For the second time in a week, the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Muhammad Sa’ad Abubakar III, has expressed concern about the worsening insecurity in Nigeria.
The sultan, who last Thursday described the North, ravaged by terrorism and banditry, as the worst place to live in Nigeria, said yesterday that nowhere is safe in the country.
The sultan, in a statement by the apex Islamic body, Jama’atu Nasril Islam (JNI), in reaction to the killing of over 43 rice farmers in Borno State, enjoined Islamic clerics nationwide to embark on special prayer sessions against insecurity five times daily.
However, governors, under the aegis of the Nigerian Governors’ Forum (NGF), have attributed the flagging efforts at combating the security challenges to the fact that the military is overstretched and overwhelmed.
They are also planning to meet President Muhammadu Buhari over the security crisis confronting the country.
Meanwhile, All Progressives Congress (APC) National Leader, Senator Bola Tinubu, yesterday wrote Borno State Governor, Prof. Babagana Zulum, to condole with him and the people of the state over the farmers’ killing.
Tinubu decried the gruesome murder of the farmers and said more efforts would be required to win the anti-terror war.
The sultan, who on November 26 at the fourth quarterly meeting of the Nigeria Inter-Religious Council in Abuja, had lamented the high rate of insecurity in the North, restated yesterday that bandits now rule in some communities in the North.
He called on the federal government to rise up to its responsibilities and go beyond the traditional condemnation and payment of lip service to security matters.
The statement, signed by the JNI Secretary-General, Dr. Khalid Aliyu, said: “Wanton killings, acts of banditry, kidnapping for ransom, high rate of unemployment amongst the youths, rape and all forms of terrorisms have now become the ‘New Trend’ in our communities.
“Nigerians have become so much terrified, as nowhere is safe; the home, the farms, and the roads. Bandits now rule in many communities, they set rules that must be obeyed.”
The sultan condoled with the government and people of Borno State over the massacre of the rice farmers in Zabarmari in Jere Local Government.
He said: “Forty-three human beings as reported by the media were slaughtered without any intervention by the security forces in the area. The senseless act stands condemned in the strongest of terms.
“Unfortunately, the common man is now caught in-between two contending phenomenon; when he goes to the farm, he gets killed; and when he stays at home, he dies of hunger. It should be known that this singular act of Zabarmari was a calculated attempt to instill fears among farmers and jeopardise the frantic efforts of returning Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) to their localities by the Borno State government under the leadership of Governor Babagana Umar Zulum.
“For how long, would we continue to live a life in fear? For how long, can we continue to wait in vain? For how long, shall we continue to condemn acts of terrorism without any concerted efforts in ending it? For how long, would we continue to remain indolent? And for how long can we continue to remain hopeless in a precarious situation such as what we are in presently?”
He sent his heartrending condolences to the families of those martyred in the Zabarmari massacre, the people and government of Borno State and Nigeria in general.
The sultan faulted the lethargic reaction of the federal government to the incident.
According to him, “All that was needed immediately the incident occurred was a proactive measure(s) by the federal government of Nigeria, such as a prompt visit within 24 hours to the affected areas.
“This will assuage the affected communities to have more confidence in their leaders, seeing that they are not left alone in their ordeal and it will also send a strong signal to insurgents that the government is ready to go to any length to protect its people.”
The JNI suggested ways the federal government could handle such an incident in the future to reassure the people of its commitment to their safety and wellbeing.
It said: “We call on the government to: Always identify with victims and places of attacks by being physically on the ground to commiserate with the people. A national broadcast after the visit is very necessary. “Reprimand/prosecute officials that are found wanting in the discharge of their assignment(s), so as to serve as a deterrent to other nonchalant officials.
“Collaboration with relevant security agencies with a timeline to bringing an end or at best decapitate all security threats bedeviling the country and also mop small arms and light weapons (SALWs) in the hands of criminals or else Nigeria will continue to witness the rise in arms proliferation for self-defence amongst Nigerians since the government failed to do so.”
It urged the federal government not to spare efforts in supporting all affected communities since many people have been turned into internally displaced persons (IDPs).
“We note with dismay that our societal values have been relegated to alien norms, thus parents and community leaders must be very vigilant and always remain to introspect over their wards and/or children, as the prevalence of illicit drugs intake amongst the youths is getting out of hand.
“These and many more similar gestures may not immediately bring insurgency to an abrupt end, but will reassure the masses and calm frayed nerves seeing that the authorities are truly on top of the situation,” the JNI added.
Govs: We’re Frustrated, Military Overwhelmed
Expressing worry over the inability of the nation to effectively tackle insecurity, state governors said yesterday that they were frustrated by the situation.
They said the nation’s security challenges are beyond the military, which is overstretched and overwhelmed and cannot single-handedly handle the crisis.
The NGF Chairman and Governor of Ekiti State, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, spoke on behalf of his colleagues and said the various security challenges, including insurgency, banditry, kidnapping and armed robbery, affecting many parts of the country, have overstretched the military.
