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Published On: Tue, Mar 4th, 2014

Nobody goes to farm or school since 2011, in Southern Borno, says Rep.

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Shettima govRep Peter Biye Guntha

(APC, Borno) is member representing Dambuwa, Chibbok Goza federal constituency. He recently moved a motion asking President Goodluck Jonathan to relocate the headquarters of the Nigerian Army to Maiduguri, Borno state. In this interview with Umar Muhammad Puma he explains further the reasons behind his decision among others.

You recently raised a motion on the floor of the House urging the Federal Government to relocate the headquarters of the Nigerian Army to Maiduguri. What informed your suggestion?

What enabled me to move the motion was the excessive attacks on civilians and the destruction of lives and properties in the state (Borno). The motion was clearly asking the federal government to reinforce and equip the Nigerian Army and to also suggest to relocate the leadership of the Army so that the officers and soldiers would get prompt supervision of what is happening. This  is because there were series of allegations against the army that if a massage come to them they don’t take action urgently. By doing that, the leadership of the army will know the true position of what is happening. If the Chief of Army Staff is there, he will carry out the supervision accordingly as required by the law. There is war going on in the north east sub-region most especially Dambuawa, Chibok, Goza, Bama and Kundiga. These areas are the most volatile areas, though the insurgents are in all the areas  in Borno state; but they are mostly attacking villages and towns in northern Borno; that is Abadam Guzama Kukawa, Gubiyo, Mamuri Kaga among others.

We want the Nigerain Army to be reinforced and empowered so that they will boost their morale and get motivated. So these are the issues we raised on the floor of the House and I believed the President will act on it with immediate effect.

Relocation of the Nigerian Army does not mean that the Army headquarters will move to Borno state completely. No, it is a partial  relocation after tackling the problem,  then they will comeback to Abuja. We are not saying the Army should leave Abuja and stay in Maiduguri. No, that is not what we mean. We want the leadership to go there and supervise what is happening. This is our decision.

The Governor of your state Kashim Shettima has said that the Boko Haram membersare better armed and motivated than the Nigerian army. Do you share his views?

How did he know? That is the question. Did he see what they have? It is just provocation. As a leader, if your people are dying everyday and lives and properties are lost on daily basis, he has the right to raise alarm but that does not necessarily mean that the members of the Boko Haram are more equipped than the Nigeria Army. This can never happen anywhere in the world because a government is far greater than an individual or groups.

If the government says for example that the five days earning of the federal government will be channelled into fighting the insurgents,  do you think you will see one person there?

You cannot. So, the federal government has power and authority to quell any situation. When the governor said that, in either way, he was right because the soldiers are not motivated; that is the truth about it. If one soldier is killed on this battle, nobody will compensate that life adequately. That is the main issue we have in this country. The government has to do something about assuring the lives of our security personnel’s because this people risk their lives to protect the lives and properties of the citizens.

If you send them to go on a battle and one of them dies, it is only the family that will suffer; nothing will be giving to them. These are the things that the government needed to do to motivate the soldiers. If there is motivation, I believe within two, three weeks, the insurgency will end. They equally have life like everyone. How can you push them to battle without any motivation? So, it is very sad.

The government needed to buy and give them sophisticated weapons; these are the things that they require. The governor was complaining bitterly because if you call the soldiers and tell them that something is happening in one area, they would say ‘we are waiting for directives’. That tells you that they are not ready to face the battle. These are the things that made the governor to raised the alarm. Some if you look at it this way, the governor is right, but if you look at it the other way, government is supreme, so we cannot say they are more sophisticated.

Some people are suggesting dialogue as the only solution to the crisis. As a member from that state do you think it is obtainable?

If they know who the government will approach, let them bring them. These people are faceless,  you cannot see them. How can you have a dialogue with them? You are a journalist ask those who are saying this ‘where are they’? Call them, let’s dialogue. Anybody who tells you that dialogue is the best you should ask that person to go and bring those who need dialogue; then they will sit down with the government and discuss. If you cannot see them, how can you sit with them and dialogue? If you come to my office and you didn’t see me, how will you start talking to me? You cannot. Some issues are political.

But assuming there is a contact, would you support the dialogue?

If there is a contact, we need to find out what they want. How can you go and have a dialogue with somebody who killed and slaughtered someone like a ram. Do you think he will listen to you? The best way is to face them gun to gun and fish them out. That is my position. The criteria and the kind of condition that they will give you, you will know that dialogue is not possible. They will say that they want to divide the country; would you like that? May be you are either Muslim or Christian; we all have religion, we are not pagans, you are either a Christian or a Muslim, even Muslims are not supporting what the Boko Haram are doing.

You can never be a religious person unless you are learned; unless you know how to read and write and these people say reading and writing are abomination, then how can they run the affairs of government if they say they want to divide the country?

It is not possible to say you want only one religion, it is not possible. No nation can say that they don’t want any person from another religion to come or stay with them. Even diplomats will come to your country,  would you deny them their rights? Even in Saudi Arabia, you will find citizens of the US, Britain Japan Germany, they are all there and the Saudi authority has never asked them to go because of their religion. So, these are the things; no meaningful Nigerian who has the interest of the country at heart will say that dialogue is the solution.

As a member from Borno state, what do you think is the way forward and what would you advise the federal government to do to end this crisis once and for all?

The way forward, as part of my prayers, as I said is one, the soldiers should go and provide security fir the affected areas and those areas hat are yet to be affected by he crisis. Number two, those displaced persons who had fled to neighboring Niger, Chad and Cameroun will be asked to come back and before they come back, the government needed to provide adequate shelter for them.

In southern Borno today, since 2011 to date, nobody goes to farm; there is nothing to eat; you will have to buy all the essential commodities for you daily need. People have fled their towns; people are angry; no food, no shelter. Number three, since 2011, there is no school in Borno state that is operating. Government has to secure the educational sector; it has to make sure the children goes to school for learning every day like any other children in the country.

Finally, the government has  to empower the security agents to fight the insurgence. And if the federal government in terms of intelligence is not capable, it should invite external bodies to come and help to end this crisis.

You cannot keep on saying we would crush them everyday while the crushing is not forthcoming. They should better come out and tell the world that they are incapable somewhere somehow. It is not that we don’t have the resources, we do. It is only corruption that is killing this country.

One person will steal one hundred billion, what are you going to do with that? If you give me one billion Naira I will go to Borno and stay there and I will make sure I give food to the needy and the displaced people.

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