President Muhammadu Buhari has hinted at plan to reorganise the security apparatus, including the armed forces and police personnel to deal with the growing security challenges across the country.
This is coming against the background of a groundswell of calls for the sack of service chiefs by Nigerians.
However, in a nationwide New Year message to mark the beginning of 2021, the president said the country’s security apparatus and personnel would be reenergised “to push back and dismantle the operations of both internal and external extremist and criminal groups waging war against our communities in some parts of the country.”
“In line with the current security challenges we are facing as a Nation, I would like to reiterate the promise I made recently when over 300 of our boys abducted from Government Science Secondary School, Kankara were successfully rescued by our security operatives.
“The professionalism shown by our Security Forces and the collaboration from all stakeholders across both State and Federal Governments that led to the successful rescue of the boys is proof that Nigeria has the internal capacity to decisively deal with terror attacks on our citizens.
“However, we recognize that we rapidly have to move to a more proactive and pre-emptive posture to ensure that these sorts of traumatic incidents do not become a norm.
“Our administration is fully aware of the responsibility we have to protect the lives and property of all Nigerians, and we will not relent in learning and adapting to changing threats to our national security and civic wellbeing,” he said.
The president said the persistence of various forms of violence meant that in the most affected parts of the country, the fabric of inter-communal harmony woven through years of investment of effort at building trust, mutual respect, and harmony was being threatened.
He said insecurity as a challenge had direct repercussions on national economic stability, growth and development, setting the country back at critical points through the destruction of public and private investments.
“In parts of the country where chronic poverty, social exclusion, and disillusionment among sections of the youth were already a problem, the cycles of violence that have been unleashed by mindless groups like Boko Haram and others have thwarted the efforts of government to undertake the social policy and associated investments that could make a huge difference in the quality of life of our citizens.
“I am aware that for some of our compatriots, the progress we have registered since the inception of this administration is not nearly as fast or as sufficient as they would wish. I do not begrudge them their views in so far as they signify a wish, in which we all share, for only the very best for our country.
“Nevertheless, I call upon all Nigerians to carefully recall the circumstances of our coming to office, the facts on the ground and the resources at our disposal since 2015 with the accomplishments of this administration.
“As a people, we have shown admirable resilience in the face of every adversity, an unmatched capacity to recover speedily from every setback, an unparalleled generosity of spirit when we resolve our differences, and a constant readiness to invest faith and hope in the destiny we share as a united country built on the diversity of its peoples.
“It is these attributes that underpin the Nigerian spirit of ‘can do, will do’ that gives me hope that we shall yet get to destination and fulfill our calling together, especially with the solid resolutions we are setting in this new year,” he said.
The president also assured that the ongoing challenges in the country would be faced head-on with renewed determination and with all the appropriateness and urgency required.
“Your voices have been heard and we would continue to listen to you, and all the key stakeholders who are committed to the unity of Nigeria to ensure that every region of this nation is safe for us all, while guaranteeing that the future is also secure for the coming generation.
“I wish to also use this occasion of New Year to reaffirm my commitment to the people of Nigeria, especially the youth who need our collective encouragement and support. In securing this nation we need to secure the future of our youth.
“Our young people are our most valuable natural resource, at home and abroad. Their ingenuity, creativity, innovation and entrepreneurial spirit is evident to all. Many of our young people are excelling in various spheres of life including sports, entertainment, information and communication technology, commerce and are globally recognized as achievers,” he said.
He said the federal government was committed to actively engaging with the creative energies of young people in the country.
“In this regard, we will partner with the legislature to develop an enabling environment to turn their passions into ideas that can be supported, groomed and scaled across regions. This will create vast opportunities in fintech, agriculture, business process startups and in the entertainment industry.
“The year 2021 will indeed be a year where we will work to reinforce the hopes of fellow Nigerians in the vision of a united and progressive Nigeria,” he said.
He said the present administration would continue focus on delivering key strategic priorities under its SEA (Security, Economy and Anti-Corruption) agenda.
He said government would focus on revamping the economy through the national economic diversification agenda that supports the primary goal of national food self-sufficiency. “This has helped reduce the growing food related inflationary figures and have in considerable measure positively impacted our food security status during the long months of the pandemic lock down.
“We are also currently rebuilding our national infrastructure base and, in the process, introducing transformation through the rehabilitation, modernization, and expansion of the railway system, national roads and bridges both in rural and urban centres, alongside the airports and seaports.
