Perhaps because of greed, politics and other forms of bigotry of those in charge of security under President Jonathan, they are failing to understand the potential dangers facing the country today, writes Tukur Mamu
“For many of us that are part of the military establishments the country, particularly for reasons that have to do with bigotry at the highest level of our security organizations, we seem to be heading towards complete anarchy. The signs are very clear each day you review the security situation in the country and how the leadership is being misguided to taking decisions that are counter-productive to our national interest and survival as a nation.
“In any nation, the day security forces, particularly the Police and the Army for reasons that have to do with injustice and corruption in their respective establishments, decide not to obey superior orders directly or indirectly while in the line of their duty as we are gradually witnessing in Nigeria today, that nation if care is not taken is heading for total breakdown of law and order. I am afraid that for some of us that knew, this is the situation in Nigeria today”. These were the words of a retired General and a member of General Ibrahim Babangida’s Armed Forces Ruling Council (AFRC) in a confidential chat on the state of the nation with DESERT HERALD Magazine last week.
Even though the recently passed Freedom of Information Bill (FoI), was meant to ease the difficulties and hazards of investigative reporting, it has not been effective due to the typical attitude of Nigerian politicians and those in position of authority. DESERT HERALD magazine in an effort to unravel the security debacle associated with the Boko Haram insurgency and killings spree, conducted in-depth investigation on the failure of Nigerian security agencies (despite billions of naira being expended in the name of security votes by both the federal government and some state governments in the North East) to deal with what many believe to be a common threat to national survival, peace and security.
From September 2010 when the Boko Haram killings escalated in Maiduguri ostensibly as a reprisal attack for the extrajudicial killings of their spiritual leader, late Muhammad Yusuf and hundreds of the Boko Haram followers allegedly on the instruction of the former Borno strongman, Senator Ali Modu Sheriff, to date over 1000 security personnel comprising of the Army, Police, Immigration, Customs, Civil Defence Corp and SSS as exclusively gathered by DESERT HERALD Magazine from official sources that pleaded not to be mentioned, lost their lives to the Boko Haram insurgency and sophistication.
At the moment and according to our sources over 200 Police and military officers are nursing various degrees of injuries mostly sustained during attacks by the radical Islamic sect. The Police, according to credible information and statistics at our disposal, have recorded the highest number of deaths and casualties as a result of Boko Haram attacks with nearly 700 officers so far killed and more than 160 conservatively left at the mercy of their families and well-wishers for their treatments mostly as a result of gun shots and bomb attacks they met in the line of duty. And for the first time in the history of the Nigeria Police Force the frequency of officers rejecting postings to volatile areas like Maiduguri, Damaturu and Potiskum leading to many abandoning their duty posts or submitting their resignation letters as alternatives to such postings which they believe are tantamount to giving out their lives to a nation that doesn’t value and honour such lives with adequate compensation after they were killed or maimed is alarmingly on the increase as exclusively gathered by DESERT HERALD magazine. Also, instances where both soldiers and the Police chose to run for their dear lives or removing their uniforms to disguise as civilians during Boko Haram operations instead of protecting the people is no longer news, particularly to residents of Maiduguri, Damaturu, Azare, Kano and Potiskum where such attacks have recently recorded high casualties on the part of the security personnel.
The most frightening scenario, according to DESERT HERALD magazine investigation, is that the morale, zeal, patriotism and the desire to sacrifice their (soldiers’ and police) lives in the ‘war’ against Boko Haram has gone with the fear of official corruption in the system that prevented training and retraining, motivational allowances commensurate with the hazards of the job they do, inadequate and lack of modern arms and equipment and the delay or failure to pay families of several officers that lost their lives or sustained serious injuries as a result of their commitment and sacrifice to the fight against the Boko Haram sect.
