The growing insecurity in the country has assumed a new dimension, forcing the National Assembly and governors to express fresh concerns, OLALEYE ALUKO reports

Since March 2020, the war against Boko Haram insurgents who the regime of the President, Major-General (retd.), claimed to have “technically defeated”, has assumed a new dimension.

In March, the insurgents stamped their feet of terror once again in the North-East by killing at least 27 Nigerian Army troops in an attack in Goniri, Borno State.

This ugly development attracted national condemnation and triggered relentless calls on the President to change the seemingly inefficient service chiefs.

A series of attacks and killings soon followed amid denials by the military.

But on November 28, there was a national man-made tragedy when the Boko Haram terrorists invaded Zabarmari in the Jere Local Government Area of Borno State and slaughtered at least 43 rice farmers.

Amid the mourning, the Presidency reminded Nigerians that the armed forces were up to the task and the government still had a robust capacity to ensure safety and security of lives and property.

But many Nigerians disagreed. Interestingly, the Nigerian Governors’ Forum appeared to have joined the disbelief in the capability of the military to handle the present worsening situation.

The 36 state governors under the aegis of the NGF on Sunday, November 30, held a meeting in the wake of the murder of the rice farmers in Zabarmari, and posited that the unfortunate incident raised questions about the capability of the nation’s armed forces and other security agencies.

The NGF Chairman and Ekiti State Governor, Dr Kayode Fayemi, who stated the obvious public opinion, had lamented that the attack brought back the ugly memories of several reprehensible attacks on soft targets in the state.

“This sad narrative raises serious questions on the general security situation in the country and around the capability of the nation’s security architecture. It also raises questions on whether or not there are adequate arrangements to protect lives and property.

“Since insurgency engulfed the country more than a decade ago, each time it seems like the situation is coming under control, the enemy strikes again. This has happened consistently,” he noted.

But there was a bigger bombshell to come from the governors, who expectedly should know better, being the Chief Security Officers of their states.

On Sunday, December 6, the NGF chairman declared that Boko Haram terrorists escaping from the military heat in the North-East were now turning to bandits and kidnappers, particularly in the North-West and South-West regions, respectively.

Fayemi, who stated this, noted that there was truly a nexus between terrorists’ activities in the North-East and the banditry in the North-West as well as the kidnapping in the South-West.

While speaking on a programme on Channels Television, the governor said, “If a state of emergency were to be declared, I have no opinion on that, we haven’t discussed the state of emergency as far as the Nigerian Governors’ Forum is concerned. And that is not something that our colleagues who are at the receiving end of the insurgency have proposed to us. Governor (Babagana) Zulum or our North-East colleagues have not said anything about a state of emergency.

“Insurgency is not limited to Borno State. We will be making a mistake if we do not draw a correlation between what is going on in Borno State and what is happening in other parts of the country – banditry, kidnapping, militancy, they are inextricably intertwined. Some of the insurgents that escaped from the Boko Haram territory are the ones prosecuting the banditry in the North-West; some of them are involved in the kidnapping in the South-West.”

Worried by the ugly developments, Borno State Governor, Babagana Zulum, who is mostly hit by the insurgency, lent his voice to the security crisis when he said it was time to look the way of mercenaries if the military was helpless.

Zulum recalled that the former Goodluck Jonathan administration contracted a private army from South Africa, which helped in the recovery of some territories that had been taken over by the Boko Haram terrorists in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa states.

He advised the government to take more stern measures to bring the crisis to an end.

The governor said, “One of our recommendations as possible solutions to end the insurgency is the immediate recruitment of our youths into military and paramilitary services to complement the efforts of the Nigerian forces.

“Our second recommendation is to engage the services of our immediate neighbours, especially the government of Chad, Cameroon and Niger Republic, in clearing the remnants of Boko Haram hiding in the shores of Lake Chad.

“Our third recommendation is for the President to engage the services of mercenaries to clear the entire Sambisa forest.

“Our fourth recommendation is for him to provide the police and the military, with armed-resistant armoured personnel carriers and other related equipment.

“We are also soliciting the support of the Federal Government to support the Borno State in the repatriation of our displaced persons currently residing in Cameroon and the Niger Republic.”

It is left for the President to take the words of Zulum seriously but as it stands, even the federal legislators are finding it hard to invite the President to speak on steps he is taking to address the rising insecurity in the land.

