For two Saturdays in a row, I had the honour to feature on a live television programme aptly entitled Security Watch Africa, aired by the Africa Independent Television (AIT) every Saturday, during which I was ‘grilled’ by the anchor, my very good friend Mr. Patrick Agbambu, on matters of national security in Nigeria and beyond.
Mr. Agbambu comes across as a patriot of deep hue, who I first met through Brigadier-General Sani Kukasheka Usman, one of the finest human beings I have had the honour and privilege to meet, who voluntarily retired from the Nigerian Army 16 months ago. So excellent was Kukasheka that his voluntarily retirement from the Army last year sparked what I will call an uproar, with many prominent media and public relations personalities protesting. He got a rain of tributes from far and wide, and many of us in the media will miss his diligence and dedication to duty, as the unforgettable Director Army Public Relations who would always pick calls, from known and unknown phone numbers, and who generally gave the Nigerian nation his very best.
When, three weeks ago, Mr. Agbambu called on phone and asked me to be a guest on the Security Watch Africa live television programme, I was a bit jittery. He has since become an expert on matters of security, and here I was, a complete rookie. But he encouraged me by saying he has been reading my contributions on the subject of security through this column, and he wanted me to expand those ideas through his global platform. I had no more hesitation in grabbing the opportunity.
Many regular readers of this column have monitored the programme aired on Saturday, June 27, 2020, and the concluding episode on Saturday, July 4 instant. One interesting question Patrick asked me was whether, in the light of attacks by terrorists and bandits on soft targets scattered in Nigeria’s vast hinterland, the security services could man each and every village in the country.
My answer, of course, was a resounding no. Firstly, Nigeria does not have enough security personnel to cover the nooks and crannies of this vast country. Previous administrations have also largely crippled the armed forces by abandoning them to their fate, and the well-known looting of billions of dollars earmarked for security in campaigning for re-election, as happened when President Goodluck Jonathan was seeking a second term of office. That has ensured that the Nigerian armed forces, at different times considered one of the best in the world, with immeasurable victories in peacekeeping operations, has become ill-equipped and somewhat grounded.
When Muhammadu Buhari was campaigning for the post of President, he promised to deal with the terror group Boko Haram, in a matter of a few months, if elected. Though he was a former head of state, Buhari did not reckon with the mess that the armed forces had been reduced to over the years. He won the election and met an army that was virtually abandoned, with obsolete equipment the only weapons of war. Politicians had ended up sharing the money – billions of dollars – meant for weapons procurement. And they were carrying on with reckless abandon. It was the reason Boko Haram, a ragtag group was able to blossom to one of the deadliest terror groups known to mankind, as testified by America’s Central Intelligence Agency.
Shortly after assuming power, President Buhari appointed a new set of senior military officers to head the various units that formed the Nigerian military. Two of those appointed were Christians from the South, while the other two were Muslims from the North. But even with the dire situation they met on the ground, these service chiefs were able to degrade Boko Haram, from a level where the group was threatening to take over many states in the country, attacking markets, places of worship and public buildings at will, including the United Nations office in Abuja, to one that was confined only to Borno and small parts of Adamawa and Yobe states.
President Buhari’s quest to immediately equip the army was met with a brick wall. Weapons cannot be purchased in an open market, according to international conventions. And even if they could, the money to do so was not there. Nonetheless, the government was able, with its anti-corruption crusade, to free resources that enabled it start placing order for weapons. Sadly, most of the weapons needed would require several months, and in most cases some years, to manufacture. The government also was faced with the challenge of blackmail among the political class, and some obvious sponsors of terror, who engaged in a vicious campaign of calumny aimed at making it impossible for the developed world to sell weapons to Nigeria.
So, I told Mr. Agbambu that with a landmass of 923,768 square kilometers, and with less than five hundred thousand security personnel, when you add the army, the navy, the airforce, the DSS, the police and the other para-military services all together, also with fewer financial resources at the disposal of the government, there is no way every village and town could be covered.
Mr. Agbambu took me on, on the matter of funding, asking whether all the billions being allocated to the security services was not enough to once and for all deal with creeping insecurity in the country. It was then I reminded him, and viewers of the programme, of what the irrepressible Senator Ali Ndume said recently, that not even one kobo has been released to the Nigerian Army for capital projects, for the year 2020. Can you imagine that? We are now in July. Mr. President had since given approval for the funds to be released, but some vested interests find it convenient to defy that clear directive even against national interest.
I also reminded viewers that even the budget of N100 billion, for the entire branches of the military in this year’s budget, will end up not being released in whole, and that the amount itself is only a fraction of this year’s budget of the NewYork Fire Service. The University of California has a budget of $39.8 billion for this year. Even at the official exchange rate of N380 to a dollar, that amount translates to more than N15 trillion, far more than Nigeria’s entire budget.
