•In ARISE NEWS exclusive interview, president orders security agencies to be ruthless
He stated that the removal of service chiefs and the appointment of officers, who have been at the theatre of operation and command the respect of fellow soldiers will ease the insecurity in the country.
He described the security situation in the North-east and North-west as overwhelming.
However, he said the government was on top of the situation, adding that bandits are now being treated as criminals and are currently suffering heavy casualties but are unwilling to admit it for fear of losing their recruitment constituency.
He said: “Try and appreciate what the federal government has done. One, we have removed all the service chiefs and the Inspector-General of Police; made new ones. We allowed them to go round and see the problem. They have been part of it all the time but now they are in charge and we made sure that their priority is to make sure they bring normalcy. They have to accept the responsibility of their offices and perform. We are working very hard on this but we cannot give it much publicity so that we can take the criminals unawares.
“The problem in the North-east and the South-south we understand them, but the North-west, same people, same culture, killing each other, stealing each other’s cattle, burning their villages.
“As I said, we are going to treat them in the language they understand. We have given the military and the police power to be ruthless and you watch it, in a few weeks’ time there will be a difference- because we told them, ‘if we keep people away from their farm, we are going to starve and the government cannot control the public.’
“If you allow hunger to permeate the whole society, the government will be in trouble and we don’t want to be in trouble. We are already in enough trouble. I can assure you that sooner than later you will see the difference.”
The president reiterated his commitment to go after the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) and the Eastern Security Network (ESN) by treating them in the language they understand.
He added: “I said it, and we will do it. My statement about speaking the language (they understand) is very simple. It is meant for all criminals in Nigeria. What it means for the IPOB is that I will go after them through the military and police and rid them of their criminal tendencies. I have no regrets whatsoever…..”
On allegation that his appointments of service chiefs were lopsided as they did not reflect federal character, Buhari said he could not be forced to appoint unqualified people.
He added: “You’re saying someone who has gone through military and police training all his life should not be appointed to lead the military or police department he works with just because we must balance appointments? What are you saying? The system didn’t restrict anyone from joining the military or the police, and if you decided not to join, we will not force you, but you too will not force us to bring someone who is not qualified in training and experience when it comes to leadership of these institutions just because we want to balance some appointments…”
On the appointment of Chief of Army Staff, Maj. Gen. Farouk Yahaya, Buhari stated that he could not just pick anybody because of seniority, adding that he appointed someone who has been in the military, worked and fought with the soldiers, and is well known to them.
He said: “When you look at NNPC, military, the people who have been there for 18 years or 10 years, trained in Zaria, or Abeokuta. They came through the ranks and because they served under all the circumstances and they gradually rise to that status. Those positions have to be earned. There are people who have been there for 10 to 15 years. When you join, you go through the programme and you rise through the system.”
The president also downplayed the concerns over which region will produce his successor, saying his party, the All Progressives Congress (APC), has the final say on whether his successor will emerge from the South or the North.
According to him, the APC’s recently concluded membership registration is designed to rid the party of godfathers and give members across board a say in the party.
“We should allow the party to decide. I have just told you that we have started from the bottom-up and I gave the acting chairman the end of June to submit a report on the convention we are going to conduct and then arrange the general election, all elections till 2023. We have started this from the bottom up so that members of the party will feel they are involved in decision making. Nobody is just going to sit in Lagos and tell them what to do. This is what we are arranging.
“Succession plan depends on the party. We are going to leave that to the party. The party will sit and make a decision by the constituencies that they won and so on. So, those who want to be president, they better join APC,” he said.
Buhari added that the controversial railway to the Niger Republic will be of immense economic benefits to Nigeria.
When completed, he said, Nigeria would benefit from the import and export trades of Niger Republic, which currently go through Benin Republic.
“How many rail routes do you have? You have to cultivate our neighbours. If you don’t, you will be in trouble. If you could recall, when I came on board, I had to go to Chad, Niger, and Cameroon, which was what happened with Boko Haram. If we were not on good terms with the three countries, Boko Haram would have done worst things to us than this. About Niger, our border with Niger is about 1,400 kilometres. On Niger, I have to tell you this: the Europeans in 1885 sat down with ruler and pencil and drew lines and I say I have first cousins in Niger Republic. There are Kanuris, there are Hausas, there are Fulanis in Niger Republic, just as there are Yorubas in Republic of Benin. You can’t absolutely cut them off.
