Investigation linked police, military officers to bandits says Gov El-Rufai | NN NEWS

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– Says terrorists control resources so huge they can destabilise Nigeria

– Mutual distrust, suspicion among security agencies fueling insecurity — DG, DSS

Kaduna State governor, Mallam Nasir Ahmad el-Rufai, said yesterday that the military had been reluctant to fully engage bandits terrorizing the country, especially in the North-West, for fear of being dragged before the International Criminal Court, ICC.

The governor also raised alarm over financial resources available to terror rings in the country, saying they are enough to destabilise the country.

He said preliminary investigations had revealed that some security operatives were working for terrorists. 

Governor el-Rufai stated these when he featured on the weekly ministerial press briefing organized by the Presidential Communications Team at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.

He said while he campaigned for bandits to be classified as terrorists, there were some pushbacks on the ground that they do not have a recognized leadership structure. 

He however expressed delight over the court ruling, which recently declared the bandits as terrorists and therefore made them “a fair game.”

According to him, to deal with the criminality permanently, there must be a simultaneous ground and air attacks in all the states hosting the criminals to prevent them from escaping. 

The Kaduna State governor said the locations of the terrorists are known, adding that they must be wiped out at once rather than the present piecemeal approach if the problem must be solved.

He said the Fulanis involved in criminality would never abandon the business on their own because, as they make far more money from it than they would have made from legitimate cattle business. 

He said:  “I am persuaded that the insurgency in the North-West is far more serious than Boko Haram, both in terms of the numbers of the people affected. I have shown you the numbers in Kaduna. I can assure you that the numbers in Zamfara, and Katsina are up to three times, if they are keeping tabs. The numbers in Sokoto, Niger, and Kebbi will be about this.

“We are talking of tens of thousands of people getting killed, getting kidnapped. It is far more serious than Boko Haram. The only thing is that these guys don’t occupy territories, they are in the forests and ungoverned spaces. 

“So, they do not attract the kind of single-minded attention that Boko Haram does, and because Boko Haram’s ideology is religious, intentionally religious, it elicits more passion but really, this is a far more serious problem.

“Because, this is a situation largely in which people of about the same ethnicity, same religion are killing each other, stealing each other’s property,  creating an industry out of criminality. It’s very, very serious and it requires single minded attention.

“Yes, we know where these bandits are, we have the maps. But somebody has to go in and kill them. I can’t do that. If that somebody doesn’t have enough men, doesn’t have enough fire power, doesn’t have technology, no one is going to commit suicide.” 

‘Why NGF supported purchase of Tucano jets’

“This is why under this administration, Nigerian Governors Forum collaborated with the Federal Government to take money from the Excess Crude Account to buy the Super Tucano jets and other armaments to strengthen our defence system.

“As far back as 2017, we saw the dangers of this and we made representations to the Federal Government to declare these bandits as terrorists. But they were advised that since they don’t have a single command and control the way Boko Haram, ISWAP and terrorists have, it is difficult to declare them insurgents.

“But I’m happy that, you know, by the ruling of the Federal High Court, they are now declared terrorists and they are a fair game. This is because the military were afraid of bombing them and then, facing ICC. 

“The media, civil society, always like to protect those that are at the receiving end of something, not looking at the victims of those people sometimes. You know, no General wants to retire and then you go to the US, they arrest you and they say you bombed civilians and so on.

“So, there is reluctance on the part of the military but with this declaration by the Federal High Court now, I think we can go after them.”

‘North-West bandits more vicious than Boko Haram’

The governor noted that the nature of terrorism that reared its head in the North-West of the country is far more vicious, with more casualties than the Boko Haram insurgency experienced in the North-East of the country.

He said some state governors had the impression that negotiating with the criminals would end the problem but later realized that it was a mistake, revealing that North-West state governments began a process of cooperation and co-financing the military operation against cattle rustling.

He regretted that the operation was not sustained because some of the governors backed out after some successes were recorded, only for kidnapping to take over.

On the statistics of the victims of the criminality in the area, he said in the reported cases, 937 were killed, while 1,972 were kidnapped by bandits in the state in 2020.

According to him, a total of 1,192 were killed, while 3,348 were kidnapped in 2021, which he said suggested a deterioration in the situation.

He regretted further the challenge of lack of capacity of Nigeria’s security agencies in terms of adequate personnel and equipment, stressing the need to recruit more hands and procure sufficient equipment.

The governor, however, said the only answer to the quest of ending terrorism in all its forms was by total elimination, explaining that terrorists, especially those that specialise in banditry and kidnapping, had adapted their crime forms into a business, with the kind of financial turnover their original trades in cattle breeding could not have earned.

‘There may be collaborators amongst security agents’

Responding to a question on suspicion that security arrangements might have been infiltrated by terrorists, he said: “Yes, we are concerned and it is not impossible to have infiltrators. As I alluded to when I was answering this question, the preliminary report of Boko Haram financing also showed some links to bandits and pointed to some police and military officers in service as having some communication or connection with the bandits.

