Pleateau State governor Simon Lalong, in this interview with State House correspondents, explained reasons why some states in the north are opposed to the scrapping of SARS. He also spoke on sundry issues. JONATHAN NDA- ISAIAH presents the excerpts.
Why have you come to see the president ?
We used to come to the Villa to give the president reviews about our states, our zone and in most cases our party and issues about northern governors . I, as the chairman of Northern Governors Forum, I am also here to update him and to remind him about certain issues discussed that have now taken place. For instance when we had the challenge of insecurity all over the north , we called for community policing. So, when you see things being done, it’s good to also update him, as things are presently going our way. Because we have seen training of community police, going on at various zones particularly for me in Plateau State.
About 70 percent of those we recruited for community policing are now in Makurdi undergoing training. Just yesterday in my state, I appointed a new coordinator, an AIG, to take care of it. That is to tell you that things about security should be taken seriously if we have to keep the nation.
Secondly, we are also aware that many issues are now happening, people are making suggestions which Mr President has gladly accepted. Some of the recommendations is the disbandment of the SARS and also the reform and funding of the police.
These are issues we also require, that as leaders we put our contributions out to Mr President, so that we can have a way forward in addressing the national security of the state. And above all, I also intimated him about arrangements because my state is hosting NAFEST. I am opportuned to be given the opportunity to host NAFEST which would have happened last June, but because of the Coronavirus pandemic, it was postponed till November and I am still given the opportunity to host it. I addressed them yesterday and told them there is no more coronavirus in my state, not that there is no coronavirus, but the ability and testing capacity carried out has been reduced drastically in the state.
So, we are happy to invite people to move to Plateau to see the home of peace and tourism, and this was some of the issues that I also discussed with Mr President.
Insecurity: Gov Lalong Orders Onslaught Against Criminals
On the protests by Northern youths (CNG) over insecurity…
The same youths we had several meetings with and even recall that at one point, they were saying everybody should go back to his zone or state. And it was the same youths I addressed and we had a good understanding and they gave an explanation on why they are doing that at the time. After we had a good meeting and we all agreed and understood where we were going, today again I read in the Newspaper that they were going. I am trying to call a few of them. This time, I was not informed on the mission they are taking in addressing all the youths to go on strike or protests.
Because as the chairman of Northern Governors Forum , everytime they have their issues they always call me to tell me these are some of the issues we have. Some of them we sit down and address them, and if they are going on protest they will say they understand, they will say they know where the government is going. Of course most of the time, they will say ‘take this message to Mr President’, I take it to the president and also the president will address those issues. So as I was saying, I just saw it in the newspaper. I am also going to talk to them to address them to see the genuineness of their grievances, and we all look forward to addressing them.
The killing of prominent traditional ruler in Barkinladi local government area, when will the killings abate?
You made reference to what happened in Barkinladi. Sometimes, when you say you are looking for peace, it’s not that there will be absolute peace. In one place or the other, you will even have quarrel between husband and wife. If you look at the magnitude of what we had in the past, today, shuttle flight to Jos from Abuja is always full. They are even asking me to increase the number of shuttles from Jos to Abuja. As it is today, Wednesday, if you go to the Airport, if you need a flight to Jos, they will tell you that the flight is full. That means a lot of people are trooping into Jos.
A village head was killed. On the other side, a vigilante was killed. For your information, if you go to Jos now, almost all of them have been arrested. Out of five, four of them have been arrested. We are looking for one. We have enough information on ground. We call on people to give information. That is why I have a passion about this community policing. My state is one of the pilot states for community policing. As I am speaking now, about 80 percent of my people are already in Makurdi doing training. Just yesterday (Wednesday), I confirmed the appointment of…to be in charge of Operation Rainbow in terms of security handling or community policing. If I have all these people in my state, I think insecurity will be a thing of the past in Plateau.
I believe in information. I believe in using community leaders. I have charged the traditional rulers and said: “If you see miscreants or insecurity within your domain and you cover them, there is no way government can address it.” But if you are able to come out, we will chase those people. A few weeks ago, an SSS officer was killed. We arrested the person within two days. We chased the person, a gun runner. He is now in cell for prosecution. So, whatever happens in Plateau, people now come out to say this is what is happening.
I told them that if a traditional ruler or a community is shielding criminals in his domain, I will arrest him. Last year or early this year, I arrested them and did investigation. Today, everybody is at alert. The issue of security is not for government alone. It’s everybody’s affair. If you don’t have security, you will not sleep and enjoy your family.
Do you have a message for the protesting youths?
We had a meeting yesterday (Wednesday), the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF). I’m sure my chairman addressed the press. When we see issues like this, because most of the complaints vary from one state to the other. In one aspect, some people say they don’t want SARS, some say they want SARS but a reformed SARS. They want a reformed SARS because, as far as they are concerned, some of these SARS operatives help them in addressing insecurity.
If there are bad ones, holistically bring them together and reform them. Then, you work for them. So, our opinion and conclusion at that stage was that let us not just say that we are throwing away the baby with the bath water. If there are good ones, you don’t chase them away.
They want SARS because SARS helps them. Borno said without SARS, he would not have been surviving today. Niger also wants SARS. So, if you are addressing this issue of SARS, you need to know what is wrong in some places. Is it the process of recruitment? Is it the character of the people? You can’t say because somebody is wrong, everybody is wrong in the country.
These are some of the issues we concluded yesterday. And its for the chairman to go and meet Mr President to still look at this issue holistically and critically so that we understand where we are going. As a whole, we all agreed that there must be general reform within the police. But you can’t do general reform without proper funding. You must address the issue of proper funding so that they don’t say government is responsible for lack of funding and we attack them for non-performance of their duties.
I’m sure our Chairman will meet Mr President. We all went back, that everybody should go back and address the issue in his State. Because in some of the states, you find that the people moving people to do the protest are people from other states.
But in the real sense, some of the things are not even happening in our state or they are very minimal. If there are complaints that people are coming outside, let’s not begin to generalise or we will miss the point. Lets address it and find out if in those environment, things are happening like this, we must go back. It’s just like we are addressing coronavirus. When we say coronavirus is everywhere, at the end of the day, we say no, there are some places free of coronavirus.