INDEPENDENCE DAY ADDRESS BY MUHAMMADU BUHARI, PRESIDENT AND COMMANDER-IN-CHIEF OF THE ARMED FORCES, FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF NIGERIA DELIVERED ON THE OCCASION OF NIGERIA’S 62ND INDEPENDENCE ANNIVERSARY CELEBRATION ON 1ST OCTOBER, 2022
I address you today, with a deep sense of gratitude to God and a high level of appreciation to all Nigerians whose tremendous goodwill gave me the opportunity to provide leadership for our great country at one of the trying times in her history.
2.Conscious that today’s address would be my last on an Independence Day as your President; I speak to the millions of Nigerians, who believed in me, propelled and stood by me in my quest to bequeath a country where all citizens have equal opportunities to achieve their lives desires in a peaceful atmosphere.
3.I am honoured to say that my story in the annals of Nigeria’s history is no household secret. My various attempts, failures and eventual success in being elected as a Democratic President in 2015 was made possible by the majority of Nigerians.
4. When you elected me, I readily acknowledged that the tasks before me were daunting but surmountable because of the growing national consensus that our chosen route to national development was democracy.
5.This democracy was to be anchored on a clear understanding, application and the principles of separation of powers supported by a reformed public service that is more effective.
6.I then pledged to Improve the Economy, Tackle Corruption and Fight Insecurity and this was further strengthened by my commitment to lift 100 million Nigerians out of poverty in ten years as the central plank of my second term in 2019.
7.To the Glory of God and His Grace as well as the commitment and passion displayed by many Nigerian supporters, we have made appreciable progress in these areas but not yet at our destination.
8.Mindful of the task before us, we took some time in settling down and we re-positioned the Economy by providing strategic interventions in core areas at both the Federal and Sub-National levels.
9.One of the areas where we have made significant progress is in the eradication of deeply entrenched corruption that permeates all facets of our national development.
10.We strengthened the Institutions for tackling corruption and also cultivated international support, which aided the repatriation of huge sums of money illegally kept outside the country.
11.The increasing number of prosecutions and convictions, with associated refunds of large sums of money is still ongoing. Furthermore, we would continue to block opportunities that encourage corrupt practices.
12.In order to address Insecurity, we worked methodically in reducing Insurgency in the North East, Militancy in the Niger Delta, Ethnic and Religious Tensions in some sections of Nigeria along with other problems threatening our country.
13.Our efforts in re-setting the economy manifested in Nigeria exiting two economic recessions by the very practical and realistic monetary and fiscal measures to ensure effective public financial management. In addition, the effective implementation of the Treasury Single Account and cutting down on the cost of governance also facilitated early exits from recessions.
14.Fellow Nigerians, this administration removed several decades uncertainty for potential Investors in the Oil & Gas sector with the passage of the Petroleum Industry Act, 2021. This landmark legislation created opportunities for foreign investments in addition to improving transparency in the management of the sector.
15.Our administration has given the desired priority to the Agricultural Sector through a series of incentives to Micro, Small and Medium Scale Enterprises that resulted in creating millions of jobs. Leading this initiative, the Central Bank of Nigeria’s intervention in a number of areas as well as the Anchor Borrowers Programme had created the required leverages for Nigerians towards self-sufficiency in food and the necessary attraction for farming as a business.
16.The growing contribution of non-oil exports, especially in agriculture, information and communication technology as well as the performing arts to our national economy will enhance our foreign exchange earning capacity.
17.We are confronting current economic challenges such as debt burden, growing inflation, living standards and increasing unemployment accentuated by our growing youthful population. These problems are globally induced and we would continue to ensure that their negative effects are addressed in our policies.
18.This administration will continue to ensure that our fiscal policies are supported by a robust and contemporary monetary policy that recognises our peculiarities in the midst of the growing global economic difficulties.
19.This is evidenced by the recent Monetary Policy Committee decision to maintain all parameters, especially interest rates and marginally increased the Monetary Policy Rate (MPR) from 14% to 15.5% and the Cash Reserve Ratio (CRR) from 27.5% to 32.5%. It is projected that this would further insulate our economy from over exposure to uncertainties at the international market by restraining growth in core inflation.
20.As we continue to de-escalate the security challenges that confronted us at inception of this administration, newer forms alien to our country began to manifest especially in the areas of kidnappings, molestations/killings of innocent citizens, banditry, all of which are being addressed by our security forces.
