Major General Christopher Musa, the Chief of Defence Staff, bemoaned the delay in the trial of accused Boko Haram members on Tuesday, saying a separate court for terrorists should be established.
Musa, who mentioned this while appearing before the House of Representatives on Tuesday for the start of a sectoral debate, justified the large budget for arms purchases.
The CDS said that because Nigeria does not manufacture military gear, armaments were purchased in dollars, rendering the massive budget inconsequential in light of the naira’s value.
Other security leaders that appeared in the House alongside the CDS included the Inspector General of Police, Kayode Egbetokun; the Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Emmanuel Ogalla; the Chief of Army Staff, Taoreed Lagbaja; and the Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal Hassan Abubakar.
An enraged House declined to speak with representatives of the security chiefs on Thursday last week, stating that only the heads of the various outfits would be permitted an audience to comment on the situation of the nation’s security and what is being done to make the country safer for everybody.
The session lived up to its billing as General Musa, the first to speak, tendered an unreserved apology for the inability of the service chiefs to honour the invitation extended to them last week.
Speaking on the counter-insurgency war, Musa lamented the slow pace of prosecution of the criminal elements arrested by military troops, saying “There were a lot of Boko Haram elements that were captured and kept. We have kept them for five or six years.
Insisting that armed forces could not prosecute the suspects, he stated, “We can only provide protection for them. Some of them have been found wanting but no prosecution. Keeping them for this lengthy period, everybody is accusing the armed forces of keeping them against their human rights but we cannot prosecute. That is one aspect.
“Another aspect of the judiciary is this: you do all your efforts, you make an arrest, you hand over, but before you enter your vehicle, the man has been released. Now you have risked yourself in doing that. By the time he is released, he goes to tell the people who you are or family members and you are at risk. So, it gets to a stage where the security forces are not even willing to do anything because when they make an arrest, the person is released.
“That is one area we need to look into. We must have special courts that can handle these things.”
Musa also lamented the near absence of local manufacturing of armament in the country, noting that the development meant that the security agencies did not often get value for money despite the huge budgetary allocation for defence and security in the past couple of years.
He said, “We don’t produce what we need in Nigeria and if you do not produce what you need, that means you are at the beck and call of the people that produce these items. All the items we procured, were bought with hard currency, none in naira. Most times when funds are released, by the time you turn these funds into dollars, they can only get us very little.
“For example, during the last regime, about $1bn was set aside for defense procurements. Out of that amount, over $600m was for the procurement of the aircraft. So the whole money had gone.
“For any ammunition we buy, we buy it in dollars and we spend in millions. So many times when people see that funds are being released to the armed forces, they think it is so much but by the time you convert them to dollars, you do not get so much.
“One precision missile for our drone costs $5,000 ; so imagine how many we would be able to use and how many we can procure. Those are the challenges,” he said.
He also emphasised the need to leverage on technology in the fight against insecurity in the country.
“There is a need to exploit the contemporary global shift in the utilisation of space technology and cyber warfare for national defence and security. So far, we have initiated the process of establishing a joint cyber warfare intelligence command where such emerging technologies will be exploited to enhance the capabilities of the armed forces of Nigeria,” he added.
Explaining reasons for endless insecurity in the country, Musa said that men and officers of the various security agencies were not magicians who could put an end to the spate of insecurity troubling the land without support from the public.
The CDS called for collaborative efforts by all Nigerians to address the menace that had been a huge challenge to successive administrations in over a decade.
He said: “We are not magicians but we need to have a system where we train from schools and every Nigerian understands that he should take ownership of security.
“Security is not only the responsibility of security forces. Everybody has a responsibility to play. We cannot be everywhere; so we need education and sensitisation programmes to educate Nigerians that security is everybody’s responsibility.
“If you see it, talk about it. You just don’t keep quiet and say it is for the police. Everybody has a role. If you enter our neighbouring countries as a visitor, within 30 minutes, they will know you are a visitor. Before you know it, the gendarmes are after you!
“We have realized that the magic wand to address insecurity is good governance. Anywhere you have good governance, insecurity goes down. The security forces can only produce 30 per cent. We can only provide an enabling environment. If other aspects are not addressed it is a problem.
“Security is not just military security. We have food security, health security, social security, and education security. All these play vital roles in achieving what we are doing. If we do not put these things in place through good governance, it becomes a problem.
“People can’t eat. People are hungry. No matter how you tell them to keep the peace, they will not because they have to eat and it aids criminality. So those are the aspects we are looking at and that is why we are saying that we must have good governance.
