“For those of us that are part of the military establishments, the country, particularly for reasons that have to do with bigotry at the highest level of our security organizations, we seem to be heading towards complete anarchy. The signs are very clear each day you review the security situation in the country and how the leadership is being misguided to taking decisions that are counter-productive to our national interest and survival as a nation.
“In any nation, the day security forces, particularly the Police and the Army for reasons that have to do with injustice and corruption in their respective establishments, decide not to obey superior orders directly while in the line of their duty as we are gradually witnessing in Nigeria today, that nation if care is not taken is heading for total breakdown of law and order. I am afraid that for some of us that knew, this is the situation in Nigeria today”.
These were the words of a retired Army General and a former member of General Babangida’s Armed Forces Ruling Council (AFRC) in a secret discussion on the state of the nation with Desert Herald magazine.
Even though the recently passed Freedom of Information Bill was meant to ease the difficulties and hazards of investigative reporting, it has not been effective due to the typical attitude of Nigerian politicians and those in position of authority.
Desert Herald magazine in an effort to unravel the security debacle associated with the Boko Haram insurgency and killings spree, conducted an in-depth investigation on the failure of Nigeria’s security agencies (despite billions of naira being expended in the name of security votes by both the federal government and some state governments in the North-East) to deal with what many believe to be a common threat to national survival, peace and security.
From September 2010 when the Boko Haram killings escalated in Maiduguri ostensibly as a reprisal attack for the extrajudicial killing of their spiritual leader, late Muhammed Yusuf and hundreds of the Boko Haram followers allegedly on the instruction of the former Borno strongman, Senator Ali Modu Sheriff, to date, over 1000 security personnel comprising of the Army, Police, Immigration, Custom, Civil Defence Corp and SSS as exclusively gathered by Desert Herald magazine from official sources that pleaded for anonymity, lost their lives to the Boko Haram insurgency and sophistication.
At the moment and according to our sources, over 200 Police and military officers are nursing various degrees of injuries mostly sustained during attacks by the radical Islamic sect. The Police, according to credible information and statistics at our disposal, have recorded the highest number of deaths and casualties as a result of Boko Haram attacks with nearly 700 officers so far killed and more than 160 conservatively left at the mercy of their families and well wishers for their treatments as a result of gun shots and bomb attacks they met in the line of duty. And for the first time in the history of the Nigeria Police Force, the frequency of officers rejecting postings to volatile areas like Maiduguri, Damaturu and Potiskum, leading many abandoning their duty posts or submitting their resignation letters as alternatives to suck postings which they believe are tantamount to giving out their lives to a nation that does not value and honour such lives with adequate compensation after they are killed or maimed is alarming on the increase as exclusively gathered by Desert Herald magazine. Also, instances where both soldiers and the Police chose to run for dear lives or removing their uniforms to disguise as civilians during Boko Haram operations instead of protecting the people is no longer news, particularly to residents of Maiduguri, Damaturu, Alkaleri, Azare, Bauchi, Kaduna, Kano and Potiskum where such attacks have recently recorded high casualties on the part of the security personnel.
The most frightening scenario, according to Desert Herald magazine investigation, is that the morale, zeal, patriotism and the desire to sacrifice their (soldiers and police) lives in the ‘war’ against Boko Haram has gone with the fear of official corruption in the system that prevented training and retraining, motivational allowances commesurate with the hazards of the job they do, inadequate and lack of modern arms and equipment and the delay or failure to pay families of several officers that lost their lives or sustained serious injuries as a result of their commitment and sacrifice to the fight against the Boko Haram sect.
Investigation by this reporter reveals that such cases which have already affected the psyche of several officers have of recent worsen in the Nigeria Police where insiders confided that more than 70 percent of the officers that lost their lives to the ‘war’ against Boko Haram were yet to be paid their entitlements or any commensurate motivational allowance leaving their poor families in abject poverty and in many cases finding it difficult to even feed themselves or to pay for their children school fees. Also, the inability of the Police authorities and in some cases the military too to shoulder full responsibility of officers that sustained injuries in the line of duty despite provision for such eventualities by government has greatly discouraged many officers from dedicating themselves in securing a nation that gives them virtually nothing in return.