I also discussed the politics of anglophone and francophone countries, with Nigeria’s next-door neighbours all being francophone countries, most of who envy our country and are jealous of its progress. At least one of these neighbours is openly known to always give sanctuary to Boko Haram terrorists, making it impossible for Nigerian armed forces to totally rout the terrorists, since they cannot breach international protocols by crossing into another country.
For reason of space, I will not be able to recount all the questions and answers raised, but I was quite pleased when a knowledgeable retired police commissioner called the studio and aired his views on our national security, supporting everything I said, and also adding his own informed views. As one of the greatest military generals of all time, General Paton of the United States Army has said, patience is one of the best weapons of war.
There is no doubt that Nigerians will need to exercise more patience as the armed forces continue to win this war.
The fact that terrorists and bandits now only resort to attacking soft targets is enough indication that they have been heavily degraded and will be totally routed sooner than later, more so with our collective support. Americans have not been distracting their armed forces even though they have taken more than twenty years fighting the Taliban, with more than three trillion dollars spent and thousands of lives lost. Six years ago I lost a dear friend and brother to Nigeria’s war against terrorism, and have an idea of what it means to lose a loved one. But those sacrifices will surely not go in vain, and the terrorists and bandits will never go free. They are already paying the price, and a proof of that could be seen in the tears of defeat shed by Boko Haram leader, Abubakar Shekau, who we all heard profusely crying and begging for mercy over the sustained onslaught by the Nigerian army.
Talking about support for the armed forces, the patriotic and visionary Brigadier Sani Kukasheka Usman (Rtd) has penned a beautiful article on the occasion of this year’s edition of the Nigerian Army Day Celebration (NADCEL). I reproduce hereby excerpts from that piece. Enjoy:
On June 30th, 2015 then as a Colonel and Acting Director Army Public Relations, in the Nigerian Army, I wrote a piece titled “Celebrating the Nigerian Army at 152” (https://newsdiaryonline.com/celebrating-nigerian-army-at-152-by-col-sani-kukasheka-usman/) in commemoration of the Nigerian Army Day Celebration (NADCEL) for that year. That was five years ago. In 2018, I also penned a piece in celebration of the Nigerian Army to commemorate the NADCEL for that year titled “Celebrating the Nigerian Soldier at 155 (https://www.blueprint.ng/nadcel-2018-celebrating-nigerian-soldier-155-sani-kukasheka-usman/). It is July again and the Nigerian Army as usual is celebrating its annual day, NADCEL 2020, with an interesting theme, “Nigeria’s Territorial Defence and Sovereignty: Imperatives for Nigerian Army’s Sustained Training and Operations.” The focus on these key issues is indeed very commendable in view of the prevailing security challenges in the country.
The reasons for those articles were to acknowledge and celebrate the modest achievements and immense role and contributions of the Nigerian Soldier to peace and security of our dear nation and national development. From that time to date, a lot has happened to the Nigerian Army and our beloved country. The Nigerian Army has continued to move to greater heights despite distractions and protracted security challenges with meagre resources, today, Nigeria and the world are facing the unimaginable scale of COVID-19 pandemic. These happenings have impacted on the Nigerian Army, our nation and the world at large.
Now that the Nigerian Army is celebrating its day, it is time for sober reflection, and critical reappraisal from the perspective of someone who served meritoriously, had seen it all and voluntarily retired from the Army, a little over a year now. The past 16 months of civilian life has been quite interesting and has given me ample opportunity to reflect and have additional perspective about the Nigerian Army as I mingled among fellow civilians and gained more insight about public’s feelings and perception about the military and the Nigerian Army in particular.
Surprisingly, it is a mixture of knocks and praises.Some people have a good understanding and full of commendation, while others are ill-informed and ignorant of what military service and life. Therefore,do not appreciate or understand the complexities and sacrifices of the military, let alone appreciate its noble contribution to our peace, security and national development. But the most worrisome aspect is the fact that some unpatriotic politicians, detractors and disgruntled elements who envy the successes and achievements of the leadership of the Nigerian Army, for some inexplicable reasons seems to be behind these campaigns of calumny. They are the ones fanning the embers of hatred, disinformation and false narratives about the Nigerian Army.
Within the last five years alone, the Nigerian Army under the able leadership of Lieutenant General Tukur Yusufu Buratai and grand strategic direction of President Muhammadu Buhari has made giant strides in various spheres of endeavour that cut across operation, training, administration and logistics. The welfare of troops has dramatically improved. Its order of battle has been greatly modified with new formations and units created to reflect the needs and difficulties of the time. These include the creation of two additional divisions, commands, numerous brigades, units and sub-units. Its dynamism in tactical and operational manoeuvres has brought about the setting up of super camps and motorcycle battalions.
