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 govs
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.’’
Govs 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.