The marching orders handed to security chiefs by President Muhammadu Buhari recently seems to have changed the mindset of the security top brass who, like cannons overcharged with double cracks, are descending on terrorists, bandits, and other criminals in the country with the ferocity of a wounded lion, GEORGE AGBA reports.
When last week the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), General Abayomi Gabriel Olonisakin, called a high command strategy meeting of the Service Chiefs, Police and Heads of Security and Intelligence Agencies at the Armed Forces Complex in the heart of the nation’s capital, Abuja, the only item on the agenda was, according to inside sources: we have tried and can do more. It explains why it was frank, focused and business-like.
It was particularly so because, barely 48 hours earlier, President Muhammadu Buhari, seeking to douse the national tension, charged the national security top brass not to drop the ball in view of increasing security concerns in parts of the country especially in the North West, North Central and North East.
Presidency sources noted at the weekend that credible intelligence showed that much of the pressures manifesting in the isolated protests by some groups in the North, especially Katsina and Kaduna States, were actually politically motivated and modulated to discredit the administration. However, the president left none in doubt about his readiness to take charge
And in a move to back the president based on his understanding of the issues at stake, the president of the Senate, Ahmed Lawan, as chairman of the National Assembly and a former chairman, senate committee on defence, quickly called at the presidential villa immediately after the president’s fresh charge to the security chiefs to do more and arrest insecurity in the land. The well-publicised solidarity visit, to keen analysts, was a masterstroke to push back political actors reportedly undermining the administration.
The strategy meeting summoned by the CDS with the top echelon of the nation’s military, security and intelligence agencies, according to inside observers, was to review, revamp and re-strategise the national security architecture to meet the yearnings of the Nigerian people irrespective of what might appear as the political undercurrents allegedly fuelling insecurity in the country. But inside defence sources maintained that the General Olonisakin-led armed forces will not flinch but ensure that the full weight of the entire armed forces, acting in total synergy, is brought on sworn enemies of the Nigerian State.
The coordinator, Defence Media Operations, Maj Gen John Enenche, in a statement last week disclosed that the meeting and enhance existing synergy among all security agencies to address the security challenges confronting the nation. Describing the meeting as well-attended by heads of security architecture in the country, he said, “It dwelt on developing and mapping out new strategies to promptly address the untoward security situation arising from banditry, kidnapping, cattle rustling as well as other criminalities particularly in the North West, North East and North Central parts of the country.
“The Service Chiefs and Heads of Security Agencies noted that essential consultations have been made with relevant stakeholders across the country with a view to collaborating with the military and security agencies to promptly address the security challenges and bring respite to the regions. The CDS who pointed out that security is everyone’s business, solicited the support and cooperation of all well-meaning Nigerians for the Armed Forces and security agencies in tackling the security challenges in Nigeria in order to speedily restore sanity to the troubled regions”. In what also appeared as a move to re-emphasise and reinforce the objectives and the expectations of the outcomes of the crucial meeting, Maj General Enenche-led new Directorate of Defence Media Operations (DDMO) which has Brigadier Gen Bernard Onyeuko as acting director and three Liaison officers- Colonel UM Aliyu (Army), Commander A. Sani (Navy) and Squadron Leader AE Obidike (Air Force) released an updated statement, noting that the meeting was “in line with President Muhammad Buhari’s marching order to security agencies to stem the rising tide of insecurity across the country’’.
The statement said that the Nigerian military had reviewed, revamped and re-strategised its operational activities in collaboration with other security and intelligence agencies to fully carry out the orders and directives of the president, adding that it would enhance existing synergy among all security agencies to address the lingering security challenges confronting the nation.
According to him, the meeting focused on developing and mapping out new strategies to address the lingering insecurity particularly in the North West, North East and North Central parts of the country “In the same vein, the Chief of Army Staff (COAS) held a meeting with Principal Staff Officers, General Staff Officers Commanding and other Field Commanders.
At the meetings, the COAS charged all to ensure that the tide of the operation changes’’, he said, reiterating the readiness and commitment of the Armed Forces in collaboration with other security agencies to stamp out all forms of criminality across the country in accordance with President Buhari’s directive. “Troops deployed for various operations across the nation will remain committed and resolute to achieving the operational mandate which is to decisively curtail the activities of criminals in any part of the country”, he added.
It is instructive that not a few observers, commentators and advocacy groups have applauded the Nigerian military for their past accomplishments, especially in combating insurgency, terrorism and other forms of criminality in the country.
A serving air vice marshal in the intelligence corps of the Nigerian Air Force (NAF) who had twice participated in air interdiction exercises in the North East praised the military high command for the remarkable successes in the various theatre of war, saying that ongoing operations against terrorism in the North East and armed banditry in the North West and North Central regions would soon end in line with the president’s charge to the armed forces. “Nigerians should despair. They must be fully involved and not leave the war to the military alone. It is remarkable that our forces are still fighting and winning amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.