Investigation by this reporter reveals that such cases which have already affected the psyche of several officers have of recent worsen in the Nigeria Police where insiders confided that more than 70 percent of the officers that lost their lives to the ‘war’ against Boko Haram were yet to be paid their entitlements or any commensurate motivational allowances leaving their poor families in abject poverty and in many cases finding it difficult to even feed themselves or to pay for their children school fees. Also, the inability of the Police authorities and in some cases the military too to shoulder full responsibilities of officers that sustained injuries in the line of duty despite provision for such eventualities by government has greatly discouraged many officers from dedicating themselves in securing a nation that gives them virtually nothing in return. “That is why in most cases and during most of the attacks on Police stations you will notice Police officers removing their uniforms and even dropping their guns and running to houses for shelter. The soldiers too were not exempted of recent. The truth is our security forces did not have the type of sophisticated weapons and mind the Boko Haram people possess. It is not their fault. It is the greed and corruption in the system. Why will they be so stupid to sacrifice their lives while the so called army Generals, IGP, DIGs, AIGs and CPs are intimidating them with their alleged loots; the loots that supposed to cover their welfare and hazards? Some of them (junior officers) are guarding the mansions of such ogas and they see day and night how money and valuables are being brought as proceeds of the money that supposed to go to them. Many of them are buying edifices worth N500million in choice areas in Abuja. Where did they get the money from? Do you expect junior officers to sacrifice their lives seeing the recklessness and greed of their seniors? That is why the fight against Boko Haram is irrational because Jonathan will not succeed.
“If the Americans with all their intelligence, pay package, attractive condition of service and transparency in managing such resources failed in fighting the Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan twelve years after invading the country and now looking desperately for reconciliation and truce with the ‘terrorists,’ I wonder how far Nigeria can go in confronting the Boko Haram with all those shortcomings under Jonathan notwithstanding the military cooperation between the US and Nigeria in this regard. Whether Jonathan accepts it or not, the only option to this crisis in view of the crisis in Nigerian security system and the corruption is to engage the Boko Haram in meaningful dialogue because the Nigerian government under him don’t have the capacity to engage armed militants in insurgency operations”, a former Commissioner of Police told this reporter.
The most visible signs of the failure of the ‘war’ against Boko Haram, according to former FCT minister, Malam Nasir el-Rufa’i, in a chat with DESERT HERALD in his Kaduna residence is when you are approaching the SSS headquarters in Abuja. “The SSS because of the fear of Boko Haram attack and as a clear sign that they too are struggling to protect themselves not the citizens have completely blocked the other express road leading to their office along Aso Rock, forcing commuters to use only one lane. When you interact with them you will discover that most of them did not even know the job”, he said.
The recent Kano attack, which the Boko Haram sect has since claimed responsibility, has demonstrated not only the failure of intelligence that may have averted the destruction and loss but the need to review the welfare, capability and size of Nigerian security if only to attract officers to dedicate themselves in sourcing and providing useful intelligence and to be prepared to sacrifice themselves for future security challenges. For more than 14 hours the Boko Haram sect has held the commercial city of Kano hostage with both the Police and the Army unable to confront their excesses resulting in unacceptably high casualties and the death of more than 200 people.
Ironically, instead of the security agencies to be following and attacking the insurgents it is the other way round; it is the Boko Haram people following them in their homes and offices and killing them with impunity and without resistance. It is clear that most of the junior officers are no longer willing to sacrifice their lives due to the corruption in virtually all the security agencies that worsen their living condition particularly after sustaining injuries or death in the line of duty.
It is because of same crisis of corruption, greed and inefficiency particularly in the Police, according to former Lagos State Commissioner of Police, Abubakar Tsav, that the removal of Hafiz Ringim will not bring any change or progress in the fight against the Boko Haram sect. He said while the Boko Haram people are patriotic, dedicated and determined in fighting what they believe in, it is the contrary on the part of our security agencies despite the billions at their disposal.
