By Jonathan Nda- Isaiah, BODE GBADEBO, Abuja and Obinna Ogbonnaya, Abakaliki
President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday cautioned Nigerians against actions and comments that are capable of jeopardising the unity and progress of the nation.
Speaking during the launch of the 2021 Armed Forces Remembrance Day (AFRD) Emblem and Appeal Fund, President Buhari said this year’s occasion reminds Nigerians of the need to guard jealously the unity of the nation which was won at great cost.
The president who stressed that ‘‘Nigeria’s strength lies in her diversity’’ honoured the memory of the nation’s fallen heroes and veterans, recounting their sacrifices during the first and second world wars, the Nigerian civil war and peace support operations around the world.
President Buhari also paid tribute to men and women currently engaged in internal security operations, particularly the ongoing fight against insurgency, terrorism and armed banditry in some parts of the country, praising them for remaining steadfast in the difficult task of restoring peace and security despite the coronavirus pandemic.
A statement by his special adviser on media and publicity, Femi Adesina quoted the president as saying: ”We honour the memory of our gallant officers and men who have paid the supreme sacrifice in order to keep the country united as one entity.
”The nation remains grateful for the efforts and sacrifice of the Armed Forces especially in the fight against insurgency and other internal security challenges confronting Nigeria.
”The Armed Forces Remembrance Day or Veterans Day as it is known in some parts of the world is an important event observed in commemoration of the end of the Second World War.
”In Commonwealth member countries, the Remembrance Day is observed on 11th November yearly. However, for us the date was changed to 15th January annually to accommodate the commemoration of the end of the Nigerian Civil War”.
On security operations in the North West and North Central zones of the country, President Buhari expressed delight at the return of normalcy in some of the areas that previously witnessed security challenges.
He stated: ”Our dear nation has witnessed numerous security challenges since independence.
”These security threats have undermined Nigeria in the areas of trade, investment and economy, education, health as well as agriculture and frequently denied Nigerians the freedom of movement.
”I am however pleased to state that a lot has been achieved in the Internal Security operations in the North West and North Central zones where in addition to Operations LAFIYA DOLE, HADARIN DAJI, HARBIN KUNAMA, WHIRL STROKE, other operations such as ACCORD, SAHEL SANITY and KATSINA were successfully launched.
”This has led to the return of normalcy in some of the affected areas. However, all hands must be on deck to check attacks on soft targets”.
The president who restated that his administration will continue to forge useful alliances with neighbours and friends in the international community for the total defeat of the security threats affecting the sub-region promised to ensure timely provision of adequate resources and necessary logistics support for the Armed Forces.
President Buhari further pledged that under his watch the Nigeria Armed Forces will operate with the best modern warfare equipment, with welfare issues receiving utmost attention.
His words: ”We are quite aware that it is our responsibility to provide a conducive environment that is devoid of security threats.
”I want to re-assure Nigerians that security being one of the pillars of this administration will continue to be at the forefront until peace and security are restored in the country”.
The president also reassured Nigerians of his administration’s commitment to creating an environment in which all citizens and foreigners are guaranteed freedom and returns on investments.
He urged business enterprises to render discounts and rebates to men and women in uniform as a symbol of appreciation for their sacrifices, saying ‘‘this kind gesture will make life easier for them and deepen their patriotism’’.
On support for families of members of the Armed Forces who died in active service, President Buhari acknowledged that the unfortunate cost of the fight against insurgency and other internal security challenges was the unavoidable loss of lives of some gallant compatriots.
”The reality is that the spouses and defendants of these bread-winners in most cases experience trauma and deprivation. However, we can be of support to them to lighten their burdens especially in light of the COVID-19 Pandemic. I therefore call on all to spare a thought for them and take positive steps to come to their aid,” he said, commending charity organisations engaged in the noble cause of bringing succour to the families of fallen heroes and veterans.
In his capacity as the Grand Patron of the Nigerian Legion, the president expressed delighted that the Nigerian legion has continued to be a rallying point of veterans, doing a lot in catering for the welfare of ailing members
”To ensure that our veterans continue to share the comradeship that existed while in Service and that their welfare is adequately catered for, the Federal Government established the Nigerian Legion as well as fully paid all pension arrears of veterans,” he said.
He urged state governors, who are patrons of Legions in their respective States, as well as Nigerians, to continue to support and participate in the Legion’s initiatives in the areas of transportation, agriculture and housing development.
The president called on Nigerians and other residents in the country to procure and wear the emblems with pride in order to identify with those who laid down their lives for the peace and security of the county.
