From Jude Chinedu, Enugu
A retired Navy officer and Enugu State Coordinator of Members of Retired Armed Forces, Chief Kenneth Agu, has called on the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari to integrate ex-servicemen into the nation’s security system to curb insecurity in the country.
Agu who is also the Vice Chairman of the Nigerian Legion in Enugu East Local Government Area said that retired servicemen in Nigeria live in penury which make them vulnerable to criminal elements who may want to use them for negative ends if the government continues to overlook their capabilities.
He also spoke on the arrest of the leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), Nnamdi Kanu and the call for establishment of state police in Nigeria.
For some time now, there has been rising insecurity across the country, including the Southeast. What is your assessment of the security situation in Nigeria?
With the security situation in the country, some of the things that are happening are being organized by some politicians; maybe to discredit their opponents or to put instability or stuff in the state. In some of the states there are people that sponsor all those kinds of things because they have problem with the state and they want to prove a point. But generally, the security situation in Nigeria is nothing to write home about. Something drastic needs to be done to bring an end to this mess.
What is that thing that needs to be done?
If you want to checkmate all these things, the Federal Government has to involve the retired military people. If you go to other developed countries; those people (retired military personnel) are still very valuable because the government has spent money training them and they have gotten experience of war and war-torn areas. They really know the things to look out for both in intelligence gathering and in trying to protect people and trying to actually gain intelligence on what is happening. Most of the retirees have issues with government because the government is not actually looking out for them. That is what they feel. Like now, most of them were promised post-housing. If you go to most places in Nigeria you will see lands mapped out for post-housing in different places, but there is no post-houses for retired military people. Eventually when they leave the service, they leave without houses. So, they have issues and these are the people that are vulnerable. Even the people who want to cause trouble or cause insecurity would want to hire these retired military personnel and make use of their knowledge and expertise in dealing with their victims. So government should try to bring these people together. Try to know how many retirees are in a particular vicinity, bring them together and activate them to be like a watchdog in the community. Those people have to collaborate and mingle with the local vigilante and assist them in community policing and arresting criminals because they are the people that will know when strangers enter the community. They know the strangers when they come and they will gather intelligence and go round and have these soldiers that will still go out and know what is happening. So, when things are happening, they will know from the onset how to tackle it. When you have the right intelligence you have the key to counter some very serious attacks on communities or on the people. Even those people that are kidnapping want to use the retired military people because some of them are being owed allowances or they are not really okay with the payment the government is giving them because the payment is not really favorable. Also if you go to the developed countries, most of these military men have discounts. If you go to a shop to buy something, once you are a military person, it shows on you card, 30 per cent is already deducted from what you are buying. These are the incentives you give military people and they will be more committed in helping to solve the insecurity problem in the country. But when these people are impoverished or ignored, the hoodlums or the criminals will make use of them by enticing them with money or other things. The Federal Government should work with the whole retirees in the entire 36 states of the federation. Try to use them in intelligence gathering and in curbing crime. Empower them with bikes. All those Uber drivers, let some of them be military people or retired military people doing Uber. They can be getting information from the passengers they carry because those are the first hand people that know when crime is being committed through the interaction they will overhear from their passengers or questions the passengers may be asking or suspicious movements. They have to give information. So, all those retired military people should be consciously involved in Keke riding and Uber so they can be getting information for the security agents. Now, when you engage these vigilante people, you will start teaching them how to shoot, but the legion people are already trained by the government. Government has spent a lot of money training and retraining them. So, it’s just to mobilize them. Know how many of them are in a particular location, bring them together so they will be really effective and productive to the country. The government has their bank accounts so it will be a problem paying them stipends.
How do you react to the re-arrest of Nnamdi Kanu by the security agencies in Kenya?
The way things have been going, many people are actually misinformed and some people are being incited by his posts and what he is saying and it has really been so bad on the country. It’s good for him to come back to the country. Even if you want to have your own state, you have to follow it the legal way so that lives will not be lost. We have already had a bad experience with in the Biafra war some decades ago, we don’t want such a thing to be repeated. And most of the people that are fomenting this trouble are not even in the country, he is out. And many people are being locked up, many have died, many property destroyed because of what he is saying.
Some people believe that Nnamdi Kanu has not gone against any Nigerian law. Do you think this is correct?
Well, there are many things you might be doing and you may not know that it might be against the law. You may be ignorant of it. So many people look down on Nigerian law and say that the Nigerian legal system is like this or that but sometime you see that they are very serious or they can take things seriously. We have seen situations where people get justice in places where they were not expected to get justice. Just like Justice Binta Nyako that granted Nnamdi Kanu bail. Most judges wouldn’t have granted him bail. But she granted him bail for his own good. To show you that she was not biased. On breaching the law of the country, it is really left for the attorney general of the federation and the lawyers to interpret that because it is left for them to prove some things beyond reasonable doubt before you can really condemn him or not.
How do you suggest the Federal Government should handle the case of Nnamdi Kanu?
The best way to handle the case of Nnamdi Kanu is for the Federal Government to bring him to the dialogue table, have a discussion with him and get him involved in politics. This is because when you are seeing government and governance from a distance you will think it is an easy thing, but when you get in you will see that there are many things involved in it. So, you need to involve him. Maybe he has erred in one way or the other and many people have destroyed some things because of IPOB, but it will be good if the Federal Government pardons him just like those Boko Haram members that were arrested were pardoned and reintegrated into the society. But where I know that the government will have problem is if he doesn’t want to play along with the government to try and make peace and stop this type of violent agitation for Biafra. Even when they were doing sit-at-home, many people were not really sitting at home because of their solidarity with Nnamdi Kanu, but because of their lives and property. So, we don’t have to live in fear. I would like to have an Igbo nation, not necessarily Biafra because Biafra is not even an Igbo word. We need an Igbo nation where all those people will come together and agree. Not trying to force people to join you because some people do not really want to join you. Like during the civil war, some of the people that Nnamdi Kanu is adding now did not really want to come on board with us because they want their own state. They don’t want to be under you or that you will rule over them. And eventually when you get this Biafra, people will be surprised that it is not what you expect that you are going to get. Check the case with South Sudan. So, let Nnamdi Kanu be involved in election so that all those his supporters and followers will come out and support him. So, when he goes to the National Assembly or becomes a governor; he can start talking about referendum.
There has been this lingering debate over the workability of the state police system in Nigeria. Do you think Nigeria is mature enough for state police?
State police is very necessary and it’s very important because security is in degrees and in hierarchies. If you cannot cover your ward and your local government, how can you cover the state or the country? Because we have to start from the scratch. You have to start from the local area to monitor the security because those are the foundation of security. So the state police is important and it will checkmate many things because normally, the chief security officer of every state is the governor. So, the state security should be under the governor. He should be in charge. State police is very necessary, it will help curb insecurity because those are the people who will be the first people that will pinpoint potential suspects or know the volatile areas in their domain. The issue of abuse might arise, but the Igbo say that you don’t shy away from war because of death. What you should do is to checkmate such abuses. It will be very effective because that is the grassroots. When you send someone from Abuja to my local government, the person does not know my terrain. He can even get missing but when the youths and the town union presidents are coming together to arrange for the security of the area, the security will be fortified and formidable.