Senator Shehu Sani represented Kaduna Central Senatorial District on the platform of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and was the Chairman, Senate Committee on Local and Foreign Debts in the 8th National Assembly. In this interview with BIYI ADEGOROYE, he speaks on many issues of national importance, including recent massacre in Borno State
How do you see the recent massacre of rice farmers in Kosebe Zabarmari, Borno State by Boko Haram recently?
The killing of the rice farmers was a huge massacre and an indication of the collapse of security in the country. It is crass evidence of failure of the Nigerian government to protect its people. You know this has been happening regularly, but the fact that such huge number of people was killed in such gruesome manner is an indication that we are gravitating towards being a failed state
What do you make of the controversy over the fatality figures, with government quoting 43 and a UN agency claimed 110, while Ibrahim Shekau mentioned 87?
Again, you know government official would want to play down casualty figures because this is a huge embarrassment to the nation. Also, the higher the figure, the higher the level of apprehension, but the fact is that you don’t solve a problem by living in denial. We must face reality.
Despite the intractable nature of this war, why are you opposed to the use of mercenaries?
Why do we need to hire mercenaries when we have a full-fledge army with huge budget every year to protect our people? That will be wasteful, because we will be paying soldiers and mercenaries at the same time for the same purpose. I can tell you that in the last five years, defence budget has always been the highest and sometimes we even made extra-budgetary provisions for them, but nothing has come out of it. In fact to me, these Service Chiefs have run out of ideas.
Would it be safe to suspect sabotage then within the Army?
You can’t rule out that because some of the officers can be disloyal, especially if they have stagnated on the same rank for years or have not been able to rise to the highence
est level of their career because the Service Chiefs have been retained and given extension in service. But the fact is that these Service Chief have nothing new to offer.
What is your impression about the call by the Northern Elders’ Forum (NEF) on President Muhammadu Buhari to resign because this insecurity?
Though that is their position and it is there in public domain as contained in their press release, in my view, it is far-fetched. How could a President who could not sack his Service Chiefs contemplate resignation? That is a tall appeal. You are aware that months ago, he had even expressed displeasure over their unsatisfactory performance, you then wonders why he is still keeping them.
Another development was the claim by presidential spokesman, Shehu Garba that the farmers did not get clearance from the military before going to their farm…
That was another unfortunate and insensitive statement from a government spokesman who should have empathised with the people at this critical time. We know his antecedent right from time and I really don’t want to talk about.
Information Minister, Lai Mohammned, has blamed military’s unsatisfactory performance in the war on terror on refusal of foreign powers to sell weapons to Nigeria. How do you see this?
Well, it is a fact that Nigeria was denied procurement of military equipment by some countries in the West, but the denials have to do with allegations of rights violation on the side of members of our armed forces. But there are more than 20 countries in the world that can supply us weapons.
If you are denied weapons by the United States, what makes you not to go Japan, China or even Iran and then continue to carry out your fight? What makes not to also go to Brazil that is also an armed manufacturer? So there is a global market and the weapons we need to fight these criminals do not require rocket s cience.
They are produced by more than 20 countries in the world .Why are we making reference to the denial of sale of weapons?
And again, it is a shame that we have allowed our defence industry, like DICON, to collapse because we rely on arms importations, arms importers and arms contractors. So I think this is an opportunity for us to reactivate our local arms industry and rely on technology because without it cannot defeat these terrorists easily.
Besides, what is so baffling is the state of our intelligence agency. We were able to go to Niger Republic and with the support of Interpol, we were able to arrest Abdurasheed Maina, but why have we not been able to use the same intelligence to deal with these bandits and insurgents that have been wreaking havoc along our border lines?
Why can’t we use drones? And surprisingly, these criminals look, I come from a state where we are facing this problem of banditry and kidnapping, I can tell you that they call relations of their victims on phone and tell them where to drop the ransom.
So they can be tracked. So they are not too sophisticated to the point that they are so difficult for us to tackle. Most of them are Fulanis who use AK-47 and their means of transport is motorcycle. They move in groups.
Look, let me be frank about it, from Abuja to the whole of the North-West of Nigeria, there is no terrain that is so difficult for the military. The terrain of the North-West is not a thick forest where it is impossible to locate these bandits, neither is it a mountainous area which could provide a hiding place for these criminals. So why can’t we use the simplest weapons and technology to get at these criminals? These are questions we need to answer.
Some people have argued that some middle level officials and even generals who are aspiring to be service chiefs are not comfortable that their bosses are still these years after exceeding the 35 years in service?
Well, lots of things are going to be put right. Like I said earlier, in the last few years, defence budget has always been the highest in our annual budget. And it becomes curious then when you hear of lack of equipment and facilities for soldiers or they are poorly paid. So when you hear all these you wonder where all these funds are going to.
Besides, there is a line which we all need to read over and over again. And that is where time and a gain the President has said he has made all the equipment needed to prosecute this war available.
So he is simply saying that he has provided what they need. But if you have done that and they failed to deliver, what do you need to do? We need new hands; we need people with fresh ideas. Nigerian armed forces are not devoid of capable hands, because these ones have overstayed their welcome.
Their stay is illegal and has not produced any result. Peoples lived their lives by maintaining a crop of loyalists who have nothing to offer. We need new hands, fresh faces to tackle these terrorists and bandits. That is what we need at this critical point in our history because these things are laughable.
How do you see the killings in Southern Kaduna, because before now it was ethno-religious crisis?
The knowledge people had of Southern Kaduna is the last 30 years was that of ethno-religious war that happened between the Hausas and the local tribes there, or between the Muslims and the Christians, is no longer there.
The new dimension to it is that bandits have turned the whole place to a war zone, a theatre of war, where both Christians and Muslims living in this area are now victims of the violence. In the past, the violence in Southern Kaduna was between Muslims who are resident there and Christians who are indigenous there.
But the new dimension to the killings there is the influx of bandits from other states like Zamfara, Kaduna, Sokoto and Katina, killing people indiscriminately and burning houses and displacing people from their homes. So this is difference between what you used to know about southern Kaduna and what is on ground now.
Do you think the National Assembly has provided the required checks and balances to the Executive, having repeatedly moved motions for the sack of the Service Chiefs and nothing is done about it?
Well, you see, the President complained bitterly about the 8th National Assembly which I was part of. He saw us as hostile, confrontational and saboteurs. And now so repeatedly expressed dissatisfaction with the level of cooperation, docility or complicity that exist between the Parliament and the Executive.
So those who are in the National Assembly now are the president’s own people and they represent his own mark of people who are good to him. And many of them, who form the leadership of the parliament today, were the ones who attacked us years back for allegedly undermining the President and sabotaging his efforts, and also categorising us as his enemies.
When in the past we had called for the sack of these Service Chief, they were the ones who said the Service Chiefs had no problems, and that our actions were borne out of pure mischief and that we were trying to rubbish the image of the President.
Now look at it. Today, the friends of the President are now repeating the same call we made or the same motions we moved when we were in the National Assembly many years ago.
Apparently, the President was misinformed by his friends, who yesterday, said all was good and fine with the Service Chiefs, until today when the spark became an inferno, consuming the country. If the President had listened to our advice given years ago, and those friends had not misinformed him, we would not have arrived at this current deplorable state of security in the country.