President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday ended his meeting with security chiefs in Abuja with a warning that he wouldn’t want to leave office a failure.
Consequently, the President threatened to rejig the security architecture if it became necessary in order to achieve the desired result and have a secured environment.
The President gave the warning on a day his Information and Culture Minister, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, said in Washington that Nigeria cannot be called a failed state because insecurity was only prevalent “in one corner of the country”.
He also said Nigeria would not go the way of Afghanistan where a terrorist group had taken the reins of power.
But the minister’s claim that insecurity was only limited to one corner of the country drew the ire of regional groups in the country, including the Pan-Yoruba socio-political organisation, Afeniere, the Middle Belt Forum, MBF, Arewa Consultative Forum, ACF, among others, who noted that insecurity was endemic in Nigeria.
Buhari ready to rejig security situation — NSA
Echoing President Buhari’s threat to security chiefs at the end of the National Council on Security meeting, presided over by the President at the First Lady’s Conference Room, Presidential Villa, Abuja, National Security Adviser, NSA, Major-General Babagana Monguno, retd. said the President has expressed his readiness to make more changes in the security architecture of the country, if necessary.
He revealed that all the issues brought before the President centred mainly on the successes recorded in the operations in the north east.
Monguno said large numbers of members of the Boko Haram Islamic sect are surrendering in the North-East, noting that “never had such large number left the terrorist camps, owing to the relentless activity of the security agencies.”
The NSA said there is good cooperation, synergy and intelligence-sharing among the armed forces, adding that the President is happy with the briefs he received.
He said: “The last National Security Council meeting we had was on June 18. From that time till now, a lot has happened within the security domain. The President called for this meeting. And it was actually supposed to be for next week, but he drew it back for today (yesterday), for obvious reasons.
“The meeting briefed the President, on the current security situation in the country. Well, I’ll say from the last time we met till now, and all the issues that were brought before the president, were mainly issues arising from the successes recorded in the theatre of operations throughout the North East.
“It is evident that a lot of successes had been recorded. Large number of people are surrendering in the north east as a consequence of the relentless efforts of the Armed Forces, intelligence and security agencies.
“This is very, very evident. We’ve never had such large number of people defecting from the other side back to the Nigerian side, mainly, as a result of many issues within the theatre, issues of infighting among the various factions of the terrorist groups.
“But the new drive of the Armed Forces, the police, the intelligence agencies has been responsible for this. There’s been greatest cooperation, greater synergy, intelligence sharing, as well as our partners in the regional intelligence fusion unit.
“So the President was briefed, the President is quite happy that there’s been tremendous success, especially with the advent of the new service chiefs and Inspector General of Police. And he’s also made it very, very clear that he’s not ready to exit government as a failure.
“He is not going to tolerate failure and that he’s made changes and is ready to make further changes if he is not satisfied. He is completely determined to ensure that there’s a turnaround in the fortunes in the theatre of operations.
‘We’re working on hunger, Plateau killings’
“We also addressed the issue of the prevailing situation, which is widespread, you know, issues of hunger. The President is not oblivious of the pains of the people, and is working with the Vice-President and other members of council. He is going to implore the relevant ministries, departments and agencies. MDAs, of government to address this issue.
“As far as this is concerned, it’s also an emergency situation that people should not be left to wallow in hunger, and in despair. This is something he is also going to look into. And he is going to use all the necessary, all the relevant tools at his disposal to address the issue of widespread hunger.
“Then also, the issue of insecurity in the northwest, which is still prevalent, even though for those of us who are within the security system, we have seen a significant drop in the number of incidents of kidnapping and banditry. Nevertheless, a lot has to be done.
“This is because, like I’ve always said in the past, as far as the people are concerned, there shouldn’t be any incident of kidnapping, banditry, and other incidents of insecurity.
“So the President is also aware of that and he has also made certain assertions which I am not willing to say right now, till he’s made the final decision on those things. But generally, the atmosphere is improving, especially in the North-Eastern part of the country. The President is very happy with the drive in that part of the country.
“We also addressed the issue in Plateau, the recent killings, and the President has given certain directives to address that; he has also expressed confidence in the efforts of the governor of Plateau State.”