Tsav told DESERT HERALD magazine that “the removal of Hafiz Ringim will not provide solution to the insecurity in the nation. The depleting of trained and experienced manpower of our Police service each time we have security challenges is panicky and counterproductive. Each time such attack happens, experienced and trained officers are retired, making room for mediocre. If government must change the leadership of the Police, we expect that the background and service records of the person to be appointed be discreetly scrutinized by the appropriate agency of government”. Tsav also cautioned that “what is the guarantee that the new IGP will be better than the out-going? You do not cut your nose to spite your face”. Tsav, like most other commentators and as thoroughly investigated by DESERT HERALD magazine, also believes that “the problem with our Police Force is corruption and in-fighting between the IGP and other senior officers especially the DIGs and AIGs rivalry”.
The issue of corruption or using such security votes dedicated to the fight against the Boko Haram sect as a conduit pipe is not only limited to the Army and the Police. At states level, particularly in states that are prone to the Boko Haram attacks, looting of public resources is gradually shifting from lucrative ministries like Health, Education, Works, and Local Government Affairs to fraudulent and controversial security votes that presumably will escape future investigation by the EFCC.
In Yobe State, for example, DESERT HERALD magazine gathered that Governor Ibrahim Gaidam has within 4 months claimed to have spent a whooping N1billion even though he has failed to prevent the Boko Haram’s coordinated attacks and unlike other states like Borno, Gaidam despite the huge bill on security did not come to the aid of those that were devastated or displaced either by the attacks of Boko Haram or the recklessness of security operatives mostly after such attacks by way of intimidating innocent people or even killing them in many instances. After banning Achaba in Potiskum and Damaturu with provision of few Keke NAPEP by his government, the Kekes DESERT HERALD gathered have been shared by his self-appointed council chairmen and other politicians in those areas.
In Potiskum, for example, DESERT HERALD gathered that the Council Chairman, Umaru Mammadu Kori, took five of the Keke NAPEP. He also gave one Keke NAPEP to Muhammadu Guza, the vice chairman two, Salisu Awwal one and one to Musa Lawan. While the ban on Achaba, according to the authorities, is to prevent further attacks which are mostly carried out using motorcycles, the implications on the lives of the people and even security wise are many. In Yobe for example where the government has not made adequate provision for the highly inflated Keke NAPEP, the main preoccupation of the citizens is the Achaba business, while those engaged in car wash and mechanics also rely on the Achaba business for their means of livelihood. Also, majority of parents that cannot afford car of their own relied on Achaba to take their children to school. The difficulty on the side of parents and the alarming joblessness as a result of the ban, pundits believe, will breed more crime in the state.
Pundits also argued that if Mr. Hafiz Ringim is subjected to pressure leading to his sack, the bulk of the security failure is on the National Security Adviser, General Andrew Azazi and the Director General of the SSS for failing to provide useful intelligence that will help in halting most of the successful Boko Haram attacks particularly the bombing of the UN building in Abuja and the recent siege on Kano, targeting Police formations and the SSS office.
Incidentally, both the NSA and the DG of the SSS are from the Niger Delta region where Mr. Jonathan comes from. DESERT HERALD gathered that in the SSS, for instance, there is a lot of politics on how to tackle the Boko Haram crisis and most importantly who among the officers will be trusted with such sensitive duties. An officer of the SSS, who pleaded anonymity, told DESERT HERALD magazine that the current leadership of the SSS has been infiltrated by all manner of bigotry notably religious. “Our officers of northern extraction are now living under suspicion because the leadership of the SSS does not trust them. They now see northern Muslims as either members of the Boko Haram or sympathizers of the activities of the sect. President Jonathan too knows what was in his mind when he declared without any evidence to back his claims that Boko Haram has infiltrated the security agencies. Just pay a visit to the SSS headquarters and see how senior and experienced Muslim officers from the north are rendered redundant and virtually jobless on account of their faith or region. The current DG has even recalled retired officers from the South and engaged them while others that are serving with unquestionable devotion and dedication in their years of service are now redundant and frustrated. Is this in the interest of the SSS and the fight against Boko Haram?” he lamented.
He said any security organisation that has the mixture of Christians and Muslims and allows religious bigotry to consume it will never succeed particularly in confronting challenges such as that of Boko Haram.