“That is why in most cases and during most of the attacks on police stations you will notice police officers removing their uniforms and even dropping their guns and running to near by houses to hide. The soldiers too were not exempted of recent. The truth is that our country’s security forces do not have the type of sophisticated weapons and mind the Boko Haram members possess. It is not their fault. It is the greed and corruption in the system. Why will they be so stupid to sacrifice their lives while the so called army Generals, Inspector-General of Police, DIGs, AIGs and CPsare intimidating them with their alleged loots; the loots that supposed to cover their welfare and hazards? Some of them (junior officers) are guarding the mansions of such ogas and they watch day and night how money and valuables are brought as proceeds of the money that supposed to go to them. Many of them are buying edifices worth N500million in choice areas in Abuja. Where did they get the money from? Do you expect junior officers to sacrifice their lives watching the recklessness and greed of the superior officers? That is why the fight against Boko Haram is irrational because President Goodluck Jonathan cannot succeed.
“If the Americans with all their intelligence, pay package, attractive condition of service and transparency in managing such resources failed in fighting the Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan 12 years after invading the country and now looking desperately for reconciliation and truce with the ‘terrorists’, I wonder how far Nigeria can go in confronting the Boko Haram with all those shortcomings under Jonathan notwithstanding the military cooperation between US and Nigeria in this regard. Whether Jonathan accepts it or not, the only option to this crisis in view of the crisis in Nigerian security system and the corruption is to engage the Boko Haram in meaningful dialogue because the Nigerian Government under him does not have the capacity to engage armed militants in insurgency operations”, a former Commissioner of Police revealed to this reporter.
The most visible signs of the failure of the ‘war’ against Boko Haram, according to former FCT Minister, Malam Nasir el-Rufa’i, is that when you are approaching the SSS headquarters in Abuja, “The SSS because of the fear of Boko Haram attack and as a clear sign that they too are struggling to protect themselves not the citizens have completely blocked the other express road leading to their office along Aso Rock, forcing commuters to use only one lane. When you interact with them, you will discover that most of them are inexperienced and un-intelligent of the job”, he said
The recent Kano attack, which the Boko Haram sect claimed responsibility, has demonstrated not only the failure of intelligence that may have averted the destruction and loss but the need to review the welfare, capability and size of Nigerian security if only to attract officers to dedicate themselves in sourcing and providing useful intelligence and to be prepared to sacrifice themselves for future security challenges. For more than 14 hours, the sect held the commercial city of Kano hostage with both the Police and the Army unable to confront their excesses resulting in unacceptably high casualties and the death of more 200 persons.
Ironically, instead of security agencies to follow and attack the insurgents, it was the other way round; it was the sect pursuing them in their own homes and offices and killing them with impunity with little or no resistance. It is now clear that most junior officers are no longer willing to sacrifice their lives due to high level corruption in virtually all the security agencies which has worsen their living conditions particularly after sustaining injuries or death while in active service.
It is because of same crisis of corruption, greed and inefficiency particularly in the police, according to former Lagos state commissioner of police, Alhaji Abubakar Tsav, that the sudden removal of Hafiz Ringim as Inspector-General of Police, will not change the situation or usher-in any progress in the fight against Boko Haram sect . He opined that while Boko Haram are patriotic, dedicated and determined in fighting what they believe in, it is contrary on the part of our security agencies despite the billions of tax payers money at their disposal for effective service delivery.
Tsav told Desert Herald magazine that “the removal of Hafiz Ringim will not provide solution to the insecurity bedeviling the nation. The depleting of trained and experienced manpower of the police service each time there is a security challenge is panicky and counterproductive.