On the self-acclaimed Supreme Leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra, Simon Ekpa, General Musa said, “This individual has become a menace to this country. The country must act on it diplomatically. Finland has a free way, encouraging him to be doing what he is doing. By his utterances and actions, he is affecting what is happening in Nigeria. We should never allow that. Our foreign service needs to step in to address the issue. It is either we invite the ambassador or somebody. They must explain why they are protecting him. And he is doing us more harm by his utterances. A lot of people are being killed. We cannot sit back and keep quiet.
On his part, the Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Emmanuel Ogalla craved the National Assembly’s intervention in procuring surveillance equipment for Officers and Men of the Nigerian Navy to cover the backwaters, creeks, and other areas behind the coastline.
This he said would enable the Nigerian Navy to tame the scourge of oil theft, pipeline vandalism, and illegal refining of crude oil 24 hours a day.
Meanwhile, IGP Egbetokun has identified poor funding and inadequate manpower as some of the ills militating against men and officers of the Nigerian Police in the performance of their constitutional role of maintenance of law and order.
“The manpower in the police today is grossly inadequate. Even the criminals know that. The United Nations ratio of 1 to 400 is not attainable in Nigeria as of today because the ratio in Nigeria is one to 1000 which suggests that we have to double the manpower.
“Training in the police is still inadequate. The welfare of personnel is nothing to write home about. Funding is critical to achieving the mandate of the Nigerian Police. Unfortunately, the citizens are not interested in our excuses for underperformance. What the citizens want us that we must serve them. We are ready to serve them. We need your cooperation. We need funding. We need more manpower.
“We need to train our men adequately. We want a well-motivated workforce in the police.
“In spite of all these inadequacies, the police have been doing so well. We have been doing our best to protect lives and property across the country.
“In the last five months, we have made a lot of arrests. We have made a lot of recovery of illicit weapons. Some of these suspects are undergoing prosecution as we speak. But no amount of arrests that we make will solve our security problem. Today, if we make 100 arrests, tomorrow, 200 criminals are coming out.
“It is not possible to arrest all the criminals and recover all the weapons. But within the environment where we function, the police have done so well and we are still doing so much.
“We appeal for collaboration. We appeal that Nigerians should please support the police. We are implementing community policing strategies in all our communities. But we are reviewing this and changing to police in diverse communities. This means that we want to take into consideration the peculiarities of each community in the strategies that we employ in policing a particular community.
“Recently, I announced the establishment of a special intervention squad, which is going to be a standby unit of at least 1000 men in each of the states. These men will be specially trained. They will be specially equipped. They will be specially remunerated and ready for deployment at short notice to any area of the country where there is a crisis.
“This way, we intend to join the military in fighting terrorism in the North-East, combating armed banditry in the North-West and North-Central, kidnapping and armed robbery across the country, and ensure that we reduce violent crimes in our country to the barest minimum,” he added.
Commenting on the submissions of the security chiefs, some retired generals, in an interview (with The Punch), supported the call for a special court for terrorists Brigadier-General Bashir Adewinbi (retd) told one of our correspondents that the demand for a special court to try suspected terrorists was spot on.
He also called on the government to organise a peace summit across the country to help reduce the spate of crime to the barest minimum.
Adewinbi said, “What he said was the collective decision of the other service chiefs. I see it as a statement from someone who wants to work. I support his call for a special court. The terrorists have done so much damage to our country. You can’t keep arresting terrorists in the large numbers that the military is doing and not try them. I expect the National Assembly to act on this as quickly as possible.
“On his demand for good governance, he is on point. All the problems we have in the nation today will be solved when we have good governance in place. I support his call for the government to act on Ekpa, that region is something else due to IPOB attacks there. Above all, I believe there should be a peace summit to eradicate the problem of insecurity in the country. Conflict management starts with dialogue. “
On his part, Brigadier-General. Peter Aro (retd) said, “The Chief of Defence Staff has spoken openly, and we thank the government for allowing him to do so. Allowing security officers to confront criminals with an open hand is critical; it greatly increases their chances of success. IPOB fighters’ activities in the South East appear to involve significant financial resources, indicating the presence of sponsors. Taking a firm stance against Ekpa and other like-minded individuals would send a clear message that the government is no longer tolerant of their actions. I also endorse the idea of a special court for trying suspected terrorists. Establishing such a court is a reasonable measure.
“While the CDS has addressed various issues, I want to emphasize the importance of investing in Information and Communication Technology. Often, ICT is undervalued in our country. Leveraging ICT can enable us to trace criminals wherever they are, making a significant impact on addressing insecurity. If we heed the CDS’s request and deploy ICT effectively, we can make insecurity a thing of the past in our country.”
Credit: The Punch