Governors of the federation have requested the Presidency to consider granting a “bailout” for them to meet growing security obligations in their respective states. The request is in view of the enormity of the resources governors now expend in support of the military and the police to protect lives and property across the country.
The demand came during a three-hour security council meeting held yesterday at the State House, Aso Rock, Abuja. It was coordinated by President Muhammadu Buhari and attended by the Vice-President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, heads of defence, security and intelligence agencies and members of the Security Committee of the Nigerian Governors’ Forum (NGF), represented by one governor from each of the six geo-political zones. The meeting, which was held in a virtual format, focused on the security policies and approaches in tackling the internal security challenges confronting Nigeria.
The governors recalled that they had consistently supported the security agencies as demonstrated when they collectively granted a concession to the President to withdraw $1 billion from the Excess Crude Account (ECA) for the procurement of weapons, two years ago.
Chairman of NGF and Governor of Ekiti State, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, who made the submissions on behalf of the governors, highlighted the problems of poverty, unemployment and trust deficit between the military and civilian populations and the inflow of small arms into the country.
They also pointed to the seeming lack of coordination among military commanders, security chiefs and the intelligence services as part of the challenges for the deteriorating level of insecurity in Nigeria.
President Buhari, who expressed concerns about proliferation of small arms, queried the security and intelligence chiefs on how terrorists and bandits still have access to small weapons to carry out their nefarious activities despite the closure of the nation’s borders for nearly one year Buhari directed the service chiefs and the intelligence services to ensure an improvement in gathering and interpretation of intelligence.
“These terrorists are in the localities. How is it that they are not short of small arms? “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,” he said. The meeting also agreed that poverty and youth unemployment were at the root of the nationwide security challenges, and needed to be addressed with greater vigour by all tiers of government.
The meeting also called for a joint strategy to bring the various conflicts in different parts of Nigeria to an end within time limits. The president urged field commanders to take measures to protect civilian communities as a confidence- building mechanism between the military and those communities.
It was agreed that when the trust that had been lost between both parties was re-established, there would be improved cooperation in intelligence gathering and sharing for the nation to secure itself.
The president, however, dispelled commonly held assumptions that the terrorists in the North-East had far more weapons and money than government, stressing that what was left of them were “mere scavengers desperate for food, raiding shops and markets and killing innocent persons in the process.”
Buhari informed the governors of the imminent shipment of military weapons and aircraft from Jordan, China and the United States, but again asked for patience on the part of the public because the new weapons and aircraft must be manned by trained fighters and pilots who must first receive appropriate training. He equally expressed satisfaction with the level of support from neighbouring countries in the war against terrorism.
“They are cooperating with us. On Boko Haram, we are making progress with Benin, Niger, Chad and Cameroon,” he said, while restating that intelligencegathering must improve to be able to track small arms in the North-West, North- Central and North-East states.
The president also expressed satisfaction with the level of Naval activity in the Gulf of Guinea, using newly-acquired equipment, but demanded that hard-toreach 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.
“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,” Buhari warned. The meeting was attended by Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha and Chief of Staff to the President, Prof. Ibrahim Gambari.
Others in attendance include Inspector-General of Police, Muhammed Adamu; Chief of Defence Staff, Gen. Gabriel Olonisakin and Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Ibok Ekwe Ibas, while Chief of Army Staff, Lt.-Gen. Tukur Buratai was represented by Maj.-Gen. U.S. Yakubu.
The governors that joined the meeting virtually were Governors Yahaya Bello (Kogi), Douye Diri (Bayelsa), Babagana Zulum (Borno), David Umahi (Ebonyi) and Babajide Sanwo- Olu (Lagos).