Abdullahi Gana Muhammadu is the Commandant-General of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC). In this interview with RUTH CHOJI, he states that the only solution to killings in the country is to create ranches for herdsmen even as he explained the rationale for the deployment of 4,000 personnel for Ekiti election duty.
Are you worried over the spate of killings across the country?
Naturally I have to be worried. The primary aim of every government is to make sure that lives and property are secured. With these killings across the country, I can tell you that all the Service Chiefs are worried, including Mr. President himself. You can see that he was in Jos with us when we went to assess the situation. We have put our heads together to ensure that we come up with lasting solutions that will stop the killings or minimised them.
A key mandate of Civil Defence is disaster management. What has the agency done to help victims of these killings?
Civil Defence is an international organisation and its core mandate is in the area of disaster management. We rescue and resettle victims of disaster. We have been trying to see that, we will do our best to ensure that disasters are stopped. Be it natural or man-made disaster. Like in Jos now, our men are drafted to the field to make sure that we evacuate the victims, we protect the victims and also areas close to the troubled spots are protected by our men to avert a spillover.
Given the opportunity to formulate a template on how to end these killings, what will it be?
The so-called herdsmen and farmer clashes is a worrisome trend. That is if really they are herdsmen. The Federal Government has come up with a good solution and that is the creation of ranches or cattle colonies across the country. I remember in 2016, Chief Audu Ogbe came and meet my Minister and told him about the Federal Government’s plans to establish cattle ranches or colonies and that they want to ensure that, the herdsmen are settled, so that they will stop roaming about. If this is done and the killings still continue, it is then we will know that, the killings are something else, not herdsmen/farmers clashes again. Most people believe that this is not the herdsmen we used to know. We have also heard from reports that, even if they are Fulani herdsmen, they are not from Nigeria because there is no way a true herdsmen will kill his fellow citizen. So, the only solution is to create ranches so that they will be settled in one place. That way, the government will now know if the killings are carried out by herdsmen or it is criminal attacks as many are saying. The Minister of Agriculture said they want to ensure that these herdsmen remain in one place and that they want the Civil Defence to protect these colonies. So, we formed a unit called Agro Rangers. We have trained the men but up till now the colonies are yet to take off. From this act alone, you will know that the Federal Government is determined to end the clashes and restore peace in the land.
Some states across the country have rejected the idea of colony or ranching. Do you think the Federal Government should start thinking of other options?
What is wrong with ranches? We have had game reserves right from 1966, we also used to have cattle grazing routes that has been gazetted for decades. These places are meant for herders. This is the only option for now because it will help us to know, who are those attacking these farmers and innocent Nigerians. These herdsmen are Nigerians and they have right too. If these ranches are created, everybody will benefit because they will not only create more jobs but even the farmers will benefit, we will have more milk and our beef will be healthy. I think the ranches will help us.
Zamfara State has come under attacks by bandits. What has your agency done in that area?
It is quite unfortunate that Zamfara is being attacked daily yet nobody is showsing concern unlike what happens when other places are attacked. The killings in Zamfara is much compared to other places. We are working with the Police to ensure that peace is restored in Zamfara state and the affected communities are secured.
The Civil Defence Corps is now better known for escorting VIPs. Why?
You are wrong in that aspect because though it is part of our duties. In 2006, when we made a request to recruit more personnel, the then President Obasanjo asked us to add five thousand staff that will serve as escort officers but that department is yet to fully take off. The department is there but it has not fully taken off except for some ministers and government officials that will make personal or official request for our men to be their orderlies. The few you see are on special duties. We are overstretched now, even because of our mandate, we need more personnel.
How are officers guarding pipelines in the Niger Delta faring?
Very good. You can see that the rate of vandalisaiton has been cut down to about 39%. Unlike in the past where a week hardly passed without one vandalisation or the other. I also want to thank the Chief of Naval Staff, who has been giving us maximum co-operation and the Chief of Army Staff too. Most of the Joint Task Forces we have there are mixed up with the military, navy and civil defence. We work together in synergy.
There were reports that an American organisation was coming to train your officers…
Yes, the General in charge of the Federal Guards in California was here on courtesy call and he said that he chose to visit Civil Defence because we have so many things in common. We both protect national assets, which is their mandate too. We agreed in areas of training and in March, they came and trained over 500 of our men. We are in agreement that, the next phase will be to train the trainers training, which will train about a thousand men who will in turn train others. They came up with a good programme for us, which very soon, we will start training others on it. We have also been training our personnel on arms which will last through the year. This is because of the enormous responsibility the Corps have to fulfil.
The Ekiti gubernatorial election is slated for this Saturday. What is your organisation doing to ensure that the exercise is hitch-free?
We will provide internal security. My senior officers are there already. I have deployed over 4,000 personnel to ensure that there is peace. The operational order said we should bring about 2,009 personnel but I decided to increase the number of personnel because we know that anything can happen during elections. My men are on ground to assist the police and it is a continuous thing. Our job is to provide conducive environment for citizens to exercise their franchise. We are ready to work with the police and any other security agency to ensure that the forthcoming general elections is hitch-free. With the body language of Mr. President now, I am sure we will provide a conducive environment for the elections.
What are you doing to improve the welfare of your men?
We live among the populace, we don’t have quarters. We have been trying to provide quarters for our staff in case of an emergency, but it will still be situated within the populace, because that is why it is called civil defence. If we are not living with them, we cannot protect them. When I took over, my topmost priority is staff welfare. When you are in service, or when you retired because if you don’t have a good accommodation, you cannot give your best. You will also not live long if you don’t have a good accommodation when you retired. When we operated life insurance policy, we made sure that entitlements of staff, who died in the line of duties, are paid within two weeks of the loss. The Life Insurance is now with the Head of Service, but we try to follow up immediately there is a loss, so that, the immediate family can get their allowances. We also assist the families of deceased in our own ways.
How does the agency handle corrupt officials?
We all know that since this government came in, corruption has drastically reduced. This is because of the president’s body language. But we have an internal mechanism that handles corrupt cases. There is also discipline within the rank and file. I run a very open government. Whatever comes in, I inform the adhoc staff because there is nothing to hide. With the coming of this government, there is financial discipline in the system. I am sure that before the end of this administration, corruption would have been reduced to the barest minimum.
Where do you you hope to see Civil Defence in the next 5 years?
Civil Defence is an international body. The leadership meets every year in different counties. This year, we met in Doha and I can tell you that I was shocked when I saw their civil defence. I felt as if we have not started. They had good vehicles, airplanes and the rest. If you go to Russia, there I saw ministry of civil defence, university of civil defence and in that university, you have a faculty of disaster management, faculty of protection of critical national assets and the rest. So you will know that they have gone very far ahead of us. My dream is that, we will get a civil defence rooted in Nigeria. We might not get to their level now, but I want the civil defence to be strong and deeply rooted. I went to Benin Republic and when I saw their civil defence, I know that we have started something. If you go to Saudi Arabia, you will know that they have started something because they have over 35,000 vehicles for civil defence. We are trying our best and I believe we will get there.
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