Boko Haram was defeated until ISWAP entered but we know we are on the last lap especially as the entire nation fully backs the military”, he said. Also, Concerned Professionals’ Congress (CPC), an advoca cy group, in a statement issued in Abuja at the weekend by its chief media strategist, Mr Emeka Nwankpa, endorsed the president’s renewed assurances to Nigerians that the military and the other security agencies will soon put a decisive end to insecurity in the country. It said,
“History has shown that the Chief of Defence, General Abayomi Gabriel Olonisakin and the present crop of service chiefs and heads of the Police and security and intelligence agencies were selected by Mr. President for a time like this that the nation is at war on all fronts. We can attest to their courage, tenacity, resilience and resourcefulness in the face of fast-changing security dynamics. “We commend our forces for the successes in the various battles that they have fought. We are daily inundated with reports by the Major General John Enenche-led Defence Media Operations of the excellent gallantry of our troops in spite of the fears over COVID-19. We cannot imagine that our troops are fighting and winning in the midst of fears over corona virus. We owe them a debt of gratitude”. CPC particularly commended President Buhari for diligently assembling the current team led by the CDS, General Olonisakin, saying “it has again shown that Mr President’s trust and confidence in the ability and capacity of these war generals is not misplaced. They deserve our support and prayers”.
Nwankpa argued that the anti-insurgency war actually ended on December 22, 2016 when Camp Zairo, Boko Haram’s headquarters in the once-dreaded Sambisa Forest, estimated at over 60,000 sq. km fell. According to him, President Buhari had just done less than 18 months in office when he achieved this feat with this team, courtesy of the gallant troops of Operation Lafiya Dole.
Notwithstanding a few uninformed commentary, he argued, the optics are looking good because President Buhari has highly focused, committed and hardcore military men under the CDS, General Abayomi Gabriel Olonisakin, leading the troops to gain upper hand on the terrorists thereby changing the dynamics of the war in a way that has significantly turned the tide against terrorism and insurgency. From available statistics, armed bandits are already getting the same heat.
Consequently, over 10,000 battle-tired Boko Haram fighters have surrendered and more still surrendering, interpreted as key indicators that the nation is far from pre-July 2015 when troop casualties estimated at about 500 per cent arising from cases of low morale, armed attacks, killings, maiming, abductions and missing in actions, etc. It is now as low as 20 per cent. Also, over 40,000 hostages comprising men, women and children have been freed from Boko Haram with over 10,000 territories and communities liberated.
More are still being freed though these successes have taken a huge toll on the Nigerian military. Weighing in, a group of 35 civil society organisations (CSOs) under the aegis of North Coalition of Northern Groups for Good Governance, (CNGG), has warned politicians believed to be behind the recent killings and sponsored protests across the country to desist from destabilising the country, saying, “the youths are getting impatient with induced insecurity and partisan protests by those responsible for the carnage in the land’’.
Its president, Comrade Abu Mohammed, at a press conference in Abuja, said the partisan merchants of violence and killings were contracted to cause unrest, agonies and bloodshed in parts of the North, accusing them of pursuing a mission to claim power from the backdoor, as typified by their constant sermons for the sack of serving service chiefs. “After several failed attempts, the Northern youths revealed that they now resorted to discrediting President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration, blur the successes of the Service Chiefs to find public justification to compel Mr. President to sack his hard-working and dedicated security team
“To this end, we strongly condemn actions by some individuals who are dancing to the tunes of these demonic souls and anti-democratic forces. It is clear to us that they scheme to throw the country into total chaos and lawlessness by sponsoring violence, killings and at the same time inducing youths to embark on protests against the country’s leadership after unconscionably dismissing every effort made in this regard’’, the group said While throwing their weight behind the president, CNGG maintained that it was satisfied with the efforts of Service Chiefs as a unified front to surmount the various security challenges The Northern Governors’ Forum (NGF) also commended the president for his efforts at dealing with the security situation in the country and particularly the region. It set up a three-man standing committee headed by Gov Yahaya Bello of Kogi State, including the governors of Zamfara and Gombe states to “foster synergy between security agencies in the enforcement of security measures in the region”. Chairman of the Northern Governors’ Forum and Plateau State governor, Simon Lalong, and the governors at a teleconferencing meeting also agreed to raise consultative committees for adequate consultations with traditional rulers, religious and community leaders in the North to generate wider consultations and involvement in tackling insecurity in the region by interfacing with local vigilantes, hunters, and community watch groups in the security architecture of the region in order to foster intelligence gathering, rapid response and sustained vigilance.
A Security Risk Management expert, Dr Kabir Adamu, has also endorsed synergy as part of restrategised measures adopted to tackle insecurity in the country. He urged the authorities to replicate it between the federal and state governments and occupy ungoverned spaces being used by criminals for heinous acts.
He said, “There is a correlation between economic downturn and increase in insecurity. Unfortunately, there are issues around the criminal justice system and we must give the Buhari administration kudos for what it has done in this respect. We have seen what he has done with the correctional service, what he is doing with the judiciary and of course many are tied to the police reform. “In the North and even some parts of the South, most of the security challenges have their origin in what is called ungoverned spaces including forests, mountainous areas or in the Niger Delta the water body.
“Most of these spaces to a large extent belong to the state government but the states cannot maintain surveillance or government presence within these spaces, criminals simply take them over. This is the case with most northern states. We can enhance intelligence gathering capability through community policing”. Meanwhile, military air strikes have continued to smoke out bandits and criminals in Katsina, Zamfara and the environs to the satisfaction of the people of the areas. In the past few weeks, combined teams of the military, the police and other security and intelligence agencies have consistently bombarded, by air and ground, the tactical and logistics bases of terrorists, bandits and criminals in compliance with the orders of President Buhari to restore normalcy to the regions.
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