By Yemi Adebowale
Eleven days after a Nigerian Air Force fighter jet crashed in Borno State, the military is still struggling to locate the crash spot. The Alpha light attack jet was on a mission to support troops fighting the terrorists when it lost radar contact. Many are hoping Boko Haram’s claims that it shot the jet would turn out to be false. If the jet the terrorists were seen dancing around turns out to be the missing plane, then this country is in serious trouble. It means the range of equipment now in their possession is a big threat to the capabilities of the Nigerian military. The failure of the military to locate the so-called true crash site reflects the level of decay in Nigeria’s security. Modern search and rescue is about technology, equipment and quality manpower. This country lacks capacity for these and unwilling to seek help from abroad.
Scores of Boko Haram terrorists celebrating on our soil with video of alleged triumph, while wielding AK-47, Rocket Propelled Grenade (RPG) and other artillery equipment, is depressing. Let’s hope that the picture of the crashed jet is not genuine. But the massive military equipment displayed by these terrorists is real. It is dizzying seeing non-state actors with such equipment. This must not persist in a country with a legitimate government. The outlaws are evidently waxing stronger and controlling territories while the Buhari government goes about with trickery that no Nigerian territory is under the control of the terrorists.
The tenacious sabotage of power towers supplying electricity to Maiduguri by Boko Haram is another security failure that has persisted for too long. Three weeks ago, the terrorists again blew two of the towers along the Damaturu-Maidugiri 330kV transmission line, plunging the Borno State capital city into darkness barely three days after electricity was restored. The towers are obvious targets for Boko Haram; yet, for years, an effective security arrangement can’t be put in place for them. In this modern security era, we should be talking about protecting the towers with drone from a preemptive and properly staffed control centre.
For now, darkness continues in the beleaguered city of Maiduguri as the other line feeding the city from Damboa was destroyed by the terrorists years back. All the five highways into Maiduguri have also been made impassable by Boko Haram, while the Buhari regime continues with the deceit that the terrorists have been decapitated.
The security glitches under the Buhari government are ceaseless and consuming too many innocent lives. The level of security ineptitude is frightening. How do you explain gunmen invading the Imo State Police Command headquarters and wrecking so much havoc? The gunmen burnt buildings and almost all the vehicles parked at the HQ. They also freed all the suspects in the cells. This place is supposed to be a high security zone, yet, it was penetrated with so much ease. The attackers spent about 30 minutes unhindered. Where were the policemen guiding this sensitive workplace? Offices of other security agencies like DSS and NSCDC are few minutes from the Imo Command headquarters; yet, help did not come from them.
Same day, these gunmen also attacked the Nigeria Correctional Service, Owerri, burnt some buildings and freed all the inmates. It is shocking that the attackers sang solidarity songs at the Imo Government House roundabout for about 30 minutes before attacking these facilities. The armed guards at the Correctional Centre fled while the gunmen took away their arms and ammunition. They left the Correctional centre, moved to a military base at Umuorji on the Owerri-Onitsha expressway, killed two persons and burnt operational vehicles of the Army.
Insecurity pours under Buhari. This government is still struggling to explain how gunmen attacked three communities in Ishielu Local Government Area of Ebonyi, leaving deaths and destruction. The attackers were unhindered and went out of the state, also undetected, despite so many security posts around. I am very sure that the justice promised victims of the Ishielu attacks by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo will never happen.
How can one explain the invasion of Federal College of Forestry Mechanization, Mando in Igabi Local Government Area of Kaduna State located opposite the Nigerian Defence Academy along the Kaduna International Airport road? The bandits abducted 39 students here on March 11. This school is situated near Nigeria’s foremost military institution, yet, bandits slipped in with ease and abducted students. They also went out unopposed. How can this be explained?
How can this government explain the Jangebe, Kankara, Kagara and other abductions carried out with so much ease, with culprits hardly arrested to account for the crime? How can one explain hundreds of AK47-wielding Fulani militias in the forests of Zamfara, Katsina, Niger and Kaduna states? As usual, Buhari openly orders arrest of criminals but it never happens.
How do you explain the killing of one officer and 10 soldiers by bandits in Konshisha Local Government Area of Benue State? How do you explain terrorists snatching Military outpost and barracks with ease? A military outpost in Marina, Safana Local Government Area of Katsina State came under attack on March 4 and the soldiers were dislodged.
The security and welfare of our gallant soldiers are also being bungled. So, how will they secure the country? They are ill-equipped and ill-motivated. Images of soldiers of an unidentified battalion in Operation Lafiya Dole staging a protest, 16 days ago over their posting to a location in the Theatre of Operation, due to poor working condition, remain fresh. The soldiers stormed the headquarters of the Theatre Command in Maiduguri, shooting sporadically into the air as they rejected their posting. They mentioned non-payment of allowances and poor equipment as reasons for their rebellion. They also complained about how a unit that went for reinforcement when Marte was captured last month, lost many soldiers due to poor weaponry they took to confront the insurgents who were armed with sophisticated weapons.
This protest came barely two weeks after the National Security Adviser, Babagana Monguno, claimed monies allocated for the purchase of weapons during the tenure of the immediate past service chiefs could not be accounted for. Monguno later chickened out.