“So, there’s always that risks in any system; you have traitors and we’re concerned about that. But till date, we don’t have any firm evidence of that. I think a lot more work needs to be done.  

‘We’re concerned about finance angle’

“As I said, we need to pursue the financing and logistics chain of banditry as well because the amount of money these bandits are making is enough to destabilize this country. It is a lot of money. We only have an idea of what it is because those that make the payments don’t tell us the truth all the time, but we hear from the legal intercepts of the conversations about how much money they are asking for, how much they have received and so on.

“The numbers are mind-boggling. It’s a major source of national insecurity and it will grow unless it is decisively dealt with. So, yeah, I am concerned.’’

He said the state government established the peace commission so as to end the conflicts unsettling Southern Kaduna, emphasising that true peace would not be achieved without some level of dialogue.

He said the state had also invested a lot into technology in order to effectively beat the rate of crimes in the state, adding that some of the gadgets procured had assisted the state to locate the hideouts of the criminals.

He said it will be unfair to write off the efforts of government at both the federal and state levels, noting that government still needed to spend more on security.

Recall that for the Federal Government to get the desired equipment, such as the Tucano jets, to fight the insurgency in the country, it had to go through the hurdle set by the US Congress’ Leahy Law to do so.

Leahy Law

“The Leahy Laws or Leahy Amendments are US human rights laws that prohibit the US Department of State and Department of Defence from providing military assistance to foreign security force units that violate human rights with impunity. It is named after its principal sponsor, Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont).

“To implement this law, US embassies, the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labour, and the appropriate regional bureau of the U.S. Department of State vet potential recipients of security assistance. 

“If a unit is found to have been credibly implicated in a serious abuse of human rights, assistance is denied until the host nation’s government takes effective steps to bring the responsible persons within the unit to justice. 

“While the US government does not publicly report on foreign armed forces units it has cut off from receiving assistance, press reports have indicated that security forces and national defence force units in Bangladesh, Bolivia, Colombia, Guatemala, Mexico, Nigeria, Turkey, Indonesia, Lebanon, and Saint Lucia have been denied assistance due to the Leahy Law.’’

Mutual distrust among security agencies fuelling insecurity — DSS

Meanwhile, the Director-General of the Department of State Service, DSS, Alhaji Yusuf Bichi, said yesterday that insecurity is thriving in Nigeria because of the distrust and suspicion among security agencies.

The DSS D-G, who stated this at the closing ceremony of the DHQ Inter-Agency Cooperation Workshop in Abuja yesterday, said: “The country has been grappling with the scourge of insecurity in virtually all the six  geo-political zones for a while. In order to curtail the prevailing security challenges, security agencies are engaged in several joint operations across the nation.

“I must state from the outset that, a key mechanism needed to tackle the menace of insecurity is concerted efforts among all the security actors and other action agencies and stakeholders.

“Regrettably, issues on boundaries of responsibilities, mutual distrust, suspicion, unhealthy competition and lack of cooperation, have continued to deal a heavy blow on the cohesion of the nation’s security architecture.

“This  unhealthy competition/lack of cooperation would continue to have dire consequences on national security, except we become intentional and determined to deal with the problem.”

Represented by the Director of Operations, Mr. Joseph Dashwep, the DSS D-G added:  

“In practical terms, Inter-Agency Cooperation, IAC, is simply the working together of the various components of a sub-structure, and in this wise, the various security agencies in Nigeria, towards a common vision and resolution of problems.

“It requires, therefore, that the partners involved would cooperate in the exchange of relevant information and resources in support of each other’s goals.

“I must state unambiguously that IAC is a vital necessity of the time. This is because it is the bedrock on which our national security architecture can prevent, mitigate and contain the myriad of threats facing the nation. 

‘’Positive and productive outcomes could only be guaranteed if our various agencies work together.  It is equally important to stress the fact that the complexity and transnational nature of crimes have made it necessary for IAC.

“Accordingly, for IAC to be impactful, it must be predicated, among others, on positive perception of the complementary agencies.

“This engenders roles for understanding and mutual respect for defined boundaries of operations; cooperation and mutual trust. They are the basis for collaboration without let or hinderance.

“Consistency: This implies that all actors and stakeholders must work within agreed system or policy and stay accountable until there is a cogent and reasonable ground to change.

“Feedback System and Constructive Criticism: The system should encourage a feedback system that is constructive and offers peer-to-peer criticism in a manner that is friendly and with good intentions. This would foster growth and development.

“Need to Know: This principle stresses the fact that access to information should be considered a necessity in connection with official duties, for the performance of legitimate tasks.

“If this principle is not observed by both the giver or recipient agencies, then abuses may be recorded.  Some recommendations I consider necessary to develop robust IAC include, but not limited to: Inclusion of IAC in the basic curriculum and all levels of training by security agencies; reorientation among security personnel on the importance of IAC.

“Greater socialization through inter-service games, mess culture, joint workshops, and trainings in relevant fields; personnel secondment.

“I believe discussions during the workshop have identified challenges to Inter-Agency Cooperation, and also created a forum for interaction and further bonding among the participants.’’

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