The operations are ever dynamic, responding to the changing security situations and terrorists modus operandi. Training schools have been upgraded and adequately funded and equipped. The Army has an Aviation Corps, Women Corps and a University, in addition to an Army War College and the Nigerian Army Resource Centre, a think tank for defence and security issues. New hospitals have been constructed, while most of the existing ones have been upgraded and equipped, same with barracks accommodation. This year’s celebration though very modest, has recorded the highest number of commissioned projects and humanitarian activities in various parts of the country in the recent history of the Nigerian Army.
One other reason to further doff our hats for the Army is the way they rose to the occasion on the emergence of the COVID-19 on our shores. Despite being occupied with operations, the Nigerian Army ensured strict adherence to COVID-19 protocol. It kept the disease off the barracks, and it went the extra mile of complementing government efforts by providing palliatives to needy communities. Therefore, the Nigerian Army has every reason to celebrate itself based on these accomplishments and for the sake of morale.
Nevertheless, despite these achievements, some pessimists have not seen the reason for celebration, pointing at the security challenges in the northeast and north-west geopolitical zones particularly. However, if we recall the state of affairs, particularly, in the northeast before 2015, we have every cause to glorify God and thank the military and security agencies and in particular, the Nigerian Army for dealing decisively with the Boko Haram terrorists in the northeast. The terrorists have been drastically degraded and denied freedom of action, the Army has continued to do its best and is determined to succeed in that regard. The current wave of operations in the north-west and recently launched “Exercise SAHEL SANITY” will put paid to the activities of the bandits. The people of north west geopolitical zone and, Katsina and Zamfara States welcome this operation. Therefore, we all need to celebrate, support and encourage the Nigerian Army.
In my quiet moments, I realised that there were so many questions begging for answers as to why, despite these accomplishments, the Nigerian Army has continued to be misunderstood and be the “whipping boy” of some people. Why is it that some mischievous elements are always determined to rub mud on every laudable action of the Nigerian Army? Are they working alone or in active connivance with insiders? What is their grouse or grievances if any? Why is the Army not getting the desired support and cooperation from those statutorily mandated to do so? Unless we find satisfactory answers to these questions and nip them in the bud, the Army will continue to be unappreciated.
It is important to note that the Nigerian Army remains the most dependable organisation in the whole public structure of Nigeria and has recorded numerous achievements than any other organisation. It has remained a symbol of national unity and cohesion and kept Nigeria one unified entity. It has sustained the current democratic governance in Nigeria and remain one of the formidable symbol of our national power. The Nigerian Army has gone beyond its statutory responsibility to undertake numerous operations and humanitarian activities in aid of civil authority to maintain peace and security in support of democratic governance. This is something to be proud of, cherished and celebrated.
In conclusion, people should know that the Nigerian Army is their Army and whatever affects it has direct consequences to national security and unity. Therefore, the unnecessary distraction and campaign of calumny against the leadership and the Nigerian Army generally, are not in the best interest of this nation. As Nigerians we should be proud of our Armed Forces in line with what is obtained in other climes. Nigerians should come together and support the Army to succeed in its constitutional responsibility.
Happy NADCEL 2020 @ 157 Nigerian Army! We are proud of you more than ever before!
Yes, governors should not sign death warrants for armed forces
It took a compelling trip earlier in the week to Jos, the capital of Plateau State, for me to come to grips with the reason why most governors are reluctant to exercise the power conferred on them by Section 212 of the 1999 Constitution, which gives state governors in the country the power to sign death warrants that would enable prison authorities execute inmates condemned to death by courts of law. The same section of our law also gives governors the power to exercise the prerogative of mercy under the advice of the State Advisory Council, to review or commute the death sentence to other forms of punishment.
Though I was in Jos on an official assignment, I readily welcomed the opportunity to accompany a friend whose wife has been awaiting trial in Jos Prison for close to two years now. It was in the course of that visit that I was informed about a young woman named Miss Janet Makelan, who has been condemned to death by hanging for an offense she definitely did not commit.
Two years ago, I read an interview with a very senior lawyer who wondered why only the children of the poor and helpless are on death row in this country. The pathetic case of Janet is a further manifestation of that allegation.
She was only 16 years and at home one fateful morning, 13 years ago, when two of her uncles met her at home on their way to farm and demanded that she took drinking water for them in the farm in the forenoon. Janet complied and when she met the uncles in the farm in the afternoon, they were almost done with farm work. Tired and exhausted, they saw the water brought to them by their niece as a kind of gold. They gulped it in entirety in just a few moments.
As Janet was heading out of the farm however, she saw a gang of seven men going in. She greeted them and continued on her way back home. A few moments later, however, she heard the shrill cries of one of her uncles, and when she rushed back, she saw the men attacking him with hoes. Within a minute or so, they had inflicted deep cuts in his body and they took to their heels, leaving the man in a pool of blood.
