329 views | Sanusi Muhammad | June 18, 2020
SANUSI MUHAMMAD is a veteran journalist who worked closely with the office of the late National Security Advisor (NSA), Gen. Andrew Owoye Azazi at the heat of the Boko Haram insurgency before the late retired military officer was sacked. In this interview, Muhammad shared his experience and proffered the way out of the insecurity situation bedevilling Nigeria.
Remote cause (s) of Boko Haram insurgency
Muhammad: Several opinions were expressed on the issue you raised including those from security agencies. But the truth of the matter is that the insurgency based on my experience with a cross-section of the terrorists was caused by the selfish, interest of the terrorist leadership that nursed the tall ambition of controlling political power particularly in Borno, Yobe and other northeastern states. Muhammed Yusuf who led the group had a lust for political power by all means. The intention of the man was grossly misunderstood because he was intelligent, pretentiously humble and generous, courageous and smart. He made the maximum use of the opportunity at his disposal to establish himself on the political turf in Borno state. Not only that, he silently established his group in several states of the federation unknowingly to the security agencies except the Department of State Security Service (DSS) that made a formal report to the government on the excesses of the ‘cleric’ which were either ignored or treated with levity.
Role of former president Jonathan
Muhammad: Former president Jonathan came face to face with the problem after the death of his boss, Umaru Musa Yar Adu’a. Even though he was expected to have known the problem earlier, he had no power to act outside his jurisdiction. As the acting president, with all sincerity, he did all he could within his powers to normalize the situation although most of the time he acted on some concocted or stale security reports. In most of those reports submitted to the former president, there was no mention of the Shura Council of Boko Haram. The Shura Council unknowingly consisted of 12 members drawn from the states of the federation and served as the highest policy decision making body of the insurgents. So many claimants for extortion from government confused the situation to the extent that the former president got confused and lost direction. If members of the Shura Council were invited for sincere and honest discussion by government, the situation could have changed for better. But instead of the hidden Shura Council to be reached, all eyes and efforts were on Abubakar Shekau. Fraudsters like Aliyu Tishako etc were engaged by the government to proffer solution that never materialized. The late NSA had several sleepless nights on how to overcome the problem that was trying to cause the nation’s disintegration along religious line. Fortunately, it didn’t. As a retired military General, Andrew Azazi exhausted his over 30 years of military experience in the managing to defeat the insurgency without positive result as he wished. Although, he had a good team of players with intelligent experts drawn from the army, air force, navy etc but from the other end (the prone areas), there was no sincerity of purpose. Borno elders appeared then to be in support of the insurgents. The present NSA, Gen. Babagana Mungono was then the Commandant of Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) and hails from Borno state. He had bitter experience in handling the situation at that capacity so also the DSS. The Nigeria Police experienced the worst part of the insurgency. Several police officers were killed and police stations bombed including the Abuja national headquarters of the police during the tenure of IGP Hafiz Ringim. To be fair, former president Jonathan put in his best in handling the situation but he had no sincere helping hands and committed partners to win the war. Traditional, religious and community leaders were all afraid to talk or proffer solutions publicly then. Of all the federal committees appointed to proffer solutions, it was only the one chaired by Kabiru Tanimu Turaki SAN, former special duties minister that did a thorough job because I read almost all the reports submitted to the government. Some of the reports were mere imaginations and concocted stories to please and convince former president Jonathan that all was under false control.
Cause of Muhammed Yusuf’s death
Muhammad: Muhammad Yusuf was ordered to be killed by the powers that be. He was not just killed by the accused policemen as erroneously reported. The killing was a directive from the top.
Role of Sen. Ali Modu Sheriff
Muhammad: The former Borno state governor acted on a directive from the top but for certain official reasons, he conceived that to himself throughout allegations and accusations of compromise against him. Majority of the people were ignorant of the commendable roles played by Sen. Ali Modu Sheriff towards neutralizing the insurgents.
State some of those roles
Muhammad: I can only state those roles after clearing with security agencies. But I know most of the roles he played that deserve commendation. Mind you, I have never met the embattled former governor even once but through discreet investigative reports, I came to know of those roles.
The rising rate of insecurity in Nigeria
Muhammad: There are so many factors responsible for the unfortunate situation at hand. First, the Nigeria Police is poorly equipped and trained. Secondly, corruption has infiltrated the security agencies to the extent that criminals are recruited into security agencies at a fee, suspects bargain for their freedom at police stations not from the courts and thirdly, the people have lost confidence in the security agents because of past experiences of corrupt practices unlike before. Look at the ongoing shameless extortion by security personnel on the highways and at checkpoints. Once a driver agrees to part with few currency notes at roadblocks, he can confidently deliver whatever he was ferrying. These are some of the ways criminals possess firearms and ammunition for their deadly business. Custom and immigration personnel at our borders are mere agents of smugglers. The borders are closed but banned foreign goods are still available in our markets. Criminals from neighbouring countries are allowed into our country at a fee by immigration.