21.I share the pains Nigerians are going through and I assure you that your resilience and patience would not be in vain as this administration continues to reposition as well as strengthen the security agencies to enable them to deal with all forms of security challenges.
22.At the inception of this administration in 2015, I provided the funding requirements of the security agencies which was also improved in my second tenure in 2019 to enable them to surmount security challenges. We will continue on this path until our efforts yield the desired results.
23. As we put in place all measures to ensure that Nigeria takes her place in the Comity of Nations, we recognize the importance of a well-educated populace as a panacea to most of the challenges we face.
24.We have, therefore, pursued policies and implemented programmes designed to create a literate and proficient society that ensures that citizens are availed with opportunities for life-long achievements.
25.I must confess that I am very pained by the recurring disruption to our tertiary education system and I am using this Independence Day celebration to re-iterate my call for the striking Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) to return to the classroom while assuring them to deal with their contending issues within the limits of the scarce resources available. This administration has made appreciable progress in redressing these issues that have been lingering for over eleven years.
26.The Federal Government will continue to mobilize resources both internationally and nationally towards funding education to ensure that our citizens are well educated and skilled in various vocations in view of the fact that education is a leading determinant of economic growth and employment generation.
27.Fellow Nigerians, we have also improved our health facilities, especially during and after the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, which attracted commendation of the global community.
28.As you are aware, Nigeria was one of the countries that defied global predictions of the socio-economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic because of our resilience, commitment and passion with which we individually and collectively managed the pandemic.
29.This administration embarked on addressing critical ecological challenges across the country in order to mitigate the impact of Climate Change manifesting in the form of flood, soil erosion, desertification, air pollution amongst others
30.We will continue to ensure that our infrastructure drive remains the key to Nigeria’s economic growth and for which every Nigerian will feel the impact.
31.The Federal Government is already expanding ports operations to ensure that they provide opportunities for the growth of the Nigerian economy.
32.We have also continued to accelerate our infrastructure development through serviceable and transparent borrowing, improved capital inflow & increased revenue generation by expanding the tax bases and prudent management of investment proceeds in the Sovereign Wealth Fund.
33.To further open up our communities to economic activities, we have continued to boost our railway infrastructure with the completion of a good number of critical railways and at the same time rehabilitating as well as upgrading obsolete equipment.
34.I am pleased to inform my fellow citizens that besides our emphasis on infrastructural development with its attendant opportunities for job creation, employment generation and subsequent poverty reduction, our focussed intervention directly to Nigerians through the National Social Investment Programme is also yielding benefits.
35.There is hardly any ward, village or local government in Nigeria today that has not benefited from one of the following: N-Power, trader-moni, market moni, subsidized loans, business grants or Conditional Cash Transfers.
36.All the aforementioned programmes along with various interventions by the National Social Investment programme, direct support to victims of flooding and other forms of disasters have provided succor to the affected Nigerians.
37.Fellow Nigerians, no matter what gains we make, without a good governance system anchored on electing credible leaders on the basis of free, fair, credible and transparent elections, our efforts would not be enough.
38.It is for this reason that I have resolved to bequeath a sustainable democratic culture which will remain lasting. The signing of the Electoral Act 2021 as amended with landmark provisions further assures us of a more transparent and inclusive Electoral Process.
39.Having witnessed at close quarters, the pains, anguish and disappointment of being a victim of an unfair electoral process, the pursuit of an electoral system and processes that guarantee election of leaders by citizens remains the guiding light as I prepare to wind down our administration.
40.You would all agree that the recent elections in the past two years in some states (notably Anambra, Ekiti and Osun) and a few federal constituencies have shown a high degree of credibility, transparency and freedom of choice with the people’s votes actually counting. This I promise would be improved upon as we move towards the 2023 General Elections.
41.As we begin the transition process to another democratically elected government, I want to implore all aspirants to conduct issues-based campaigns devoid of hate speeches as well as other negative and divisive tendencies.
42.I also want to express my wish that we see more female and youth participation in the forth-coming electoral cycle. I am sure that our teeming and energetic youths now realise that violence generally mar elections and so should desist from being used by politicians for this purpose.
43.Reforms in the public sector are already yielding results especially in the delivery of services. On this note, I urge the general public to demand for citizen-centred services from the relevant authorities.
44.On the international front, we have continued to take advantage of our bilateral and multilateral platforms to explore cooperation with friendly countries and partners whenever these areas of cooperation are to the advantage of Nigeria.
