President Muhammadu Buhari Tuesday flew out to the United Kingdom for his regular medical checkup. Before he did, he held a meeting with his security chiefs. The emergency meeting followed the one the President had with governors in the Northeast and North central zones as well as the Chairman of Nigeria Governors Forum, Kayode Fayemi.
Buhari wanted to keep the military chiefs on their toes while he was away. He ordered the nation’s security chiefs to take out leaders of bandits and kidnappers in order to “restore confidence” in areas where they held sway. He said he would not accept a situation where “criminal elements are the ones dictating the pace and setting the tone instead of the other way round.” Security forces, he lamented, were on the back foot instead of taking the fight to the enemy. He ordered them to “bring down the criminals with all the ruthlessness” required of them.
National Security Adviser (NSA), Major General Babagana Monguno (Rtd) who spoke for the President after the meeting said Buhari made a commitment to “provide everything” that the military would require to enable them “pull down these undesirable elements.” He said, “On the issue of kidnapping and banditry, this menace still persists, especially in the Northwest and the North-Central zones. Mr. President has been very emphatic; he has stated very clearly that this problem must be brought to an end, but using the traditional methods that the armed forces have been trained to deploy.
“Mr. President has made it very clear to both the intelligence and operational elements that the first assignment will be to identify the leaders of these bandits, kidnappers and take them out in order to restore confidence in those areas” (where they operate). Mr. President said that he would no longer tolerate a situation where bandits and kidnappers are the ones dictating the pace and setting the tone, neither would he condone a situation in which our own operations are reactive rather than proactive. He indicated his willingness to provide all the resources required by our own troops in order to put down these criminals. They must be brought down with all the ruthlessness that is required and whoever is working in collaboration with them will be brought to book.”
Monguno said President Buhari expressed his satisfaction with the performance of the new service chiefs , saying that there’s now a willingness on the part of all the operational elements to work together with the intelligence organisations. He quoted Buhari as having said that there would be no adjustment in whatever the National Security Council had already laid out until normalcy was restored.
He said President Buhari had directed him to issue a warning to “all those who are working to undermine national security, sponsors of criminal activities and the likes” that they would have themselves to blame sooner than later. “I’m also to send out a warning to those people who think they can continue to behave in a manner that undermines national security. Those people engaging in all kinds of underhand, unscrupulous, mischievous and deceitful practices, people who are working with those that are in government in particular, critical agencies of government, we have been able to identify certain areas that are weak and these areas have to be strengthened so that these characters who are engaging in acts that you can describe as outright acts of brigandage, people who are behaving in a manner that portends a lot of danger to innocent lives, have to be fished out.
“I’m to send a warning to those people who think they’re in close proximity with those who have the instruments to make the space easy for criminals, those people who think they have some kind of authority, who are engaging in all kinds of Hocus Pocus in all kinds of skullduggery, those people will be brought down to their knees. The new service chiefs, as well as the intelligence community, and the constabulary forces have been given clear directives by the President to target those people who are the ones leading in creating chaos, disunity, and disharmony.”
This is the most comprehensive order yet from the President who recently asked troops to “shoot on sight” any unauthorized persons seen with AK47 assault rifles. These are the weapons bandits and kidnappers carry. It is also an unequivocal instruction from a commander-in-chief to his field commanders. The President said something that is very disturbing. Military operations had until now been reactive, not proactive as expected. “Criminals are the ones dictating the pace and setting the tone instead of the other way round,” he lamented. That was what happened in all the school kidnappings that happened in Borno, Yobe, Katsina and Niger States. The presidential order to troops to be ruthless will not yield much if the problem pointed out by Mr President is not tackled. Why are troops not taking the fight to the enemy? Is it inadequate training or a lack of weapons and equipment? It will be foolhardy for a soldier to confront an enemy with superior fire power. Arm him first, then send him to the front line.