Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja
President Muhammadu Buhari and state governors, yesterday, rose in unison from a meeting on the state of the nation’s security and called for a joint strategy to bring various conflicts to an end.
The meeting also directed field commanders to take measures to protect civilian communities as a confidence-building mechanism between the military and the communities.
Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, in a statement said participants at the meeting expressed the hope that there would be improved cooperation in intelligence-gathering and sharing, when the trust lost between both parties would have been re-established.
The meeting also agreed that poverty and youth unemployment are at the root of the nationwide security challenges, stressing the need for it to be addressed with greater vigour by all tiers of government.
The three-hour meeting coordinated by President Buhari, and attended by Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo, heads of defence, security and intelligence agencies, and members of the Security Committee of the Nigerian Governors’ Forum represented by one governor from each of the six geo-political zones (in a virtual format), focused on the country’s security policies and approaches in tackling the internal security challenges with a charge that intelligence-gathering and sharing must be optimised for the nation to secure itself.
The statement said the President used the opportunity to dispel commonly held assumptions that the terrorists in the North East had far more weapons and money than the government, stressing that what is left of them were “mere scavengers desperate for food, raiding shops and markets, and killing innocent persons in the process.”
Buhari also expressed concern that in spite of the fact that borders with neighbouring countries had been shut, bandits and terrorists continued to have access to small weapons.
“These terrorists are in the localities. How is it that they are not short of small arms?” he queried the security and intelligence chiefs.
“We have said enough on the need for them to rejig their operations. I am glad that there is better synergy and cooperation which are very important. I have directed the Service Chiefs to meet among themselves in-between the National Security Council meetings. The services have resources; yes, they need more, and mobility, and are doing their best, but there is a need for better gathering and interpretation of intelligence. Our intelligence-gathering must be improved.”
He told governors of the imminent shipment of military weapons and aircraft from Jordan, China and the United States, but again asked for patience on the part of the public because the new weapons and aircraft must be manned by trained fighters and pilots who must first receive appropriate training.
Buhari also expressed satisfaction with the level of support from neighbouring countries in the war against terrorism.
“They are cooperating with us. On Boko Haram, we are making progress with Benin, Niger, Chad and Cameroon,” he said, while restating that intelligence-gathering must improve to be able to track small arms in the North West, North Central and Northeast states.
In their submissions anchored by their Chairman, Governor Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti State and Governor Babagana Zulum of Borno State, the governors highlighted the problems of poverty, unemployment, trust deficit between the military and civilian populations and the inflow of small arms into the country.
They also pointed to the problem of coordination among military and security chiefs and played up their own security roles which included $1 billion they allowed the President to withdraw from the Excess Crude Account for weapons procurement two years ago. They, therefore, urged the President to consider a “bail out” for security for the states in view of the enormity of the resources they now expend in support of the military and the police.