45.Fellow Nigerians, in the past few years we have witnessed and overcome a good number of challenges that would ordinarily have destroyed our Nation. However, the indefatigable spirit of the Nigerian people has ensured that we overcome our challenges.
46.It is in this spirit that I call on all of us to individually and collectively bring to the fore in dealing with all our development issues.
47.I was called to serve, along with my team, I saw an opportunity to create a better Nigeria which we have done with the support of Nigerians. Almighty God and the good people of Nigeria supported us in laying a solid foundation for the Nigeria of our dreams.
I thank you all and God bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
Tackling endemic poverty in Nigeria — THISDAY Editorial
Few weeks after the World Bank released a report that sluggish growth, low human capital, labour market weaknesses, and exposure to shocks are contributing to poverty in our country, the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) has revealed that no fewer than 133 million Nigerians, representing 63 per cent of the population are currently living in multi-dimensional poverty. The latest report is in tandem with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) requirement of a basket of goods and services needed to live a non-impoverished life valued at the current prices rather than those who live on less than two dollars a day. People who do not have an income sufficient to cover that basket are deemed to be multi-dimensionally poor and that is currently the reality of more than 133 million Nigerians.
Going by the NBS figures, 105.98 million poor Nigerians are located in rural areas compared to 16.97 million in urban areas. A further breakdown of the report indicates that the multi-dimensionally poor Nigerians cook with dung, wood, or charcoal, rather than clean energy. According to the report, the north accounted for 65 per cent or 86 million poor Nigerians while 35 per cent or about 47 million people living in poverty reside in the South. The incidence of multidimensional poverty was high in Sokoto State which accounted for 96 per cent of poor Nigerians while the lowest incidence of 27 per cent was recorded in Ondo State.
On the proportion of poverty and its intensity, the poorest states included Sokoto, Bayelsa, Jigawa, Kebbi, Gombe, and Yobe. “But we cannot say for sure which of these is the poorest because statistically, their confidence intervals or the range within which the true value falls considering the sample overlap,” the report noted. It also pointed out that the incidence of national monetary poverty stood at 40 per cent in 2018/2019, compared to 63 per cent who are multi-dimensionally poor in 2022.
We are not surprised by the disparity between the north and south in the poverty survey. At the 4th edition of the Kaduna Economic and Investment summit in 2018, Africa’s richest man and President of the Dangote Group, Alhaji Aliko Dangote spoke about the frightening scope of poverty in the region. “It is instructive to know that the 19 northern states, which account for over 54 per cent of the country’s population and 70 per cent of its landmass, collectively generated only 21 per cent of the total sub-national internally generated revenue in 2017. Northern Nigeria will continue to fall behind if the respective state governments do not move to close this development gap”, Dangote said.
However, it is also clear that poverty is a national problem which requires multi-level support from critical stakeholders to address. Food affordability has long become a major challenge confronting most Nigerian homes. Basic staples have been priced beyond the reach of an average Nigerian. Even the on-season periods when prices of certain items drop, providing a window for consumers to stockpile against off-season periods, no longer count due to the national security situation. In several parts of the country where farming is the main occupation, incessant violence on communities by terrorists have made the profession a serious hazard.
Rising unemployment, inflation and an increasingly vulnerable currency have continued to torment the people and render their lives even more miserable. We therefore call on government, at all levels, to come up with interventionist measures to provide immediate succorS for more than 60 per cent of our population and in the long run put in place sustainable measures aimed at addressing the growing multidimensional poverty in Nigeria. People-friendly programmes must be put in place to inject the much-needed hope in the populace.
Dilibe Onyeama (1951- 2022) — The Nation Editorial
• Late Dillibe Onyeama
Dilibe Onyeama, author, publisher and arts enthusiast who was the first black boy to graduate at Eton, the elite British College for boys founded in 1440 by Henry VI just passed on. He had returned to Nigeria in 1981 and had written about 28 books, some of which have been published in at least four countries.
Dilibe came into global prominence after his first book, “Nigger at Eton” now published under another title, “Black boy at Eton” was published in Britain in 1974. The book was a chronicle of his experiences as a black boy in the elite British boarding school.
His father, Charles Dadi Onyeama, an Oxford graduate who went up to the Supreme Court of Nigeria and later became a judge at the International Criminal Court of Justice (ICCJ) at the Hague, had registered him at birth. This action opened the vista for the fame Dilibe went on to achieve in life.
