By Kemi Yesufu
Chairman Senate Committee on Army, Senator Mohammed Ali-Ndume, has warned that President Mohammadu Buhari must pull Nigeria back from the brink by dealing decisively with criminal gangs terrorizing innocent people across the country.
Ndume lamented what he described as these gangs some of which are involved in banditry and kidnapping running governments within (Nigerian) governments, saying the President should treat the situation as highly critical.
Speaking on the state of the nation at the March edition of the Nigeria Union of Journalists FCT Correspondents Chapel monthly media forum, the Borno lawmaker said Nigeria’s greatest challenge is the high level of insecurity pervading many parts of the country.
According to him, government at all levels must first return Nigeria to a country where people displayed a sense of security, if the country is to record significant development and economic growth.
Going down memory lane, Ndume, a former Majority Leader of the Senate said Nigeria degenerated from a country where spaced armed robberies were a novelty to a nation in which banditry; kidnapping and terrorism are part of reality.
He blamed the past and present governments for failing to invest in running modern armed forces and security agencies. This is as he decried what he said was the politicization of the country’s security challenges, adding the Buhari Administration has the golden opportunity of changing the story by investing in equipping the armed forces and security agencies as well as recruiting an adequate number of personnel.
Responding to a question from Frontline News Online on workable solutions, the senator who comes from the epicenter of the Boko Haram insurgency stressed the need for a big country like Nigeria with an estimated 200 million population to spend much more in its annual budget on equipping, training and managing its armed forces and security agencies. The lawmaker stressed that maintaining peace in a diverse and large country like Nigeria doesn’t come cheap.
He said: “I have been saying this. I say this at every opportunity that I have like this one, that government should prioritise security and peace does not come cheap. In a country where you are budgeting N13 Trillion for a year and you budget less than one percent for security, you know we are no serious.
“Now the President seems to have risen to the occasion with his New Year speech where said he is going to do something about insecurity and removed the service chiefs, bringing in the new ones. This is not enough, you must equip, you must have the numbers, and you must deploy them properly. The Nigerian security agencies, especially the armed forces are not well equipped, they do not have what it takes to address the security threats we are facing as a country”,
On the issue of amnesty for bandits and Boko Haram, Ndume reiterated his position that arrested bandits and insurgents should face the full wrath of the law. This is as he commended soldiers on the frontlines, saying that they are committed to defeating Boko Haram and restoring peace but are fighting with outdated weapons and equipment.
Ndume insisted that Nigeria needs much more than 400 thousand security personnel, who have become over stretched.
Speaking on zoning the presidency with regard to 2023, the senator said retaining the presidency in the north will amount to a third term for the north. He stated his support for a president from southern Nigeria, saying the person can come from the South East, South West or the South –South. He added that he would support his party the All Progressives Congress (APC) zoning the presidency to the south.
He said: “I’m against APC producing its presidential candidate from the north. The APC presidential candidate should come from the south.
“I have said it before and will still say it again that if we have a northerner as APC presidential candidate, to me, it is tantamount to third term and it is not constitutional.
“The (APC) constitution says the president shall serve two terms and we said then that the north should serve two terms.
“If you say the north should produce the presidential candidate again, it means you are going for third term, which is not fair and I believe in fairness, justice and equality.
“Let candidate from the south — and that means, south-south, southeast and south west — clinch the ticket.
“For the south-east, let me say for example, you want to be the head of this house and you are calling for the division of the house, will it work?
“And I think the southeast needs to think about it. That is what is creating the rumour for the northerners to even say they want to be the president again. If you want to be president of Nigeria, you must believe in the unity of Nigeria. I support the candidate to come anywhere from the south.”