Worried by the worsening insecurity in the country, the House of Representatives had on December 1 invited Buhari over the cold-blooded murder of rice farmers in Zabarmari.

Adopting a motion under urgent matters of national importance sponsored by Satomi Ahmed at the plenary presided by Speaker Femi Gbajabiamila, the lawmakers insisted that President Buhari be made to brief them on the true state of the security of the country.

On December 8, the President met with the 36 state governors at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, on the rising spate of insecurity in the country ranging from banditry to the Boko Haram attacks, although he was silent on the possibility of rejigging the military architecture.

The Head, Transparency International Nigeria, Musa Rafsanjani, in an interview with our correspondent, said President Buhari had no choice but to listen to the cries and yearnings of the people in a democracy and nothing should still keep the military chiefs in office in the face of glaring non-performance.

Rafsanjani said, “The clarion call people are making now is for the service chiefs to honourably resign because Nigerians have no confidence in them. It is not the President they are serving, it is the Nigerian people they are serving and if the Nigerian people say go, they should go. The National Assembly has passed several resolutions. The Nigerian people, political parties, everybody has spoken; the President doesn’t want to listen to anybody on this matter.

“Therefore, the push should be on those service chiefs, they should resign honourably. If they are people of integrity, they should resign. If they don’t resign, it shows that they are only serving an individual and that is the President and this is against the constitution and against every institutional system in the world.

“At this point, I will not encourage any nationwide protest because of the determination by the security agents to kill Nigerians at the slightest chance they have.

“In the past, they told us that they had already degraded and finished the Boko Haram. So, if the rice farmers now needed military permission to go to their own farms, that means there is a problem.

“I think what we should be doing now is to insist that the service chiefs should also honourably resign. Nigerians have already given a vote of confidence against them. If they are working for Nigeria and not for the President, then they themselves should listen to Nigerians and actually resign.”

While President Buhari’s aloofness from the National Assembly, the NGF and the public outcry is not helping the situation, the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, decided to take yet a more dangerous turn.

On Wednesday, the AGF in a controversial press statement said the President had the right to decide whether or not he would appear before the legislative arm of the government, adding that such appearance would not be “at the behest of the National Assembly.”

“An invitation that seeks to put the operational use of the Armed Forces to a public interrogation is indeed taking the constitutional rights of law-making beyond bounds.

“As the Commander-in-Chief, the President has exclusivity on security and has confidentiality over security.

“These powers and rights he does not share. So, by summoning the President on national security operational matters, the House of Representatives operated outside constitutional bounds.

“President’s exclusivity of constitutional confidentiality investiture within the context of the constitution remains sacrosanct”, Malami’s statement partly read.

A public affairs analyst and Director of the Centre for Anti-Corruption and Open Leadership, Debo Adeniran, said the President was slow in decision making and there were many saboteurs within the military who should have been fished out.

He said, “The truth is that the President has been what he has been, very slow in action and determined. Of course, he has expressed determination to achieve success and if he is not achieving it, he is not in a hurry to make changes and the reason why he doesn’t want to make changes even in his cabinet, is best known to him.

“Basically, what we are looking at is that there are so many corrupt elements in all facets of governance including the military, the cabinet and all that. Unless every Ministry, Department and Agency and every military department is working in unison to fish out those who are making things impossible for governance to move forward, we will not be doing enough in extracting the corrupt elements within the military.

“What we see at our own level is that there has been unbridled corruption at the war front. Those who are supposed to procure the right tools are not procuring it. If that continues, no matter whoever comes into that office, he is not more likely to succeed. Remember that Major-General that was demoted and who cried out. That was not the first time. Nobody has pinpointed who is perpetrating that corrupt practices. If they come up with it; if it is Buratai or any of the service chiefs, they should call them out.”

The Nigerian Army this week was expected to hold its quarterly Chief of the Army Staff conference in Abuja to review the security strategies and challenges across its internal operations.

The strategic meeting was, however, called off due to the COVID-19 outbreak among the officers, leading to the sudden death of Major-General Olu Irefin.

However, only time will tell whether the military will quickly get its acts together and rise to tackle the sprawling influence of bandits, kidnappers and Boko Haram terrorists across the country.

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Terrorists, bandits' free rein puts Buhari under the spotlight
Terrorists, bandits' free rein puts Buhari under the spotlight

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