Ndubuisi Orji, Abuja
The chairman, House of Representatives Committee on Army, Abdulrasak Namdas, has said that the country cannot win the ongoing war against insurgency with the use of gun alone.
Namdas, who in this interview, bared his mind on the security situation in the country, noting that defeating insurgency in Nigeria would require a combination of factors.
The lawmaker also shared his views on the recent resolution of the House, calling for the resignation of the Service chiefs or their sack by President Muhammadu Buhari if they fail to resign honourably.
There is this belief that the army is paying lip service to the fight against insurgency, as the chairman of the House Committee on Army, how would you react to this?
To be honest, it will not be fair to say that the Nigerian Army, in spite of the sacrifices they are making, are paying lip service to the fight against insurgency and other related criminal activities. I want Nigerians to know that the armed forces act, specifically say that the armed forces put together are supposed to protect the territorial integrity of this country.
And it means either on land, air or water. In other words, this is their job. However, section 217 of the constitution specifically empowers the President, who is also the Commander-in- Chief to invite the army to take over certain internal security crisis. Therefore, they have no option if the President invites them.
It is on the basis of this section that the President has invited the army to join the war against insurgency, banditry and other criminal activities.
So, people are looking at it as if the main duty of the armed forces is to fight internal crisis. That is not true. The main job of internal security crisis is that of the police. So, I think, there is nothing wrong in expecting the army to do more. And in any case, when they are invited and they do things that are not in the rules of engagement, there is nothing wrong in Nigerians cautioning them. To say the armed forces are paying lip service and they are not serious in the fight against insurgency, it will not be fair on those people.
It is easier to sit in the office and blame the armed forces. For those of us, who have been to the war front, courtesy of the committee I am chairing and I have seen for myself, what these people are going through, we need to thank them, although it is their job. I think we should appreciate the job they are doing within available resources.
The country has been on this anti-insurgency campaign for some time now and things seem to be getting worse; from your perspective, why do you think the war against terror is lingering?
I have said it even in my contributions on the floor of the House that when you are fighting insurgency, you should be able to train and equip all the security forces. Let us not be selective on who to arm and who not to arm.
For example while the army is doing its own, attention should be given to the police in terms of provision of equipment, in terms of training to fight terrorism. The same thing also should be done to the Civil Defence and we have the DSS. Because when the army wins the war in a particular community, they are expected to move out and allow the police to consolidate. But I can tell you, when the army moves out, the police are also challenged with the same thing that the army is facing, either in terms of equipment or even personnel.
Today, the Nigerian army is recruiting not less than 5000 soldiers every year to meet up with the personnel issue, because the army is virtually in all the zones of the country.
What if in the midst of these issues, God forbid, that we face an external aggression? Which one are we to face?My take on this is that we need more personnel. Because to even hold ground, you need personnel.
Let us not focus attention on the army alone. We should also focus on the police. Sadly, I mentioned it on the floor of the House; when we were growing up, the anti-riot policemen, that we use to know, known as the mobile police were in some cases equivalent to soldiers, because of the training they received in Gwoza, because if you come out from Gwoza at that time, you were seen as a different man ready to take on anybody.
But we woke up one morning to see that the insurgents have captured the training centre. The army have to go and retake the training camp.
If we give the police the support, I know they will do more. So, it is not one factor matter. This is very important. We must not harbour criminals, just because we expect soldiers to go and detect who is a bomber. The government should do more. Truly, they need equipment. They have got to some extent, but they still need more. The problem with equipment is that when you talk, people will say but they have been given money. But the equipment are not meant to be there, we need to service them, sometimes the insurgents destroy those equipment. So, we need to keep buying them. So, don’t say because we were able to buy equipment xyz, in the last 10 years, it should be the one,…no, no, no. We lose them as we fight. This is my view on this.
There is issue of welfare for the troops in the war front. There have been accusation that those at the military high command are surcharging the soldiers. From time to time, you see soldiers in the war front complaining about the kind of food they are given. Don’t you think this is an impediment to winning this war?
For me, I feel there is need to do more in terms of welfare of the soldiers. There is no doubt about that. But we may not make a conclusive statement on mere social media videos. You and I know that when insurgents go to fight, they wear army uniforms. And sometimes you may not even know who are those doing these videos. Is it the army? Is it the insurgents?
