Barely 24 hours after former President Olusegun Obasanjo alerted the nation over the rising spate of insecurity across the land, President Muhammadu Buhari Tuesday said those criticising his administration in that regard are unpatriotic.
Obasanjo, had, in yet another letter to President Buhari, expressed fear over the threatening security challenge facing the country, warning that except a quick fix is provided, the country might slide and go the way of Rwanda.
The former president, who called for national confab, also said there was the need to allow all ethnic groups, including the Fulani come out to express their grievances.
But in a veiled response, President Buhari said those criticising his administration’s handling of the security challenges across the country are unpatriotic. .
Speaking when he received national executives of the Buhari Campaign Organisation (BCO) in the State House Abuja, the president said those criticising him over the current insecurity in the country are not patriotic.
“Every country in the world has security challenges. While we have made significant progress in the fight against terrorism, we acknowledged that there are also new and emerging challenges like kidnapping and banditry.
“I assure you and Nigerians that we will not relent in our efforts to secure the country from criminal activities. Those who politicise the isolated cases of insecurity are not patriotic Nigerians.
“I’m confidence that this administration uses all resources at its disposal to protect the lives and property of all Nigerians and not just prominent Nigerians or those who make headlines.’’
On corruption, the president said his administration would continue to be tough on its ongoing crusade against corrupt practices in the country.
“We will continue to be tough on the cancer of corruption as you may be aware the African Union in its deliberations last year appointed me as African corruption champion for the continent. This is because other countries have seen our dedication to fighting corruption and are keen to emulate our approach,” he said.
The president also reiterated the determination of the All Progressives Congress-led federal government to lift 100 million Nigerians out of poverty.
He said policies and programmes put in place by the government to support farmers and small businesses had started yielding positive results.
“We remain committed to lifting 100 million Nigerians out of poverty in 10 years. Policies put in place to support farmers and small businesses are yielding positive results and we are determined to integrate them into the larger economy,” he said,
In his remarks, coordinator of the group, Mr. Danladi Pasali, said they were in the presidential villa to congratulate the president on his electoral victory in the recent presidential election.
He said the president’s electoral victory was ordained by God and the administration should be supported by all well-meaning citizens.
Also speaking Tuesday while receiving executive members of the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA), President Buhari said security remains the top priority of his administration.
The NMA was led on the visit by its president, Dr Francis Adedayo Faduyile, at the State House, Abuja.
He said successes recorded in degrading terrorists in the North- east would be extended to various parts of the country experiencing challenges.
The president said offenders took advantage of the focus on the North-east to commit crimes in other parts of the country.
“If you cannot secure a country or institution, you cannot manage it,’’ he said.
The president said efforts were still ongoing to improve employment level, following the success in getting many into the agricultural sector, saying opening up the economy for investments and getting the youths engaged will control crime rate.
On health and education, the president said states and local governments should play stronger roles in complementing the efforts of the federal government, especially in getting more children into classrooms.
“The issues of health and education are constitutional. If there are too many almajiris in a state, then the government is not following the constitution.
“The states also have elites who are educated enough to remind their governments about their responsibility to almajiris,’’ he said.
In his remarks, NMA president, Dr Faduyile congratulated President Buhari for winning a second term in office, attributing his return to efforts made by the government to reposition the country, especially in health sector, like establishment of a cancer centre in University of Lagos Teaching Hospital.
He also commended the president for always looking towards the NMA to appoint competent members for positions in the health sector, assuring that the medical association would continue to partner with the government to bring good health services to Nigerians.
He said there was need to make the National Health Insurance Scheme compulsory for all Nigerians, including those in the informal sector, as some special treatments, like cancer, would require funds that might be beyond the reach of many.
The NMA president also told the federal government to further strengthen the primary health care system, institute a health bank where medical professionals can access loans for facilities, remove duties on imported medical equipment and give more attention to security.
He canvassed that the budget on health should be improved from four to 15 per cent.
Senate expresses concern
However, the Senate Tuesday expressed the need for the federal government to act fast and curtail the rate of criminality across the country.
The upper legislative chamber made the call after debating a point of order moved by Senator Ayo Akinyelure (PDP Ondo Central) on the gruesome murder of Mrs. Funke Olakunrin, a daughter of the Afenifere leader, Pa Reuben Fasoranti by yet-to- be identified gunmen.
Akinyelure had drawn the attention of his colleagues to the state of insecurity in the nation, which he said had claimed many lives, including that of Mrs. Olakunrin who was killed by armed gang at Kajola on the Benin-Ore-Sagamu Road on July 12.