‘There are plans on surrendering insurgents’
Asked if there are plans for surrendering insurgents, the NSA said: “Yes, there are plans. But I don’t want to immediately divulge what has been decided on those plans till the President takes a firm decision on the plans.
“But definitely, that is one of the things he intends to address, the number of people coming. And it’s not just in Nigeria, even in northern Cameroon, you have equally large numbers of people surrendering to the bona fide agencies of government. But that is all as a consequence of the regional cooperation among the various countries and the agencies of those countries.”
On what to expect going forward from the national security architecture, Monguno said: “Well, what I expect is for the Nigerian people also to forge a sense of oneness, unity, let’s put aside whatever suspicions, apprehensions or agitations that exist because in the context of the 21st century, you can’t deal with these emerging crisis in a cut and dried manner.
“We have to use everything at our disposal, all the elements of national power, including the population. The wider community needs to work with the security agencies to deal with these problems.
“Responses have to be fast. We can’t act on stale intelligence. And that is why as things are happening, right from the grassroots level all the way up, the local governments, state governments, and then, of course, the federal government has its own parts to play.
“People should not cover for those who they have identified, unscrupulous, undesirable people, it is very, very important that we share because in today’s context, the highest value intelligence doesn’t necessarily need to come from the agencies of government. It could come from any other tangential organisation, institution or group.”
Insecurity’s in “one corner of the country”, says Lai Mohammed
Meanwhile, the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, has said Nigeria cannot be called a failed state because insecurity was only prevalent “in one corner of the country”.
Speaking during ‘Focus on Africa’, a programme on BBC, the minister said the present administration had “pinned” Boko Haram to a “very small area”.
Mohammed recalled how the Taliban fighters took over power in Afghanistan in a few weeks while stressing that Nigerians must appreciate the fight against terrorism.
He said: “In the north-east, we are facing the challenge of Boko Haram, which is purely an ideologically-driven terrorist group. What is happening in Afghanistan at present is a good pointer. “It shows that a movement driven by ideology is very difficult to overcome. The US, having spent 20 years, trillions of dollars, thousands of lives lost, it took the Taliban only a few weeks to come.
“This is what people should appreciate about fighting terrorism. The good news is that insurgents today are surrendering in droves and we are going after them. The truth of the matter is that the Nigerian government is winning the war against insurgents.”
Asked to back the claim with facts, he said: “The evidence of that is the number of insurgents that are now surrendering and they are surrendering not only their weapons, they are coming also with their relations and their families.”
On why schoolgirls kidnapped by Boko Haram have not been released, despite the success he said the government had achieved, the minister said: “These things takes time. Don’t forget that in 2015, Boko Haram controlled a swathe of land the size of Belgium. Don’t forget that in 2015, the entire North-East was a no-go area, where schools were closed, markets were closed, hospitals were closed but today, we have pinned them to a very small area.”
Reacting to concerns that insecurity in the country had gone beyond control, the minister said in spite of the challenges, the Nigerian military is “winning this war.”
“A failed state is a state where you have general paralysis everywhere. I live in Nigeria, I work in Nigeria and I travel all around Nigeria and I can tell you Nigeria is not a failed state. I can tell you, yes we have challenges with banditry, we have challenges with separatist groups, it does not make this country, Nigeria, a failed state. If what is happening in the last few weeks is anything to go by, we are winning this war.”
‘Nigeria not going the way of Afghanistan’
Alhaji Mohammed said Nigeria is not a failed state and cannot go the way of Afghanistan where terrorist group had taken the rein of power.
The minister stated this in Washington DC during his engagements with international media organisations, including BBC Radio and Television, Bloomberg and Politico.
Speaking with NAN after his respective meeting with the three media organisations, Mohammed said insinuations in certain quarter that the security situation in Nigeria could degenerate to that of Afghanistan was not correct.
He emphasized that Nigeria was winning the war against terror, stressing that the country cannot go the way of Afghanistan where Taliban, a terrorist group, took over power.
“Nigeria is not and will not be a failed state. Yes, we have challenges in some corners of the country but that has not made Nigeria a failed state. A failed state is one where basic facilities are not available and everything has broken down but, Nigeria is not in that stage,” he said.
