The federal government vowed yesterday that no amount of security threats in the country would stop the 2023 general election.
Minister of Police Affairs, Dr Muhammad Maigari Dingyadi, stated this in Abuja while revealing his achievements and activities since the return of the ministry of Police Affairs in 2019.
Speaking at the event, the minister said the insecurity caused by a few elements will not deter the security agencies from ensuring the conduct of a free, fair and credible election in 2023.
On police welfare, the minister said in July, 2022, all officers and men of Nigerian Police were given an improved and increased salary structure approved by President Buhari.
Though the arrears are yet to be paid, the minister assured that the federal government will soon sort out all outstanding issues.
Speaking on the activities of the Nigeria Police Force in tackling some of the security challenges across the country, the minister said, “The North East, for instance, has a history of Boko Haram campaign against harmless citizens since 2009. These mindless terrorists subsequently sought alliance with the Islamic State for West Africa Province (ISWAP).
“A fierce military campaign and police support has degraded the terrorists’ capability and dislodged them from their hitherto strong base in the North East.
“In the North West, following onslaught on Boko Haram and its affiliate groups in the North East, the dissident elements, in a desperate survival attempt, now synergise with bandits operating in the North West and parts of North Central, particularly the middle belt region.
“This ugly trend is currently receiving commensurate attention through deployment of human and operational assets to neutralize the menace.
“In the short term, the Nigeria Police air component has been deployed to conduct surveillance and offensive on criminal enclaves within the corridors”.
Open Border Plan: Atiku Wants To Destroy Economy, Worsen Insecurity
The federal government has taken a swipe at former Vice President Atiku Abubakar over his plan to reopen the nation’s borders if elected as president next year.
The minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, who spoke at a news conference in Abuja yesterday, chided Atiku and warned that an uncontrolled border would lead to the return of smuggling of food and weapons which will, in turn, worsen insecurity and hunger in the country.
He asked the presidential candidate of the PDP to bury the thought of reopening borders in the country to prevent associated challenges, which the Buhari administration has curtailed.
The information minister was responding to the comment credited to Atiku who had declared during his campaign stop in Katsina on Tuesday that he would reopen all Nigerian borders if elected President.
Mohammed lamented that out of desperation, Atiku is ready to worsen the security situation in Nigeria by throwing open all the borders and allowing a massive inflow of small arms and light weapons into the country.
“Only an inordinately-ambitious candidate will wish to return Nigeria to an era of massive importation of food, to the detriment of local farmers, and an era of unbridled inflow of weapons.
“This is a red flag to Nigerians who, in line with the admonition of President Muhammadu Buhari, have been striving to produce what they eat and eat what they produce,” Mohammed said.
According to him, Atiku had simply told Nigerians that he would reverse all the efforts made by the Buhari administration to achieve self-sufficiency in the production of many staples, especially rice.
He said, “By that statement, the former Vice President has informed the country’s millions of rice farmers that they will soon lose their jobs when imported rice floods the country. By that statement, His Excellency Atiku Abubakar has told the hundreds of thousands of Nigerians working in the various rice mills that have sprung up under this administration that their jobs are over.
“By that statement, Alhaji Atiku will shut down most, if not all, of our new fertilizer blending companies, with thousands of jobs going down the drain. And by his declaration, the former Vice President has told Nigerians that he will worsen security in the country by allowing arms and ammunition to flow unhindered into the country.”
He stressed that the PMB Administration had increased the number of fertilizer blending plants in the country from 10 in 2015 to 142 today.
Mohammed also said the rice mills in the country have increased from 10 in 2015 to 80 integrated rice mills today.
In addition, he said 10 large scale integrated rice mills are currently being built across the country.
He continued: “His Excellency Atiku Abubakar may also want to know that while Nigeria was the number one export destination for rice in 2014, our country has now moved to number 79, according to Thai Authorities.
“By throwing open the borders indiscriminately as he has pledged, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar has simply announced that he intends to return Nigeria to the number one importer of Thai rice in 2023!
“It is now clear that in his desperation for power, the presidential candidate of the PDP will not hesitate to export Nigerian jobs, put millions of Nigerians out of job and ruin the fertilizer companies and the rice mills that have grown exponentially in number since Nigeria shut its land borders in 2019 (with some of them later reopened) due to the smuggling of rice as well as arms and ammunition into the country.”
For sheer expediency, he lamented that Atiku, a former Customs Officer who rose to the pinnacle of his career, is ready to erase the gains made since 2015 in pushing Nigeria closer to self-sufficiency in the production of staples.
Insecurity Worsened Under Closed Borders, Atiku Insists
However, in his response to the minister’s claims, the spokesperson of the Atiku/Okowa campaign organisation, Kola Ologbondiyan, yesterday faulted claims by Lai Mohammed, saying despite the closure of the borders under Buhari’s administration, insecurity grew worse.
Ologbondiyan, who reminded the minister that the nation’s borders are now open, wondered whether the allegations made against Atiku do not already apply under this administration.
He also said in spite of the opening of the borders, the cost of local rice is different from the cost of imported rice.
Ologbondiyan added that Lai Mohammed is not the one contesting the election even as Nigerians await Tinubu’s unscripted participation in a debate.
The campaign spokesperson said: “Can we then assume that since the borders are currently open, that all the allegations that he made are reflected in the Nigerian situation today? Is that what he’s saying? Because the borders are open as you and I are talking.
“But I also know that in spite of the opening of the borders, the cost of local rice is different from the cost of imported rice. Imported rice sells for between N40,000 and N50,000 or above, while locally milled rice sells between 30,000 and 40,000. So, that same differential pooh-poohs the argument and contemplation of Alhaji Lai Mohammed.”
On the claim that Atiku’s plan will increase insecurity in the country, Ologbondiyan said: “Is Lai Mohammed claiming that when the borders were shut by President Muhammadu Buhari that we didn’t have insecurity? Or is he saying that now that the borders are open, we have more insecurity than when it was shut?
“Alhaji Lai Mohammed is an old man. I know his proclivities; I know why he tries to come out always to come and engage with Atiku. He’s doing all that in order to be seen to be working for the failed ambition of his friend, Bola Tinubu.
“Atiku Abubakar is never going to be drawn into that arena because Atiku is speaking to Nigerians, he’s addressing the challenges of Nigeria and, realistically, Nigerians are agreeing with him that he’s responding to their needs, to their desires.
“So, we are not going to allow any form of distraction from Mohammed. He had eight years to speak to Nigerians on the achievements of President Muhammadu Buhari. He failed woefully in delivering on that.
“But now, he’s looking at every flimsy opportunity to drag with Atiku Abubakar. We are not cut out for that as a campaign.
“He’s not in the race. It is his friend, Bola Tinubu, that’s in the race and is the one Nigerians are waiting for to come into the public arena and debate unscripted. That’s the desire of Nigerians. That’s what Nigerians are waiting for.”