Senior citizens including religious leaders and retired military chiefs have decried the worsening insecurity in the country, urging President Muhammadu Buhari to take decisive actions to stem the tide.
A cross section of elders spoken to by this paper said the country never had it this bad, saying that lives have become meaningless with the daily killing and abduction of innocent citizens by terrorists.
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Daily Trust reports that in the last couple of days, there have been numerous attacks by terrorists in the North West geopolitical zone.
Dozens of people including military personnel have been killed in Kaduna, Niger and other parts of the region. This is just as scores have been kidnapped.
Reports from Kaduna showed that no fewer than 15 soldiers, three vigilantes and two civilians were killed by terrorists on Sunday night.
The attack came at a time Nigerians are still mourning the killing of nine persons penultimate Monday by terrorists who attacked the Abuja-Kaduna train. Many passengers are still missing while others are at hospitals receiving treatment for gun injuries they sustained during the attack.
Many have also been kidnapped on Kaduna- Abuja Road even as there was an attempt on the Kaduna International Airport.
Nigeria never had it this bad – Onaiyekan, Kwande
Leading the call, the Metropolitan Archbishop Emeritus of the Abuja Catholic Diocese, John Cardinal Onaiyekan, has urged the federal government to act on the lingering insecurity in the country.
He told Daily Trust that his view would not be different from the view of most Nigerians, that the spate of insecurity is a surprise to almost everybody and that citizens are all unable to understand what is happening.
“We cannot understand that the authorities have not been able to put it under control. I think most Nigerians have this sense of ‘we don’t know what is happening’.
“We have lived in this country for some time and have been able to move around. This is the first time we are having this kind of situation where you don’t even know how to move anywhere.
“The interesting things are that even people in authority when we talk to some of them are even saying the same thing that they are surprised. It is like we are all helpless,” he said.
On why the challenges fester, the renowned Catholic cleric lamented that the challenges have been there for years.
“So, the government must have been applying certain strategies to deal with the matter. But most people would say that whatever the strategy, it is not working and it needs to be changed. If you are doing one thing and getting certain results but as long as you continue doing it the same way, you cannot expect a different outcome.
“Somebody has to take the final responsibility for the terrible state of insecurity we are in. I cannot put the blame on my grandmother in the village. The buck stops on President Muhammadu Buhari’s table and he and his handlers have not told us that they cannot do it anymore.
“As a religious leader, I am also praying to God to help us and I am sure God would not abandon us,” he said.
Also, a former Ambassador to Switzerland, Yahaya Kwande, described the current security situation in the country as devastating, horrible and frightening, saying that the whole thing had reached the climax.
Kwande, who is over 92 years old, explained that since he was born, he had never experienced insecurity of this nature in the country like what he was witnessing today.
He said, “I must tell you that I have never seen my life in danger, in every minute of my life except now, especially in the last four years. I cannot say the government cannot handle the situation but has failed to it. The longer it goes, the more dangerous it is to citizens of Nigeria.
“It started from the community; it went on to hamlets and now to individuals who are getting frightening by the day. People are not frightened of the attackers but the inability of the government to handle the problem. This means there is no hope. It seems we are being ruled by insurgents. They do what they want at any given time. They are almost on top of everything,” he said.
Ambassador Kwande further noted that the whole problem was not about Buhari as an individual but the entire government headed by him, saying “The government has failed us.”
Terrorists can be exterminated in 6 months – Retired Generals
A former military administrator of one of the northern states said poor leadership at all levels was responsible for the increasing insecurity across the country, especially in the northern region. He said with the right leadership, a well-equipped Nigerian Army could exterminate terrorists in the next six months.
“By now, I believe that Nigerians have realised that they made a huge error electing Buhari and have now realised that he does not have the capacity to govern this country,” he said. He described as unfortunate that the Presidency was always ready to issue condemnation but wondered if condemning the act had stopped the killings.
The former administrator also said the problem of insecurity persists because President Buhari has a narrow circle of advisers who he described as “opportunists,” adding that the president does not listen to advice from others.
In the same vein, a former Chief of Army Staff also condemned the management of the insecurity by this administration.
He, however, said that bombing forest areas to dislodge terrorists is not a long-time solution to ending insecurity in Nigeria and called on the federal government to find the source of the problem.
“If you want to kill a tree, you have to remove it from the root because if you cut off the branches without removing it from the root, you have not killed the tree. Honestly, going to forests and bombing is a good thing but as far as I’m concerned, you have to ask, what made them leave their homes, go to the forests to harass people? We must find out why and if you remove the why, the problem will be solved,” he said.
