Nigeria is expecting to take delivery of military weapons and aircraft from Jordan, China and the United States to reinvigorate its anti-terror war, President Muhammadu Buhari said yesterday.
Buhari also dismissed assumptions that Boko Haram was better equipped and funded than the armed forces, saying that the military has greater resources to fight the terrorists even though they may need more.
During the meeting, the governors demanded security bailout from the president, citing the $1 billion they allowed him to withdraw from the Excess Crude Account (ECA) to procure weapons as a justifiable reason for their demand.
In a related development, Zamfara State Governor, Mr. Bello Matawalle, has accused politicians of being responsible for the insecurity facing the country, saying they cause it to advance their political interests.
Buhari’s meeting with the governors was also attended by service chiefs and other heads of security agencies.
The three-hour meeting came barely 24 hours after Buhari presided over a security meeting attended by North-east governors and security chiefs where the governors implored the president to equip the police in the North-east to bridge the gap in the military’s handling of the war against Boko Haram.
A statement by presidential spokesman, Malam Garba Shehu, said the governors told the president about their contributions to fight insecurity by giving the federal government the nod to withdraw $1 billion from the ECA.
The governors, therefore, urged the president to appreciate their gesture by giving “security bailout” to the 36 states to enable them to address the enormous security challenges confronting the states.
The statement added that during the submissions of the governors, coordinated by NGF Chairman and Governor of Ekiti State, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, the governors listed factors fuelling insecurity in the country to include: poverty, unemployment, the trust deficit between the military and civilians as well as the inflow of small arms into the country.
“In their submissions anchored by their Chairman, Governor Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti State, and Governor Babagana Zulum of Borno State, the governors highlighted the problems of poverty, unemployment, trust deficit between the military and civilian populations and the inflow of small arms into the country.
“The governors also pointed to the problem of coordination among military and security chiefs and played up their own security roles, which included $1 billion they allowed the president to withdraw from the Excess Crude Account for weapons procurement two years ago.
“They, therefore, urged the president to consider a “bailout” for security for the states in view of the enormity of the resources they now expend in support of the military and the police,” the statement added.
However, Buhari dismissed assumptions that Boko Haram was better equipped and better funded than the armed forces, saying the military has greater resources to fight the terrorists, even though they may need more.
The president’s clarification came barely 24 hours after he had blamed the lingering insecurity challenges in the North-east on lean resources of the federal government, which he said had been compounded by the outbreak of COVID-19.
But at the meeting with the governors, the president clarified that terrorists are not better equipped than the armed forces neither are they richer than the federal government, noting that the terrorists are “mere scavengers desperate for food, raiding shops and markets and killing innocent persons in the process.”
The president said: “We have said enough on the need for them to rejig their operations. I am glad that there is better synergy and cooperation which are very important. I have directed the service chiefs to meet among themselves in-between the National Security Council meetings.
“The services have resources; yes, they need more, and mobility, and are doing their best, but there is a need for better gathering and interpretation of intelligence. Our intelligence-gathering must be improved.”
The president expressed concern that despite the closure of borders with neighbouring countries, bandits and terrorists have continued to acquire small weapons.
He added: “These terrorists are in the localities. How is it that they are not short of small arms?”
Buhari said he was satisfied with the level of support Nigeria was getting from neighbouring countries in the war against terrorism.
“On Boko Haram, we are making progress with Benin, Niger, Chad and Cameroon,” he added.
He restated that intelligence gathering must improve if small arms would be tracked in the North-west, North-central and North-east states.
The president said he was also satisfied with the level of naval operations in the Gulf of Guinea, with the deployment of newly-acquired equipment, “but demanded that hard-to-reach areas of Lake Chad where Boko Haram terrorists have found new havens, as well as the forests now inhabited by bandits must be accessed and rid of nefarious elements.”
Buhari was also quoted as saying: “The Chief of Defence Staff has spoken about their study of the forests and their potential danger to security. We must make sure we follow the bandits and terrorists, but there must not be deforestation in view of the climate situation.”
The meeting ended with calls for a joint strategy to tackle insecurity within a limited time frame, with a further resolution that field commanders would take measures to protect civilian communities as a confidence-building mechanism between the military and the communities.
It expressed hope that when the loss of trust between both parties is restored, there will be improved cooperation in intelligence gathering and sharing.
The meeting also resolved that at the root of security challenges facing the country are poverty and youth unemployment and hence, the agreement to address them with greater vigour by all tiers of government.
The meeting focused on the country’s security policies and approaches in tackling the internal security challenges bedeviling the country with a charge that intelligence gathering and sharing must be intensified to enhance the security of the country.
Present at yesterday’s meeting were Vice President Yemi Osinbajo; Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Mr. Boss Mustapha; the National Security Adviser (NSA), Maj. Gen. Babagana Monguno (rtd.); and the Chief of Staff, Prof. Ibrahim Gambari.
Some governors who joined the meeting virtually are Yahaya Bello (Kogi), Douye Diri (Bayelsa), Babagana Zulum (Borno), David Umahi (Ebonyi) and Babajide Sanwo-Olu (Lagos).
Security chiefs at the meeting were Chief of Defence Staff, Gen. Gabriel Olonisakin; Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen. Tukur Buratai (who was represented); Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Ibok-Ete Ekwe Ibas; Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar; the Inspector-General of Police (IGP), Mr. Mohammed Adamu; and the Director-General, Department of State Services (DSS), Mr. Yusuf Bichi.
Also present were the Director-General, National Intelligence Agency (NIA), Mr. Ahmed Rufa’I; Chief of Defence Intelligence Agency, Air Vice Marshall Muhammed Usman; Minister of Defence, Maj. Gen. Bashir Magashi (rtd.); and the Minister of Police Affairs, Mr. Maigari Dingyadi.
The governors were led by members of the NGF’s Security Committee, headed by Kogi State Governor, Mr. Yahaya Bello.