By Bolaji Ogundele, Abuja; Precious Igbowelundu, Oluwakemi Dauda, Oyebola Owolabi and Alao Abiodun
President inaugurates Lagos-Ibadan rail, Sanwo-Olu’s security equipment
Maritime security project takes off
’Lagos mention not reference to Tinubu’
President Muhammadu Buhari reiterated on Thursday his determination to “firmly and decisively” secure the country.
He said his shooting-on-sight order for illegal bearers of AK 47 rifles and other assault weapons remained in force.
He condemned attacks on police stations and other government assets and wanton killing of security operatives.
The President spoke on insecurity and other critical national issues at two different fora – an interview with panellists on Arise News TV aired yesterday morning and at the inauguration of equipment procured for the police by the Lagos State government.
“Let me also use this opportunity to reiterate that my directive to security agencies, to shoot any person or persons found illegally wielding AK-47s and other assault weapons, remains in place.
“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.
“To effectively accomplish this goal, however, we require the support of all stakeholders, including the other tiers of government, and non-government actors like traditional, community and religious leaders, the private sector, civil society organisations, and citizens themselves.
“Security is a collective effort, and credible intelligence, which is a necessary ingredient for preventing and fighting crime, cannot be obtained without the full cooperation of citizens and communities,” the President said.
Buhari said the new equipment would boost the morale of officers and men.
“This is even more touching in the light of the unwarranted violence that ensued in the wake of the ENDSARS protests last October, which saw the security architecture in Lagos state being severely damaged.
“It is commendable that Lagos State, the Centre of Excellence, has shown a truly resilient spirit, in the face of the massive destruction it suffered last October. You did not allow yourselves to be deterred by the severe setback.
“Instead, you have bounced back and are now boldly rebuilding the confidence of residents and investors in the State.
“I acknowledge the initiative taken to kick-start the rebuilding process, through the establishment of the Lagos State Rebuild Trust Fund, and through this very laudable effort by the Lagos State Security Trust Fund. I enjoin other State Governments to emulate your bold, proactive and resourceful initiative.
In the interview of Arise TV News, the President warned the youths to embrace peace if they want jobs to be created so that they can work.
He said in response to a question on the low inflow of Foreign Direct Investment.
“Nobody is going to invest in an insecure environment. Tell the youths that if they want jobs they should behave themselves. Nobody will invest in an unstable environment. So you behave yourselves, make Nigeria secure so that foreigners will invest.”
The President also inaugurated the Lagos-Ibadan rail project for commercial use and $519 million Nigeria Maritime Administration and Safety (NIMASA) Deep Blue Security Project.
Lagos State Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu delivered crime-fighting equipment, including 150 units of double cabin vehicles, 30 patrol saloon cars, four high-capacity troop carriers and two anti-riot water cannon vehicles to the police at the ceremony held at the Police College in Ikeja.
War against bandits in Northeast ‘very difficult’
He said he had asked the police and the military to treat bandits in the Northwest “in the language they understand.”
Buhari said the security crisis in the region was partly fueled by unemployment and poverty.
He said he believed the majority of the Boko Haram members are Nigerians after being told so by Borno State Governor Babagana Zulum.
According to him, his government had done a lot to fight the terrorists but the problem in the “Northeast is very difficult.”
He said: “Problem in the Northwest – you have people over there stealing each other’s cattle and burning each other’s villages. We are going to treat them in the language they understand.
“We have given the police and the military the power to be ruthless. You watch it in a few weeks, 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 can’t control the public.
“If you allow hunger, the government is going to be in trouble and we don’t want to be in trouble. We are already in enough trouble. So we warn them sooner than later you’ll see the difference.”
‘IPOB a dot in a circle’
The President added that with the assurance of “the elderly people” and “the youth” of the Southsouth that the region had no intention of seceding, IPOB has no escape route.
Buhari reiterated his statement that IPOB members will be treated in the “language that they understand”.
“I was encouraged by what I heard, nobody told me. Two statements from the Southsouth: one by the elderly people, they said this time around there would be no (secession). And again the youth made the same statement; such encouragement.
“So that IPOB is just like a dot in a circle. Even if they want to exit, they’ll have no access to anywhere. And the way they are spread all over the country, having businesses and properties. I don’t think IPOB knows what they are talking about.”
“In any case, we say we’ll talk to them in the language that they understand. We’ll organise the police and the military to pursue them.”
Gazettes on open grazing, cattle routes to be dusted
The President said farmer-herder clashes had persisted because old cattle routes and grazing areas had been affected by development.
His words: “I have asked to dig up gazettes of the First Republic. There are cattle routes and grazing areas. The routes and the areas are known. You have to stay there and if you allow your cattle to stray into another person’s farm you will be arrested.’
“Their route is known; grazing area is known. So, I asked for the gazette to make sure that those who encroached on the cattle route and grazing areas will be dispossessed.
“There’s a cattle thing between the Tivs and Fulanis. The Governor of Benue, Samuel Ortom, said I’m not disciplining the cattle rearers because I’m one of them.
“I cannot say I’m not one of them but Ortom was unfair to me and I told him that the Nigerian cattle rearer was not carrying anything more than a stick or machete to cut some trees.
“But those sophisticated ones are going with AK 47. Fulani from some parts of Africa looks the same. They think they are the Nigerian ones. So, I assure you we are trying to resuscitate these cattle routes and grazing areas and make them accountable.”
My appointment not lopsided
Buhari said he appointed Maj-Gen. Farouk Yahaya as the chief of Army Staff because of his on-field experience.
The President said: “Do you know where he was serving before he became the chief of army staff? Maiduguri. You can’t just pick somebody just because he is wearing the seniority rank.
“You put somebody who has been in the mill, who has suffered with the soldiers. They know him, and he fought with them and so on. “
‘My appointments are based on merit’
On alleged lopsided appointments, the President said his decisions had always been based on seniority.
He said: “You’re saying someone who had 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.”