Janet then raised the alarm, which made it possible for sympathizers to pursue the assailants. It was in the process that one of the people, also a relation of hers, threw a hoe at one of the escaping assailants, hitting him on the head. The man that was hit collapsed and was taken to the hospital. He and the person earlier attacked, Janet’s uncle, were admitted in the same hospital ward. A few days later, however, the man hit by a hoe died, while Janet’s uncle recovered.
Janet’s parents were also indisposed and on admission at hospital when this incident happened. She was the most senior of her siblings and, therefore, in charge of the house. One day, several days after the person attacked with hoe died, Janet saw several police cars pulling up near her compound. She then heard a knock on the door, and when she went to open it, she was asked to go in and call Janet. She told the policemen she was the one. She was arrested there and then, and taken into custody on arrival at the police station in her village, near Billiri, in Gombe State. She did not returned to that house until five years later when she was granted bail by the court.
From then on all sorts of allegations started flying around. On one account, it was said that the policemen investigating the matter met Janet’s grandfather and asked him to “settle” them so that they could turn in a favorable report on his granddaughter and three sons. The old man, however, rejected that suggestion, insisting that they committed no offense to warrant him settling anybody.
Another allegation had it that the judge himself made a similar demand for bribe, which Janet’s grandfather again rejected. Infuriated with that action, it was alleged that the judge changed the date he had earlier picked for ruling on the matter, from three months to just one day.
Just before he pronounced judgement on the four accused members of the same family, the judge asked whether any of them had anything to say. It was then that the person who attacked the deceased made a passionate appeal for his three relations to be released, saying he was the one who inadvertently committed the offense and there was no reason to rope the others in.
That plea however, fell on deaf ears, as the judge ridiculously sentenced all four of them to death by hanging. It was profoundly shocking, more so as the judge refused to listen to Janet’s plea that she was under-aged and could not be roped in for an offense she did not commit. Absurdly, her offense was the alarm she raised when her uncle was attacked.
The blood of many Nigerians presently on death row will surely be on the hands of any governor who signs death warrants that will lead to innocent compatriots getting killed. This column welcomes the decision of our governors not to sign such death licenses since they are not sure as to how the verdict of death was passed on those condemned Nigerians. Many of it is simply because families of the victims could not part with money to the police investigating officers or even the judges. What a shame!!
Why Nigerians hate the police force
Let me start this with a disclaimer: in terms of professionalism and integrity, the Nigerian police force has some of the best law enforcement officers in the whole world. But it also has some of the worst. Clearly, it is because of the latter that the Nigeria Police is rated the worst in the world. Of 127 countries measured in the World Internal Security and Police Index, Nigeria’s police ranks as the worst, just below DR Congo, Kenya and Uganda, to make up the bottom four.
I have never met IGP Mohammed Adamu, the incumbent Inspector-General of the Nigerian Police Force, but I have enough information at my disposal to vouch for his patriotism and integrity. I have also met many credible police officers, such as the present police commissioner of Kano State, CP Habu Sani, a man of deep integrity and professionalism of the highest hue, and a few others either serving or retired, including my good friend IGP Solomon Arase, another embodiment of decency and professionalism who served as the 18th Inspector-General of Nigeria Police, between 2015 and 2016.
One of the global indices used in measuring performance of the police is how the citizens of that country perceive it. Talking about the case of Janet Makelan, who has unjustly been condemned to death by hanging, what has since become clear is that the investigating police officers deliberately inflated her age just to ensure she did not get any reprieve.
There is also the case of Hindatu, a young married woman, an indigene of Sokoto, who was ridiculously accused of kidnapping two male adults from Jos. Though the mother of one of the boys told the police that she had suspected the boys were killed in Miango, where they went to attend a wedding the same day violence erupted in the town, the police in Jos who investigated the matter decided that that feasible angle was not worth exploring. All they were interested in was framing the woman who, even their investigation established, had never been to Jos or even stepped out of her native Sokoto in her entire life. In building a case against the young woman, they relied on theories that are at best ridiculous and thoroughly absurd. This column will publish details of this case after it has been decided early next month, to guard against contempt of court. We trust in the ability of the judge to see through all the shenanigans and dispense justice devoid of any sentiment.
It is amazing that the police in Nigeria that has such decent officers, as the ones cited above and indeed lots more, would also be inhabited with rogues whose interest is framing innocent individuals, especially when their palms are not greased. Nigeria should not continue incarcerating innocent citizens just because they do not have resources to hire good lawyers or the money to bribe investigating police officers. The very good and hardworking IGP Adamu should devote lots of attention to this matter, and write his name in gold and also gain the pleasure of the Lord, our Creator, who abhors injustice.