Mohammed said Nigeria is not at war and that fake news and disinformation were being used to portray the country in precarious situation. He noted that the development in Afghanis-tan had proven right the position of President Buhari that when fighting an unconventional war, the country had to be resource-ful. “If what happened in Afghanistan is something to go by, then the federal government should be given kudos for the way it has handled insurgency in the last couple of years.
“The lessons from Afghanistan today is that for over 20 years of American intervention and over a trillion dollars spent and thousands of American lives lost, it took the Taliban just few weeks to recapture Afghanistan.
“This should be a lesson for everybody that when you are fighting an insurgency or movement driven by ideology, it is always difficult to overcome and you must be resourceful, deploying both kinetic and non-kinetic approach. “When people were saying we should invite mercenaries, the president was focused and maintained that our military have what it takes.
“The President should be given kudos for believing in our military and deploying both kinetic and non-kinetic approaches,” he said.
He said while a lot of efforts had been put on kinetic approach, the military also engaged in non-kinetic approach, building hospitals, reviving schools, teaching in some of the schools and delivering medical cares to the people in affected areas.
According to him, the non-kinetic approach to fighting insurgency in the North-East, had led to droves of insurgents coming out to surrender arms and pledge their loyalty to the government.
He noted that with the recent development of many Boko Haram coming out voluntarily to surrender their arms, the country was winning the war against insurgency.
Speaking on banditry, the minister said bandits were now suffering more casualties than ever before.
He assured that the delivery of the Super Tucano military platforms by US to the military would will be a game changer in the fight against banditry.
Their reality not same as that of the people — Afenifere
When contacted on the issue, pan-Yoruba socio-political organization, Afenifere’s National Publicity Secretary, Comrade Jare Ajayi, said: “The submissions by the two top government officials portrayed the government, or its officials, as not being conversant with the reality in Nigeria. “Or, it could be that the reality they behold is different from the one the Nigeria populace is experiencing.
“For example, Minister of Information, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, implied that Nigeria is safer now than it was at the inception of this administration in 2015. He based his verdict on the assertion that the army had reclaimed the local government areas occupied by Boko Haram from them.
“The reality, however, is that while insecurity was restricted to the North-East before, today, no part of the country is immune from unprecedented threats to security and peaceful living. Kidnapping for ransom occurs on a daily basis in various parts of the country.
“Some lucky victims get released after ransoms are paid, while some are killed in the most dastardly manner.
“The cost of living had never been as high as it is in the history of this country. With costs of living being so high, life being so cheap and infrastructures collapsing, what other signs do we need to say that a country is failing?
“Monguno said President Buhari is threatening to rejig the security architecture if the security chiefs failed to tame the insecurity that had enveloped the country. As far as an average Nigerian is concerned, rejigging the officers and the security template is long overdue.
“The president should let state governors take control over security of their respective states. In other words, state and community policing should be institutionalised immediately.”
Nigeria hasn’t failed — ACF
Reacting to the minister’s claim yesterday, Arewa Consultative Forum, ACF, disagreed with him but also noted that Nigeria had not become a failed state. ACF National Publicity Secretary, Emmanuel Yawe, said: “It does not really. A failed state is a state where there is no rule of law; where everybody is a law to himself; where there is no functional economy or political order; where there is complete anarchy.
“Therefore we should not call Nigeria a failed state because of the activities of Boko Haram, terrorists and bandits. There are problems in Nigeria, okay. but these do not qualify her as a failed state.”
Wrong assessment by FG — Ohanaeze
In its reaction, Ohanaeze in a statement by its spokesman, Alex Ogbonnia said: “It is unfortunate that the Federal Government is having a very wrong assessment of the true situation in the country.
“The realistic situation is that the federal government is failing in its primary duty of govern-ment; protecting the lives and properties of Nigerians.
“To this end the monopoly of the instrument of violence should reside with the government; but in the present circumstance, the state security apparati have yielded their mystique to unknown gunmen, bandits, kidnappers, Fulani herdsmen and common criminals.
“One of the indices of a failed state is the inability of the state security to have control over the massive possession of fire arms by unscrupulous elements of society. It is therefore very disheartening that the very bane of Nigeria persists: jaundiced diagnosis and interpretation of existential phenomena that will surely lead to wrong prescriptions.”
