BY KINGSLEY OMONOBI
ABUJA — IN the wake of terrorists attacks on army cantonments in parts of the country, the Chief of Army Staff, Lt. General Azubuike Ihejirika, has directed that all civilians and non-military personnel residing in all army barracks be flushed out.
His words: “All illegal civilians and those above 18 years should vacate the barracks immediately in view of the security situation in the country. Any Commander that fails to flush out these persons should be ready to face serious sanction.”
The directive of the Army chief came just as he disclosed that since assumption of office, his administration had paid off a massive debt portfolio of over N2 billion which he inherited from UBA and Oceanic Banks. He said he could not lay a finger on what previous administrations of the Army did with the money.
Ihejirika who was speaking at the closing of the annual COAS Conference in Asaba said on terrorism: “Nigerians should expect more comprehensive action by the military and all the security agencies.
Some of the moves the army has initiates include that unit commanders should liaise more, supervise and monitor their personnel more closely than they have done in the past. So 2013 would be decisive.”
He directed that all vehicles used for internal security operations, be painted in army colours immediately to forestall the type of blackmail recently witnessed from Reuters International news agency, noting: “The Nigerian Army is dealing with enemies who have no other business that to plan mayhem, destruction and murder from morning to night.”
He said that within the last two years of his administration, 435 officers’ quarters and 6,337 soldiers accommodation had been rehabilitated while by 2013, over 10,000 soldiers and officers’ accommodation would be rehabilitated.
Porosity of Army barracks
On the porous nature of Army barracks like that of Jaji, he said: “Yes, several of our barracks are not fenced but in the last two years, we must have fenced four barracks. But we are talking about may be 80 barracks that are not fenced.”
“Doing that will entail a lot of resources, a lot of support which the current budget may not contain. But again whether barracks is fenced or not, it does not serve as excuse for any commander to allow what happened to happen. But one thing I would say is that the lack of fence compounds the challenge.
“Now, every commander must think of ways of ensuring that what happened in Jaji does not happen. What is important is that you have put in your best in terms of planning, in terms of security measures, in terms of intelligence. Even when barracks are fenced, fences could be climbed, houses could be broken up, and we are not going to fence cities.
“What it means is that fencing of barracks would not be the only solution but it would aid security. A board of inquiry has been set up by the Nigerian Army and another one by the Defence Headquarters. With these two inquiries with various terms of reference, I believe that a number of revelations will come up which will further help us to ensure that such a thing does not come up.
On the vexed issue of intelligence gathering which many Nigerians believe is missing, the Army chief said: “The Nigerian Army works in collaboration with other services. We work hour by hour, and day to day with the SSS. We also receive support from the Nigerian Intelligence Agency. Apart from that, there are also certain international bodies that also relates with us.
“You are also aware of my visit to the Inspector General of Police. We also agreed on ways of enhancing intelligence collection and then dissemination. The conference also emphasized the need for national intelligence fusion. What it means is that all the various measures are going to be fast tracked to ensure that intelligence is further enhanced.
“You should know that it is a running battle because the people you are fighting are people within the country who know what measures you are even taking to checkmate their terrorist activities. That is why I also drew the attention of commanders on the need for them to, on a continuous basis, devise new tactics in dealing with the problem”.
He warned that henceforth monitoring committees from the army headquarters are going to be set up too to monitor the Commanders in the field adding, Make no mistake about it, Command responsibility is one area we will emphasize more next year”.
Asked if this action will lead to purging the force of unserious people, he said, “That one is obvious. I have already informed Commanders and they know. They should not wait for the Chief of Army Staff before taking action along the line’.