Another controversy that requires urgent investigation if the Jonathan government is serious in unravelling some of the killings in the name of Boko Haram is the recent bombshell by the leader of the Boko Haram sect, Abubakar Shekau. Shekau in a recent video he released after the Kano attacks has denied the mass killings of civilians by his followers during the attacks on Police, Immigration and SSS formations.
He blamed it on the “conspiracy on security personnel”, saying they should be held responsible. He insisted that his men know their targets and that the government too knows who they are targeting.
Until some of the recent allegations against the security forces, particularly the civilian casualties that are being recorded after each attack by Boko Haram, are thoroughly investigated by government, crisis of lack of confidence and trust on the government by the people will undermine all efforts. As it is, the public don’t trust the security forces. In fact, they see them as even worse than the Boko Haram sect due to the incidences in Maiduguri and Damaturu where people claim that the security forces have killed hundreds of their people in the aftermath of the Boko Haram attacks. They said each time there is an attack the Police and the Army justify the lives of innocent civilians in order to demonstrate to government that the killings are succeeding against the radical sect. The failure to investigate such wanton killings in the past has resulted in committing crimes against humanity by some security operatives. Even if Shekau’s claim cannot be relied upon there is the need for government to investigate how over 200 innocent people died due to gun shots during the recent attacks in Kano.
Another argument by security experts and other commentators on national affairs is that President Goodluck Jonathan’s resolve to engage the Boko Haram sect with military ‘power’ or to eliminate them in his words may end up in what former President George W. Bush promised to achieve against the Taliban and Al-Qaeda which the Americans despite their technology and military power failed to achieve 11 years after the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Centre.
The aftermath of the Kano attacks by the radical Boko Haram sect, how it was well coordinated, hitting its target and the devastation has made Mr. Jonathan who is hitherto opposed to any form of dialogue to extend an olive branch to the sect for dialogue. But because of how the crisis was poorly managed and underestimated by Mr. Jonathan at the initial stage of the insurgency prompting him to be making ‘uncomplimentary’ public remarks that are provocative and unwise for a leader in such situations against the sect, the Boko Haram whom many believe are being sponsored outside Nigeria have out rightly rejected Jonathan’s offer for dialogue describing it as “mischievous and insincere”.
Apparently asking for an impossible demand as a condition for discussing with Mr. Jonathan’s government, leader of the Boko Haram sect, Imam Abubakar Shekau said in a video posted on YouTube last week that for them to dialogue with government, President Jonathan must convert to Islam. As impossible as this demand according to many government officials is, public opinion however argued that the sect made the demand because they are not convinced about the sincerity of Mr. Jonathan, considering conflicting and inconsistent utterances of the president about how he will confront the Boko Haram issue. Mr. Jonathan himself believes that the “Boko Haram sect is faceless and hence negotiating with them will not be possible”. He told Reuters news agency at the presidential villa in Abuja last week, that “if they (Boko Haram) clearly identify themselves now and say this is the reason why we are resisting, this is the reason why we are confronting government or this is the reason why we destroy some innocent people and their properties, then there will be a basis for dialogue”.
“We will dialogue, let us know your problems and we will solve your problem but if they don’t identify themselves, who will you dialogue with?” But pundits argued that if the government is really committed they know the channels to follow to reach out to the Boko Haram leadership and said issues of negotiations of such nature because of the politics involved should not be subjected to public debate and information. They also argued that if truly Shekau’s Boko Haram are being sponsored outside the country it will be counterproductive to his interest to publicly accept Mr. Jonathan’s offer of negotiation with the manner the president extended it through the media because if the dialogue suffers setback Shekau’s interest too and that of his followers from those allegedly sponsoring them will be jeopardized. Boko Haram people according to elder statesman who is also an indigene of Borno, Dr. Shettima Ali Monguno are not ghost people and that their immediate society knows them because all of them have parents mostly in Borno and Yobe states.