Catholic Bishop of Sokoto Diocese, Bishop Matthew Kukah, was apt when he blamed those in power for the increasing cases of banditry, kidnapping, terrorism and armed robbery in the country. In his 2021 Easter message titled, “Before our Glory Departs, Kukah said: “Taunted by Boko Haram, ravaged by bandits, kidnappers, armed robbers, and other merchants of death across the nation, there is collective fear as to whether Nigeria’s glory is about to depart! Retired military and intelligence officers lament over what has become of their glorious profession as they watch the humiliation of our military personnel.
“Traumatised citizens are tortured daily by bandits. The nation has since become a massive killing field, as both government and the governed look on helplessly. A thick and suffocating cloud of desperation, despondency, desolation, gloom, and misery hangs in the hot air. We have no message and have no idea how long this will last. Our people seek solace and protection, but frustration and darkness threaten to drown them. Is their government on AWOL? Sadly, human life is hemorrhaging so badly in Nigeria, but the greatest tragedy is the death of empathy from those in power.”
Indeed, the spate of killings, kidnappings and destruction across the country in the last six years of the Buhari government has become a big embarrassment to this country. The Nigerian state has never been this weak. I am tempted to ask Buhari to wake up. But, honestly, I doubt if this can ever happen within the two years left of his tenure. We are in a big mess.
Kaduna Killings, Abductions and Endless Lies
When Army Spokesperson, Brig. Gen. Yerima Mohammed reported that five of the abducted 39 students of Federal College of Forestry Mechanization, Afaka, Kaduna State, had been rescued by the military, I knew something was amiss. The Army Spokesman saying the GOC 1 Division, Kaduna, commended the troops for their effort in the rescue and charged them not to rest until all the kidnap victims were rescued, was nauseating. It was not the true story. Trying to take credit for a job not done is not fair. It was good the military took the five students to their facility for medical attention, but saying they rescued them amounts to mocking the victims. The Kaduna State Government joined the Army to spread the falsehood by saying the Army “recovered” the five students.
One of the five freed students blew the whistle on the Army on Tuesday, by revealing that the bandits released them voluntarily. Francis Paul, a 200 Level Student at the institution said: “One afternoon, they (the bandits) came and started selecting us… I was very ill that day. So, they asked me to sit aside and they added some girls and put us on motorbikes. They dropped us at a village close to the main road and said we should walk towards the road and we did.” This is the true story. The next set of five students released last Thursday followed this process too. The Army should move out and rescue the 29 students still with the bandits instead of peddling falsehood. It is not good for the image of this great institution. The biggest drawback to this war against bandits is the endless lies by governments at all levels and security agencies.
As for Governor Nasir El-rufai, it is not enough to say that you will not negotiate with bandits, those who took the Afaka students inclusive. Of course, many of us are against negotiating with bandits. We support you on this. But what have you done for almost one month to ensure the release of the Afaka students and several others still with kidnappers? Honestly, I can’t see any serious action in this direction. The trauma led to the death of one of the parents, Ibrahim Shamaki, whose daughter spoke in Hausa in a viral video released by the bandits. Killings and kidnappings in this state are never-ending. El-rufai has to use his security vote proactively. The remaining 35 students have already spent 31 days in the dungeons of the abductors. The pain is too much for these young fellows.
Buhari’s Boundless Clannishness
For a moment, I thought President Buhari will put aside his clannishness and show some respect for our Federal Character law in the appointment of an acting Inspector General of Police. A section of this country currently dominates headship of military and paramilitary agencies – The Army, DSS, NSCDC, Police, Customs, EFCC, Navy, NIA, Immigration, NSA and Prisons. It did not happen as Buhari again named a northerner Usman Alkali Baba as acting Inspector-General of Police. Our President evidently mismanages our diversity and unity. Nigeria has never had it so bad.
My very good friend, Human rights lawyer, Mike Ozekhome (SAN), was also disappointed and remarked: “Can’t President Buhari for once, just for once, in his opaque appointments, look beyond his religion and immediate environment, and forsake sectionalism, cronyism, prebendalism, tribalism, favouritism, and act as a true statesman? I thought he gleefully told Nigerians on 29th May, 2015, while taking his first oath of office, that he was for everybody and for nobody? So, Buhari had actually deceived Nigerians and is desecrating his solemn oath of office? I can’t decode Buhari’s defiant refusal to respect the Federal Character principle enshrined in Section 14(3) of the 1999 Constitution. Or, can you?”
No doubt, the injustice of the Federal Government under the leadership of Buhari is responsible for the growing agitations and insecurity in the South-east. Ohanaeze’s National Publicity Secretary, Alex Ogbonnia said: “It is unjust and unfair to sideline the South-east in the security architecture of the country. Injustice promotes insecurity; it promotes all forms of crisis and problems. With injustice, there is no peace anywhere. We thought that the President would be concerned about the level of injustice, agitations and crises we have in the South-east and would try to ameliorate these things but unfortunately, he is not thinking in that direction.”
Genuine patriots must persist in mounting pressure on Buhari to respect Section 14(3) of the 1999 Constitution for the sake of this beautiful country’s unity. Our President’s ethnic and religious bigotry is a threat to the harmony of Nigeria.