31 Jul

The week ahead – Buhari must really begin to change things

President Buhari responded to the threat of the Niger Delta situation with the appointment of a seasoned peace and security expert, retired Brigadier-General P.T Boroh, an ethnic Ijaw, from Sagbama Local Government Area of Bayelsa state. Recall Mr Government Ekpemuopolo alias Tompolo had summoned a meeting of former commanders of MEND to appraise the failing amnesty deal last weekend but it took the intervention of the former president, Jonathan and the three governors from the region to get him to shelve the parley. This shows a reactionary side to President Buhari’s 60-day old government, and lends credence to the beliefs of those who accuse the government of not having any coherent Niger Delta policy.

A troubling revelation by a recent security survey on illegal jetties scattered across Nigeria’s shoreline shows that they are a source for trafficking of small arms, oil bunkering, smuggling and other criminal acts that undermine national and economic security.

Also this week, President Buhari ordered the Directorate of State Services to crack down on fuel marketers, who are carrying out all kinds of sharp practices within the downstream industry. This new role by the DSS is coming on the heels of accusation by the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, that the DG of the SSS served as the intelligence chief for the APC presidential campaign, and will not be a fair arbiter in discharging national security responsibilities.

Still on Boko Haram
Meanwhile, the Boko Haram terrorist group continued with debilitating raids and suicide bombings using young girls and women. However, there was a positive story this week as the Nigerian Air Force successfully cut off the group’s fuel supply line, along the Nigerian-Cameroon border. This was achieved through coordinated intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance.

The Army also recaptured Dikwa, and in the process, set the captives of Boko Haram free. The Chief of Army Staff, Lt.General Yusuf Buratai also suggested the army will set up a Motorcycle Battalion to enable the troops navigate the rough terrain that cannot be accessed with infantry fighting vehicles. We suggest manufacturing such motorcycles in-country as a way of creating employment.

The President visited Cameroon during the week and met with Paul Biya in order to fashion out ways and means of tackling Boko Haram, especially their cross-border raids. It is expected that the partnership at the Multinational Joint Task Force will make for a very decisive fighting force. President Paul Biya has been elusive since the outbreak of the insurgency. His inaction contributed to the terror group using his country as a rear base for years. It is heart warming that he has finally agreed to work closely with President Buhari.

Kidnapping in the South-East
The menace of kidnapping continues in the South-East, but there was positive news with the arrest of a kidnapper, Henry Chibueze, by the Imo Police Command. “Vampire” as he is known, led a transnational gang operating in Cameroon, Congo, Benin Republic and Nigeria, and assisted by a soldier who ran away from the North-East battle theatre. Most of the group were captured when they attempted to kidnap a tribunal Judge in Imo. The syndicate is blamed for killing over three hundred people.

Peace in the National Assembly at last?
After a thirty minute meeting with President Buhari, the House of Representatives agreed to a resolution of the seemingly intractable crisis that has engulfed the body since inauguration. But it is not yet uhuru as the distribution and appointment of committee chairmen may become another battle ground. The Senate crisis on the other hand, looks set to continue with the police and the courts now heavily involved in the resolution.

  • Recommendations
    The Niger Delta must not be handled with kid gloves. We urge president Buhari not to adopt a reactionary stance on the subject matter, and advise him to engage the critical stakeholders through the new appointee, and ensure we derive lasting peace and development in the region.
  • The office of the National Security Adviser is advised to clamp down on illegal jetties, and also investigate both the legal ones to ascertain the kind of activities that are being carried out.
  • President Buhari ran on a ‘CHANGE’ message. The fact that presidents since 1999 appointed their kinsmen as the DG of the domestic intelligence service does not mean he should do same, especially with the knowledge that he won a very divisive election. We can only conclude that such a sectional approach will not augur well for national security.
  • We commend the Nigerian military for their successes this week, and advise that the Defence HQ increase capacity for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance in order to deny Boko Haram freedom to operate and communicate. Also, a Mountain Battalion is recommended for the North East due to the nature of the terrain.
  • While we commend the police in Imo State for dismantling the transnational kidnapping syndicate operating from the state, we urge the Police HQ to continue with training and re-training to reposition the service towards tackling the menace.
  • We urge the Senate to resolve the crisis amicably so the nation call move forward.