THREE days after President Muhammadu Buhari queried service chiefs and the intelligence agencies on Boko Haram’s sources of arms in spite of the closure of Nigeria’s borders, the issue is still raising dust in the polity.
A host of eminent Nigerians and groups were divided on the issue with some pooh-poohing the Nigerian leader for the question.
Speaking at a three-hour virtual meeting with members of the Nigerian Governors Forum, NGF, Security Committee, and heads of security agencies at the Council Chamber, Presidential Villa, Abuja, on Tuesday, President Buhari expressed angst over the unceasing onslaught of Boko Haram insurgents and bandits and called for improved intelligence sharing among the security agencies.
He queried the service chiefs: “In spite of the fact that borders with neighboring 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?”
Answering the president’s question, three eminent Niger Delta leaders, said the interrogation was pretentious and uncalled-for, as President Buhari, being the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Nigeria, was in a better position to know how terrorists get arms.
National Chairman of Pan-Niger Delta Forum, PANDEF, the mouthpiece of Niger-Delta people, Air Commodore Idongesit Nkanga, retd; former National Chairman of Traditional Rulers of Oil Minerals Producing Communities of Nigeria, TROMPCON, His Majesty, Dr. Charles Ayemi-Botu; former Provost Marshal/Head, Legal Services, Nigeria Army, Brigadier-General Don Ikponmwen, retd. said the question was satirical.
The Second Republic politician and elder of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Chief Guy Ikokwu, said the president and service chiefs are well equipped to contain the wave of insecurity because the answers are in the public domain. ‘’The Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces is well equipped on all security aspects of the armed forces, including the foreign diplomatic agencies and their Diaspora informants. The whole insecurities and banditries have been in the public domain with his governors and his DSS, who recently interviewed the ex-CBN Deputy Governor, Dr. Obadiah Mailafia to grapple with the real issues and facts.,’’ he said.
Murtala Abubakar, the spokesman for the Coalition Against Killings in the North, CAKIN, said the question was an attempt to divert public attention from the issue of why Buhari refused to sack the service chiefs.
Chairman of the Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN in Kaduna State, Rev John Joseph Hayab, lamented that “borders are only closed to legitimate Nigerian but open for criminals’’ adding: ‘’Is Buhari not aware how his security agents, Customs, police, etc., collect bribe in broad daylight and turn their faces away from crime?’’
Mr. President, service chiefs should speak out – Nkanga
PANDEF national chair, Commodore Idongesit Nkanga, retd, said: “I think it is the President that has to answer the question himself because some of them have tried to give answers in the past and did not answer the question.
“To get the volume of arms we are talking about, it must be at a higher level. So how did they pass into the country without the intelligence chiefs knowing about it, without the security people knowing about it? And if they did, did they report it, what action was taken, what is the government stand on it?
“What is our national interest because this is very critical in putting together even the people who are fighting? If such volume of arms is coming from the border, what does the man do, does he allow them to pass through or does he arrest the person and make him face the consequences?
“I think the president asked them and we, too, should ask them to speak up and tell us where the arms are coming from. ‘This is what we have tried to do, to stop it, we have reported to these people, this is what they have done.’ Other than that, I have no answer and I am not sure that even the service chiefs can answer properly because they too are working on the basis of the body language of government.
“It appears that the government says one thing and is doing another thing, what is our national interest? Let it be stated clearly because that is what the fighting forces will be ready to fight and die for. So if some people believe that they will pass through their borders and nothing will happen and others believe that they should not pass through, there is a problem.
‘’They should make clear what the national interest of this country is, we had it in the past, we should have it now,” Nkanga, a former Military Administrator of Akwa Ibom State asserted.
“If we do that, then we will know where the arms are coming in from and why they are coming in without anybody talking about it. Up till today, nobody has said they caught arms coming in and they are prosecuting the people, nobody, so why it is like that if not that government knows anything about it or the people are not doing much about it.
Buhari should answer the question himself – King Ayemi-Botu
Also, Dr. Ayemi-Botu said:: “The source of arms supplied to insurgents, namely the faceless Boko Haram, bandits, marauding herdsmen, ISWA, etc is a million-dollar question that could aptly be answered by Mr. President himself, who is also the Commander In Chief of the Armed Forces of Nigeria, including his moribund service chiefs, NSA, DG DSS, and IGP, who are apparently bereft of modern warfare strategies they would have used with technical, tactical approaches and sophisticated arsenals to combat and curb the excesses of the rampaging insurgents.
“Incidentally, in his oath of office, President Buhari had vowed to protect the territorial integrity of Nigeria from internal and external aggression and this was preceded by one of his cardinal campaign promises that once sworn into the office of President, within six months, he would wipe out the insurgents, but alas, sequel to five years of his administration one is baffled that Nigeria is apparently in a siege and traceable to enemies within.’’
Arms come through our porous borders – Ikponmwen
Former Provost Marshal, Brigadier-General Ikponmwen, retd, told Saturday Vanguard: “The illegal importation or smuggling of arms and ammunition is one of several crosses- border— crimes thriving all over the world. There is no arguing that border porosity is a dominant-negative factor in Nigeria. From the northern borders alone, there are over 2000 illegal and unmanned entry points to Nigeria from our borders with Niger, Chad, and Cameroon.