Several reports have been published on the excesses of our security agencies, most especially the Nigeria Police and the DSS. Look at what was obtainable at the Abuja SARS headquarters before it was exposed by Amnesty International. SARS headquarters was an extortion chamber, a slaughterhouse of the poor that could not strike the right bargain and centre of human rights abuse. Very poorly mannered and unintelligent police officers were posted there to kill, maim and extort from suspects against laid down rules. I was a regular visitor in line of duty to that former chamber of death. At inception, SARS under the command of ACP Rabi’u Deyi was an intelligent unit of the Nigeria Police and feared by criminals for its uncompromising posture but after his transfer, the unit became a replica of its former self. What the security agencies fail to understand is that a suspect is presumed innocent until found guilty by a court of competent jurisdiction. In some cases, the police have to be bribed by relatives of suspects before the suspects are charged to court. The Nigeria Police has murdered several suspects in custody laced with fictitious claims. The loss of confidence in the Nigeria Police and behaviour towards the public are contributing seriously to the rising rate of crime in the society because Nigerians believe the police have a price for settlement anytime they commit a crime. Our justice system is not helping matters either. Let me quickly add, that most people were ignorant of the negative roles some security agents played at the battlefront at the heat of the Boko Haram insurgency. Some of them were more Boko Haram than the insurgents at a negotiated fee while some were there primarily to loot and extort not to fight or defeat the insurgents. It is alleged that soldiers bribe their superior officers for outside postings because of extortion etc. There is an absence of free uniform and kits to soldiers and the police. Uniforms etc are bought by soldiers from personal savings. What is then happening to the yearly budgetary allocation for that purpose? The situation is bad but can be redeemed under the present president.
Muhammad: Honestly, in as much as the efforts of the present security chiefs towards sanitizing the country and its return to normalcy is appreciated, President Buhari is doing his uttermost best to overcome the situation within his powers, but he needs extra hands to support his efforts to fruition and within a specified time frame. As the late Head of State, Gen. Sani Abacha once established the Petroleum Trust Fund (PTF) and chaired by Gen. Muhammadu Buhari (Rtd) who happens to be the President today, for solutions to infrastructural decay at minimum cost and at the most appropriate time, let President Buhari also establish a Presidential Security Committee to be chaired by a retired military General with the required expertise to proffer solutions to the lingering security challenges that have defied applied solutions. Nigeria is blessed with some of the best talented military officers in the world that fought wars and normalized several unfortunate situations that befell other countries. Why should the country be under siege in the presence of such globally tested gallant officers? Why should cases of insurgency, kidnapping, cybercrime, banditry, ethno-religious crisis and rape be on the increase? Government has to look the other way to engage better hands to partner.
Muhammad: I may sound apologetic or on an errand of some selected top military brass but whatever may be interpreted from my opinion does not matter because my conscience is clear and is for the interest of Nigeria. The President should be bold enough to appoint any of the followings to chair the suggested committee. Generals, J.T Useni, Sani Abdu, Kenneth Minimah, Garba Duba, Gado Nasko and Letum Wiwa. For instance, Gen. J.T Useni is the most senior of the listed and has gathered experience of over 50 years in public service in both the military and civilian-led governments. He held several military appointments, participated in several wars and conflicts, held other responsible positions in government, chaired several globally recognized organizations and conversant with the situation at hand and how to overcome the challenges with passion and zeal. We all know of the roles played by Gen. Useni to stabilize Nigeria during the civil war and up to the time and death of Gen. Abacha.
He gave an unquantifiable contribution to the development of former Bendel State (Edo, Delta and Bayelsa) as military governor, the FCT as minister as well as the stability of national politics as a good player. He established the National Defense College. Gen. Useni was appointed as the National Chairman of Traditional Rulers Forum that proffered solution to the financial predicament of traditional rulers through the 5% Local Government Allocation to the traditional rulers. Again, he was instrumental to the restoration of peace in several areas of the country including Plateau state and the Tiv/Jukun crisis that defied solutions through dialogue. Why should Nigeria continue to neglect such a gift? Let President Buhari consider establishing the Presidential Security Committee to partner with other global bodies and bring to an end the security challenges ridiculing his administration.
Will Gen. Useni accept the responsibility?
Muhammad: Why not? What stops him from answering the clarion call of his beloved country at this critical time? Retirement from the army is not an excuse he can offer against the offer. After all, he only retired from the army but not tired of serving his country. He has global respect from most security organizations and from Nigeria’s traditional and religious leaders across the divide that would be ready and glad to support his assignment to success. The General will be glad to have a reunion with his constituency (military) and other security agencies in the national assignment and he will be glad to support his former military colleague who is the president to succeed in normalizing Nigeria within a given time frame. Mind you, there is no partisanship in the military and Gen. Useni is an erudite military officer who started his military career at a tender age in the then Boys Company until his retirement. He was dragged to play partisan politics to stabilize the polity and Nigeria. Honestly, I may be trumpeting the qualities of Gen. Useni to President Muhammadu Buhari, who knows him better in both the military and party politics because they were once actors in the same profession (military) and in a same political party (ANPP) and share so many things in common for the stability and progress of Nigeria and enjoy mutual respect, common understanding and sincerity of purpose in service to Nigeria.