Senator Mohammed Magoro, who represents Kebbi South in the Senate, heads the Senate Committee on Security and National Intelligence. In this interview with Soni Daniel and Ruth Choji, the former Internal Affairs Minister, speaks on how Nigeria can overcome its rising security challenges in order to achieve national transformation. Senator Magoro is optimistic the security threat to the nation will be overcome by the security agencies.
As a former minister of internal affairs and current chairman of the Senate Committee on Security and National Intelligence, how do you feel about the security situation in the country?
Of course I am worried. Even the international community is worried about what has been happening in the country. It saddens one to see today that Nigeria is at war. We are at war with an unknown enemy.
Even in insurgency, they have a sort of hierarchy that gives them a sort of direction, but in this case, people are just out, killing innocent Nigerians and nobody really knows the aim of the killers what they intend to achieve. This ugly development is very sad for this country because we have reached a stage where one can say that Nigeria is at war.
That is why one expects the government to really sit up and ginger Nigerians themselves to be able to overcome this problem because this war is not one you can say, the enemy is here or there. The enemy is living within our midst. There is a lot of psychological warfare and lack of national orientation on the part of Nigerians.
In the beginning, we were saying this is a northern issue, but it has gone beyond a northern issue to become an international issue. But it is causing havoc here in Nigeria. The people operating these firearms live with us and if anybody claims that he doesn’t know who these people are, I won’t believe him. People have to be more than interested in what is going on around them.
On Tuesday Gen. T.Y Danjuma said that Nigeria was at war and also blamed the governors of the north for not doing enough to provide for the people. Do you see the absence of amenities as the reason for people to buy bombs and begin to detonate? Where do they get the money for arms if they are indeed poor?
Well, the governors have a role to play in reducing poverty and problems in their states but I do know also that this problem started when some of the governors were not there. So, they may not be directly affected with how things have come this far.
The problems of poverty, unemployment, lack of amenities and all that have always been well known in the north, but the question is, what steps have these governors taken to at least mitigate these challenges?
The ones that are operating these bombs are being funded by somebody from somewhere. We have been talking about transformation but it must start from our local government areas. I give you example of my own local government. From what was put in the newspaper by the ministry of finance, my local government is supposed to get N137 million.
Some LGAs are getting twice more than what we are getting. But if you go round all the 774 LGAs in Nigeria, perhaps you would discover that only 70 or so of them are working.
The question now is, where does this money go to? The disbursement of the finances is a problem, because most of the chairmen of councils complain of the joint account with state governments.
From your experience as one who has handled vital security assignments in the past, what can be done to stem the tide of insecurity in Nigeria?
We have to accept the fact that we have been caught unawares. The use of explosives is something very strange and foreign to us. We used to read about them in Northern Ireland, the Middle East and other places. The security agencies should have followed the pattern of events in those countries to be able to understand how to deal with the rising threat.
By the time it gets here, we would have been acquainted with the kind of equipment that has been used by the security of the other countries threatened by insecurity. We did not do all these things. We just work up and found ourselves neck deep in explosives.
The greatest problem is the ability to detect. If you don’t have that ability then you cannot arrest anybody. With proper detection facilities it would be possible to detect anyone with explosives coming into or going out of Abuja. Nigeria needs time and money to fix the necessary things in place to be able to tackle this problem.
Money should not be a problem because over N937 billion has been set aside for security in the 2012 budget.
That amount meant for security includes all the agencies and everything including uniforms.
That is why I am of the opinion that there must be a supplementary budget to take care of the security needs of this country because Nigerians want to see something different, something they can go and report to their villages- something that can detect even the tiniest thing in your pocket- and the story will go round and everybody will start behaving themselves.
The security agencies are trying and I can say that there are some bombs they have even detected and silently deactivated. It is only those that explode and a lot of people get killed that people get to know about and they say the security agents are not doing anything.
Given your pedigree, if you were to be asked to design a security template to deal with the current situation in the country, what would you propose?
The first thing I would start with is national orientation. You as a Nigerian must feel committed towards enhancement of security because without security, there is absolutely nothing you can do. Then you can now start talking about the security agencies.
Without information from the public, the security agencies can’t do anything. Manpower training for security agencies is very important. We have the manpower but the problem now is training. The SSS is doing very well even with limited manpower, which should be increased. Next to that is the equipment.
The acquisition and use of the right type of equipment are germane for them to operate efficiently. You are stuck on the road, opening your car bonnet is not it. The long term solution may be to deploy a permanent strategy that will work for Nigeria. You will recall that when South Africa hosted the World Cup, they made use of balloons over the cities.
If you have that balloon here over Abuja, it can scan everywhere and pass on information. The balloon will look for arms, ammunition and bombs and it will pass on the information. That way, it would be possible to track and arrest those who have dangerous weapons and prevent frequent bombings in the country.
Do you think the national assembly can really serve the interest of Nigerians given the claim that the resolutions from the legislature are not binding on the Presidency but are merely persuasive or advisory?
But we can pass a law for resolutions not attended to by the executive to become binding after sometime. We may want to make it mandatory for the implementation of the resolutions of the national assembly.
We put up a lot of ad-hoc committees, which churn out many recommendations and if nothing happens at the end of the day, it makes nonsense of our effort and exposes us to hatred and ridicule by our people. But since we are all part of the same government, we must be seen to be working together.
But none of the PDP senators can do anything since you belong to the same family?
But I stand for the truth, whether PDP wants to hear it or not. That is democracy, I am not saying it against anybody but this is democracy and everybody is entitled to his opinion. If they won’t comply or apply our resolutions then we have no reason to be here. That is why we are called legislators.
The first thing I would ask him to do would be to create jobs for the teeming youths who are roaming the streets because the main problem is unemployment. If you look around us, we are the only nation without a railway system. Benin Republic, Ghana and even Togo have.
Does Nigeria have a railway system? We should come up with a blue print that will transcend any government of the day. It may be a 20-year programme, but we need to develop the railway system. We should go to the Chinese, they are the best in railway system
Do you share the view that governors of the states where Boko Haram operates should be made to tackle the problem instead of the Federal Government?
Boko Haram members have to live somewhere, that somewhere must be part of a state. The governors are the chief security officers of their states and they should know what is happening there.
But I believe we need to go back to how we used to share information in our respective villages, where the village head was made to know of any visitor to his domain and anyone who was leaving the village.
A lot of changes have come in now. In those days people used to walk, ride on bicycle or camels, but now there are cars, buses everywhere. The state governors should know where there are flashpoints and they should also help in fishing out the culprits.
You still look young for your age; what is the secret?
I walk. But I am a very contented man. I also want to wish Mr. Sam Nda- Isaiah a happy 50th birthday celebration. I am 20 years older than him. He is a hardworking man who has achieved a lot within a short time.