Accept the facts, MBF tells FG
In his reaction, National President of Middle Belt Forum, Dr. Bitrus Pogu, advised the minister to stop standing truth on its head and accept the fact that Nigerian was already a failed state.
He said: “What is the minister’s definition of a failed state? We should start from there. It is when law and order has collapsed and people are doing what they like without being checked or arrested. In fact, it is even the innocent that are being arrested.
“So how else do you define a failed state because the primary objective of government is the security and welfare of the people. But on a daily basis, lives are being lost. So what parameter has he used to define a failed state other than this parameter I gave?
“He should go back to the drawing board, forget about sentiments, forget about politics and just say the thing as it is. This government in terms of security has failed.
“The truth about what happened in Jos, which is occupying the news space, is not out. They told us lies that it was people from Ondo, but there was nothing like that. It’s all Fulani from Bauchi.
“Secondly, they were taking a route which was not the normal route if they were going to Abuja or whatever. They were going to the same place the burial was taking place. The people who encountered them and interviewed them were not the people on the burial train.
“It was the NSCDC people who saw the collection of Fulani inside five buses and an ambulance. It was that ambulance that triggered the whole thing because when the boys insisted that they wanted to search the vehicles, one of the drivers tried to run away and they found things in the ambulance and that was what triggered the killings.
“If a governor like Bello Masari could come out to tell his people to acquire arms and defend themselves, that means the government or state has failed.”
Nigeria near failure — ADF
Also reacting yesterday, Igbo elite body, The Alaigbo Development Foundation, ADF, in a statement by its spokesman, Chief Abia Onyike. .said: “Nigeria has become a near failed state because terrorism and insecurity have overwhelmed the entire country.
“It started in the North East with Boko Haram. Then it spread to the North West with banditry. Then the Middle Belt has been overrun with herdsmen invasion. The South-West has equally been suffering from the invasion of trigger-happy herdsmen which led to the formation of Amotekun.
“Of course, the South East has been taken hostage by unknown gunmen and the occupation of the area by Nigeria’s armed forces, turning the region into a new killing field. No part of Nigeria has been spared in this militarization policy. It is either the terrorists are holding sway or the Nigerian armed forces are everywhere.
“So Nigeria is now controlled by pockets of warlords. This scenario is typical of failed states. The recent statement by Katsina State governor, Bello Masari, that the citizens of the state may resort to self defence shows the frustration by the Nigerian ruling class.”
An understatement — PANDEF
On its part, PANDEF in a statement by National Publicity Secretary, Ken Robinson, said: “Mr Lai Mohammed is the official spokesperson of President Buhari’s government, so what do we expect him to say, it is to understate whatever is going on in the country.
“Nigerian is failing and the sooner the government stops pretending about it, the better for us. The country is at war with itself and we have always said so. One of the greatest causes of this situation is the way and manner the Buhari administration conducts the affair of his government.
“There is too much discrimination, too much favouritism, nepotism and the likes. This is the hallmark of the Buhari’s administration. “People have been disaffected, disenchanted, people are angry and are looking for ways to express their anger at the way the government is treating some citizens of the country.
“We see situations where crimes in some corners of the country, as Lai Mohammed will call it, where bandits kidnap schools children and innocent citizens, unfettered and then it has become a lucrative business for them in the North West.
“Today, we are hearing repentant Boko Haram, all these are strategies to infiltrate communities to cause more harm. It’s ridiculous that this government would continue to downplay crisis that has turned Nigeria into a situation where people can no longer live their lives freely without fear of being kidnapped or being killed.”
FG helpless — CAN
Also reacting last night, Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN, in a statement signed by Pastor Adebayo Oladeji, media aide to the President, Samson Ayokunle, said it had become apparent that the Federal Government had become helpless, even as the nation’s security architecture was collapsing.
He said: “If a collapsed security architecture is not a sign of a failed state, let the federal government tell us what makes a failed state? If kidnapping of students in their hundreds with impunity is not a sign of a failed state, let them tell us what it is?
“If terrorists are kidnapping, killing, maiming and destroying property and this government is not moved, then, the country is in trouble.
“This is the first time we are witnessing mass burials every other week in the country. Everyone in the country is not happy with what has become the security architecture under this government.”