On his part, Group Captain Rufai Garba (Rtd), a former Military Administrator of Anambra and Sokoto states, opined that the rising insecurity in the North is “quite disturbing”, adding that there should have been at least a discussion between security agencies and community leaders to know the major causes of the rising insecurity in the region.
He said he believed the government was not doing well enough to incorporate community leaders in its approach to resolving the insecurity in the region.
“We need to work hard on intelligence gathering and filtering. Everybody will tell you that they are confused. Why? If the bandits have grievances against the system, let them look for the people at the helm of affairs and leave the poor people out of it, not to go and be killing people in the villages, destroying their farms and their livelihoods, raping their kids and wives and killing their children? Why,” he asked.
He, however, said the use of mercenaries to salvage the situation was not a good call, saying it would be counter-productive and lead to high collateral damages but there should be an effective deployment of technology in the onslaught.
A retired Group Capt. of the Nigerian Air Force, John Ojikutu said intelligence gathering was key in addressing insecurity in the country. According to him, where intelligence gathering is lacking, efforts to address insecurity would be fruitless.
Retired Okhidievie also said the president does not get “raw intelligence” about the security situation in the country, adding, “What he gets is edited information.”
He also said the security had been politicised and there was a need to remove politics from the insecurity in order to find a lasting solution.
“Nigeria is not positioned to curb insecurity. We are positioned to attack insecurity. We are not positioned or structuring to enhance our security,” he said.
Another retired Assistant Inspector-General of Police, Ambrose Aisabor said the security architecture in the country has collapsed. He said it was time the federal government accepted the reality and then carry out a total overhaul of the security architecture with particular emphasis on reinvigorating the intelligence community which he noted had gone to sleep.
“You are telling us that the military is operating in 34 states yet there is no improvement, the problem is still going on?” he asked.
The Kaduna massacre
At least 15 men of the Nigerian Army, two civilians and three vigilantes have been killed when terrorists attacked the Forward Operations Base (FOB) around Polewire, near a cattle route along the Kaduna-Birnin Gwari highway on Sunday evening.
In what security agents described as a “bloody encounter” with a herd of terrorists and their animals, three Armoured Personnel Carriers (APC) were also burnt.
The 123km stretch Kaduna-Birnin Gwari highway is terrorist infested and security agents have designated it as one of Northern Nigeria’s most deadly routes.
Security sources on Tuesday told our correspondent that the terrorists, in their hundreds, traveling on motorcycles attacked the military base where 11 were killed during a gun duel and four others later died in the hospital. Three members of a local vigilante group and two civilians on their way to Birnin Gwari were equally killed in the attack.
A resident of Birnin Gwari, known as Abdul Ahmed told our correspondent that a military redeployment was sent to the area on Monday morning to evacuate the corpses. He said he counted about 11 corpses of soldiers loaded into a van for evacuation while a few were moved to the hospital.
Another source from Birnin Gwari who simply identified himself as Muhammadu Gwari said there was a gun duel with the soldiers but said the terrorists had overpowered the soldiers.
As at the time of filing this report, the Kaduna State government and security agencies in the state were yet to react to the incident.
‘Ansaru terrorists responsible’
The Chairman of Birnin Gwari Emirate Progressive Union, Ishaq Usman Kasai who confirmed the death of three vigilantes said the attackers were suspected to be members of the Ansaru terrorist group and believed to be moving from Niger State.
Kasai in a statement made available to journalists yesterday raised concern over the activities of the Ansaru terrorist organisation and claimed they freely operate, preach and recruit people in the eastern part of Birnin-Gwari.
We’re reviewing our tactics – Army
The Nigerian Army said it had become imperative to review the current security architecture and re-strategise to bridge observed gaps as well as build the right fighting will for all forms of threats confronting the country.
The Chief of Transformations and Innovation (Army), Maj.-Gen. Charles Ofoche stated this in Abuja on Tuesday at a one-day seminar on “Intensifying Warrior Ethos”.
According to him, the seminar, organised by the Army Headquarters Department of Transformation and Innovation, was premised on the need to shore up the fighting spirit of the personnel deployed in the North East and other operational theatres across Nigeria.
He said it was also timely considering the changing tactics of the adversaries by focusing on kidnapping for ransom, attacking the nation’s critical infrastructure such as rail lines, power lines, communication networks and airports among others.
In the same vein, the Chief of Army Staff (COAS), Lt.-Gen. Faruk Yahaya reiterated the commitment of the Nigerian Army to deal with all forms of insecurity confronting the country.
Yahaya, who was represented by the Chief of Policy and Plans (Army), Maj.-Gen. Anthony Omozoje stressed that the volatile and complex security emergencies facing the nation had necessitated the continuous review of the national security architecture to contain the threats.