Fayemi, who led a delegation of governors to Maiduguri, on Tuesday to console Zulum, said: “We are here, Your Excellency, first to express our condolences to the families and loved ones of our lost citizens, and also to the good people of Borno State and yourself as the leader of our people here.
“But what happened in the last three days is by far beyond any imagination, it was a massacre and it was one that none of us could come to terms easily with.
“I know there is an element of fatigue that will creep into this. Every time this happens, we never let you rest on your phones, expressing sympathies. We come here as a delegation; you speak to us about your genuine believe in what could help us tackle this challenge that is depleting our country and we pledge to take steps to engage the leadership of our country. So there is very little we can say to you now that we haven’t said before as your brothers.
“There is nothing new that you haven’t told us, that you haven’t told the delegation from Mr. President yesterday. We have all heard directly from you, your six-point agenda. We have read it and you have just expressed it to us in our private conversation. All I can say to you sir is that we fully and wholeheartedly endorsed every single point on that agenda.
“I personally as a security scholar, the reality I can see is that our military is overwhelmed. Our military is no longer in a position to single-handedly tackle this menace effectively.
“It is not a criticism of our military. If one were to suggest a coalition beyond that will even include our neighbouring countries which are probably more experienced in fighting an asymmetrical war. It will not be a loss of our pride as a country if that were to happen and this certainly something that we as your colleagues and brothers will put before Mr. President.”
However, when THISDAY contacted the military to react to Fayemi’s claim that its personnel are overstretched, a source he craved anonymity since he didn’t get clearance to speak on the issue, said: “He’s on his own. He is entitled to his own opinion. We do not want to take issue with political officeholders.”
Fayemi was accompanied to Maiduguri by the Governor of Sokoto State and the Vice Chairman of the forum, Hon. Aminu Tambuwal, Governor of Kebbi State, Atiku Abubakar Bagudu and that of Niger State, Abubakar Bello.
Fayemi also described their visit to Borno as an expression of their frustration for not being able to make any meaningful headway in the security problems facing the country, despite many attempts.
He said: “This is not a visit to gratify ourselves that we have come to you; no, it is expression also of our own frustration that we have not been able to make changes because we have held series of meetings. You have been present at these meetings; some with Mr. President, meetings with security chiefs. We have highlighted all the issues. You have spoken frankly on all those occasions, but we are still where we are.
“We can’t bring back the people we have lost in the last couple of days, but if we do not take the necessary steps the entire nation will be consumed by this insurgency.”
According to him, despite the problem, the NGF will continue to support the government of Borno State in engaging appropriate authorities to find solutions to the insecurity.
“We need to stand solidly with you, assist in whatever way you want us to, ensuring that our government takes the right position in order to tackle this problem. I want to assure you that we shall not relent as your brothers in conveying this to the appropriate authorities,” Fayemi said.
Zulum, who decried the continuous attack on innocent people, said: “We need to address the underlying causes of the insurgency. While appreciating the efforts of the federal government in implementing some policies that are geared towards addressing poverty in the entire nation, Borno State deserves more.
“We have said all; there is nothing new that I can say. But when shall we end this insurgency? That’s something very important.”
Governors Seek To Meet Buhari
THISDAY, however, gathered yesterday that NGF, after a meeting yesterday resolved to book an appointment to see the president on the insecurity in the country.
The 36 state governors had met on insecurity in the country with a source confiding in THISDAY that they all lamented how the insecurity is affecting their states.
Earlier, a statement on Monday by Head, Media and Public Affairs, NGF, Alhaji Abdulrazaque Bello-Barkindo, had said the 22nd NGF teleconference meeting would hold yesterday with governors of the 36 states seeking to evolve a new national security order that will ensure safety of lives and property nationwide.
“As part of the effort, beginning at the subnational level, the forum will be receiving zonal updates on SARS and internal security at its Wednesday meeting.
“Similarly, the forum will also revisit the issue of CACOVID palliatives with updates on its current status’ in all the states.”
Tinubu Writes Zulum, Says More Efforts Needed to Defeat Terrorism
In the meantime, the APC National Leader, Tinubu, has commiserated with Zulum and the people of Borno State over the killing of farmers in Zabarmari by Boko Haram insurgents.
In a letter to the governor made available to journalists by his Media Office, Tinubu said: “The cold-blooded murder of these innocent citizens, toiling to eke out a living for themselves and their families and provide food security for our nation is not only callous but satanic.
“I recall your strident sacrifices to ensure that millions of displaced Borno residents are resettled in their ancestral homes and return to their various occupations. These efforts have not only helped in increasing agricultural output but have also given joy to the displaced.
“Your Excellency, this unfortunate incident despite your spirited efforts in complementing the efforts of the federal security forces is a sad reminder that the war against these desperate and blood-thirsty insurgents will require more efforts to win.
“My hope and prayer are that Allah will give you the courage to continue to provide succour to your people even in the face of this rather depressing event.”