Honourable Adejoro Adeogun, member of the House of Representatives representing Akoko South-East/South-West federal constituency of Ondo State, doubles as Vice Chairman, House Committee on National Security and member of other committees. He speaks on insecurity, 2023 general election and the redesign of the naira. KUNLE ODEREMI brings excerpts:
As a lawmaker, how would you rationalise the claims and counter-claims over the recent security advisory issued by the United States, United Kingdom and others to their citizens resident in Nigeria that led to the withdrawal of foreign nationals and diplomatic officials from the Federal Capital Territory (FCT)?
The so-called security alerts were travel advisories, published by the embassies on their respective websites to advise their citizens on the prevailing security situation. Travel advisories are normal. Remember that the Nigerian travel portal gained importance during the outbreak of COVID-19, because it became a source of information for international travellers. So, the advisories weren’t an issue, but it’s the interpretation by Nigerians, the ensuing panic and other unintended consequences. Like other Nigerians, I saw a picture purportedly taken at an airport to show some foreign nationals being evacuated from Abuja, I don’t know how true that is. If it is true, then it is unnecessary.
But, how true are claims of invasion of an estate in Abuja by American soldiers, leading to the arrest of some bandits?
What I read in several publications was that some expatriates were seen alongside operatives of the Department of State Security (DSS) during an operation at an estate in Lugbe. If it’s true that expatriates were seen, they could be trainers or advisers, providing technical support. Any insinuation that American soldiers invaded an estate in Abuja in the absence of local security operatives should be seen as fake news. Nigeria is not under the siege of any friendly or unfriendly foreign army of occupation.
And if true, what is the implication on the sovereignty of Nigeria?
I have said categorically that what you are saying is at variance with popular reports. We must be careful not to misinterpret situations in which expatriates provide training and technical support for Nigeria’s security personnel as part of equipment procurement agreements. We bought aircraft and other hardware from the United States (US) and receive support from the US for the training, technical support and initial operation of the hardware. We have a similar situation with NIMASA’s investment in hardware to safeguard our maritime boundaries. So, if expatriates are seen in such situations, it should be understood that they are helping to build the capacity of our personnel
Are you satisfied with the Federal Government’s response?
I am satisfied with the prompt and professional response of our counterterrorism agencies to the terrorists’ threats. I am satisfied with the improvement in synergy among agencies to arrest suspects and the steps taken to harden terrorists’ targets within the city of Abuja.
How is your committee advising the government in the current situation?
The committee is constantly engaging with the intelligence and counterterrorism agencies, helping them to build synergy, giving feedback and providing support to ensure that they continue to give Nigerians much-desired security cover.
What can be done, as a matter of urgency, to calm down the residents of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) and Nigerians in general?
What is immediately needed is to reassure Nigerians resident in Abuja that the panic created from the widespread misunderstanding of the travel advisories was needless. There was definitely no need for the level of panic emanating from the actions of a few embassies. The truth is that there was a threat, but it was promptly neutralised and the security agencies are working harder to ensure that a security cordon is provided around the FCT. If the counterterrorism agencies could make more information available to the public about the major breakthrough they have achieved over the last two weeks, the confidence of our people in the capability of the security agencies to safeguard the city would be restored. At this stage, government needs the help of the press to disseminate the right information to the residents of the city to restore confidence and normalcy.
The campaigns for the 2023 elections are ongoing, how would you advise politicians and the electorate, especially given the fragile security situation across the country?
At time times like this, it is the primary responsibility of every citizen to contribute to national security. My advice to politicians is to be security conscious and avoid providing soft targets for terrorists. Political parties may need to try out new campaign strategies that do not entail large gatherings.
There are fears in certain quarters that the 2023 general election seems to hang in the balance due to insecurity.
I do not share in such pessimism. The situation today is not half as volatile as we had in 2015 when the entire North-East of the country was under the siege of Boko Haram. I am not denying that we face some measure of insecurity, especially from ransom takers and terrorists, but the threats are not enough to stop Nigeria from holding a general election in 2023.
What informed your sponsorship of the bill to amend the VAPP Act?
It is a desire to improve and strengthen the Act to protect vulnerable Nigerians from harmful cultural practices. Widows in Nigeria are vulnerable and we need to strengthen our laws to safeguard their rights to dignity, property, inheritance and custody of their children.
What’s your take on the plan by CBN to redesign some Naira notes?
The redesign of the Naira is not a bad idea, if well handled. My concern is the seeming absence of synergy between the Central Bank if Nigeria (CBN) and the Ministry of Finance. It is sad that the two managers of our fiscal and monetary policies have, through their ego contest, displayed their misunderstanding of the prevailing economic challenges facing Nigeria.
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