Akinyelure lamented the deplorable state of insecurity in the country leading to the kidnapping and killing of innocent citizens by some criminals on the major highways.
He noted with concern the rising level of insecurity along the Ife-Ilesha-Akure road, Kaduna-Abuja expressway, Akure-Owo- Ikare- Okene Road, Akure-Ikere Ekiti road, some parts of Edo state and other major highways in the eastern part of the country as widely reported in the media.
He said many travellers on Nigerian roads no longer feel safe because of fear of attacks by gunmen who often assault innocent people on the road on daily basis.
The senator said it had become most unsafe for users of flashy cars to travel from Akure to Abuja because of the fear of being attacked on the major highways which are full of potholes.
He said the development had forced many people to embrace travelling by flight which had made the airline operators to increase their fare for a 50-minute flight from about N20, 000 to N45, 000 in recent times.
He said the high rate of insecurity had reached an alarming rate and had significantly eroded peace and free movement of people, thus causing palpable fear and tension in the land.
He feared the situation might lead to a breakdown of law and order and ethno-communal clashes in the southern part of the country if adequate measures were not taken to fish out the perpetrators of the criminal acts and bring them to book accordingly.
“Despite the assurances received from the security agencies that they are on top of the situation, the existing security measures in place have not satisfactorily addressed the security challenges in many parts of the country,” the lawmaker said.
Similarly, Senator Tolu Odebiyi (APC Ogun West), who seconded the motion, said the Senate must not fold its arms and watch Nigerians lose their lives daily either to kidnappers or to bandits, but must immediately demand an action from necessary authorities to end the menace.
He said, “Nigeria cannot get it right as a nation if the issue of insecurity is not tackled. Just last week, the headquarters of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement has been taken to Ghana and this has a major economic impact on our nation.
“These are the implications of what happens when a nation fails to get its security situation right. We are mourning daily as innocent lives are being taken and the government is not doing anything about it.”
In his contribution, Deputy Senate Leader Ajayi Borrofice cautioned Nigerians against targeting a particular group as perpetrators of the heinous act which he argued was not targeted killing but a chance occurrence which can happen to anybody.
He said, “What I don’t want to subscribe to is to say that the act was perpetrated by a particular group or people. From the various reports that we have received in this chamber, Igbo have been killed, Hausa have been killed, Fulani have been killed and Yoruba have been killed also.
“We must therefore not succumb to the insinuations that what is happening in Nigeria is being perpetrated by a particular ethnic group. The perpetrators of a kidnap incident in Ondo state recently were indigenes of the state.”
He supported Vice President Yemi Osinbajo’s call for community policing and that the federal government should also intensify efforts in the area of job creation.
Also in another submission, Senator Nicholas Tofowomo (PDP Ondo South), said the nation’s internal security was in shambles and nothing to write home about.
He said, “We don’t even have any internal security. So, we cannot be talking of next level. We need a robust conference on our security arrangement in this country because the country cannot be talking of the next level without security.”
Other senators who contributed to the debate agreed that the security situation in the country had worsened and required urgent intervention by the three arms of government and the entire citizenry.
In his remark, Senate President Ahmad Lawan described the situation as unfortunate and lamented the rate at which the security challenge was spreading to other parts of the country.
He said, “The situation in the country is perverse. Every part of the country has one story or the other to tell on the situation. It is the duty of the Senate to hold an all inclusive national summit on security.
“The executive arm should also be involved because we have to work together to address the situation. The various interventions at the end of the day will bring the desired results.
“Some of our colleagues in their presentations suggested the convocation of a robust security summit on the security situation of the country. The national committee on security will address the situation.”
The senators thereafter observed a minute silence in honour of late Mrs. Olakunrin and commiserated with her family, especially her nonagenarian father on the gruesome murder.
They also resolved that the prevailing insecurity was creating problems of social protection with attendant effects on the nation’s economy since no foreign investors would be interested in a country with prevailing breakdown of law and order.
They asked the Inspector-General of Police Mohammed Adamu and the service chiefs to spread their dragnet to ensure killers of Olakunrin and other innocent Nigerians were apprehended and brought to justice.
It also urged the Federal Roads Maintenance Agency to accelerate action in fixing major federal highways where criminal elements usually hide to kidnap and kill innocent Nigerians.
The Senate also asked the local and state governments to cooperate and collaborate with relevant agencies with needed logistics in their respective areas,
It also directed the Budget office and the Senate Committee on Appropriation when constituted, to make adequate funds available in the 2020 budget for the joint operation of the armed forces and other security agencies.