Each time such attack happens, experienced and trained officers are retired, creating room for mediocre. If government must change the leadership of the police, we accept that the background and service records of the person to be appointed be discretely scrutinized by the appropriate agency of government”.
Tsav also cautioned that, “what is the guarantee that the new IGP would be better than the outgoing in service delivery? You do not cut-off your nose to spite your face”.
Tsav believes that , “the problem with Nigeria Police is crude corruption and in-fighting between the IGP and other senior officers especially the DIGs and the AIGs rivalry”.
The issue of corruption or using such security votes dedicated to the fight against the Boko Haram sect as a conduit pipe is not only limited to the army and the police. At states level, particularly in states that are prone to the sect’s attacks, looting of public funds is gradually shifting from lucrative ministries like Health, Education, Works and Local Government Affairs to fraudulent and controversial security votes that presumably will escape future investigation by the EFCC.
In Yobe state for instance, it was gathered that the state governor, Ibrahim Geidam had within four months, claimed to have squandered a whooping N1billion even though he failed to prevent the sect’s coordinated attacks and unlike other states like the neighboring Borno. Geidam, despite the huge bill on security, did not come to the aid of those that were devastated or displaced either by the attacks of the sect or the recklessness of security operatives mostly after such attacks by way of intimidating innocent people or even killing them in several instances. After banning commercial motor cycle business in Potiskum and Damaturu and replaced with few Keke NAPEP, the facility was alleged to have been shared out by Geidam’s self-appointed council chairmen and other politicians.
In Potiskum, it was gathered that the council chairman, Umaru Mammadu Kori, allocated to himself five of the Keke while majority of those targeted to benefit were denied. He also allocated one Keke to one Muhammadu Guza, the vice chairman II, Salisu Awwal got one and Musa Lawan also got one.
While the ban on achaba, according to the authorities was meant to prevent the use of motorcycles for further attacks, the implication on the lives of the people and even security wise are many. In Yobe, where the government has not made adequate provision for the highly inflated Keke NAPEP, the main preoccupation of the people is the acaba business, while those engaged in car wash and road side mechanics also rely on achaba operators for their means of livelihood.
Also, majority of parents that cannot afford to own a car, rely on achaba to transport their children to and from schools. The difficulty on the side of parents and the alarming joblessness as a result of the ban, pundits opine, will breed more crimes than solving it.
Pundits further opined that if Ringim was subjected to pressure that led to his sack, the bulk of the security failure is on the National Security Adviser (NSA), General Andrew Owoye Azazi (Rtd) and the Director-General of Department of State Security for failing to provide useful intelligence that will halt most of the successful Boko Haram attacks, particularly the bombing of the UN building in Abuja and the recent siege on Kano and Kaduna, that targeted mainly police formations and the SSS offices.
Incidentally, both the NSA and the DG of the SSS are from the Niger Delta region as the President himself. It was reliably gathered that within the SSS, there is a lot of politics on how to tackle the Boko Haram crisis and most importantly, who among the officers will be trusted with such a sensitive assignment. An officer of the SSS who pleaded for anonymity, revealed that the present leadership of the security agency has been infiltrated by all manner of bigotry notably religious. “Our officers of northern extraction are now working under suspicion because the leadership does not trust them. They now see the northern Muslims as either Boko Haramites or sympathizers to the activities of the sect. President Jonathan himself knows what was in his mind when he declared without any evidence to back his claims that Boko Haram has infiltrated the security agencies. Just pay a visit to the SSS headquarters and witness how senior and experienced Muslim officers from the north are rendered redundant and virtually jobless on account of their faith or region. The current DG has even recalled retired officers from the South and engaged them while others that are in service with unquestionable devotion and loyalty are now rendered redundant and frustrated. Is that policy in the interest of the SSS, the nation and the fight against Boko Haram? He lamented.
He said any security organization that has the mixture of Muslims and Christians and allows religious bigotry to consume it will never succeed particularly in confronting challenges such as that of Boko Haram.