Being a black boy at Eton exposed the young Dilibe to systemic racism and he documented his experiences that a magazine serialised to global attention. Indeed, there were attempts to suppress the publications because the establishment didn’t like the expositions. Eton under then headmaster, Michael McCrum, banned him from the school, an action that in a way gave an adult angle to his experiences.
His books stand as evidence of his literary power, bravery, survivalist instincts, perseverance and sense of black nationalism. His 1976 book, ‘Sex is a Nigger’s Game’ roused further attention. Dilibe was not just a literary giant steeped in journalistic excellence; he used writing and his publishing company to ‘fight’ his Pan-Africanist racial battles. His focus was in proving to racists everywhere that intellectual prowess, entertainment talents and sports ingenuity was not exclusive to any race. At Eton, he fought racism with everything he had, brain, physical strength and social and emotional intelligence.
INTERVIEW: Terrorists plan to rule Nigeria, Ex-Army Chief reveals
…suggests weapons enter nation through over 1, 000 illegal routes
•Says combating insurgents with 200,000 soldiers no easy task
Lt Gen Abdulrahman B. Dambazau (rtd) had a robust service in the Nigerian armed forces culminating in his appointment as the Chief of the Army Staff (COAS) in August 2008. Dambazau disengaged from the military in September 2010.
After his disengagement, he joined the defunct Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) in 2011 and became its Director, Security for the presidential election same year. In 2014, he joined then mega opposition party, the All Progressives Congress (APC), and was subsequently appointed the APC Director, Security, APC Presidential Campaign Council for the 2015 presidential election. He was also Director of Security of the APC Presidential Campaign Council during the 2019 presidential election.
The former Army chief was Minister of Interior from November 11, 2015 to May 28, 2019.
In this interview, Dambazau speaks on insecurity in Nigeria and the way out.
What is your general impression on the country’s state of security?
Generally, every country has its own challenges on security and this is all over the world. But, of course, every nation too has its own security concerns. And, certainly, just like President Muhammadu Buhari expressed his feelings severally and many other personalities have done, the issue of insecurity is of concern to us because it has its implications economically, socially and politically.
What do you think was the background to these challenges?
There are many factors. Firstly, the issue of crime and criminalities is part of human nature. Every country experiences and that is why, in the first place, we have laws to govern society. Even God himself, who created us in His infinite mercy, sent prophets and books (Bible for Christians, Quran for Muslims etc) in order to guide our behaviour. Like I said, there are some factors involved…
Elaborate on those factors…
Some of those factors have to do with socio-economic issues, governance, environment (the impact of certain things happening within the environment). So, like I said, they are multi factors. For instance, on the issue of our environment, today, we are talking about climate change, how it has impacted on the environment, leading to land degradation, environmental degradation, resulting in forced migration for our farmers and herders from degraded areas to areas where they can access land and water to farm or herd their cattle. They are doing so because of the effect of what climate change has done which affected land and water resources and which are becoming scarce and smaller in size. In that case, you have conflict over their use or ownership. Also, in terms of socio-economic matters, we have issues of poverty and unemployment. Corruption also has a very serious impact on the environment.
These are some of the specific factors that I think contribute to some of the security challenges we have in the country. Globalization also has an impact. The world is becoming smaller, things are done faster. It gives a lot of opportunities for people with bad intentions to also take advantage of that. This is coupled with the fact that technology has so much improved. Another thing related to this is population. Our population after independence was about 50 million. Today, we are over 200 million people. Large population is not an issue as long as it is used as human capital to develop the country. So, the resources are scarce while the population has grown exponentially. These are some of factors that do contribute to the insecurity we are facing today.
Let’s expand the discussion to include insecurity generally. It started in 2009 with Boko Haram in the North-East. Today, it has escalated to every part of the North. How did something that started as insurgency in the North-East escalate to existential threat for the entire North?
Well, I want to correct an impression. The issue of insecurity did not start from the North-East. Recall that at one time in our history, what we were dealing with in the 80s and 90s was armed robbery. Remember the famous Oyenusi, particularly within the South-West and Anini & co. Those were the scary issues at that time.
