President Muhammadu Buhari on Tuesday appealed to the international community to support Nigeria and the sub-region in tackling growing security challenges to avoid spillovers.
President Buhari made the appeal in a virtual meeting with the US Secretary of State, Mr Anthony Blinken.
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Nigeria is in the spotlight over rising security challenges in all parts of the country including terrorism, banditry, kidnapping and agitations for secession.
Hundreds of people have been killed recently amid suggestions that security forces have been overwhelmed and therefore the need to seek for foreign support to stem the tide.
Though President Buhari did not give details on the nature of support Nigeria and other African countries need to address their security challenges, he nonetheless urged the United States to reconsider relocating the US Africa Command (AFRICOM) from Stuttgart, Germany, to Africa, nearer the Theatre of Operation. President Buhari said AFRICOM, which partners with countries to counter transnational threats should be relocated to Africa to strengthen ongoing efforts to check the security situation.
“The security challenges in Nigeria remain of great concern to us and impacted more negatively, by existing complex negative pressures in the Sahel, Central and West Africa, as well as the Lake Chad Region.
“Compounded as the situation remains, Nigeria and her security forces remain resolutely committed to containing them and addressing their root causes. The support of important and strategic partners like the United States cannot be overstated as the consequences of insecurity will affect all nations hence the imperative for concerted cooperation and collaboration of all nations to overcome these challenges.
“In this connection, and considering the growing security challenges in West and Central Africa, Gulf of Guinea, Lake Chad region and the Sahel, weighing heavily on Africa, it underscores the need for the United States to consider re-locating AFRICOM Headquarters from Stuttgart, Germany to Africa and near the Theatre of Operation,’’ he said in a statement issued by his spokesman, Femi Adesina.
President Buhari also congratulated Blinken on his appointment by President Joe Biden and commended the United States for the decision to repeal the immigration restriction known as the “Muslim ban’’, re-joining the World Health Organisation (WHO) and Paris Agreement on Climate Change.
The Secretary of State, who said he was pleased to make Nigeria part of his “first virtual visit to Africa,” noted that Nigeria and the United States of America, share a lot in bilateral issues.
He added that he would be delighted to build on the foundation that was laid between the two countries over 60 years ago, disclosing that areas of discussion with Nigeria would include “how to build our economies back after the COVID-19 pandemic, security for vulnerable communities and climate issues.”
Experts told the Daily Trust last night that the help could come in form of intelligence report from the US, UK and other advanced societies, ease in procuring fighting equipment, training for the Nigerian troops and in extreme cases “boots on the ground.”
“The final option which entails physical presence of troops from the advanced countries to fight in the war zone is very unlikely,” said Abubakar Sani, a security expert.
“The president should have been straight forward in his request by asking the US and others to remove some restrictions for us in getting arms under the guise of human rights violations. He should have asked them to also give us timely information on the whereabouts of those terrorising us.
“On the other hand, we should strengthen our ties with Niger, Chad and Cameroon and if need be, recall the mercenaries in South Africa that this government asked to leave in 2015. Let them come back and fight while we recruit more hands to fill the vacuum created over the years in our security architecture,” he said.
Save Nigeria from total collapse, Senate tells Buhari
Senators on Tuesday expressed frustration over rising insecurity in different parts of the country, saying the situation had reached an alarming stage and that drastic action must be taken to save Nigeria from total collapse.
They feared that bandits, terrorists and other criminal elements terrorising the country may soon overrun the nation’s capital after launching several deadly attacks in neighbouring states. The lawmakers spoke while contributing to a motion by Senator Mohammed Sani Musa (APC, Niger) on the activities of bandits and terrorists in Shiroro, Munya and Rafi local government areas of Niger State.
The Red Chamber, in its resolutions, mandated its leadership to meet with President Buhari over the security issue.
It also summoned the service chiefs to brief it on their efforts to address insecurity as well as the Director-General of Nigerian Intelligence Agency (NIA), Ahmed Rufai Abubakar, and the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama over the situation in Chad and the implications on Nigerian security.
The Senate also called for the immediate recruitment of more security personnel and the procurement of sophisticated weapons for the armed forces to fight terrorists, bandits and other criminals unleashing terror on Nigerians. Senator Musa, in his motion, said that almost seven years now, Niger East Senatorial District of Niger State have come under constant and sustained multiple deadly attacks “by heartless, venomous and hydra-headed Boko Haram terrorists who are always heavily armed with assorted sophisticated and dangerous weapons unleashing their horror on our innocent populace.”
Senator Musa said over 475 persons had been killed by bandits and terrorists in Niger East from January 2020 to date.
Aliyu Sabi Abdullahi (APC, Niger) expressed fears that due to the closeness of Niger State to Abuja, the attacks may escalate to FCT. Ike Ekweremadu (PDP, Enugu), said any government that failed to protect its people had lost legitimacy.