Another controversy that requires urgent investigation if the Jonathan administration is serious in unraveling some of the killings in the name of Boko Haram sect is the recent bombshell revealed by Sheikh Abubakar Sheksu (Supreme Leader of the sect) in a released video after the Kano attacks claimed by the sect. Shekau denied the mass killings of innocent civilians by his ‘soldiers’ during the attacks on targeted police, military, immigration, SSS and customs formations.
He blamed it on the conspiracy of security personnel, saying that they should be held responsible for the dastardly act. He insisted that his men know their
targets and that the government too knows whom they are targeting not the ordinary civilians on the streets that equally victims of injustice.
Until some of thev recent allegations against the security agencies, particularly the civilian casualties that are being recorded after each attack by Boko Haram, are thoroughly investigated by government, crisis of lack of confidence and trust on the government by the people will undermine all efforts for a secured nation. As it is, the public have lost confidence and trust in the security agencies. In fact, they see them as even worse than the identified Boko Haram sect due to the incidences in Maiduguri and Damaturu where people claimed that the security forces had killed and still killing hundreds of innocent people in the aftermath of the Boko Haram attacks to deceive the Jonathan administration to believing falsehood. The failure to investigate such wanton killings in the past resulted in committing several crimes against humanity by some security operatives. Even if Shekau’s claim cannot be relied upon, there is an urgent need for the government to investigate how over 200 innocent persons died due to gun shots during the recent Kano attacks.
Another argument by security experts and other commentators on national affairs is that President Goodluck’s resolve to confront Boko Haram with military might or to eliminate them in his words may definitely end up what former American President George Bush Jr. promised to achieve against the Talibans and Al-Qaeda which the Americans despite their technology and military prowess failed woefully to achieve in 11 years after the September 11 attack on the World Trade Centre.
The aftermath of the Kano attacks by the radical Islamist group, how it was well coordinated, hitting its target and the devastating effect has made President Jonathan who hitherto had opposed any form of dialogue to extend an olive branch to the sect for dialogue that seems too late.
But because of how the crisis was poorly managed and underestimated by the President at the initial stage of the insurgency, prompted him to be making very uncomplimentary public statements that were provocative and unwise for a leader in such situation against the sect, whom many believe are being sponsored from within and outside Nigeria and out-rightly rejected the president’s offer for dialogue describing it as “mischievous and insincere”.
Apparently, asking for a near-impossible demand as a condition to accept to discuss with the president. Leader of the sect, Sheikh Shekau said in a posted video clip on YouTube that for them to accept to dialogue with the Jonathan administration that they consider satanic, President Jonathan must first convert to Islam. As impossible as the demand according to many government officials is, public opinion however agreed that the sect made the demand because they are not convinced of the sincerity of the president for a genuine and sincere dialogue, considering several conflicting, inconsistent and unguided utterances of the president on how his administration intends to confront the issue. The president himself believes that the sect is faceless and hence negotiating with them will not be possible. He told Reuters news agency in Abuja, that if the sect clearly identifies itself now and state its reason (s) for confronting government or why they are killing innocent people and destroying their properties, then there may be a basis for dialogue.
“We will dialogue, let us know their problems and we will solve them but if they refuse to identify themselves, who will you dialogue with”? But pundits argued that if the government is really committed to dialogue, they have the channels to follow to reach out to the sect leadership. They also argued that if truly Shekau’s Boko Haram is under sponsorship, it will be counterproductive to his interest to publicly accept the president’s offer of negotiation with the manner the president extended the invitation through the media because if the dialogue suffers any set back, Shekau’s interest too and that of his followers from those allegedly sponsoring them will be jeopardized. Boko Haram according to elder statesman who is also a respected indigene of Borno, Dr Shettima Ali Monguno, are not ghosts and their immediate society knows everything about them because almost all of them have parents in the very communities they operate.
Even though, the president has now acknowledged the fact that military intervention alone cannot eliminate the sect, an enabling environment for young people to find jobs is desirable.