Chief Osita E. Okereke is the director-general, National Commission for the Prohibition of Illegal Importation of Small Arms, Ammunitions and Light Weapons (NATFORCE).
He is also the national chairman of the African Liberation Party (ALP) and a one-time presidential candidate of the party.
In this interview with CHIZOBA OGBECHE, he speaks on activities of the task force, the country’s security challenges as well as the 2019 general elections.
What informed the recent NATFORCE’s national stakeholders meeting in Abuja? Yes, the meeting was conveyed by NATFORC executive and critical stakeholders.
The meeting became inevitable considering the level of security challenges Nigeria has to contend with ranging from farmers, herders’ crisis, high rate of kidnapping, killings and armed robbery among others.
In NATFORCE, we are determined as ever to employ all security strategies to address and arrest all security problems that have continued to ravage our beloved country and her citizens.
With God on our side, all social ills which have been a set-back to development such as illegal importation of fire arms, kidnappings, farmers/herders crisis etc, shall be addressed.
Our work is necessary considering the dangers insecurity posses, especially as our country is preparing for yet another general election next year and given the penchant of desperate politicians to take advantage of our youths as thugs and cause problems during their campaigns which is picking up as well as during the election proper.
You said the task force is necessary, but some people feel we already have too many of such agencies.
What is your take on this? I will disagree with such people because the creation of National Commission for the Prohibition of Illegal Importation/ Smuggling of Arms, Ammunition, Light Weapons Chemical Weapons, and Pipeline Vandalism in Nigeria has become very necessary owing to, first, the growing rate of crimes and criminalities associated with the use of such weapons, facilities, and apparatus.
The seriousness of the ugly situation associated with this trend in arms proliferation across the West African sub-region led to the establishment of the “ECOWAS Convention on Small Arms and Light Weapon, Their Ammunitions and Other Related Materials.” Following the Arab Spring, which spilled over to Libya culminating in a civil war and ouster of the former Libya leader, Muammar Gaddafi, a lot of arms and light weapons spread over the West African sub-region and one can only imaginable what could happen when such ‘tools’ find their way into the hands of adventure seeking youths.
We must bear in mind that the global economic glut coupled with the alarming rate of poverty and unemployment in the West African sub-region is already a cause for worry.
More so, population explosion continues to put the region in a precarious situation in the face of a world threatened by restiveness, terrorism, agitations, crime, and inordinate desire to go irate and create tension in the society.
In Nigeria, right from the days of the civil war, arms proliferation and crime wave escalated to the point that armed robbery and assassinations rose to their peaks through the mid 1970s and late 1980s.
These and more instances inspired the nationalist and patriotic vision of NATFORCE notwithstanding the argument that the country already has many other security outfits and agencies, it is on good record that the country is very much under policed.
The ratio of the available police officers to the entire population of the country shows that the nation is very poorly policed; and that the services being rendered by the Police is not enough to fight crime and criminality in the direction of the rate of arms proliferation as advanced by the ECOWAS Convention.
You will agree that despite the efforts of government at curbing the inflow of contraband goods into Nigeria, cases of their presence in large quantities still abound and this applies to small arms and ammunitions among others.
It is common knowledge that Nigeria’s borders are about the most porous in the West African sub-region, if not in Africa, giving rise to the need to create more security agencies and outfits.
However, these agencies have to be set up based on definite terms of reference with a view for such agencies and outfits to deal directly with the problem as posed.
Nigeria is signatory to the ECOWAS Convention; has it been domesticated? No, recent media reports indicate as much.
However, we continue to advocate for the right thing to be done.
Nigeria is reported to be the only country in West Africa yet to pass the Bill on the National Commission for the Prohibition of Illegal Importation/Smuggling of Arms, ammunitions, Light Weapons, Chemical Weapons and Pipeline Vandalism and it is pertinent that the Bill is passed before September ending because ECOWAS had given Nigeria an ultimatum.
We, therefore, urge for fast tracking of the process of providing recognition and government support to the national commission.
Let me state, however, that our Bill, “The National Commission for the prohibition of Illegal Importation of Small Arms, Ammunition and Light Weapons,” Bill No.
639 of 2014 moved by Hon.
Ibrahim Bello, has scaled 2nd reading in the House of Representatives, while awaiting the upper legislative chamber, the Senate, possibly when senators resume in September, after their annual vacation.
It is on this note that we want to commend the Speaker, Hon.
Yakubu Dogara, and Hon.
Nnenna Ukejie, for their zeal and commitment in ensuring that our Bill is passed for the benefit of all Nigerians.
Progress the Bill has made so far in the National Assembly has emboldened the commission to start working more assiduously towards curbing insecurity in the country especially as it concerns our mandate.
So, what should Nigerians expect from the Commission? Following our recent national executive stakeholders’ meeting, we have ordered all our state executives and members to go back to their various states and rearrange, re-organise and begin processes of recruitment in their states and local government areas.
