BY PETER DURU
Minister for Interior, Comrade Abba Moro, spoke to reporters recently in Makurdi recently, on a number of issues including the security challenges the nation is facing. Excerpt:
What are some of the challenges you encountered since your assumption of office as Minister of Interior?
I assumed office at a time that can be described as difficult. Difficult in the sense that Nigeria is passing through a very difficult and tense situation.
We have witnessed in recent times things that are a little alien to our culture. We have witnessed bomb blasts that have become more of suicide bombings; things that we hear on the radio, watch on the television, cable networks have been transported to Nigeria. And to my mind, that presents a very serious challenge against the backdrop of internal and national security.
What I can ascribe that to is immediate challenges. I think that the normal challenge that we have is that government resources is highly limited.
If you think about what can be done to contain the present problem of internal insecurity, the physical problem is funding. And so, we are trying to go round it to find answers to the question of funding. And that has informed the invitation of all Nigerians especially the private sector to come partner with government.
Recently, President Goodluck Jonathan convened a retreat for government functionaries in ministries and the organized private sector. The whole idea is to network and create a synergy that would make the Nigerian economy private-sector driven.
And I can tell you that the retreat came out wonderfully because from the retreat, the problems of the private sector were put before the government and the government’s intention of partnering with the private sector to re-engineer the Nigerian economy for the purpose of creating a conducive atmosphere to create jobs and create funds was addressed. And I can tell you that this government is going the right direction.
So, basically, what I am saying is that we have in the ministry the challenge of containing the various conflicts that have arisen in recent times, the challenge of internal political crisis, the challenge of sectarian crisis and of course you know we have had isolated instances of communal crises across the country. All these are problems that confront the ministry of Interior, the Nigerian Police and all agencies entrusted with the responsibility of enforcing law and order. We are working towards getting on top of the situation.
Internal security is one of the core responsibilities of your ministry. What is the ministry doing to ensure tighter security at our borders, especially in Borno State?
I agree with you that because of the activities of the sect called Boko Harram, attention and focus have been on Borno State especially in our borders along Cameroun and Chad.
And that is because of the inevitable conclusion that because this culture of bomb blast and suicide bombing is alien to Nigeria, we have come to the inevitable conclusion with the evidence of people who have been accosted in recent times that these people could have infiltrated our country through those borders.
So, the effort that is on ground within the Ministry of Interior now to sort out the problems include intensifying our border patrols. I can assure you today that the inter-agency patrol of our borders has been stepped up. And only recently, the ministry of Interior played host to the Inspector General of Police of Niger with all the accompanying officers of other security agencies like the Customs and Immigration.
And the conclusion of our interaction and interface was that we will now resuscitate and implement the joint Border Patrol between Niger and Nigeria because we agreed that problems between both countries in terms of internal security are very similar. And that is essentially because of the conflict in the Middle East.
The downward movement of insurgents from these countries has led to the proliferation of arms across the borders. We hope that with the intensification of this collaborative efforts between Niger and Nigeria, it would be extended to Cameroun, Republic of Benin and The Chad, and we would be able to contain the illegal movement of these aliens across the country.
How do you think the Boko Haram issue should be resolved, dialogue or force?
The conclusion of some persons as to the exclusion of dialogue from settling internal dispute is actually a misplaced one. I think that what people mistake for dialogue is negotiation. I think what the Federal Government would not want to engage in ab initio from the beginning is the issue of negotiation. You would agree with me that it would be absurd for a Federal Government to try to solve problems that arise, particularly problems that arise and result into bombings and suicide bombings and all that with negotiation. And so, the Federal Government as a democratic government is amenable to dialogue. The essence of democracy is dialogue, consultation and I think that is exactly what the Federal Government is doing. The report of the post-election violence in Nigeria has been submitted to the Federal Government and the issues are being addressed.
Today, I can tell you that in order to establish a fair platform for the Boko Haram crises, the Federal Government set up a committee and the committee has turned in an interim report and has finally turned in a final comprehensive report to the Federal Government. As I am talking to you now, a white paper by government is in the works and the intention of government was to find out first of all what has given rise to this crisis that has confronted us today as a nation that is called Boko Haram.
The next thing is that as a democratic government, if by the report submitted by the committee set up by the government to find out the reason for the crisis, it is recommended and government feels it is the right thing to do, government will negotiate with Boko Haram.
But if by the report and the opinion of government, dialogue sorts out the problem, then certainly, government would engage in constructive dialogue to ensure that the crisis is laid to rest. Let me tell you that the use of force has been necessitated by the fact that the activities of Boko Haram have escalated to the point that mayhem has been unleashed on the nation.
And no responsible government would fold its arms and allow individuals take laws into their hands and eliminate other human beings. Essentially therefore, the engagement of force in the quelling of the Boko Haram crisis has been necessitated by the need for Nigeria to take an immediate step to curtail the crisis that has unfolded.
How do you view comments that Boko Haram is a militant group of the Arewa Consultative Forum and that they are disenchanted because they felt shortchanged by the 2011 election with the emergence of Jonathan as President?
Let me say that some people felt aggrieved by the results of the 2011 elections but I would not subscribe to the insinuation that the Boko Haram is a militant arm of the North that felt shortchanged so to say in the 211 elections because while we claim that the dimension that the crisis has taken in terms of the approach of suicide bombing is an unacceptable tradition in Nigeria, let us not forget that sectarian and communal crises are not exclusive preserves of the North. From all parts of Nigeria, we have had one form of crisis, violence arising from election results or the other. Just like we had violence in some parts of the north, we also had some violence in some parts of the South-South and parts of the South-West. Some Nigerians are yet to completely imbibe the democratic ethos of accepting the ballot box as the only viable organ of changing government.
But let me say that when government says that they can finger out master-minds and perpetrators of violence, it is not to say that issues have been swept under the carpet because only recently you are aware that some suspected perpetrators or activists of the Boko Haram were arrested and arraigned before the court. But what I want people to realize is that this is a democracy; this is a government that believes in the rule of law and it would be unfair to ask that all suspects be clamped into detention and put in incarceration permanently. Because I can assure you that the same Nigerians that are clamouring for the indiscriminate arrest of master-minds and perpetrators of the violence that is engulfing the country today will be the same Nigerians that will complain about the excesses when Nigerians are indiscriminately clamped into detention. So, I think that what I would urge Nigerians to do for this government and Nigeria is for everyone to exercise some level of patience. Let me say this, that government alone cannot take complete responsibility of security.
The perpetrators of this acts that are inimical to internal security live with us, they wine with us, they eat with us, they sleep with us and that is why I’ve had occasion to say that internal security is the responsibility of everyone. Everybody has a role to play because the modern trend in internal security is intelligence gathering and intelligence gathering has to do with providing adequate information as to possible threats to security. So, everybody has a role to play.