“Our border with the Republic of Benin also harbors numerous illegal entry points. Similarly, down our southernmost part, from Lagos through Malabo to the Cameroons, constitutes poorly policed territorial waters and our continental shelf. Thus we are unable to find a solution to our border porosity.
“The answer as to how Boko Haram and other criminal elements get their weapons is therefore not far to seek. With the level of porosity of our land and sea borders, the solution to the illegal importation of arms and ammunition and indeed, anything at all, is hardly anywhere in sight.
“The establishment of border security organs must come along with the overhaul of existing ones even as the effort to thoroughly combat corruption is intensified in the polity. Nothing else will eliminate illegal importation of arms to our country,” he stated.
Our President not helping matters – Agitators
Leader of 21st Century Youths of the Niger Delta and Agitators with Conscience (21st CYNDAC), a coalition of agitators in Niger Delta, self-styled “General” Izon Ebi, commended the courageous and patriotic revelations by those who have revealed that repentant terrorists revealed that some politicians have soft spots for Boko Haram.
“How do Boko Haram get guns and ammunition with food supplies? it is very simple because how do you explain the fact that in a nation like Nigeria, all service chiefs are from one particular zone – North, and insurgency is thriving, and innocent Nigerians are killed on daily basis? How does a country reintegrate terrorists into its fold, terrorists that killed military men and innocent Nigerians? “It is so pathetic that even our President, Buhari is not helping matters by still retaining his service chiefs that have performed abysmally with soldiers crying from the battlefield.’’
It’s an attempt to shift public attention – CAKIN
In like manner, Murtala Abubakar, the spokesman for the Coalition Against Killings in the North, CAKIN, said: President Buhari’s query to service chiefs, to me, was a mere attempt to shift public intention from the legitimate question that has been agitating many Nigerians and which is begging for an answer. The question is: Why is the President still keeping the service chiefs despite the obvious fact that their best is not enough as experts also believe that they have exhausted their thinking capacity on how to win the war against Boko Haram insurgency in North-East and the criminal activities of bandits in North-West?
‘’This latest query and the President’s previous expressions of his frustration over the lingering crisis suggest that President Buhari is fed up with the service chiefs and the only thing keeping them is lack of sufficient political will on the part of the president to do the needful.’’
Border open for criminals – Kaduna CAN
To the Chairman of CAN in Kaduna State, Rev John Joseph Hayab; “Borders are only closed for legitimate Nigerians but open for criminals. Is Buhari not aware of how his security agents, Customs, police, etc, collect bribe in broad daylight and turn their faces away from crime? Even with border closure, those in power were bringing in what they want as Nigerians keep watching these same characters talking on TV about fighting corruption without shame.
It is very sad to hear our president asking such questions as if he has been away and just came back.
Insurgents and many other criminals have never had it so cheap in moving their weapons and carrying out many criminals activities without interference as they have been doing in the past few years. Those responsible for protecting our borders are doing it more with their mouth than stopping the actual criminals at the borders.
‘’Now we know that our president is getting the true stories about happenings in this country. Those informing him have shielded him from knowing the truth, that is why he is always surprised.’’
Buhari, security agencies well equipped, funded to fight insecurity – Tanko
Meanwhile, Dr. Yunusa Tanko, spokesperson of Nation Consultative Front, NCFront, said with the sum of N2.5 trillion spent on defense between 2015 and 2020, the government and security agencies have no plausible reason for the parlous state of security in the country.
His words: ‘’The Federal Government of Nigerian proposed a budget of #10.33 trillion for the fiscal year 2020. In the last five months, the people and the country have been in and out of lock-down, quarantine, or Curfew. The question is how much of these budgets have been used? The county has enough to take care of its expenditure on defense and security. The issue of COVID-19 is not to be blamed for the Buhari-led government’s inability to crush Boko Haram as it promised to do in six months during its campaign.
‘’Interestingly various spending has been ascribed to the Government. On July 17, 2020, the Central Bank Governor announced a stimulus package of N2.3trn and on July 26, 2020, the sum of N1.5trn pandemic intervention fund. It is also said that the country has got about N28 billion under the Private Sector Coalition Against COVID-19.
‘’Within the period of 2015 – 2020, N2-3trn has been spent on Defence and Security. In other words, the country has been spending monies for Defence and Security since the coming in of this administration from 2015 to date before the arrival of COVID-19 which locked down the country in the last five months.
‘’So, there is no correlation whatsoever between the inability to perform and the claim of the government that shortage of funds and COVID-19 was responsible for its inability to crush Boko Haram. COVID-19 has nothing to do with the fight against Boko Haram or a shortage of funds for the military to crush Boko Haram in the North-East. It is just another excuse used to explain the inability of the government to fulfill its promises.
Going forward a panel of Inquiry should be set up to review the military engagement in the war against the Boko Haram insurgency, with the aim of finding out what has transpired so far, where we are today, our losses and gains if any, why we are yet to defeat Boko Haram. We have had enough of the blame games, excuses, and continuous commitment of finance and military hardware to the war with little or no results.’’
We need more military men and security agents – Enebeli
Contributing to the question of how arms get to the terrorists and bandits, Dr. Emeka Enebeli, who holds a doctorate degree in Logistics, Supply Chain Management, and Transport, said Nigeria’s borderline is massive and under-policed.
Hence, there is a need to recruit and deploy more security men to police our borderline including hi-tech, high military-grade drones, and computers.