“But the rail, look at the plan, if you watch the plan and why we are constructing the railway. Niger has discovered oil as you know and we don’t want them to go through Benin Republic. We want them to come through Nigeria. We hope that they will send through Maradi all their exports, through Nigeria rather than through Benin Republic.
“With the roads and the railways working, those from Maiduguri to Port Harcourt, those from Kano to Lagos and so on, definitely, if you make the infrastructure, road, rail, work, I can assure you that Nigerians will keep themselves very busy and they will leave you alone.
“But when the roads are not working, the roads are virtually crippled, people will have so much time to harass you,” he stated.
On how he will spend his time after his presidency in 2023, Buhari said he would retire to his farm.
“I have never avoided my farm. I still have got a number of cattle. When I leave, I will still, go to my farm daily. I will try and keep myself busy. Between now and then, I will keep on convincing Nigerians that I mean very well. I will make sure that the few identifiable problems that we have, security, economy, fight against corruption, we will continue to work on it, and as I said, visibly, we have made progress in the North-east, we have made progress in the South-south but I am overwhelmed almost in the North-west and they are going to get it very soon,” he added.
Asked what will be his legacy, he said: “I will like Nigerians to discuss it, I hope they will be fair to me. I wouldn’t like to say it myself. I will like Nigerians to try and spend time when we came, both the security and the economy, where we were for the eight years I may be around and try to look at it, I hope Nigerians will be fair to me. This is all I need.”
Directs AGF to Recover Land for Herdsmen
On efforts by his administration to resolve the crisis of open grazing, which is the main driver of farmer-herder conflict, Buhari said he had asked the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami, to recover designated routes created during the First Republic for cattle movements.
According to him, the land will be recovered from persons who have converted cattle grazing routes to personal use.
He said the grazing routes were designated in the First Republic when “Nigerians use to obey laws” but those routes had been converted.
When asked if he agreed with the AGF’s position that the 17 Southern governors lacked powers to ban open grazing, Buhari said: “You want me to contradict my attorney-general?
“What I did was ask him to go and dig the gazette of the First Republic when people were obeying laws. There were cattle routes and grazing areas. Cattle routes were for when they (herdsmen) are moving up country, north to south or east to west, they had to go through there.
“If you allow your cattle to stray into any farm, you are arrested. The farmer is invited to submit his claims. The khadi or the judge will say pay this amount and if you can’t the cattle is sold. And if there is any benefit, you are given and people were behaving themselves and in the grazing areas, they built dams, put windmills in some places there were even veterinary departments so that the herders are limited. Their route is known, their grazing area is known.
“But I am telling you, this rushing to the centre (sic) so I asked for the gazette to make sure that those who encroached on these cattle routes and grazing areas will be dispossessed in law and try to bring some order back into the cattle grazing.”
He also condemned the reactions of Benue State Governor, Dr. Samuel Ortom, who had accused him of failing to take actions against herdsmen because they are his Fulani kinsmen.
According to him, although he is a Fulani, Ortom is being unfair to him.
He said he had told Ortom that the herdsmen perpetrating the attacks were not Nigerians.
Buhari added that the Tivs, which form the majority in Benue, and the Fulanis had been engaged in cultural conflicts for a long time.
“The problem is trying to understand the culture of the cattle rearers. There is a cultural difference between the Tivs and the Fulanis. So, the governor of Benue said I am not disciplining the cattle rearers because I am one of them.
“I cannot say I am not one of them, but he is being very unfair to me and I told him that the Nigerian cattle rearer was not carrying anything more than a stick sometimes with a machete to cut some trees and feed his cattle but those sophisticated ones move with AK-47.
“So, from other areas, people rush to Nigeria you know and Fulanis from Mauritania and Central Africa look the same. So, they feel they are the Nigerian ones and I assure you that we are trying to resuscitate these cattle routes, grazing areas and make them accountable.”
Buhari urged the state governors to also find a lasting solution to the problem.
On when his administration will restore the operations of Twitter in Nigeria, the president deflected, saying he would keep that to himself.
Asked if it was time for state police in the face of daunting security challenges facing the country, the president said in the past the traditional institutions were effective in tackling security.
He added that recently, two South-west governors visited him to complain about herdsmen encroaching on farmers’ land in their regions.