“The reforms we have put in place in the power sector would guarantee increased efficiency in our drive to significantly expand the generation and distribution of electricity for use in homes and factories.
“As an administration, we are currently undertaking a series of special interventions designed to boost job creation and support the entrepreneurial drive of our youths.
“With the recent opening of our borders, we expect that the pent-up demand of legitimate cross-border and international trade will boost the fortunes of the many small businesses and agricultural enterprises that depend on Nigeria’s trade and commerce.
“The message to our West African neighbours is that Nigeria is once again fully open for those willing to conduct business in a fair and equitable way,” he said.
The president also spoke on the fight against corruption, saying the federal government has recorded “substantial gains so far.”
He said the fight against corruption would be intensified in 2021.
“On the anti-corruption drive of our administration, we have recorded substantial gains so far and this year, we are committed to continuing along the path of eradicating corruption, through collaboration with all the arms of Government to effectively prosecute this fight.
“While we would be working with the legislature to enact laws that would strengthen this fight, we would also be looking at reviewing some of our laws which would ensure that this fight is more effective.
“On the part of the executive, we would ensure the diligent and timely prosecution of corruption cases, while appealing to the judiciary to ensure that corruption cases are dispensed with expeditiously,” he said.
On COVID-19 pandemic
The president also expressed concern over the devastating effects of COVID-19, and called on Nigerians to strictly observe the stipulated guidelines and protocols.
“Keeping our country on a forward march is a duty which we all have and share. In this regard, keeping our country safe from a resurgent cycle of COVID-19 as this administration finalizes its plans to procure and efficiently and effectively distribute the COVID-19 vaccines, I urge you all fellow citizens to observe strict COVID-19 prevention protocols.
“As your elected president, my pledge to you is the same as it has always been; I will play my part fully and without fear or favour. I invite all of us to do the same. It is what we owe to the founding generation of our beloved country and also to the coming generation. It is what we desire for national prosperity for all demands,” he said.
ACF on camels
Meanwhile, the pan-northern socio-political group, the Arewa Consultative Forum, has raised the alarm that camels were now being allegedly used to bring in “Rocket Propelled Grenades RPGs” and “anti-aircraft guns” into the country through northern borders.
ACF National Chairman Audu Ogbeh disclosed this Thursday in a statement personally signed by him, a copy of which was made available to Blueprint.
He said the weapons were being ferried into the country from a neighbouring country.
The alarm was coming barley 48 hours after Oyo state Governor Seyi Makinde said some criminal elements from West African countries were entering Nigeria.
Reinforcing the governor’s position in a statement titled, ‘Our borders and insecurity,’ and released in Kaduna by its national publicity scribe, Emmanuel Yawe, the ACF said it got the clue from its members in Sokoto and Zamfara-two Nigerian states that share border with Niger Republic.
Ogbeh said: “Already, it is speculated that weapons as dangerous as Rocket Propelled Grenades RPGs, and anti-aircraft guns are part of the cargo ferried by camels freely into our country from neighbouring countries.”
The statement further claimed camels bringing in the consignments (weapons) were not being checked by security operatives.
He added it would do the nation a lot of good if the federal government should handle the situation promptly.
Ogbeh, a former agriculture minister under the present administration, further alleged that ransom money being paid to kidnappers was being used for illegal arms purchase.
“At the last meeting of our National Executive Council, NEC, in October 2020, our members, particularly from Sokoto and Zamfara, reported that large consignments of Camels were crossing our borders into Nigeria with a lot of baggage on their backs on a daily basis.
“And they observed that nobody checks their baggage and nobody knows what is being brought into Nigeria. The question Arewa Consultative Forum would like to ask the security agencies is what are the camels carrying and where they are heading?
“The ACF is alarmed that this kind of situation should persist at a time when weapons of all kinds are coming into our country and worsening the climate of terror and national uncertainty,” the statement said.
Continuing, the ACF said: “It is clear now from what we know that, as victims pay ransoms to the kidnappers the money is instantly converted to more sophisticated weapons and instruments of death by the kidnappers.
“The capacity of these terrorists is rising by the day and we are not far from the moment when the terrorist will become better armed than our accredited security agencies.
“The ACF wants to alert the government about this situation, if they are not aware of it and if they are aware of it, to ask what they are doing about it.
“Already, it is speculated that weapons as dangerous as Rocket Propelled Grenades RPGs, and anti-aircraft guns are part of the cargo ferried by camels freely into our country from neighbouring countries. It will do the nation a great deal of good to deal with this situation immediately. The ACF is deeply worried.”