Lawyers were at the weekend unanimous that plans by the Northern States Governors’ Forum (NSGF) to mobilize hunters and members of the Civilian Joint Task Force to battle Boko Haram following perceived failure by troops to tackle insurgents would further boost decimation of the insurgents. AKEEM NAFIU writes
Lawyers expressed worry at the weekend following worsening security challenges bedeviling Nigeria, saying unless all hands were on deck, the country may slip into the precipice of balkanization.
They, however, threw their weight behind plans by the Northern States Governors Forum (NSGF) to mobilize hunters and members of the Civilian Joint Task Force to stem the rising tide of insecurity in the region, describing it as a step in the right direction.
The lawyers said the governors’ plans amidst gunmen attack on one of them was an indictment on the nation’s troops and a subtle way of asking President Muhammadu Buhari to ease out the service chiefs.
At a recent virtual meeting, governors of the 19 northern states, under the auspices of the Northern States Governors Forum (NSGF), indicated their readiness to look inward for solution to the rising waive of insecurity in their region by employing the services of hunters and vigilantes.
The governors believed the engagement of vigilantes, hunters and community watch groups in the northern region’s security architecture would in no small measure aid intelligence gathering, rapid response and sustained surveillance.
The governors at the meeting presided over by Governor Simon Lalong of Plateau State agreed to adopt dialogue where necessary while also pursuing military measures in dealing with the various security challenges.
They asked the federal government to further scrutinize the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) protocol on the free movement of persons, particularly as it related to the cross-border movement of herders from other countries into Nigeria, especially the north.
At the deliberations, a committee that would consult with traditional, religious and community to ensuring wider stakeholder involvement in tackling insecurity in the region was also put together.
The Committee which was headed by Governor Lalong also had Governors Amadu Fintri (Adamawa), Abubakar Bello (Niger) and Aminu Waziri Tambuwal (Sokoto) as members. Insecurity linked to drug abuse Amidst plans by northern governors to adopt local strategy in restoring sanity to the region, security operatives have established a nexus between rising wave of insecurity in the country and drug abuse.
National Security Adviser (NSA), Major General Babagana Monguno (rtd) made this disclosure while addressing journalists at the end of a Security Council Meeting held by President Muhammadu Buhari with service chiefs last week Wednesday inside the Presidential Villa.
He also informed his audience that the president while agreeing to fully equip the military has also ordered security chiefs to review their strategies in terms of operations and intelligence gathering to stem the rising trend of insecurity in the country.
According to the NSA, following the established nexus, the president has ordered a clampdown on peddlers and users of illicit drugs in the country. He said security reports from the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) had shown that despite the closure of the nation’s borders with some neighbouring countries, drugs proliferation had been on the increase.
His words: “The problem here is that the reckless use of these substances is directly linked to the insecurity we are confronted with. Unless there is a collective, concerted effort to deal with this problem, it will only result in this country going down the bottomless pit of self-destruction.
“We don’t want that to happen and one of the ways of dealing with this issue is by using a whole of society approach in conjunction with the whole or government approach to achieve the whole of the national approach.
“The problem is that dealing with such an issue as the proliferation of drugs is not as easy as it looks, even for the most developed country, because it is not a one sided affair. You have a minimum of three parties operating at the same time, the drug peddler (the supper fly), the consumer (the junkie) and that person in the centre who has been entrusted with denying these drugs access into the country.
It is important to note that if there is a compromise, then things become tedious and problematic. “So, what we did was to invite the chairman of NDLEA based on his report that all security agencies are studying, the president has resolved that we must wrestle this problem.
This problem is directly linked. If you look at the criminality, the colouration of each crime, especially kidnapping, banditry and terrorism, it is not the killing of the people, but the way people are killed goes to show one thing – it is extremely abnormal, inhuman and these acts can only be perpetrated by people who are out of their minds.
“One thing we in the security and intelligence arms have been able to trace is that there are certain drugs of choice that have saturated the entire landscape of the country. These drugs are basically codeine, opiums, cocaine, tramadol, pertamines and of course, cannabis sativa.
“The popular drug of choice is tramadol, it is easily acquired. Tramadol has been the drug of choice for terrorists, bandits and kidnappers. If we don’t approach it decisively, we are going to be immersed in a great problem.
By virtue of that fact, he who resides in the town, urban or rural areas must be able to collaborate with agents of government in revealing these abnormalities.”
Lawyers back NSGF’s plans Some senior lawyers have in the meantime expressed their support for the move by the Northern States Governors Forum (NSGF) to mobilize hunters and members of the Civilian Joint Task Force to fight insurgents and other criminals in the region. The lawyers while baring their minds on the issue at the
weekend said the arrangements will bring the necessary intervention needed to bring sanity to the Northern part of the country. While querying President Buhari’s continued retention of the service chiefs despite growing insecurity in the country, the lawyers said the governors’ response will allay people’s fears in the region regarding the threat to their lives and property.
