he is. It is by so doing that we can significantly address the current security challenge confronting not just the North West but the entire federation."
Nigeria must reform to end insecurity -- CISLAC
Reacting to the present security situation in the country yesterday, the Civil Society Legislative Advocay Centre, CISLAC, said the nation needed reforms to end the situation.
Executive Director of the group, Auwal Rafsanjani, who stated this at a stakeholders workshop in Kaduna, said governos' security votes, which he put at N208.8 billion annually, far outweighed the annual budget for the Police and Army.
He said: "For effective use of criminal justice complaint channels in Nigeria. to get out of the current security challenges, the country must embrace a security reform, where security votes are channeled directly to funding the security agencies, rather than being stolen by state executives."
He said only adequate reform of the Police and the military could effectively address the spate of banditry ravaging Abuja - Kaduna road, Southern Kaduna, Katsina, Zamfara, Sokoto, Nasarawa, Plateau and Kogi states.
Rafsanjani described security votes as official corruption by state executives which must be stopped forthwith, adding that the money should be directed to funding security agencies, if Nigeria must be secured.
"We need a security reform if we must have a secured Nigeria. We need to update the training and improve welfare of our security agents, especially the Police. We need to address the poor funding, the way recruitment and promotion are happening, which is demotivating. We want security operations to be professionalized.
"We must wake up to the reality that we cannot have a secured country with underfunded Police. And we cannot continue with this inadequate number of Police personnel. At present, Nigeria has just about 400,000 Police personnel, but unfortunately, almost half of the number are guarding big men, some of who are not in government.
"There is also need to stop the old practice of siphoning of security votes, instead of spending such on security agencies. Security votes in the last five years have been more than the security budget for the Police and the Nigerian Army. This fund is being stolen by state executives, which is not being accounted for.
"We cannot continue to mortgage the life and future of Nigeria for political gains. Security votes are money politicians take to enrich themselves and finance their parties. It is free money, because it is not audited, not accounted for and not oversighted.
"So, If Nigeria desires to improve security, it must be ready to help the security agencies to achieve better result through provision of good welfare scheme, because the environment in which the Police operate at present is very poor," he said.