He said he told the governors that “you know these people more than I do, and you are democratically elected to protect your people. Don’t sit idly expecting me to do everything, take action.”
Fighting Corruption in Democratic Setting Difficult, Says Buhari
Buhari also said that fighting corruption in a democratic setting was a difficult task to accomplish.
According to him, the war against corruption has not been easy for him since he became a democratically elected president.
He, however, added that his administration has succeeded in easing out corrupt public officials without making noise about it.
Buhari stated that much was achieved in the fight against corruption when he was military head of state in the early 80s, adding that “a lot of people were sent to prisons before I was also booted out.”
Responding to the clamour for devolution of powers, the president lamented that the local government system has been killed, adding that if the federal, state and local governments are operated as stipulated in the constitution, the country won’t be in a crisis now.
He said: “But the problem is the local government has been virtually killed and this is not good for this country because those who became the local government chairmen have been compromised. If your local government is entitled to receive N300 million and later you are only given N100 million and the chairman will keep quiet…..is that how we will continue?”
More Personnel, Salary Increase for Police
Meanwhile, the president yesterday disclosed that he has directed National Salaries, Incomes and Wages Commission (NSIWC) to carry out an upward review of salaries of policemen.
The president also stated that 10,000 new personnel are being recruited into the force, declaring that no administration since 1999 was as committed as his administration in reforming and repositioning the Nigeria Police Force and national policing architecture.
Buhari spoke yesterday in Lagos at the official launch of newly procured security equipment, including hundreds of patrol vans for the state security agencies by the Lagos State Government at the Parade Ground, Police College, Ikeja, Lagos.
‘‘In 2019, I signed into law the Act establishing the Nigeria Police Trust Fund, the first in the history of the Force, to provide guaranteed funding to support Police welfare, logistics and equipment.
‘‘In September 2020, I assented to the Bill amending the Nigeria Police Act, which was originally enacted in 1943.
‘‘This new Act, a vast improvement over the old one, among other things spells out the modalities for the implementation of a National Community Policing Scheme in Nigeria.
‘‘This new scheme will build confidence within our local communities and make them active stakeholders in the safety and security of their environs.
‘‘We are currently recruiting 10,000 new Police officers to reinforce our personnel capacity across the country. In addition to this, I have directed the National Salaries, Incomes and Wages Commission to carry out an upward review of Police salaries and benefits,’’ he said.
He reiterated his directive to security operatives to shoot-on-sight anyone found to be wielding AK-47 and other assault weapons.
The President also vowed that his administration will act firmly and decisively ‘‘against any and all persons fomenting or carrying out attacks on our Police Force and other security personnel.’’
Buhari warned that ‘‘a nation that turns its Police personnel and infrastructure into targets of violence and destruction is a nation on the path of self-destruction.’’
‘‘As Commander-in-chief, my primary responsibility remains the security of the country and the safety of all citizens. Despite the many challenges we are facing, I want Nigerians to rest assured that we will secure this country.
‘‘We will secure our infrastructure, our highways, our communities, and our forests, and we will secure the lives of our people,’’ he said.
The President told members of the Nigeria Police that as the government strives to improve their welfare and capacity, the citizens equally had expectations from them.
‘‘First let me commend the Inspector-General of Police and the entire Force for the recent efforts to restore peace to troubled parts of the country.
‘‘I have charged the Inspector-General to leave no stone unturned in rebuilding the morale of his officers and men, especially in the aftermath of the mindless violence associated with the EndSARS protests, as well as the recent spate of attacks on Police Stations in some parts of the country,” he said.
President Has a Choice Between War, Dialogue, Says Ohanaeze
Meanwhile, the pan Yoruba sociopolitical group, Afenifere and the apex Igbo sociopolitical organisation, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, in reacting to President Muhammadu Buhari’s statements during the interview, faulted his position on some of the issues he addressed.
Afenifere described Buhari as a person who has sheer contempt for Nigerians and is an unrepentant tribalist.
However, Ohanaeze Ndigbo urged him to embrace dialogue, because he has a choice between dialogue and war in the handling of the crisis in the South-east.
The Ohanaeze Ndigbo asked Buhari to use dialogue instead of confrontations in tackling the challenge.
The organisation lamented that Nigeria has come to a critical juncture “with the present level of violence in Nigeria, armed robbery, banditry, kidnappings, unknown gunmen, herdsmen menace, Boko Haram, mass poverty, unemployment, the downward spiral of Nigerian currency and other untoward signals.”