We are targeting 300 jobs per local government area and we have put all necessary machinery in place to conduct recruitment and training in the six geopolitical zones of the country before the end of September 2018, in preparation of full operations.
These personnel would be trained and deployed to localities to ensure that proliferation of small arms and illegal weapons are checked effectively and invariably end frequent communal clashes and killings in parts of the country.
This is part of efforts by the Commission to contribute its quote in combating the rising wave of crime in the country.
I promise Nigerians that insecurity must be fought and peace restore across the federation.
It is worrisome that crime rate is on the increase despite the spirited efforts of the President Muhammadu Buhariled administration due to sabotage of those opposing his administration’s anticorruption efforts.
We, therefore, call on all security agencies to cooperate with us as no agency should be independent.
I urge the Inspector-General of Police (IGP) to get his men ready in order to support us and tackle all the lingering security challenges in the county.
We urge the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence (NSCDC), the Department of State Services (DSS) among others to rise in our support as Nigeria belongs to all of us.
The security challenges are too numerous to be left in the hands of a single agency or organisation no matter how equipped they may claim to be.
Let me make it clear that NATFORCE shall never be a liability to the government and Nigeria; rather it shall serve as a multipurpose revenue generation agency.
We are ready to generate more revenue than the Customs even if our sources of revenue generation are restricted to only in local government areas we can still contribute more to Nigeria’s GDP.
We have developed a time-tested revenue generation strategy for the federal government.
We are capable of generating over N6 trillion annually for the federal government without cost to the government.
How would you access the President Buhari-led administration,especially as it concerns the antigraft war? He has done well.
We have seen two former governors, one of whom is a serving senator and a member of the ruling APC jailed for corruption.
So, I can authoritatively say that the president has done well in the anti-corruption war notwithstanding all the obstacles that his administration in being confronted with.
Like the President put it, “corruption is fighting back.” I am happy that the President is not giving up.
He has kept the promise he made during his campaign and after coming into office to fight corruption so that the menace will not kill our country.
Let me use this opportunity to congratulate President Buhari on successes made especially the recognition as the Best President as it concerns anti-corruption in Africa, this feat is yet another feather to his personality and Nigerians as a whole.
It is a great honour for the country’s president to be recognised by his counterparts as doing well, that is what the African Union (AU) on July 4, 2017, at its 29th Ordinary Session of the Assembly of Heads of State and Government in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, did by unanimously endorsing President Buhari to lead the continent’s year-long campaign against corruption.
I urge everybody to support the President’s bid for second term in office because he is the only president that has created Jobs for the teeming unemployed Nigerian youth.
We are determined to stand with President Buhari because of his tested and trusted, integrity and truth and we shall mobilise Nigerian masses to protect every vote for Buhari during the 2019 general elections.
We are all eye-witnesses of how the President signed the Not-Too-Young-ToRun-Bill into Law giving opportunity for more Nigerian youths to seek party ticket to run for office.
I also urge all youths and women to give their full support to President Buhari.
We’ve seen a good number of cross-carpeting in recent times, but some people see it as democracy in action; do you agree? No, I don’t agree.
Nigerians should be very careful with all these politicians cross from one party to another because they are not defecting in the interest of Nigeria or Nigerians, but for their personal interest.
The same people cross- carpeted before the 2015 general elections and now they are going back to the same party they said wasn’t good.
What has changed? Again, if I may ask, why are they decamping to one of two political parties, while there are over 60 registered political parties in Nigeria? It should tell all right thinking Nigerians and all who have the interest of the country at heart that something doesn’t add up.
It is only in Nigeria that politicians use a political platform to come into office and after they win election on that platform, they defect to another without consultation with the people who elected them to office on that platform.
People defect at will when they have made enough money from a political office through people’s mandate.
I, therefore, call on Nigerian youths to stand up and defend their votes and not to vote for those that will use them and later dump them.
Politics is said to be about permanent interest, are you saying these politicians don’t have the right to seek platforms that best serve their interests? No, that is not what I am saying.
They can cross-carpet when there are genuine reasons to, but not to be moving arbitrarily.
Also, since the electorate voted for them they are supposed to consult extensively with their constituents before moving from the platform on which they were elected.
More so, they should relinquish the positions that were attracted by the platform because it belongs to the platform.
It is wrong to move with the positions.
I expect that would honourably resign from such offices.
Of all these people that have defected from one party to another, it is only former Governor of Akwa-Ibom state, Senator Godswill Akpabio, had the humility to resign his position as minority leader in the Senate.
Some people believe that the utterances of the new national chairman of the APC, Adams Oshiomhole, may put the party in jeopardy; what is your take on this? Well, I believe as a leader one has to be careful what one says at every point in time because you would be held accountable for it and it could have far reaching effects on not just your but the people you lead as well as your platform.
I urge the National Chairman of the ruling APC, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, to learn the game of politics and how to manage party crisis in the interest of national peace and unity.