Then, our prisons were filled with those awaiting trial, alleged armed robbery suspects or convicts of same crime. At a time, government started public execution of convicts. On one occasion, execution was taking place at Bar Beach (Lagos) for armed robbery and somebody was robbing another man of his car. So, the challenges of insecurity have always been there. Specifically, for the North-East, insecurity started way back with those young chaps who grouped and called themselves ‘Talibans’ in reference to what was happening in Afghanistan at that time.
So, this was the same group, I think, grew to become what it is today. But, this issue has gone beyond the North-East, like you rightly pointed out, it has spread to many parts of Nigeria and even beyond; it has become a regional issue in the sense that it has engulfed the entire Lake Chad Basin region. It is an issue that also has connection in the entire region. Recall the issue of countries showing concern about insurgency within, specifically, Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger Republic now. So, it is a regional issue and our neighbor, Benin Republic, is getting some touch of it. Initially, Lake Chad Basin countries did not show much concern about it. They thought it was a Nigeria’s problem until it became a reality to them that it was a regional problem and all the countries, led by President Muhammadu Buhari, in 2015, refocused attention to Multi-National Joint Task Force which is now based in Chad under the command of a Nigerian officer since it was established. And, of course, even Benin Republic, which is not a member of the Lake Chad Basin Authority, is contributing towards that because it is also a threat to it. It is, indeed, a threat to the whole of West Africa. Among the insurgent groups that are active, Islamic State for the West Africa Province, ISWAP, has the territorial ambition to rule the whole of West Africa. It has gone beyond the North-East, Northern Nigeria and the entire Nigeria. It is a regional issue and, as such, an African problem. It is a challenge which, I think, we should look at from that angle.
To be fair to President Buhari, when he assumed office in 2015, the first thing he did was to visit all the neighboring countries specifically because of insurgency and, following that, he organized a conference of heads of state in the region in Abuja where this issue was discussed. In addition, the Federal Government also gave a lump sum of money for this project. The Multi-National Joint Task Force is heavily funded mostly by Nigeria because we have more interest to protect here. Don’t forget our population, size and interest, particularly managing our borders and reinforcing it with security which we have to do alongside those neighbors. We have extensive land borders, covering about 4, 500km. So, it is a concern to us.
The fact that we must protect our borders is a major challenge. Even here in Nigeria, there were all types of narratives sponsored here and there, that people were not even taking Boko Haram serious. Part of the problem we have is national ownership of the problem because, even at that time, there are people who felt the issue was not their problem. Some looked at it as a northern problem but today it has become a regional issue, not even Nigeria’s.
There is a very wide network of insurgency connected with ISIS and others. So, these are issues we need to look deeply into and ensure that we nip them in the bud because insurgency, combined with extremism and terrorism, has seen young people sponsored to throw bombs, kill people and themselves in various places. We don’t even talk about 2009, even during former President Obasanjo’s administration, when there were attacks in Kano, followed by the killing of a popular cleric, Sheikh Adamu, who was murdered, while leading prayers in a mosque in Kano. This group had already established all over. It was not even at that time confined to the North-East. Remember the 2011 bombing of the United Nations, UN, Office in Abuja, the burning of Nyanya and other places. So, these are issues we have been dealing with. I don’t want to continue seeing it as a North-East or Northern Nigerian problem. It is a regional/African problem which we need to wake up and deal with.
You referenced the efforts of President Buhari and, of course, the military and the Multi-National Joint Task Force based in Chad. That brings us to the role of the Nigerian military in tackling these challenges. As one of Nigeria’s military veterans, how would you assess the performance of the military on the security threat the nation is facing, bearing in mind the numerous challenges facing the military, especially the issue of resources, welfare, equipment and an over-stretched military?
Bearing in mind all the challenges you mentioned, it is very glaring that the military is doing as much as they can to deal with the situation. I also want to use this opportunity to appreciate my colleagues in the military, particularly those who gave up their lives for others to live, leaving behind them widows and orphans. No soldier gets out of his house, deployed to fight a battle with the intention that he wants to die. No! He wants to win the war and come back safely. But, unfortunately, that is not always the case. So, we need to give the military standing ovation for what they have been doing as far as fighting insurgency is concerned. It is a big challenge. Americans just got out of Afghanistan after 20 years.