Even though Mr. Jonathan has now acknowledged that “Military confrontation alone will not eliminate terror attacks, an enabling environment for young people to find jobs was also needed”.
“Our commitment is to make sure our irrigation programmes are all revitalised so most of these young people are engaged in productive agriculture and will not be free for them to recruit,” Jonathan said in an ornate diplomatic meeting room adorned with pictures of Nigeria’s heads of state since independence in 1960.
Even though over N500 billion has so far been spent on the Niger Delta militants and that their agitation has proven to be selfish and for economic reasons rather than the one being championed by late Ken Saro Wiwa, the former zoology lecturer and one time governor of Bayelsa state in the oil rich Niger Delta acknowledged that the Boko Haram crisis would be much harder to resolve than the Delta conflict, but still despite recognizing the sensitive nature of the Boko Haram crisis government has so far only succeeded in politicizing the issue and allowing it (government) resolve in fighting the sect to be a major conduit pipe for security chiefs.
Also, keen observers of the Boko Haram imbroglio and elder statesmen like Dr. Shettima Ali Monguno and Air Marshal Alamin Daggash (Rtd) did not agree with Mr. Jonathan’s claim that the “Islamist militants (Boko Haram) do not have a clear public figurehead or negotiable aims.
“If Osama bin Laden had been invited for talks, he wouldn’t have appeared. Boko Haram, if you invite them, they will not come. They operate without a face. They operate without a clear identity, so it is difficult to interface with such a group. That is the greatest difference between Boko Haram and the Niger Delta issue,” he said.
But the irony of Mr. Jonathan’s reference to Osama bin Laden is that the late Bin Laden is not waging a war on his country in the name of perceived injustice such as corruption or the extrajudicial killing of the Boko Haram’s spiritual leader, Muhammad Yusuf and many of their followers that instigated the insurgency in Nigeria but against America, Israel and other western countries that he and Al-Qaeda believe are fighting Islam and Muslims. And when the United States after spending 11 years of military confrontation that failed to eliminate the Taliban and Islamic extremism in Afghanistan and wasting trillions of dollars and at the end suggesting for dialogue with the Taliban, they know exactly where to reach such leaders that are predominantly in the mountains or initiating how the Taliban can present trusted mediators assigned by them (Taliban) to represent them. Pundits said by bringing the planned negotiation to the media, Mr. Jonathan has completely failed in attracting the Boko Haram sect to accept his offer for negotiation.
The nagging questions on the lips of Nigerians regarding why Mr. Jonathan chose the military option in tackling the Boko Haram insurgency are many. Why did he accept to continue with late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua’s policy of negotiating, empowering and settling the terrorists of the Niger Delta region? Why the federal government under him did committed to spending more billions on the so called militants and is opposed to pursuing genuine negotiation with the Boko Haram that may prevent further deaths and destruction of properties? Why is he not holding security chiefs accountable for the billions of naira his government is spending in tackling the Boko Haram attacks and without result except escalation of the terror attacks? Why did he fail to arrest those he openly accused of sponsoring the sect and particularly the ex-governor of Borno State, Ali Modu Sheriff, for his alleged role of their emergence and instigation of the crisis? Why is Jonathan convinced despite repeated failures that he can succeed in crushing insurgence with the zeal and determination of Boko Haram?
Did he as President ever care to independently find out why his forces are woefully failing against the Boko Haram sect and most importantly the silent crisis in the Army and the Police regarding the deteriorating welfare of junior officers in the ‘war’ zone? Why are they rejecting postings and the claim that both the dead and the injured are not compensated or catered for?
Until such a time when politics, bigotry and corruption are removed in the fight against the Boko Haram sect and Mr. Jonathan adopts sincere dialogue, provide employment opportunities in the North East as he is doing to the Niger Delta militants, ensure justice to all segments of the society and most importantly to resist foreign intervention/offer of solution to the current debacle particularly from the United States and Israel and adopts a Nigerian solution, his ‘dream’ of crushing the activities of the Boko Haram sect will be as difficult as the head of a camel passing through the eye of a needle.