— Captured terrorists plead for mercy — DHQ
Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Aminu Waziri Tambuwal, yesterday startled his colleagues with an emotion-laden speech in which he accused the federal government of failing in its war against Boko Haram in spite of the emergency rule going on in Adamawa, Borno and Yobe states.
He specifically lamented the killing of 59 students in Yobe by Boko Haram insurgents on February 25, the day on which the lower chamber of the National Assembly went on recess.
The speaker said the government, including the legislature, has run out of excuses because it has not been able to provide for the security and welfare of its citizens in line with Section 14 of the Constitution.
Tambuwal, who stated this in his address to welcome members back from their two-week working recess yesterday, noted that the new constitution to be passed has already put the funds of security agencies on first-line charge.
He, however, said that there should be a short-term plan or measures to deal decisively with Boko Haram.
Tambuwal said: “On February 25, 2014, the very day the House adjourned plenary, Nigeria suffered a horrendous terrorist attack that struck a fatal blow at the heart and soul of the Nigerian nation and desecrated values that decent people of all nations hold dear.
“On that night, about 59 students of Federal Government College, Buni Yadi, Yobe state, were killed in the most heinous manner. Some of our future national leaders were mowed down in gruesome circumstances in their sleep. Some were shot dead while many were burnt beyond recognition. That day was a day that will live in infamy in the history of this nation.
“When innocent, harmless and defenceless women and children become the target of these heartless, murderous bandits; when the lives of sleeping children are so callously snuffed out, it becomes clear that these agents of terror have murdered sleep and they henceforth deserve none.
“While we await the completion of the constitutional amendment process, in which we have thus sought to remove the funding bottleneck that impedes the operational effectiveness of our security institutions, we must, in the interim, adopt definite measures to ensure that the security agencies have all the support they need to put an end to this long-running orgy of bloodbath so that Nigerians can sleep with both eyes closed. That is the most basic service citizens expect from their government.
“My dear colleagues, let us not forget that we have in place a state of emergency in the three affected north-ast states, yet the killings have continued unabated in spite of the gallant efforts of our security forces. It is, therefore, clear that we need to come up with other ideas for a solution.”
The speaker added: “There are certain questions that this House must now ask: How do we ensure that the welfare of our military is effectively administered and that they have the appropriate equipment to execute their hazardous assignment?
“The sad events of recent weeks have once again made Nigerians ask whether monies appropriated for the welfare of our security forces are properly administered.
“How do we strengthen the intelligence gathering capabilities of our intelligence agencies?
“How do we encourage the Nigerian Police Force to institutionalise community policing as a framework for engaging local communities in a partnership for checking crime and terrorism?
“What about integrating local security structures into the regular security windows of the Nigerian Police Force with the federal, state and local governments, supporting them with necessary resources? Is it perhaps time for us to revisit the idea of state police?
“How do we develop an institutional framework for securing the land through a neighbourhood audit where a tab is kept on every member and every housing structure, whether completed or uncompleted?
“A fully engaged and strongly organised local population would not allow terrorism in their community or across their territory. Nigerian citizens must, therefore, be mobilised to take back their communities. Intelligence gathering will improve tremendously if security structures at the local levels are tapped effectively by the police.
“How do we institute a form of ‘Marshall Plan’ to effectively address the economic circumstances of the affected regions? Such a measure will serve to check youth restiveness, unemployment and mass poverty. The private sector also has a huge role to play in this.
“What about our traditional rulers, religious leaders and other stakeholders? Does the government now need to intensify engagement with these elders to take advantage of their unique position, wisdom and influence?
“These few suggestions are only intended to serve as stimuli for further discourse. I challenge my colleagues and other Nigerians to come forward with other ideas and solutions on how we can, as a nation, address this situation.”
Tambuwal’s speech shocked everybody in the chamber to the extent that some female members of the House were moved to tears.
Subsequently, the House adjourned for a week because it needed extra time to work on the 2014 budget.
Meanwhile, the Chief of Army Staff, Lieutenant General Kenneth Minimah, has relocated to the North-east to personally supervise the war against Boko Haram in the zone.
In a related development, the Defence Headquarters (DHQ) yesterday said that scores of wounded terrorists who escaped from various camps under the fire of security forces have been captured on the fringes of Lake Chad.
In a press release, the Director of Defence Information, Major General A.C. Olukolade, said: “The captured terrorists, some of whom are fatally wounded, are already making useful statements to interrogators of the Multi-National Joint Task Force. Others were captured by troops in locations around Dikwa, Cross Kauwa, Kukawa and Alargarmo.”
According to him, “In their confessions, it was revealed that some of the camps have been disbanded following the directive of their clerics who declared that the operation of the sect had come to an end as the mission could no longer be sustained. The terrorists, who are giving useful information as to the locations of their remnant forces, are full of apologies and pleas for their lives to be spared, promising to cooperate.
“They confirmed that starvation was a major problem, in addition to ceaseless bombardments on the camp locations even when they kept relocating.
“They also confirmed that several members of the group have been wounded and no treatment was forthcoming. Troops have continued their assault on other locations across the states covered by the state of emergency.”
Olukolade warned members of the public who have started visiting to engage in sight-seeing in some dislodged camps and fringes of forests such as Sambisa and others to desist from doing so as the tendency will no more be condoned where operations are still ongoing.
“The general area still remains a theatre and movement remains restricted as the environment has to be cleared for safety of citizens,” he said, adding: “The public will be informed when the locations are safe enough.”