Otunba Adejare Adegbenro, a security and weapons expert, is the National Director of the National Taskforce on Prohibition of Illegal Importation/Smuggling of Arms, Ammunition, Light Weapons and Pipeline Vandalization (NATFORCE), In this interview with LAWRENCE ENYOGHASU, he recommended solutions to the lingering security challenges in the country warning that, something drastic should be done if the country still nurses the ambition to hold successful general elections in 2023.

 

What’s your take on the level of insecurity in the country?

First of all I strongly condemn the recent bombing of the Kaduna -Abuja rail and the breach of security at the Kaduna Airport sometimes ago. Many other incessant killings and kidnapping and destruction of property have intensified, leaving the government looking clueless and helpless and this poses a serious threat to our national security. To be honest, I fear this might escalate, especially now that we are entering the election year. To say that the country is under siege is an understatement. Right now, no one is safe, not even the presidency. No one knows who and where they will strike next. You may want to ask how far is the Presidential Villa (the number one seat of power) from the location of the railway bombing. This shows how threatened we are as a nation by these miscreants called terrorists. And more disturbing is, if such an attack can be successfully carried out in a state like Kaduna which houses the highest number of federal government security outfits, what then is the fate of other states of the federation which do not have the security strength that Kaduna has? These are all food for thought for everyone in power and until we take security matters very seriously beyond political interest, we might never get it right.

What’s your advice to the president and those in charge of security in the country?

Over the years my recommendations to the government regarding security matters had been consistent and I will say it again that our present security outfits are overwhelmed. Not because they are not working or the service chiefs are not working but simply because the number of security men in the country compared to our overall population is very poor and we need a robust intelligent outfit with high level coordination and ordinance specifically mandated to check and control the proliferation of arms and light weapons into the country. We need a dedicated outfit whose primary mandate is the control of how these weapons used by the bandits and terrorists come into the country.

The first step to fighting your enemy is to disarm him because if your enemy is armed, sometimes more than you do, then how can you fight and win him? It will be impossible. Until that is put in place, we would continue to experience security breaches at high level. Let me quickly add here that, even saboteurs in the security agencies of the nation need to be flushed out of the system to achieve results.

How do you think your organisation – National Taskforce on Prohibition of Illegal Importation/Smuggling of Arms, Ammunition, Light Weapons and Pipeline Vandalization (NATFORCE) can help curb insecurity?

It is sad and regrettable that up till now Nigeria has not established a centre to curb proliferation of small and light weapons in the sub region. For crying out loud, these terrorists  carry out their attacks using weapons and bombs that were mostly illegally imported or smuggled into the country. It’s so sad that terrorists feel like they have what it means to confront our military in combat. The other day it was our Defence Academy (the NDA) in Kaduna that was attacked leaving a senior officer dead and I think one abducted. Now, please tell me what could have possibly given a terrorist group that kind of confidence and audacity to attack a place such as the Nigerian Defence Academy if not the weapons they are carrying?

NATFORCE is long overdue and its high time the presidency, the National Assembly and every other relevant authority stopped playing the politics of selfish interest with the implementation of NATFORCE as a full-blown security outfit across the country. NATFORCE’s mandates are the answers to the security challenges facing the nation at the moment. NATFORCE will be a great asset to the Nigerian Police, Office of the National Security Adviser (NSA), the Customs, the DSS, the Immigration Service and every other security outfit in the country. NATFORCE will provide gainful employment for our teeming youths and this will go a long way to reducing the extent at which our youths are involved in crime, banditry and terrorism.

What would you say is our problem as a nation in terms of security and safety of lives and property?

