By Bolaji Ogundele
To raise the bar in the fight against insurgency, more weapons and fighter aircraft are being imported, President Muhammadu Buhari told governors on Tuesday.
According to him, the military hardware are being imported from the United States, China and Jordan.
But the President called on Nigerians to be patient before the new equipment could be deployed because of the need to train the pilots who will fly the fighter jets.
Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar gave a hint last week in Kainji, Niger State when he said 12 Super Tucano jets were coming from the United States to join the fleet of the Air Force.
President Buhari met with the Security Committee of the Nigeria Governors Forum (NGF) at the Villa Council Chambers. With him were Vice President Yemi Osinbajo and heads of security and intelligence agencies.
Six members of the NGF (one per geo-political zone) joined the meeting via zoom.
They are: Babajide Sanwo-Olu (Lagos), Kayode Fayemi (Ekiti), Yahaya Bello (Kogi), Babagana Zulum (Borno), David Umahi (Ebonyi) and Duoye Diri (Beyelsa).
President Buhari has been holding meetings on security since Sunday.
The President dispelled assumptions that the terrorists in the Northeast had better weapons and more money. He described what is left of them are “mere scavengers desperate for food, raiding shops and markets, and killing innocent persons in the process.”
He also expressed concern that despite the closure of borders with neighbouring countries, bandits and terrorists continued to have access to small weapons.
“These terrorists are in the localities. How is it that they are not short of small arms?” he queried the security and intelligence chiefs.
The President added: “We have said enough on the need for them to rejig their operations. I am glad that there is better synergy and cooperation, which are very important.
“I have directed the Service Chiefs to meet among themselves in-between the National Security Council meetings. The services have resources; yes, they need more, and mobility, and are doing their best, but there is a need for better gathering and interpretation of intelligence. Our intelligence-gathering must be improved.”
President Buhari also expressed satisfaction with the level of support from neighbouring countries in the war against terrorism.
“They are cooperating with us. On Boko Haram, we are making progress with Benin, Niger, Chad and Cameroon.” He said intelligence-gathering must improve to be able to track small arms in the Northwest, North Central and Northeast States.
The President also expressed satisfaction with the level of Naval activity in the Gulf of Guinea, using newly-acquired equipment. But, he said that hard-to-reach areas of Lake Chad where Boko Haram terrorists have found new havens must be combed by troops. He ordered that the forests now inhabited by bandits must be accessed and rid of nefarious elements.
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“The Chief of Defence Staff has spoken about their study of the forests and their potential danger to security. We must make sure we follow the bandits and terrorists, but there must not be deforestation in view of the climate situation,” the President Buhari said.
The meeting agreed that poverty and youth unemployment are the root causes of the widespread insecurity across the country.
It called for a joint strategy to bring various conflicts to an end within time limits, while field commanders would take measures to protect civilian communities as a confidence-building mechanism between the military and those communities.
The meeting also hoped that when the trust that had been lost between the communities and the armed forces are re-established, there would be improved cooperation in intelligence-gathering and sharing.
In their submissions, Fayemi and Zulum highlighted the problems of poverty, unemployment, trust deficit between the military and civilian populations and the inflow of small arms into the country.
The governors also pointed to the problem of coordination among military and security chiefs and played up their own security roles, which included USD1 billion they allowed the President to withdraw from the Excess Crude Account for weapons procurement two years ago. The governors urged the President to consider a “bail out” for security for the States in view of the enormity of the resources they now expend in support of the military and the police.