Abuja — President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday told the newly appointed service chiefs to speed up their actions in freeing the country from the current state of insecurity, stating categorically that they have few weeks to deliver.
Speaking when he decorated the service chiefs with their new ranks at the presidential villa, the president ordered them to go to the battle field and secure the country before the rains start falling to enable farmers return to their farms.
Buhari said, "During our four-hour security meeting, on Tuesday, I had taken the responsibility as Commander-in-Chief for you to go out into the field and secure the country.
"You have got a few weeks to do that because by the rainy season, we expect people to develop confidence and go back to the land, so that we don't get into trouble by being away from the field and therefore unable to produce enough food for the nation."
He told the service chiefs to see their appointment, clearance and decoration as a vote of confidence on them.
"For those (of you) that have been confirmed by this ceremony, the decoration, in front of your spouses, is a further confidence loudly expressed on you on behalf of the nation, to respond to the insecurity the country is in, and the nation looks up to you for rapid relief."
He assured them of his firm support as they delivered on their responsibilities.
"I have accepted responsibility for your actions in the field; it's up to you to identify your competent officers irrespective of seniority and paper qualification and deploy them to make sure that we secure this country.
"We all look forward to you to perform and I as the Commander-in- Chief, I am backing you hundred per cent, and I expect you to effectively deploy your officers and men to secure the country," a statement by presidential spokesman, Femi Adesina, quoted the president as saying.
Responding on behalf of the other service chiefs, the Chief of Defence Staff, General Lucky Irabor, assured the president that they will not fail in their responsibilities as the mandate is clear.
"Nigeria will have peace again. Based on the mandate, we will address all issues, working with all other security organisations," he said.
Others decorated are Lieutenant General Ibrahim Attahiru as Chief of Army Staff, Vice Admiral Awwal Gambo as Chief of Naval Staff and Air Marshal Isiaka Amao as Chief of Air Staff.
We'll Ensure Nigerians No Longer Live In Fear - CDS Irabor
Meanwhile, fielding questions from State House correspondents after the service chiefs were decorated with their new ranks, the Chief of Defence Staff, General Lucky Irabor, assured that the newly promoted Service Chiefs would ensure that Nigerians no longer lived in fear.
He also pledged that the service chiefs in collaboration with other security agencies would soon restore normalcy to all troubled areas across the country.
He said, "Nigerians expect us to bring about peace and security in concert with other security agencies; that we will do. We can't live in fear. And we will ensure that whatever brings fear to Nigerians before now will be a thing of the past.
"Peace and security is not just the security of the borders alone. It comes with having to build bridges across various divides.
"We, as members of the Armed Forces, will never in any way demand peace and security of our nation in the hands of the terrorists. Rather it is we that will determine the peace and not for us to leave it in the hands of the terrorists."
According to the CDS, what the new service chiefs will not do is to give instructions to their subordinates and not do the same.
"What we will not do is to give instructions to our subordinates and not do the same.
"By extension, we will command the troops based on the expectations that we have of them and they will do it according to the expectations that we have of them too," he said.
On whether the new service chiefs will consider change of strategies in the fight against insurgency, banditry and violent crimes in the country, Irabor said they would review the current strategies with a view to meeting the demands of current security challenges.
"Strategies are not sacrosanct. Of course, there are dynamics that we need to begin to look at, what needs to be reviewed, and that is precisely what we are doing currently.
"We review various strategies and of course come up with new ones to be able to meet the demands of the current realities," he added.
He noted that the president had given them a marching order to restore peace to all troubled areas in the country, saying they would work assiduously to achieve that.
On what Nigerians should expect from the newly promoted CDS and the service chiefs in the next 100 days, Irabor said:
"No doubt, the next 100 days is not as important as today. I believe that as members of the Armed Forces working in concert with the rest of the security agencies, we will bring Mr President's expectations to bear in terms of our task.
"But let me also let you know that the inevitable is that Nigerians will indeed experience peace and security across the land."
Food Blockade Would Have Snowballed Into A National Catastrophe - Bello
Meanwhile, Kogi State governor, Yahaya Bello, has explained why he intervened in the food blockade crisis, saying it would have snowballed into a national catastrophe.
He spoke to State House correspondents after meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari at the presidential villa.
The Amalgamated Union of Foodstuffs and Cattle Dealers of Nigeria had called off the industrial action following Wednesday's intervention by the Kogi State governor.
According to Bello, the union had legitimate demands and grievances which the government is looking into.
He said it behoves the government to equally meet them midway since the union has decided to call off their strike so there would be no reoccurrence of such an incident in the future.
Bello said, "Again, anyway, I remember the crisis was snowballing into a major national catastrophe whereby some other parts of this country are gearing up for the presence of a repressive accord in the country and setting us up.
"Meanwhile, that is what those who set the crisis on want to achieve. We can't afford to allow this country to snowball into civil war again, not this time around. We are so much interwoven that we are inseparable, again, by marriage, by business investments, by politics, and every other form of development.
"Nigeria has so much interwoven that we shouldn't allow any few bad elements, however newly placed, highly placed, and calm. Again, it is not possible.
"So, I think if the federal government or the authorities take responsibility and do or attend to, I think such a strike will not repeat itself again".
The governor also dismissed insinuations that his intervention in the strike was to launder his image ahead of the rumoured presidential bid in 2023.
He said, "I am not running away from the fact that numerous teeming youths, Nigerians, women, youths, leaders and followers, various groups are urging me to contest for the presidential election in 2023.
"That is their eyes; it is within their purview to ask for that or demand that I run as their representative in government today. But I have an assignment to carry out; the assignment of ensuring that my state is safe and secured.
"We're doing that effectively, providing leadership in Kogi State. We're doing that effectively, we're taking Kogi State from where it used to be in the past to a more united, prosperous, safe and secure one.
PMB, Governors Not Sleeping, Says Jonathan
Meanwhile, Former President Goodluck Jonathan has said he was aware that President Muhammadu Buhari and state governors are doing their best to tackle the current security challenges bedeviling the country.
Jonathan made the call when he led a delegation of politicians from Bayelsa on a condolence visit to Governor Ifeanyi Okowa at Government House, Asaba, Delta State, following the recent demise of the governor's father, Sir Okorie Okowa.
He said it is unfortunate that school children and many Nigerians were being kidnapped for ransom.
Jonathan said, "I believe that with the commitment of the governors and the federal government, we will be able to address the issue of insecurity in the country.
"I believe that the president himself is not sleeping and that the governors are not sleeping as well over the insecurity challenge in the country.
"As long as the governors, the president and all the security agencies can work together, Nigeria will be able to cross over this very ugly phase of societal evolution," he said.