Our problem as a nation is that we play politics with everything including sensitive issues like our internal and national security as well as our sovereignty. Just last week I heard a honourable member in the lower chamber suggesting that since the government has failed to protect the citizens, everyone should be allowed to bear arms for self-protection. How could that be? How could he suggest such a worse solution? Have you thought of the consequences that might arise if everyone in this country is allowed to bear arms? Isn’t that going to lead to anarchy and doom? Most definitely it will and I will tell you why: people are no longer okay in this country. There is high level of hunger in the land, high level of unemployment, economic instability is dealing with us, inflation and lack of basic amenities, to mention a few. The masses are bitter and they feel the government has failed them. With arms, people will take the law into their hands and that will result to war. You will agree with me that the legitimacy of the citizens is in doubt right now. There is misplacement in priority on the side of the leaders. The president needs to understand that security matters are sensitive and not for everyone or just any politician. Until we realise how to draw a thick line between politics and national security, we might never get it right and the insurgency might just never end. The worse is that security challenges we are facing right now has become a cash cow for some people and I am wondering how did we get to this point? We are indeed exposing ourselves and endangering our dear nation. We live in an extraordinary time and you see the kinds of global war going on across the world. So, no reasonable government or leader will want to endanger his nation thereby leaving it vulnerable to security threat just for selfish interest. It’s unheard of!

How can this NATFORCE help provide a solution to our security challenges?

NATFORCE is an intelligent outfit and the proposed structure of the organisation is from ward to local government to state level and up to the Federal level. If fully implemented, it will solve the unemployment problem as it is scheduled to provide at least 270, 000 jobs for the youth. In addition to that, it will help out in intelligence gathering, community policing and report, centralised control of the importation and smuggling of arms and inter-agency collaboration, to mention a few. In the real sense of it, even the Nigeria Police will welcome and appreciate the development. The government will regain her confidence back in the citizens. No amount of security measures is too much, not for a country like ours.

What do you think of the service chiefs and do you think the military are doing enough?

Well, I think the service chiefs are doing their best as well as the military. The honest truth is that the military is beginning to get overwhelmed with matters of internal security. They are over-tasked most times by dabbling into politics. The politics in the security system is giving the military a bad name. Ordinarily the military are supposed to be for territorial defence and matters that have to do with national security. But right now we have the military everywhere involving in internal security and it’s not like we have enough manpower in the entire security system of the country to add that to their duties. It is therefore disturbing that there are glare indications that other security outfits saddled with the responsibility of taking care of internal security are lacking and overwhelmed. In the public domain, contrary to what it used to be, there is a different perception of what people think of the military. Before now, it used to be a thing of joy for a family to have at least one member in the military. But right now, people are not interested in joining the military. Parents wouldn’t give consent for their children to join the military. Why? Because of the killings. As a soldier, it is very sad to be killed and butchered by terrorists or bandits right inside your country simply because of wrong decisions from leaders who are supposed to uphold the unity and peace of this nation. A soldier will rather be proud to die fighting for the territorial defence of his nation other than dying in the hands of local bandits or local terror group simply because of wrong decisions by the leadership. Recent attacks have shown that even the military are not safe! How did we get here as a nation? The answer is we allowed politics into our security affairs and that is a serious problem because we are mortgaging the future of our dear nation and the sovereignty our founding fathers fought for. The welfare scheme of the armed forces needs to be improved as well as that of the police force. You can’t give what you don’t have. Improve on their welfare scheme and they will be motivated to lay their lives down for the good of our nation.

Do you think the security challenges we are facing will affect the general election in 2023?

Most definitely, I think if we don’t do something drastic now the general election in 2023 will be marred by insecurity and terrorism. All pointers are clear and we have seen the danger and where it might lead to. INEC is already raising alarm and that is a cause to worry about. How do you conduct elections in a turbulent society? We need to do something drastic, sentiment and interest aside, before the nation becomes totally ungovernable.

The irony of the whole thing is that those in power and even the National Assembly members will be going for re-election. Now tell me, how do you get re-elected when you cannot solve security challenges, when you cannot pass a security bill that will better the lives of the people and even create a peaceful atmosphere for you to run for re-election? Isn’t that insensitivity?

What are your words to the presidency, the National Assembly and the Nigerian people?

The National Assembly, please expedite the passage of the bill to establish NATFORCE and the centre to curb proliferation of small and light weapons. General election is just by the door steps. If we don’t tackle insecurity and the inflow of arms into the nation, it might consume us all and prevent us from having a successful election. The Presidency should also listen to sound minds and experts on security matters. Take out politics from internal and national security.

The Nigerian people should never relent from crying out loud and demanding their right: the right to security of lives and property, the right to a peaceful Nigeria, the right to good governance, the right to an enabling environment for business to strive. And above all, get Permanent Voter’s Card (PVC), which is the legitimate power to choose the leaders we desire.

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Source: news