Don’t treat US alert on Al-Qaeda with levity, Middle Belt Forum tells FG

FOLLOWING the alert by the United States of America of a plan by the Islamic State in West Africa Province (ISWAP), Al-Qaeda and their allies to infiltrate southern Nigeria after successfully destabilising Mali and other neighbouring countries, the Middle Belt Forum (MBF) has warned the Federal Government not to treat the alert with levity and be more proactive, just as it advised southerners to prepare for self-defence.

Speaking with the Nigerian Tribune on Thursday, national chairman of the Middle Belt Forum, Dr Bitrus Pogu, who accused the government of handling insecurity in the country, particularly in the North with kid gloves, said the inability of the government to heed the cry of people on the security architecture of the country had allowed insecurity, especially the Boko Haram insurgency, to fester for so long.

He said: “We always tell the government to be more proactive in the area of security, but instead of fighting Boko Haram, they are doing propaganda; they don’t want the Boko Haram war to end.

“If the US threat eventually becomes a reality and meets the security agencies unprepared, we are doomed, but I think we will have to go back to what General T.Y Danjuma said that Nigerians should defend themselves.

“It is clear that we are not preparing for the onslaught that is predicted. If what is happening in the North is spread all over the country, it will overwhelm the military and we have told Mr President over and over that the structure he has is faulty and he needs to inject new blood so that they can root out Boko Haram and the other elements terrorising the country.”

Dr Pogu said if the presidency doesn’t want to do it, the people would have to think of how to defend themselves, saying government had failed in its responsibility to defend the people of the country.

Addressing Nigerians, the MBF chairman said: “Prepare to defend yourselves and your communities since the government is not ready to defend you. When Nigerians are told to defend themselves, everybody should plan to acquire whatever he feels he can defend himself with. If somebody is coming to kill you, you should be able to defend yourself. If the government had been doing the right thing, we wouldn’t have suggested this. We have police, military but we are not feeling their impact.”

He said one of the ways to fight the insecurity ravaging the country is through restructuring, adding that this would enable the country to have state police and local government police that would be fully armed to ward-off any attack on communities.

Also, elder statesman and Afenifere leader, Chief Ayo Adebanjo, on Thursday expressed the hope that President Muhammadu Buhari would consider it imperative to rejig the country’s security architecture based on the alert issued by the United States.

Chief Adebanjo said this while speaking with the Nigerian Tribune on telephone in reaction to the alert by the US.

He, however, noted the lack of will and capacity on the part of President Buhari as the country’s commander-in-chief and the incumbent service chiefs to deal with Boko Haram insurgents all these years, not to now talk of the deadlier Al-Qaeda.

Chief Adebanjo said: “Is it that the commander-in-chief who cannot take care of Boko Haram that we will ask to take care of Al-Qaeda? Is it our commander-in-chief who has not been able to contain insecurity which we have been complaining about before? I only hope that our security chiefs who have not demonstrated sufficient competence to handle Boko Haram will be able to cope with Al-Qaeda.

“With this warning now, we only hope he will rejig the security architecture of the country.”

The elder statesman who recalled that Nigerians’ agitation that the country’s security chiefs were long due for retirement had been ignored expressed the hope the president would to put his house in order and address the people’s need by sacking the service chiefs and bring on board competent hands that can handle the present security challenges.

Chief Adebanjo said there was absolutely nothing Nigerians could do to protect themselves, maintaining that securing lives and property of the citizens, as well as protection of territorial integrity of the country had been put in the care of President Buhari as the nation’s commander-in-chief.

Also, the chairman of the defunct United Progressives Party (UPP), Chief Chekwas Okorie, has advised the Federal Government to muster the political will to ban open grazing and also allow decentralisation of the existing security architecture in the country.

Speaking with the Nigerian Tribune in a telephone interview, Chief Okorie, now

a chieftain of the All Progressives Congress (APC), said the move would go a long way to counter the threat posed by insurgents like Boko Haram and their allies like Al-Qaeda, which have jointly threatened to infiltrate southern Nigeria.

He called on President Buhari to send an executive bill to the National Assembly aimed at banning open grazing as he noted that the terrorists are infiltrating the country under the guise of being herders.

He said: “Once you discourage open grazing, you encourage ranching. Those who are infiltrating the country are coming under the guise of herders. From there, they go and hide in the bush and take kidnapping as a lucrative business.”

Okorie also called for the establishment of state police and community policing, adding that once everybody is security-conscious, people will be able to identify strangers and nip their evil activities in the bud.

Meanwhile, the Defence Headquarters (DHQ) has assured that there is no cause for alarm over the alert by the United States.

Fielding questions from Defence correspondents at the weekly media briefing on the activities of the armed forces on the various operations to end insurgency in the country, the coordinator, Defence Media Operations (DMO), Major General John Enenche, declared that the alert was nothing new and the members of the public should not entertain any concern about it.

Major-General Enenche said: “It’s just like a wakeup call, which is readily welcome; all the security agencies have that at the back of their plan and they factor it in their plans and implementation.

“The general public should not be afraid of that at all. It’s not a new thing, as it is already in our schedule of activities.

“Will I call it advice or our attention being drawn to the fact that terrorists from other zones are coming here, I think it would be good for us to be keeping records of events as they unfold.

“For me, this is not the first time they are raising such an alarm. The alarm is as old as maybe five or ten years ago and the Armed Forces of Nigeria and the country is aware of it.

“When the conflict in Libya was declared officially over, it was we, the National Intelligence Agency (NIA), Department of State Services (DSS) and others, that raised the information that these people were moving.

“Have we not captured foreigners among the people that have been terrorising us in this country? So, it is just like a call to keep doing what you are doing. So, the general public should know that the security agencies are on top of the situation.

“Recently, we captured some terrorists in Niger State who were from other neighbouring countries; where are they coming from? Why do we have ISWAP here now? Was ISWAP indigenous to Nigeria? No!

“So, it is just like telling you the obvious. And I want to state that it is like advice so that we can continue to have measures in place to check them.”

Speaking on the various military operations across the country from July 24 till August 6, Major-General Enenche said troops recorded unprecedented successes as they put the camps of bandits in total disarray with continued bombardment of their hideous.

In the North-West zone, Major-General Enenche said “the Armed Forces of Nigeria have continued the aggressive clearance operations in the entire region. He said within the period under review, troops in the Joint Operations Area scaled-up kinetic and non-kinetic operations in the general areas of Katsina, Zamfara, Sokoto and adjoining states, leading to gradual restoration of all human activities in the zone.

In the South-South zone, the DMO coordinator said “troops of Operation Delta Safe have intensified the fight against crude oil theft, pipeline vandalism and illegal oil bunkering with attendant successes.

“Within the period under review, Operation Delta Safe discovered and deactivated 25 illegal refining sites in Rivers, Cross Rivers and Akwa Ibom states and a total of 342,000 litres of products suspected to be illegally refined AGO were impounded.

“Also, subsidiary operations, Calm Waters II and Swift Response have continued to record remarkable successes. The successes recorded within the period include seizure of 141 x 50 kg bags of foreign parboiled rice as well as arrest of boats involved in smuggling activities, among others.”

In the North East, Major General Enenche said troops executed various kinetic operations, including clearance operations, aggressive patrols and Intelligence Surveillance Reconnaissance (ISR) missions, sustained air offensive operations, as well as artillery and aerial bombardments on Boko Haram/ISWAP enclaves.

In the North Central, Major General Enenche said troops conducted Civil-Military Co-operation (CIMIC) activities in addition to concerted reconciliation and conciliation efforts in the form of stakeholders’ meetings among the various ethnic groups in the zone.

 

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