Sack of service chiefs alone can’t guarantee security —Rep
Honourable Abass Adigun represents Ibadan North-East/Ibadan South-East Federal Constituency in the House of Representatives. Adigun, who retired from the United States Navy to join politics in Nigeria, is the Vice-Chairman, House Committee on Navy. He speaks with DARE ADEKANMBI on how best the country can surmount its security challenges, the best form of government, among others.
SOME people believe the number of lawmakers we have is too large and makes governance expensive.
My candid opinion is that we are not too many in the National Assembly because each one of us represents a particular constituency and the constituencies make up the entity called Nigeria. What we should do to move the country forward is to operate based on the six regions that we have in the country. Let one person represent each of the zones and we have six people in Abuja running the central government. I don’t think any other thing can work apart from this kind of arrangement. We are talking about security meeting with the Presidency. This kind of meeting was held in 2013, 2014, 2015, 2019 and nothing meaningful came out of them. Things are getting worse rather than getting better. If I, as a marketer, am selling a product that people used to buy but are no longer buying it, I must check myself and look for a different way to sell that product.
The security situation in the country is very bad to the level that Christians had to stage a prayer-walk. With your security background, what do you think the country needs to do to defeat terrorism, banditry and other crimes in the country?
When I retired from the US Navy and decided to join politics in the country, it was because of the condition of the country that I made such decision. We passed a resolution calling for the sack of the service chiefs. I agree that they have overstayed and they should pave the way for new persons with new energies and ideas come in. But that is not the sole solution to the problem of insecurity in the country. What I think should be done is to invite all the service chiefs and the governors in the affected zone and discussion should centre around how to develop the zones. There should also be transparency in whatever is done there. We should also recruit volunteers to address the security challenges. The reason we don’t have other countries supporting the fight against terrorism and banditry is because there is no transparency on our path as a country. The US soldiers were in Nigeria before now. They left because they said the Nigerian troops were not sharing information. The war has been going on for about 10 years now and it only shows something is attached to it. Our security agencies, particularly the DSS, must wake up and make intelligence available to their colleagues. To defeat an enemy, you must have information about him and what he is capable of doing. We need sincere people to take charge the war against banditry and kidnapping. The 2020 budget for the navy alone is about N137 billion. These billions and billions, what are we achieving with them as a country? Government needs to create jobs for the youths, use propaganda and be sincere in the prosecution of the war against terror.
Look at what the South-West governors did. When they saw that crimes were moving down south, the governors came together and launched Operation Amotekun. Governors in troubled states must be held accountable. Their security votes are enough to take care of what is happening in their areas. The alternative to the failed methods we have been using to fight crimes is to see to the economic development of the troubled areas. Other zones will come up with their own security outfit to complement the conventional security personnel. We don’t have enough security personnel to adequately police the country. The most important of government is to provide security for lives and property.
You once moved a motion that became a resolution of the House and you called for a better welfare package to security operatives in the country. In what way do you think this will help improve the security situation?
I moved the motion late last year because of the security situation in the country then. Now that insecurity is escalating, my point then comes in handy now. The salary of our security personnel is poor. These are the people who daily confront the terrorists and bandits. Personnel of the army or the military generally are meant to defend the country against external aggression. It is the job of police to handle internal security challenges. But what do we have today? Soldiers are increasingly being used to solve internal security issues. Our security personnel are not well equipped. They are ill-motivated. They are not promoted as and when due. Despite the absence of all these, Nigeria expects them to go to war and die for the country. But what will they and their families gain if they don’t return from warfront? When I was in the US military, each of us in the US Navy had an insurance cover of $400,000 and if anyone died in the line of duty, the US Navy would add $150,000 to it to make $550,000. I registered my father, mother, wife and kids as beneficiaries of the money in case I die on war front. I remember one of us who died and the US Embassy in Nigeria quickly gave his family members in Nigeria visa to come to the US and gave them the money. Do we have anything like that in Nigeria for our security men and women? We need to give them better welfare package to encourage them to do their best in securing the country. When I moved the motion, it was passed and became a resolution. It is supposed to go to the executive arm of government for action. I have not heard anything again about it.
Your constituency is home to some of the deadliest cult groups in the state called The One Million Boys. What are you doing to help these youths lead a better life?
I was born and raised in Ibadan South-East. So, I don’t want to call these guys thugs. They are our brothers and one way or the other, we are all families in Ibadan. Yes, I agree that my constituency has more ‘Alright Sir’ boys than others. If I say Mr A is a bad person, am I really sure he is a bad person? I have to take my time and study him to be able to know the kind of person he is. They boys are not crazy. They know when to eat, brush their mouth and change their clothes. The kind of behaviour you see them putting up is a reflection of the failure of government from the beginning. When we were going to schools and we saw those who were not going, we regarded them as bad people who should not be copied. There was a time that these people became godfathers in the politics of the state and the country. I don’t want to mention names, there are people who have made violence their own entrepreneurship and have made stupendous amount of money from such through politics. You have them in Lagos and other states. Some of these boys you are talking about see such people as models and they copy their bad behaviours. I know some of these boys and they have ‘troops’ everywhere in Ibadan. What I think we can do is to bring them together and talk to them when we have the caretaker chairmen fully settled in the councils and LCDAs. We will look for ways to rehabilitate them and train them. We will give them what they can do and where they can go in the morning and come back in the evening and be paid salaries. But I can tell you that these boys want more than that. They want to be like those guys in Lagos. They don’t want to work, but they want to ride in nice cars and live comfortably with violence as their own business. When it is time, I will reach out to them and tell them my plan. If after that, they are hell-bent, I will go after them because I don’t joke with people who don’t want peace to reign.
You trained and empowered 150 youths and women last week in poultry and fish production and other things. Is that the only thing you have done so far for your constituents?
When I was seeking votes from the people of my constituency, I promised them four things: job creation to the best of my ability; education; training and empowerment for youths and women and security to communities, given my background as a security person. I am starting 2020 with training and empowerment for youths and women. I went for a radio interview and I was asked if I would be sharing okada as my predecessor did. I told them in addition to giving out okada, I would also create jobs and empower people because these are very important. I am focusing on job creation for the youths and women. About 150 youths and women were trained in Ibadan between Tuesday and Friday on agro-mechanised business, specifically poultry production, fish farming and others. The training was done by officials of the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, the National Centre for Agricultural Mechanisation and Aslak Global Resources. On Thursday, we took them to Ilaji Farms for practical and on Friday, which was the final day, they got certificates of participation and N50,000 each as start-up capital. I believe this is part of creating jobs for our people. In the area of education, I set up free coaching classes during the summer for Senior Secondary School II and III students in my constituents and engaged teachers to take them in core subjects. Almost all the lawmakers in the state did the same thing then. So far, I think I am the only one that still maintains the free lesson till now. I have on branch in Ibadan South-East and another one in Ibadan North-East. I have six teachers in both and I pay them N20,000 monthly since August 2019 till now.
From those benefiting from the lesson, I picked over 200 students from both councils and I bought them Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTME) free. I also ensured that only those who have five credits in their O’Level results got the forms because that is what qualifies anybody for university admission. When it is time for the public examination conducted by the National Examination Council (NECO), I will also give them forms. I am also doing scholarship for tertiary institutions students in my constituency. A student will get N100,000 each per year. We will get their CGPA such that only those who have Upper Credit (for polytechnics) and second class upper division category for universities are selected. I am in talk with the management of the big markets in my constituency on how to assist them with soft revolving and interest-free loan. So, I am doing everything I promised during my campaign.