Gabriel Suswam (PDP, Benue), said the executive had shown clear incompetence to address the situation, adding: “Our lives as senators are in danger. Nobody is attaching value to human life again. Maybe our president doesn’t know the magnitude of this situation.”
Senator Biodun Olujimi noted that lack of political will to handle insecurity was the problem, adding that the nation was almost inching towards Syria. Senate President Ahmad Lawan, in his closing remarks, asked the executive to request a supplementary budget to procure more equipment for the security agencies.
Lawan said: “The serious security situation is a matter of concern not only to the parliament but all citizens. What we have done in today’s plenary is to be able to speak the minds of our people.
“But what is crucial is to proffer solutions and our solutions are of course the resolutions we pass and then we will make some follow-ups.
“I don’t think it is the best of ideas that we close the Senate because there is a serious security situation. Actually, when your country is challenged, that is when you need the parliament to be alive and not to close. And we shall never be deterred; we shall never be discouraged with the discussion that we hold here because this is the essence of the parliament,” he said.
Reps want state of emergency
The House of Representatives has called on President Buhari to declare a state of emergency in the security sector.
The Speaker, Femi Gbajabiamila disclosed this to journalists after an executive session held by the House on Tuesday which lasted for over five hours. He said the House also resolved to invite the National Security Adviser, retired Major General Babagana Monguno, the service chiefs and other stakeholders on the current security situation in the country.
The speaker noted that the House had also mandated all its relevant committees to look into all the issues related to security in the country.
In the 11 points resolution reached at the executive meeting, the House condemned the attacks on security agents and formations and sympathized with their families.
It also sympathised with all families, communities and institutions that suffered at the hands of bandits, terrorists and other criminal elements in the country, particularly in Ukpo, Ifitedunu, Dunukofia, Geidam, Abagana, IDP Camp in Makurdi Urikpam, Jato-Aka, Police Divisions in the South East, Ehime Mbano, Uzo-Uwani in Enugu State, Uzuakoli, Abia State, Balenga Local Government Area of Gombe State, and parts of Imo State among others.
It called on the judiciary to accelerate the prosecution of those awaiting trial due to banditry, terrorism and other criminal activities.
The House further disclosed that the number of personnel in the police and military falls far short of the required number to effectively secure the country and calls for immediate recruitment of more hands.
Seeking help not a sign of weakness – Saraki
Former Senate President Bukola Saraki has said that it will not be wrong for Nigeria to seek help wherever it can be given, saying the security situation in the country has gone beyond what government can handle alone. Saraki, who stated this in a press release on Tuesday, also advised the president not to take the call for help as a sign of weakness.
“Yesterday (Monday, April 26), Nigeria experienced one of the saddest days in recent memory. All in one day, from Anambra State to Kaduna, Yobe, Niger, and Lagos states, critical insecurity issues were recorded and reported. Hour after hour; breaking news after breaking news, we saw numerous unacceptable reports of violence, kidnapping, terrorism, and the systematic breakdown of law and order in many parts of the nation. This should not be so.
“…It is obvious that President Muhammadu Buhari and the All Progressives Congress (APC) government need help. They have been overwhelmed by the situation and they sure need assistance from all.
“Just as I stated in my press statement on the same issue on January 24, 2021, I want to reiterate that the president needs to bring together all former presidents and heads of state, serving and former chief justices, serving and former presiding officers of the National Assembly, serving and former heads of security agencies, traditional rulers with relevant experience, leaders of the private sector, development partners, friends of Nigeria in the international community and all others who can help in finding solutions to the problem at hand,” Saraki said.
Strengthen partnership with neighbours – CSOs
Speaking on the development, activist and Founder, Connected Development (CODE), Malam Hamzat Lawal, said that no man or country can survive without help or support from allies.
“I welcome Mr President’s resolve in seeking for help. We must however ensure that this help includes training and equipment. We must learn best practices in gathering critical intelligence to act decisively. The insecurity also affects our neighbours, which we share borders with and it is important we have a unifying strategy in the Sahel,” Lawal said.
Also, the Executive Director, Peering Advocacy and Advancement Centre in Africa (PAACA), Mr. Ezenwa Nwagwu, said that it was not the best to seek help from American now, when they were allegedly responsible for the incident in Libya that escalated the insecurity in parts of Africa and Nigeria.
“It is easy to be asking the leaders to seek help. I think asking for help at this time is a sign of weakness. President Buhari should look inward and make the nation’s military and security apparatus to build the intelligence, patriotism and decisiveness in tackling the insecurity in the land,” Nwagwu said. On his part, Executive Director, Resource Centre for Human Rights and Civic Education (CHRICED), Dr Ibrahim M. Zikirullahi, said that while it is within the prerogative of the president to request for help from the United States, it is important for the president to understand that the onus lies on him to ensure Nigeria’s security architecture responds adequately to the challenges of insecurity.
By Muideen Olaniyi, Abbas Jimoh, Hamisu K. Matazu, Balarabe Alkassim & Abdullateef Salau