By Egena Sunday Ode
Proceeds from kidnappings are used to fuel ongoing Boko Haram insurgency in the northeast, the Nigeria Governors Forum (NGF) has asserted.
Chairmen of the NGF and Governor of Ekiti state, Dr. Kayode Fayemi stated this after a meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari at the presidential villa, Abuja on Monday.
According to him: “There is a direct correlation, I’ve said this to you before, between insurgency in the northeast, and what we’re seeing manifesting itself as banditry in the northwest, or kidnapping in the southwest. Some of the people involved in these are also the ones responsible for insurgency.
“They are using the resources that they make from kidnapping for the activities that they’re conducting in the northeast.
“So, we need to take a comprehensive look at all these things and not treat them in compartments. We must treat them as a comprehensive issue and then tackle them collectively.”
He praised the efforts of the nation’s security forces in handling the situation, saying that even though he was one of those who advocated for the change of service chiefs, he did not expect a dramatic turnaround so soon.
Fayemi added: “Well, first of all, let me say that Mr. President has taken the right step in changing the leadership of the security services. I, as you would recall, was one of those speaking on behalf of my colleagues that argued for that to happen. So, I think the President has done the right thing.
“We never suggested, even at the time we were arguing for a change of guard in the leadership, that that was going to be an automatic transformation of the security situation, simply on account of change of leadership.
“We were not that naive to think that would happen, however, precisely because there’s been a change, you can see that there is also a concerted effort.
“Two or three days ago, all the service chiefs came together to issue a statement that we are accountable to our Chief of Defence Staff. That’s a very significant position to take because we know what has been the source of inter-service rivalry in our military, which then tends to affect performance on the field, where the air force does not communicate with the army and yet they are supposed to be involved in the same war against insurgency.
“So, the fact that there is unanimity and they are trying to speak with one voice, I believe that’s a significant step in boosting the morale of the men on the field and the efforts that they are taking to go round, audit the equipment, audit the situation of their men is also going to help to improve the condition of the security services.
“I can tell you and I don’t think I’ll be breaching any confidence that one of the good news I came away with, from the President now on this issue is that he’s already informed the National Assembly that they will be receiving a special request from him on procurement of equipment on an accelerated basis for our security services, because that was one of the issues that we put before him and he was very categorical that yes, we have a point. Some of the equipment that had been procured are on the way, they haven’t arrived, but they will soon arrive.
“There is also a need to buy more equipment and he is going into government-to-government partnership with a number of countries and that would necessitate an accelerated clearance from the National Assembly.
“What I’m saying in essence is they’ve been able to assess their situation on coming to that office and they made a very honest assessment of what’s on ground, which is militating against their effective clearance of the insurgents and that’s something that will happen.
“Having said all of that, I also don’t think we’re naive enough to think that it’s simply a military action that will resolve all these security challenges.
“They have root causes and the root causes require political will, political action on our part against poverty, against inequality, against the disconnections between our youth and the government because these are some of the things that have pushed younger people into harm’s way and into becoming cannon fodder for those who don’t have the interest of our country at heart and are ready to destroy the country. “
Governor Fayemi disclosed that he was at the presidential villa to discuss pertinent issues on security and the economy with President Buhari.
He explained: “Well, the general challenges that we have been facing at the state level and the states constitute the federation, but Mr. President was very much in the picture. He has almost nitty gritty detail of what’s going on in every state and yes, even more information than we do of these issues, as I discovered in my conversation with him.
“So, he’s clearly committed to doing more in terms of procurement of equipment, platforms for the military, particularly to support the new leadership that’s just come on stream and also working with the states to find the best way of stemming the tide of our current insecurity challenges.
“There are responsibilities that we have at our level in the states. There are also responsibilities that the federal government has to attend to. If we all do our parts, clearly, we believe that we will see the end of this challenge.”
Answering a question on the ongoing constitutional amendment to retain the 774 local government areas in the Constitution, the NGF boss advised the leadership of the Nigeria Union of Local Government Employees (NULGE), to lobby the National Assembly rather than issuing threats to shutdown the council areas.
Kayode said explore the opportunity available to lobby the lawmakers.
His remark came against the background of the threat issued by NULGE at the weekend.
He said: “Well, I am sure the president of the National Union of Local Government Employees is a democrat and constitutional reform is a process, not an event. So, he should allow the process to reach its conclusion.
“What he has an advantage of doing now, and which I think he should be doing rather than issuing threats, is lobbying and promoting the interests of his constituency because that’s the only way to get that result.