”I encourage all to donate generously in support of our veterans and dependents of our fallen heroes,” he said.
President Buhari announced a donation of N10 million to the Nigerian Legion.
Earlier, the minister of Defence, Major General Bashir Magashi (rtd), called on members of the civil society, religious and political leaders, the academia as well as the media to educate and enlighten Nigerians on the need to recognize and appreciate the sacrifices of gallant compatriots in uniform.
He also encouraged Nigerians to procure and wear the emblem to boost the morale of serving personnel.
Also, chairman Nigerian Legion, Brigadier General Adakole Jones Akpa (rtd), thanked President Buahri for his unrelenting support to the ex-servicemen, particularly in ensuring the prompt payment of pensions.
Akpa who also recognized the presence and support of Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, Senate President Ahmed Lawan, Speaker Femi Gbajabiamila, members of the Diplomatic Corps and the Service Chiefs to the Nigerian Legion, said despite the challenges facing the country, ”God is with Nigeria.
“We should sing the Nigerian song as nobody will sing it for us,” he added.
During the emblem launch ceremony, the chairman of Nigerian Legion decorated President Buhari and Vice President Osinbajo with the 2021 AFRD emblem.
Social Media Was Used To Incite Violence During #EndSARS Protests – NSA
Meanwhile, the National Security Adviser (NSA) said yesterday social media was used to incite violence during the #EndSARS.
Speaking at a workshop on the 2020 national cyber-security strategy in Abuja yesterday, the NSA said the social media poses increasing challenges of cyber-terrorism.
Monguno’s position is came a day after minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, insisted on the need for the federal government to regulate social media despite criticisms against such move.
Represented by Aliyu Mohammed in the office of the secretary to the government of the federation (SGF), Monguno made reference to the #EndSARS protests during which he said the social media was used to disseminate inflammatory comments.
“We are witnesses to the use of social media to disseminate subversive content to incite violence and heightened tension, causing unrest and sparking widespread looting and destruction across the country,” he said.
The NSA, however, added that the cyberspace has helped in the enhancement of Nigeria’s national security, economic transformation and national development.
“Our country is currently at a turning point in its history, a significant section of our population of over 200 million people are young and entrepreneurs, we are also witnessing a rapid rise in our adoption of the internet in our daily lives,” he said.
Also speaking, Abayomi Olonisakin, Chief of Defence Staff, said cyber terrorism is the most unpredictable challenge Nigeria is currently battling with.
Represented by Charles Oghonwen, an Air Vice Marshal from the Defence Headquarters, Olonisakin said, “Cyberspace has been the main warfare after the lands, sea, air and space has no boundary and hence does not obey conditional rules in warfare.
“It remains open to exploitation buy state actors, organised syndicates, sect, criminals and terrorists. Cyberterrorism has become the most precarious challenge facing us today as a nation.
“The use of cyberspace to facilitate various terrorist activities, such as recruitment, training, propaganda, intelligence gathering and fundraising, cyber terrorism is now globally recognised as the fundamental threat to global security.”
Ohanaeze Denies Attacks On Northerners In South East
The Leadership of Ohaneze Ndigbo Youth Council Worldwide OYC has described as false a statement credited to the national publicity secretary of Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF), Mr Emmanuel Yawe, northerners were being killed in the South East zone.
Mr. Yawe had alleged in the social media that over 30 northerners were killed while 50 trailers belonging to them conveying good to the South East region were also destroyed by members of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB).
But in a statement signed by the president-general of OYC, Mazi Okechukwu Isiguzoro and the secretary general Mazi Okwu Nnabuike, Ohanaeze youths said Yawe’s outburst was a ploy to incite violence against Ndigbo in the North.
The Igbo Apex youth organisation further stated that result of investigation carried out across the 95 local government areas of South East showed that there are no truth in the alleged harassment of northerners in the region.
The group insisted that there was no iota of truth in the unconfirmed news dished out by Emmanuel Yawe to the public, just as it urged northern leaders to crosscheck their facts on security issues before going to the public.
The Ohanaeze youths stated: “OYC wishes to categorically state and deny these allegations by ACF on the killings of Northerners in the SouthEast.
“The allegations are mere rumours, falsehood and fake news and igbo youths challenge Emmanuel Yawe to produce the video clips of the said killings in the South East. Northerners are safe in the South East and are doing their normal businesses without any form of intimidation or harassment.
“We want to reassure the leadership of Arewa ConsultativeYouth Forum led by Alhaji Yerima Shettima of the safety of Northerners in the South East and urge them to remain committed to the mutual agreement reached with OYC on the safety of igbos in the North”.
