Governors’ Visits, Gen Lagbaja’s Right Calls and Matters Arising
Within the few weeks that the new Service Chiefs have been in the saddle, this reporter has counted not less than four state Governors who visited the Defence Complex in downtown Garki Abuja where the Defence Headquarters (DHQ) and Headquarters of the Nigerian Army, Nigerian Navy and the Nigerian Air Force are located.
Their separate visits are certainly not unconnected with the desire to solicit more support from the military in the tackling of security challenges in their respective states.
Those who have been spotted so far include Governors of Zamfara, Kaduna, Enugu, and Plateau States. There will definitely be more of such visits by other governors in the days to come, considering the multiplicity of internal security challenges that have engulfed most regions in the country.
Two things can be gleaned from this development: first, the military has become the go-to-first agency in dealing with internal security challenge of any hue, a clear signal of mal-administered internal security operations structure which has tended to turn the last line of defence into first while the originally designed first responders (lead agency) in internal security challenges sits back and becomes more interested in VIP protection.
The second thing is that owing to the penchant to deploy our troops at a very drop of the hat, the military has become clearly and severely overstretched. As we speak, troops of the Nigerian Armed Forces are currently deployed in 36 out of 36 states of the country, for all manner of internal security operations. We shall come back to this aberration later.
For obvious reasons, the Chief of Army Staff, Gen Taoreed Lagbaja, has played host to more of these governors. As the Commander of the Nigerian Army, the land troops who are deployed more in ISOs (internal security operations), it is natural that the governors seeking remedial actions for all the security problems ailing their domains will make it a point of duty to extract one commitment or the other from the Army Chief.
Not gifted with the art of grandiloquence nor given to theatrics, Gen Lagbaja has been his blunt and forthright self in the responses he gave the visiting state Chief Executives.
While always assuring them of the Army’s readiness to perform its constitutional duties of defending Nigeria from external aggression or internal insurrection, he will nevertheless tell them the home truth about what is expected of them as Chief Security Officers of their states: no predilection, no prevarication, no pretenses, just the right call.
And so, after listening to the Governor of Zamfara State, Mr Dauda Lawal, whose state has suffered intensified attacks on communities by vicious cross-border terror bandits since his assumption of office, Gen Lagbaja told him pointedly to perish the idea of granting amnesty to the bandits terrorising the region. He described the amnesty programme for bandits and terrorists in Zamfara and others states as a failed programme and requested that Governors should stop interfering, and allow the military with free hand to eliminate the bandits.
He further noted that the amnesty programme had failed to achieve its purpose in the past, as its only gave criminals the opportunity to regroup, reorganise and attack defenceless citizens.
“So, I think we need to (take a second) look at this issue of the amnesty programme because the criminal elements have proven to be incorrigible. The issue of amnesty has created avenue for them to regroup and reorganise to launch attacks on our defenceless citizens. So I think we need to look at that,” he said.
Gen Lagbaja made the comments against the backdrop of recent call by former Governor of Zamfara State, Sani Yerima Bakura, that bandits should be given amnesty. Yerima who asked President Bola Ahmed Tinubu to negotiate with terror gangs operating in Zamfara State and other parts of the Northwest of the country, also said the negotiation he was advocating, was similar to what the administration of former President Umar Yar’Adua did with militants in the Niger Delta, which gave birth to the amnesty programme.
Warning all terrorists, bandits and other criminals to flee the country with immediate effect, the Army Chief said they would be given close marking and blocked from entering other parts of the country if they are attempting to flee the North West. The right call: No dialogue or amnesty for bandits.
While playing host to the Governor of Kaduna State, Senator Uba Sani, at the Army Headquarters a couple of days earlier, the COAS pointed out the indispensability of timely information to military operations. The Army Chief whose time as the General Officer Commanding 1 Division, Kaduna, was marked by spectacular gallantry of troops who successfully halted the then growing insecurity in the region, stated that the Governor’s visit affords the Nigerian Army the opportunity to receive feedbacks on the security situation in Kaduna State.
He emphasized that the current peace in Kaduna State could not have been possible without the cooperation of the people and also called on critical stakeholders such as traditional rulers, the clergy and other institutions to always aid the military with the necessary information so that together , peace can be entrenched in the state and the country as a whole. The right call: information is critical in the success or otherwise of military operations. See something, say something…
To address incessant killings on the Plateau, Gen Lagbaja advised the Governor of the State, Mr Caleb Muftwang, to immediately convene a meeting of critical stakeholders to rub minds. Speaking at Army Headquarters, Abuja when the governor paid him a courtesy visit, the COAS said the governor should bring on board for the meeting, traditional rulers, clerics and clergy, opinion moulders, among other stakeholders who will ensure stability in the state.
“I will appeal to you, Your Excellency, to look at the possibility of calling all stakeholders on the Plateau to a meeting. Let them express the grievances in their hearts, then the solutions can come out from such discussions”, he said. The right call: All of society approach is the best way to achieve sustainable peace and security.
Miffed by the debilitating sit-at-home order imposed in the South East by one Simon Ekpa, a self-styled disciple of Mazi Nnamdi Kanu, the detained leader of the proscribed Indigenous People of Boafra (IPOB), Gen Lagbaja directed troops of the Nigerian Army to assert control over the entire region. The Army Chief’s directive was in response to the two-week sit-at-home order announced by the Finland-based pro-Biafran agitator who is demanding the immediate release of the detained IPOB leader.
Speaking through the Director of Army Public Relations, Brig Gen Onyema Nwachukwu, the COAS declared that such an anouncement by Ekpa was unlwaful, provocative and would not be condoned. He said the troops of 82 Division had been given an order to work with other security agencies to ensure citizens go about their businesses freely.
“The Chief of Army Staff has handed down clear directives to the 82 Division of the Nigerian Army operating in synergy with other security agencuies to ensure robust patrols to diminate all flashpoints and emplace measures to ensure citizens are free to go about their legitimate businesses. We implore the good people of the south east to shun all forms of cajoling or threats aimed at unlawfully compelling them to be reclusive by sitting at home. We urge them to join forces with the security operatives to resist this illegality perpetrated by IPOB”. The right call: The Nigerian Army under his command will not sit by and watch a part of the country descend into full blown anarchy and lawlessness.
Gen Taoreed Lagbaja, Nigria’s 23rd Chief of Army Staff, might just be few weeks in office but he has left no one in doubt as to his determination to halt the devastating security challenges assailing most parts of the country. He has put his right foot forward and made the right calls and the nation is anxiously waiting, not with hands akimbo, but in readiness to support him and his troops to ensure their successful tour of duty.
Chidi Omeje is Associated Editor, Zagazola Media Network