By Musa Sunusi Ahmad
Governors of the 36 states of the federation yesterday sought for bailouts from the federal government to enable them finance the fight against the growing spate of insecurity in their respective domains.
They cited unemployment, poverty and the lack of trust between the military and the civilian population as major causes of the surge in insecurity, including insurgency, banditry , kidnapping and other forms of criminality in the states.
The state governors ended their meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari on the state of the nation’s security with calls for a joint strategy to bring various conflicts to an end within time limits.
The virtual meeting which lasted for three hours and coordinated by President Buhari was attended by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, heads of defence, security and intelligence agencies and members of the security committee of the NGF represented by one governor from each of the six geo-political zones.
agreed at the meeting held at the presidential villa that field commanders would take measures to protect civilian communities as a confidence-building mechanism between the military and those communities.
In their submissions anchored by chairman of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF) and Ekiti State governor, Kayode Fayemi and his Borno State counterpart, Babagana Zulum, the governors highlighted the problems of poverty, unemployment, trust deficit between the military and civilian populations and the inflow of small arms into the country.
Identifying the problem of coordination among military and security chiefs, the governors outlined their own security roles which they said include 1 billion they allowed the president to withdraw from the Excess Crude Account for weapons procurement two years ago.
Accordingly, they 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.
A statement by presidential spokesman, Mallam Garba Shehu, noted that the meeting observed that when the trust that has been lost between the military and civilians is re-established, there would be improved cooperation in intelligence-gathering and sharing.
He said the meeting also agreed that poverty and youth unemployment were at the root of the nationwide security challenges, and needed to be addressed with greater vigour by all tiers of government.
meeting, he added, focused on the country’s security policies and approaches in tackling the internal security challenges with a charge that intelligence-gathering and sharing must be optimised for the nation to secure itself.
Shehu said at the meeting, President Buhari dismissed some commonly held assumptions that the terrorists in the Northeast had far more weapons and money than the government.
The president said what was left of the insurgents are “mere scavengers desperate for food, raiding shops and markets, and killing innocent persons in the process.”
The presidential spokesman quoted Buhari as expressing concern that in spite of the fact that borders with neighbouring countries had been shut, bandits and terrorists continued to have access to small weapons.
To the security and intelligence chiefs, the president said, “These terrorists are in the localities. How is it that they are not short of small arms? 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.”
Buhari informed the governors of the imminent shipment of military weapons and aircraft from Jordan, China and the United States of America, even as he sought for patience on the part of the public, saying the new weapons and aircraft must be manned by trained fighters and pilots who must first receive appropriate training.
President Buhari was also quote as expressing 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, while restating that 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.
He however demanded that hard-to-reach areas of Lake Chad where Boko Haram terrorists have found new havens, as well as the forests now inhabited by bandits, must be accessed and rid of nefarious elements.
“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,” he added.