But I must admit that as there are challenges everywhere, army is part of Nigeria, they would also have their challenges. That is why on our part, as an institution that oversights, we have this time around decided that we will do more in terms of the welfare of soldiers. And we have done our part.
Have your taken time to investigate these claims, because they are allegations that part of the reasons the anti-insurgency issue is lingering is because some persons are profiting from it?
Lets look at this straight. I know as a matter of fact that the army high command has been court-marshaling, dismissing, imprisoning , retiring officers and men that have been found guilty. But to expose corruption and to deal with whosoever does it, is not just a matter of the army alone. In terms of corruption, we agencies- the ICPC, EFCC, all these are agencies that investigate corruption.
Go round the country and look at the barracks, we will require more. If you go to the barracks ,you will find old building. So, welfare, is not just those in the war front, because after some times, you will come back. Others go . So, you also want you family to be comfortable. It gives you sense of strength, that my family is not complaining.
When we noticed that the problems are overwhelming, the speaker, Femi Gbajabiamila invited the service chiefs, we discussed, we realised that funding is a challenge. Annual budgetary funding cannot solve the problem of the armed forces, not just army.
Whether these monies are well spent, is something we are doing our part. And whoever is found wanting would be dealt with.
Are you saying that the House will investigate these issues?
The truth is that you have to know the challenge on ground. For you to talk about investigation, you have to know how much have been committed; it is not a one man show. So, until you make these visits and you are able to assess, and you know the challenges they have; then you can ask questions.
The House of Representatives have repeatedly passed a vote of no confidence on the service chiefs, yet the President is keeping them, what does this imply?
I want you to know that we have three arms of government- the legislature, the executive and the judiciary. Ours in this one that you have talked is, we have done what we can do by giving a resolution and offering advice on what we expect the Commander-in-Chief to do.
Nigerians that elected us, we have taken their views to the highest level. But it is not within our purview to do the sacking. It is the job of the President.
We are concerned that this insecurity has become a big challenge and we must be on the same page. On this, I must let you know that we must look beyond the sack of the Service chiefs.
If you sack the Service chiefs today, that would not mean that the war on terror has come to an end. We must look beyond that. We must put in place, what in our opinion we think is better. What can the air force do? What can the navy do and what can the army do? And what is the police doing? What are the strategy they have to employ. We must have to look at it holistically. Whether we like it or not, they are not going to continue to stay there for life, they must go. But we have to look beyond that. Because the challenges are getting too much.
How do you think Nigeria can get out of this whole security quagmire?
I think it is a combination of factors. We should not rely on using the gun to kill the insurgents, the bandits, the cattle rustlers, the pipeline vandals and think we have solved the problem. Whether you pack all American guns and bring them to Nigeria, then you kill, if you don’t solve the problem, then it will remain.
My suggestion is that we as elected people both in the legislature and executive, we must work collectively to make sure that the economy is working. Provide employment, give local government their due, let them exist as a tier of government. Nobody will leave my local government to come and see a member for just a problem of N20,000. Let it be solved at that local government. My own should be intervention. We must not use the gun to solve the problem, it will not work.
Whether you buy the best gun in the world and kill the insurgents, and you allow the army of the unemployed to exist and you don’t provide infrastructure; my brother we must live up to expectation as leaders. That is the solution. It is a combination of factors. It is not just about kill, kill, kill. That will not work.
Army is not trained to fight internal security matters. They are to safeguard the territorial integrity of the country. We should not expect that every internal security matter will be solved by the army. It is not true. It is a combination of factors; in collaboration with the police, the civil defence.
Go and read the 2003 Act of the Civil Defence. The Act says the President can also invite the security defence on internal issues. And they can also prosecute some one on terror.
What I am saying is that attention should be paid to all the internal security forces. Don’t over rely on the army, because by the time you over rely on the army and in the process, you have an external aggression, they will abandon this one, then you will have a vacuum.
It is so important that government should do more in the provision of employment and security infrastructure. What is the NOA doing? Government agencies like the NOA should do massive campaign, that young boys will not be recruited. It is very important. That is the truth.