Stop Agitations, Omo-Agege Tells Niger Delta Youths
Meanwhile, deputy president of the Senate, Senator Ovie Omo-Agege, has appealed to members of the Reformed Niger Delta Avengers (RNDA) to halt their planned attacks on oil facilities in the region.
According to him, going ahead with their threat would create economic setback for the country and additional environmental degradation in the area.
Senator Omo-Agege’s appeal came on the heels of recent threats by a coalition of nine militant groups in the Niger-Delta region to resume hostilities by attacking oil and gas facilities if federal government did not meet the demands of #EndSARS protesters across the country.
After an emergency meeting in Delta State last week, the militant groups under the aegis of the RNDA also announced their preparedness to disavow the ceasefire accord with the federal government and engage military forces.
Specifically, they threatened to resume attacks on some identified oil facilities in the region if nothing was done to redress the issues of poor welfare, armed oppression and inequality in the standard of living between the citizens and political elite.
But speaking when he hosted a delegation of Oil and Gas Host Communities of Nigeria (HOSCON) in Abuja, led by elder statesman, Chief Wellington Okrika, the Delta Central federal lawmaker urged the agitators to sheathe their sword and allow peace to rein.
A statement issued by his spokesman, Yomi Odunuga, yesterday noted that Omo-Agege assured that their demands would be tabled before the presidency.
The senator stressed that with the nation still battling with the challenges posed by Covid-19 and the aftermath of #EndSARS protests which was hijacked by hoodlums, it cannot afford another militancy problem at the moment.
“Whatever it is, we must maintain peace in the Niger Delta. I say this in view of the new agitations by the Reformed Niger Delta Avengers. We are just coming out of the #EndSARS protest which, of course, we all witnessed how a peaceful protest was hijacked by those with sinister agenda. We are all witnesses to what happened afterwards even when we must acknowledge that in a democracy, protest is a right provided those that do it do so peacefully without abridging the rights of others,” Omo-Agege said.
Speaking further, he urged HOSCON members to “go back to our people in the creeks and tell them we are here for them”.
He continued: “We are here to champion their request. We don’t want the peace of the Niger Delta to be disturbed or disrupted. We are here to protect the interest of our people. Yes, I may be the Deputy President of the Senate today but, I am first of all, a Senator representing my people. I am here and I am your own. I am your eye. We shall not disappoint you.
“Take this commendation to our brothers in the Creeks that they have done well in keeping the peace and we will table their request before the authorities as they have channelled that request through me. We shall ensure the right things are done”.
On the Petroleum Industry Bill currently before the National Assembly, Omo-Agege argued that the annual contribution of 2.5 per cent actual operating expenditure by oil companies to the Host Community Development Trust Fund would be increased to, at least, 5 per cent.
He also reiterated his call at the Second Reading of the bill on the floor of the Senate where he made a case for gas flaring penalties to be paid to the host communities and not the Federation Account.
He pointed out that the funds would be used to ameliorate the living conditions in Niger Delta communities as they remain the ones that bear the burden of environmental degradation from the oil industry.
The deputy Senate president stated: “That I come from the oil bearing communities is one of the reasons why I am DSP today given our contribution to the economy of the country. It is only natural that I champion anything that would promote the interest of the people of the Niger Delta.
“The PIB is a very crucial bill. If properly handled it would bring a lot of Foreign Direct Investments into the oil economy. This is the best time to take advantage of the oil we have and the best way to do so it to encourage FDIs and this can only be achieved when the Niger Delta is peaceful. That is why I am suing for peace.
“Let the Niger Delta Region begin to look like the region that produces the wealth of the country. The Host Community component of the PIB law is of utmost importance to us in the National Assembly and we believe it should be a win-win for all stakeholders. And so, we are determined to ensure that we have an improvement on what we have before. I am also confident that we have made good impression with our colleagues and we would get something favourable for the oil bearing communities.
“I also believe Gas Flaring Penalty cost should come to the Host Communities and I am sure we have impressed it on our colleagues to allow that to stay. That money shouldn’t go to the Federation Account but to the people whose environment is impacted by gas flaring”.
Earlier, Chief Okrika, called on the deputy president of the Senate to intervene in the issues brought before the federal government concerning the PIB, gas flaring, 13 per cent derivation payment to the states instead of the oil bearing communities, the N98billion gas flare fund and the controversy surrounding the Pipeline Surveillance Contract.
He lauded the legislative interventions of the senator, adding that members were impressed with his contributions not only on issues concerning the Niger Delta but his general contributions on matters relating to national discourse.