Speaking on the issue, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Chief Mike Ahamba, hailed the governors for their readiness to take the bull by the horn in addressing the issue of insecurity in the north. He said: “The official security apparatus have been overwhelmed and so there is a need for something complementary.
As things are now, people need to defend themselves and the governors need to take the bull by the horn. “Our law allows self-defence. No one should stay in his house and allow someone to come in and butcher his children without doing anything. Everybody should take steps to protect themselves, since the president’s heads of military units are there forever.
They cannot be changed whether they are doing well or not. “The president has found it pleasurable to leave them in their positions despite public outcry against their continued stay in office. These people should be pulled out for others with fresh ideas to come in.
That is what we are saying because human lives are not replaceable.” Another silk, Mr. Seyi Sowemimo, said the rising insecurity in the country was an indication that governance was failing under Buhari’s government. “Everyone has a legitimate right to self-defence.
So, if the police and army fail to provide necessary protection, people will be entitled to adopt alternative means in such situations hence the resort to hunters. This is a clear indication that governance is failing under the present government,” the silk said. To Dr. Biodun Layonu (SAN), the decision of the northern governors was an indictment on the military over its poor performance in tackling insecurity.
He said: “This is a vote of no confidence in Nigeria’s military and is very unfortunate and sad. “The governors concerned are telling the president by being proverbial to sack the service chiefs. They are saying the local hunters and the civilian joint task force can perform better than the military”.
Mr. Yemi Candide-Johnson (SAN) also believed the plans by the northern governors would be an effective intervention in bringing lasting peace to the region. He said: “This may well be an effective intervention but it will be politically hazardous because it demonstrates the incompetence of the federal government to guarantee security across the federation and makes the case for devolution of power and responsibility compelling”, he said.
Dr. Fassy Yusuf noted with dismay, the inability of security forces to cope with the nation’s security challenge and the president’s insistence on keeping the service chiefs despite public outcry against such action. He said: “When Federal Government cannot defend the territorial integrity of the nation, when insurgency has taken over the land and when banditry, kidnapping, armed robbery and terrorism have become the order of the day, what should we expect?
Naturally, the citizenry should device a means to defend themselves. “I am therefore, not disappointed by the threat of some governors to mobilise their subjects to defend their states.
To do otherwise is to allow anomie or rudderlessness to take over their states. It is unfortunate that the Federal Government appears helpless. “It is also melancholic that our security forces are unable to cope with the security challenge and our president is still accommodating the service chiefs.
Something must give way. Nigeria is in the precipice of balkanization. All hands must be on the deck. Insecurity destroys a nation”. In his own comments, a former Secretary of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Mazi Afam Osigwe, said the plan by the northern governors is a welcome development because security agencies are not doing enough to protect Nigerians.
“What the governors are saying is nothing new. This is because many communities in Nigeria now depend on the activities of local vigilante groups for their protection. Security agencies are increasingly becoming incapable of protecting civil populace in many parts of Nigeria.
“The security agencies are actually not doing enough to protect the people and for reasons best known to the president, he has not deemed it important to have a change of guard in the military.
The earlier he does that, the better for the country. “When people in charge of something are ineffective, the next reasonable thing to do is to change them and bring in fresh personalities with fresh ideas, particularly when such individuals are expected to have retired from service.
The president should not wait until the nation is totally locked in before he take the necessary action. It’s all about taking necessary and pragmatic steps to secure the lives and property of Nigerians. The security situation in the country is frightening and is getting worse everyday.”
A rights activist, Mr. Kabir Akingbolu, said the planned move by the governors was an indication that both the service chiefs and federal government have failed completely to secure lives and property of the citizens.
He said: “Security is paramount to peaceful co-existence and where it is lacking, the essence of government is defeated. Therefore, the governors’ decision or plan to mobilize hunters and local security to wage war against Boko Haram is a welcome development.
“This is because apart from the fact that the Boko Haram members are becoming intractable, the failure of the president to change the service chiefs who appeared to have lost focus or completely bereft of any better ideas to bring about improvement or to defeat them also calls for concern.
“The planned move is also a testimonial to the fact that the service chiefs and federal government have failed completely to secure lives and property of the citizens.
For this reason, nobody will blame the northern governors for this decision because the preservation of the lives and property of the citizens in their various states is their responsibilities and they need not stop at anything to ensure that these responsibilities are well fulfilled.
“One would then hope and pray that such efforts yield a positive results so that people can live in peace for once because it is now about 12 years since the deadly Boko Haram terrorists emerged and since then they have held sway and hold the four aces as far as terrorism is concerned.
“In the recent past, the service chiefs boasted to us that the terrorists are begging to surrender but needed a soft landing.
The question to ask is: what happened to that purported move or plan to surrender? It would appear that the service chiefs are hiding a lot of things from Nigerians.
“So, at this juncture, everything needed to be done must be done to wipe out the terrorists from the taproot and this will better be done by the local hunters because they understand and know the nook and crannies of the environment where terrorists used as their hideouts.
This will help and go a long way in tackling the menace of terrorism and unrest that had dominated the entire north east in the last decade.”