They have been fighting war against terrorism for more than three decades now. So, with all the technological advancements, all the intelligence they have, they are still fighting non-state actors, and the terrorism they are fighting is not home grown, they go outside their country to challenge threats against them, but ours is home grown and to challenge non-state actors who are Nigerians, mostly living within the communities, is not an easy task. Secondly, you mentioned the fact that the military is over-stretched. Yes, the military is over-stretched. What is the total strength of the army, the navy and the air force? Just a little under 200, 000 and not only are they occupied, engaged to fight insurgency, they also deal with issues of routine policing. I think we need to look at our police as an institution and strengthen them in order to be able to handle those tasks which are their primary responsibilities, so that the military can concentrate in defending the sovereignty and territorial integrity of this country.
They have to be very conscious about issues of human rights because those are the issues other people are waiting for them to make mistakes. So, to go into fighting people who are involved in terrorism or insurgency who are living within the country, who are Nigerians, who are within the communities and are irregular non-state actors, is extremely difficult to do. I believe they (military) are doing as much as they can, bearing in mind the circumstances and, of course, when you are talking of weapons and equipment, when Mr President said he needed $1m to buy equipment, people were making all kinds of noise. But when you look at the security challenges facing the country, $1m is not much to cover their needs, to be able to carry out the tasks, their constitutional responsibilities and other challenges. I believe we must be able to appreciate the military. Of course, there are areas that one can say they can do better, but if you look at it generally, I believe they are doing as much as they can to carry out the tasks the Commander-in-Chief has given them. Yes, there are issues that have to do with administrative problems.
This is not unique to the military, it is a general issue which, when you look at it, all the sectors in the country have challenges of accountability and transparency as well as rule of law. These are the key ingredients in any democracy and these challenges are also not unique to the military. We must be able to focus on these challenges, make sure that whatever we do, the process is transparent, accountable and follows the rule of law and, of course, human right. If we do that, it will not give much leverage for anybody to take advantage of the system.
You have been critical about inter- agency collaboration in intelligence gathering and the usage of that intelligence gathered. Sometimes, we hear that intelligence gathered didn’t get to the right people or that it got to the right people but they didn’t get the right order. In the context of what you said about how things could be done better, what is it that we need to do better in this regard, with particular reference to inter-agency collaboration, among security agencies?
As I earlier mentioned, in this business of security, two things are very important. One, security forces must have the capacity not only to monitor what is happening, they must also have the capacity to respond to incidents. That capacity must be quick and sharp for it to be useful to their action. If it is not quick and sharp, it would only lead to escalation. This is why I said, for instance, the train attack, the attack at Kuje Prisons and others whereby those violent criminals would operate, spend a couple of hours in an operation, finish and disappear.
This is why I said there is need for us to look into the way we respond to emergencies. That is the way security agencies collaborate because this is not a one-man business. This must be based on collective efforts. An agency will not be able to deal with emergency situation alone particularly with the type of security situation we are facing. This is why it is important that security agencies work together. They must share information or intelligence. Their equipment must be inter-operational. They must be able to speak to themselves using their equipment. They must be able to access situations simultaneously so they can know who takes what action at what time. Inter-agency co-operation, co-ordination and collaboration, which I call the 3cs, are very important. If they are not able to achieve that, it becomes a problem.
As a military man and, from the security perspective, there has been creation of regional security outfits, like the Civilian Joint Task Force in the North and the Amotekun in the South-West. Many, including security experts, say equipment, including weaponry, should be slightly enlarged to include the para – military and even vigilantes. What do you make of this?
Well, that has its own advantages and disadvantages but, understandably, it’s more like self – help; communities come together to form vigilante in order to cover the gaps left by officially recognized security forces and that is what is happening. Like I said, it has advantages and disadvantages.
For instance, Zamfara’s case has led to a kind of war between the Fulani herders groups in the forest and the vigilante groups coming from the communities. The Fulani groups accused the vigilante groups of going into their communities, killing their people, rustling their cows and raping their women, among others. I don’t know how far that is true, but they used that as excuse for going into the communities, where they identify vigilantes to carry out banditry attacks as a way of revenging. I think that kind of thing should be looked into. If, for instance, the South-West’s Amotekun is able to cover certain gaps, civilians, in the first place, have a role to play, whether they are formed as vigilante or not. They should be able to provide information to security agencies. They should be able to report whatever they see happening, but what we have today on the other side of it is that we also have civilians who assist violent criminals to do what they are doing. Some go to the extent of supplying them food, drugs, weapons etc in the forests. This should not be the case. This is a problem that is a threat to everyone. Sometimes too, you will find out that some of them do it out of fear, sometime, when a community feels that it is not getting the protection it requires from security forces, they give in to the demands of these criminals to the extent that they threaten and collect tax from them.
