BY AHURAKA ISAH
Mr. Baba Al-Kasim is a development activist promoting peace, good governance and democracy in the country…. maintains that the recent report by Transparency International seeks to undermine Nigeria’s high international rating in counter-terrorism efforts
The Minister of Defence, Mansur Dan-ali, said recently that the Nigerian military have so far rescued about 12,000 captives, including 106 Chibok girls held by Boko Haram. Does this not give the nation a good reason to cheer?
Yes I believe there is a good reason for the nation to cheer. In fact it gives the entire humanity a big cause to cheer. This is because where any part of mankind is captive, the entire mankind is captive. Humanity is in chains. Getting 82 abducted Chibok girls released from Boko Haram was a great feat. We salute the sincerity of the President. We pray that he gets back soon to the country and continue with his job. The situation on ground in the North East today is that normalcy has returned to the region, courtesy of the amazing courage, gallantry and commitment of our fighting troops of Operation Lafiya Dole whose efforts have restored our collective quest for a lasting peace and security in Adamawa, Borno and Yobe States where the anti-terrorism battle has been fiercest. Indeed, we owe a debt of gratitude to our selfless troops and their able commanders who have gained the upper hand in the crucial task of confronting emerging threats to national security.
Are you saying that the insurgency in the Northeast no longer poses any challenge to the nation?
I think that insurgency has been effectively tackled because none of Nigeria’s territory is under Boko Haram after our military and the other security forces have broken their back. The decimation of Boko Haram is no longer a myth but a reality, courtesy of the doggedness of the Armed Forces of Nigeria under the excellent leadership of the Chief of Defence Staff, General Abayomi Gabriel Olonisakin and the rugged Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen. Tukur Buratai and his counterpart in the Air Force, Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar whose leadership of our patriotic commanders and troops have been very exemplary. Particularly note-worthy is the excellent focus of President Muhammadu Buhari who carefully selected these highly dedicated military officers to actualize his resolve to bring the terrorists to their knees with the fall of Sambisa Forest. But for them, we would have since lost the North East where today Boko Haram no longer have the capacity to re-group and launch organised attacks. Our defence forces have routed the terrorists who are fleeing in different directions with over 10,000 of them surrendering owing to fatigue. But for these gallant men, far-flung communities like Kircha, Gonye, Wujjal, Jameri, Gerigana, Gerekura, Jabe, Hassana Jere and Chachile and several others in Borno, Adamawa and Yobe States would have been lost forever. Also, the global kudos to the gallantry of our patriotic troops have not ceased after over 12,000 hostages made up of men, women, children and the elderly have regained freedom from Boko Haram while over 10,000 territories and communities were liberated. The picture at our various IDPs across the North East gives the depth of the story. The situation today is that rescued captives have returned to their communities. Thanks to our service men.
Transparency International, in conjunction with Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre, CISLAC, released a report recently in which it stated that Nigeria’s security sector had some probity issues between 2011 and 2015. Your civil advocacy group, the CPC, has been at the forefront of promoting citizen engagement, democracy and good governance. What is your reaction to this?
The report is odd and offensive and should be completely rejected. The report is a reminder of the open support which Amnesty International’s 2016/2017 Nigeria report was accused of giving Boko Haram by giving the impression that our military committed crime by fighting against the criminal sect. Nigerians should now begin to interrogate the activities and real motives of these so-called international NGOs. We reject the report in its entirety because it is dishonest. The sponsors of the report tried to use the events of 2011 to 2015 of alleged corruption against some top ex-officers as a basis to castigate and criminalize the entire military. This is too sweeping. It is unfair. We also believe that this report is a calculated plot to block the current support which the Nigerian defence sector has generated following the avalanche of global commendations that had trailed the successes of our military in the war against terrorism. It is clear that the military has continued to record remarkable victory over Boko Haram. But for the fall of Sambisa, the sect would have continued to hold our sovereignty in disdain. But we give immense thanks to God and to our gallant and courageous service men for rescuing our people and our communities from the menacing grip of Boko Haram. We would have completely lost hundreds of thousands of our rescued and liberated people and communities but for the doggedness of our service men. Shall we allow Boko Haram to completely kill and decimate us before Transparency International starts to realise the dangers that we face in the hands of the criminal sect? The truth remains that the renewed global interest and support which the nation has garnered through the excellent courage and gallantry of our military is a source of worry to enemies of Nigeria. They are simply uncomfortable hence their resort to plots to undermine and destabilize our military.
The Defence Headquarters through its spokesman, Major Gen. John Enenche has swiftly punctured the report, describing as an attempt to mislead the public and rubbish the image of the entire defence sector. What do you say to this?
We agree with Gen. Enenche. As a civil society group, we have always canvassed due compliance to regulations on probity, transparency and accountability in government business. The present leadership of the Armed Forces of Nigeria has done well in this regard. It has carried out laudable reforms in their procurement process. They have trained personnel with available resources just as they have done a lot in boosting the morale of troops by prompt and timely payment of entitlements. Consequently, morale of troops is very high which explains why the victory over Boko Haram has been meaningfully sustained. It is clear that a lot has been achieved since May 2015. Each of the three services of the military has a procurement branch established with procurement rules, regulations and procedures in line with the provisions of the Bureau of Public Procurement Act. It is indeed a disservice that such sweeping statements of corruption are being made against serving officers in a government and dispensation with strong anti-corruption stance. It is unfortunate. How come it is only when the profile of our military keeps rising locally and globally that these anti-Nigeria groups suddenly come out with their report. It is high time Nigerians began to ask pertinent questions about these organizations. Whose picks their bills? Who do they work for? What is their link with Boko Haram? What do they stand to gain if Boko Haram continues to pound our communities with bombs? Please ask them.
You said that the global community has been praising our military for a job well done. How come there is no correlation between these international accolades and the accusations by these international groups?
We do not believe that there is anything international in these groups. Most of these so-called reports are sexed up with salacious claims and rehashed among themselves to give the impression that they are researched. It is the height of intellectual and moral dishonesty and fraud. They cannot continue like this. The chicken will soon be home to roost. We would have since lost the entire North East to Boko Haram if the present political leadership under President Muhammadu Buhari did not emerge to save this nation from these criminals. We owe him a debt of gratitude for putting together a crop of highly patriotic, courageous and gallant service men under the current military high command headed by the CDS, General Abayomi Olonishakin. Nigerians and the entire global community have applauded the military for the successful battle against terror that has resulted in the steady decimation of the Boko Haram terrorists to the point that they now lack the capacity to either directly confront our troops and hold territories. They are degraded, decimated and fleeing in different directions.
So what, in specific terms, would you say has been achieved as a result of the intervention by our military and other security forces in the anti-terror war?
You need the details to get the depth of the crisis. Can you imagine a situation where 27 LGAs in Borno State alone were under Boko Haram before President Muhammadu Buhari came into office? Morale among the troops was very low before this CDS and his three service chiefs were appointed. Now, they have turned the tide against the terrorists because the key performance indicators are there for all to see. Our military has reclaimed complete ground in the three states of the theatre of war. Boko Haram has been effectively dislodged as over 12,000 captives comprising men, women, children and the elderly have been freed from Boko Haram including over 10,000 territories liberated. Over 10,000 battle-tired Boko Haram members have surrendered and more are still surrendering. Nigeria has been getting international praise for our efforts at combating terrorism successfully. Not too long ago, at a World Conference on Global Coalition on Counter-Terrorism in Washington D.C, the United States’ Secretary of State, Mr. Rex Tillerson singled out Nigeria’s counter-terrorism strategy as an effective template that should be adopted by other countries fighting terrorism.