Ohanaeze, in a statement by its National Publicity Secretary, Chief Chiedozie Alex Ogbonnia said both history and literature had shown that the decision taken by a leader at a critical juncture had a lasting effect on society.
It added: “President Buhari has a choice between dialogue on one hand and an avoidable war against the Igbo on the other. Again, history shows that our thoughts are very infinitesimal to the immutable law of the universe.”
The statement said Ohanaeze Ndigbo had followed with deep concern the security sequence targeted at the Igbo; namely: “The deliberate posting of Northern military and police officers at the various strategic locations in the South-east, the special National Security Council meeting, where major decisions were taken for the South-east and the South-south to the utter exclusion of security personnel from the South-east of Nigeria; the ominous launching of the Operation Restore Peace in the South-east and South-south, the Shoot-on- sight order by the Inspector General of Police targeted at the Igbo youths, and the shocking tweet where Mr. President stated that ‘those of us in the fields for 30 months, who went through the war, will treat them in the language they understand.”
According to Ohanaeze Ndigbo, the agitation by IPOB became heightened due to the exclusion of the Igbo in Buhari’s government, adding that the president has not in any way hidden his disdain for those that failed to vote for him en-masse in 2015 and 2019 general elections.
“Ohanaeze Ndigbo has cautioned that the unprecedented lopsidedness of the Nigerian government in favour of the Fulani, to the exclusion of other ethnic groups, especially in the security architecture, will rather exacerbate the internal security challenges in the country. History shows that leaders who espoused ethnocentric ideology, especially in Africa, had often created more problems than they intended to solve,” Ohanaeze said.
It described the agitation by Igbo youth over marginalisation as justified.
It, however, added that in spite of the orchestrated alienation of the Igbo, it remains committed to a diplomatic approach towards a restructured Nigeria that guarantees equity, fairness and rule of law.
Also, the Secretary General of Afenifere, Chief Sola Ebiseni, said yesterday while reacting to Buhari’s interview on ARISE News Channel, that “first, his arranged interview on Arise Television is not a substitute for the clamour of Nigerians that the president, as the father of the federation, should speak to Nigerians in these critical times. “Secondly, his engagement was full of lies, inconsistencies, contradictions and utter disrespect for the ethnic nationalities, including their elected governors. He is pathetically unschooled in the constitution which he often claims to guide him in spite of its manifest flaws.
“The president’s claim that his appointment in the armed forces is based on merit and seniority and not to satisfy geopolitical zones, is a violation of the letters and intendment of the provisions of Sections 217-220 dealing with the armed forces of the federation and appointments thereto.
“Specifically, Section 217 (3) provides that the composition of the officer corps and other ranks of the armed forces of the federation shall reflect the federal character of Nigeria.
“In Section 219, all the powers given the president, including the appointment of service chiefs, is subject to the Act of the National Assembly ensuring the reflection of the federal character. Even his latest appointment of the chief of army staff, is flawed particularly on seniority.
“The constitution never contemplates nor approve of the situation under Buhari where 90 per cent of the commanding heights of the armed forces and security architecture will be from only Northern Nigeria and only the two zones of North-east and North-west”.
Afenifere accused Buhari of taking delight in ridiculing the Ndigbo, which he used IPOB to represent.
“Thus, to him, the Igbo and their territory is just a dot in a circle of the map of Nigeria, which even if they secede, could exit to nowhere since the elders and youths of the South-south had assured him of not being part of the secessionist agenda. He couldn’t have been reacting to the IPOB but the Igbo who he said had businesses everywhere. His utterances were very un-presidential and in the mode of common expressions with some unidentifiable northern organisations.”
Afenifere stated that Buhari owned up to the statements of his media aide, Garba Shehu, that the ban on open grazing by the governors was illegal.
It said the president contradicted himself when he admitted that he asked two of the South-west governors to exercise “a non-existent powers” to deal with terrorists herdsmen who he acknowledged bear arms, even as foreigners against Nigerian citizens.”
Afenifere regretted that the president “has no solution rather than the braggadocio of re-opening grazing routes in states by repossessing such lands for his beloved herdsmen.”
It added that the Yoruba people are solidly behind their governors, adding that not an inch of land in the territory will be carved out for any grazing reserves.