I have seen some unverified pictures where captors use captives to farm for them and whatever they produce belongs to the criminals. On the issue of para-military institutions, the Customs and Correctional Service already carry weapons in line with the Act establishing them. But the issue is that they need more training on the use of weapons. I am afraid to say that, several years ago, this was my experience as Minister of Interior which I made efforts to correct. For several years, I met a situation whereby there was weakness in training personnel in para-military organizations
. This is why we gave a lot of attention to training institutions to ensure that they are functioning. I also made it mandatory that before one is promoted from one rank to the other, he or she is required to undergo certain courses and trainings. I brought my military experience into that. You don’t get promoted without attending those courses/trainings, tested and certified, with good grade which you will now use to compete at the Board with others before you are promoted. Before then, people just got promoted without attending those courses. We have corrected that, at least, while I was there and I believe my successor continued with that. So, these are some of the issues. But, you cannot allow everybody to carry weapons.
Even Americans are still grappling with the issue of gun control, because you find situations whereby people go into schools and supermarkets and start shooting and killing people. So, to say that everybody should be allowed to carry weapons, I don’t think we have got to that stage, particularly on the issues of assault weapons which, I think, we should be very careful about. But, vigilante has always been there, it is not new. We have had communities organizing them, so it not a new thing. South-West as a region has started to look at it as the window to create Amotekun. We will be able to assist because they do not have constitutional mandate. So, they are doing that to assist law enforcement agencies. I have seen situations whereby when they arrest suspects they hand them over to law enforcement agencies.
A lot of weapons came into Nigeria through our borders, particularly after the death of Col. Gadaffi in Libya in 2011. Some of the people bringing in the weapons are not Nigerians. What can you say about that in terms of the strength of security in being able to control incursions such as this?
Our border security and management has some serious challenges. I mentioned earlier that we have over 5, 000km land borders and, of course, we have borders by the sea. This is a challenge. Then, of course, there is absolutely no way we can physically man all those borders. As at the time I was in office, they were about 84 officially recognized crossing areas and over 1, 000 illegal routes people use (to possibly bring in weapons). There is closeness between countries we have boundaries with. There were some borders I visited while in office where it was only a road that separated a community in Niger from a community in Nigeria. When I visited Benin Republic, upon their invitation on the issues of border, I met my counterpart, their then Minister of Interior, one Mr. Akande. Apparently, he is a Yoruba man.
He told me that they have this close cultural affinity with the Yoruba in one of the states, that none of the traditional rulers will remain on a seat without visiting a particular shrine in Benin Republic. If you look at Chad, we have Niger, we have Fulani and Kanuri speaking people, just like Benin with Yoruba speaking people. You look at Northern Cameroun, we have Fulani and Hausa speaking people. In Southern Cameroon, you cannot differentiate between the people of Akwa Ibom and Cross River states from those of South-West Cameroon, even in terms of name.
They have been sharing similar names. So, there is that strong cultural affinity. That is the second issue aside the expanse nature of the borders. Even if you just look at those two, you will know that we have these challenges. So, in order to deal with these challenges, we must work together with our neighbors. Interestingly, you find out that maybe because of population, some of those neighbors are more organized than us in terms of respect to rules, to laws. For instance, when you leave Nigeria and enter Niger, you will see the way they organized themselves.
They are not as rich as us or as exposed as us. There is need for us to come together. All our neighbors depend on us for survival to a very large extent. There was a time we heard that the Federal Government offered to buy vehicles for one of the neighboring countries and people were making…that is soft power. We also get aids from other countries, and they don’t make noise about them but they know why we do such aids. We also know why we do that.
America has two bases in Niger: the Department of Defence and the CIA. They use those bases to protect their interests. We can’t neglect the fact that we need to move very close with the Americans to be able to leverage on what they do there. They are there for their interest. Also, we have our interest: interests that are mutual. Also, the influence of France and the European Union, EU, in that region, France has been conduction ‘Operation Barkani’ in Mali for years even though they said they were withdrawing some troops. France is a great influence in all our neighboring countries who are Francophone. We cannot distance ourselves from France because we have some interest to protect, just like France. And, France also has interest to protect in Nigeria. We should be able to have a bi-lateral relationship with these countries based on mutual interest. (Vanguard)
• Interview first aired on Channels TV News
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