Secretary to Government of the Federation, SGF, Boss Mustapha, has said the Federal Government was dealing with a bigger problem in banditry, which could be worse than Boko Haram.
Mustapha, who spoke in an interview with an online newspaper, Premium Times, said the government was, however, doing everything possible to nip in the bud banditry and other violent crimes in the country.
He said: “We have had incidents of banditry, which have taken a new dimension altogether. It is no more kidnapping just for the sake of it.
“Kidnapping is becoming a commercial enterprise and the banditry in the North-West, if care is not taken, will be another insurgency because they come in and take territories and declare lordship over those territories and they dare even authorities and securities agencies.
“There are many aspects of this crisis that are manifesting, but I can tell you that we have tried as much as possible to deal with them. You can see there is relative calm, even in the southern part of the country.
“In the South-South, which was a major challenge at the time we came in 2015 but because of the interface, mediation, negotiation and extending a hand of fellowship and assuring people that they are part of Nigeria and they can make claims for which the government is obligated to listen to them, there has been relative peace even with the issues of self-determination as exhibited in South Eastern part of the country.’
“So much is being done in terms of interface with the governors, with the leadership of the South-East trying to dissuade people from towing that part, which will not be of benefit to anybody.
“So as much as possible, in the area of securing the nation, issues of security as they manifest in different dimensions, we are doing as much as humanly possible to ensure we contain it.
‘’Like the President would always give assurances that we would work to avoid the conflicts which are needless, the office of the OSGF has done a lot in that area.
‘’We have tried as much as possible to interface with the traditional rulers being the first respondent in most communities through the National Council of Nigeria Traditional Rulers which is co-chaired by the Ooni of Ife and the Sultan of Sokoto.”
Speaking further, Mustapha said: ‘’When President Buhari assumed office, a substantial part of the local governments in the North-East were under Boko Haram insurgents. As a matter of fact, today I got a new figure that shocked me when the governor of Borno at a meeting mentioned that in 2015, 22 out of 27 local governments in the Borno States were under Boko Haram.
‘’Today, I can tell you not a single of those 22 local governments is under Boko Haram. We are not completely out of the woods yet, but I can tell you substantially all the local governments that used to be under the occupation of the Boko Haram have been liberated.
‘’People have returned to their homes. We still have challenges because of the level of indoctrination that has taken place. They still have some sleeper cells that come alive. What they do is that they look at soft targets.”
‘’They get some small girls wrapped with explosives to go to churches, mosques, markets, schools. But there is no more occupation of any sizeable part of this country. But don’t forget, as Boko Haram is being decimated, in other regions of the country, in the North Central, we have had clashes between herdsmen and farmers; issues of kidnapping.
‘’The Nigeria Inter-Religious Council existed before I came into office, but for a period of about six years held no meetings. I had to do a lot of spadework to convince the leadership that we needed to go back to the negotiation table and begin to talk.
‘’When the people outside begin to see the leaders of different faiths talking, it encourages them to have a sense or feeling that our problems will be sorted out. That has helped us tremendously and we have had segregated meetings in all the six geopolitical zones at different levels.
‘’The same thing with the National Council for Traditional Rulers which is part of what the government is doing as well as the OSGF because we have responsibility for public safety and security.’’
On the fight against corruption, he said: ‘’In the area of fighting corruption, so much has been done in terms of recoveries. As we go into 2019-2023, the government will be looking at strengthening the institutions; putting in place mechanism that will help stop corruption from taking place at all because it comes with a lot of expenses which I know requires a lot of paradigm shifts.
‘’One thing we can do is to begin to create safety nets for the people in the workplace. One thing that is a motivation for corruption is the fear of the unknown. You’re working today whereby you don’t know the future, and you will be 60 very soon.
‘’The worker says ‘I don’t have a home, a good car, still have kids in school; how will I cope with that kind of life’. That propels you into a quest for wealth and generally, that is the thing that propels people to want to acquire more money as much as possible.
‘’But once you are able to create a safety net; something that can take care of them in terms of any major accident, insurance packages that can cover them and their families, people will have less tendency in indulging in corrupt practices.
‘’Nobody wants to be stigmatized with corruption, which is the truth, but I know it is this fear of the unknown that normally propels people into doing that. Going forward, we should strengthen the institutions and build capacities for them; make sure too that we create safety nets around the whole places so that people can have a bit of comfort.
‘’No government has ever recovered the kind of money that we have recovered, the kind of properties that have been seized, now going through the processes of temporary forfeiture and eventually permanent forfeiture.
‘’After they are disposed of, the funds generated will be ploughed into the treasury account. Because of the single treasury system that has been put in place, so much money can be accumulated and be used to fund a project, provide for social services for the people of this country.
‘’The other aspect of it is the diversification of the economy. I think we have done very well in that area, particularly in the area of development of infrastructure.
‘’Most countries a long time ago knew that if they could provide roads, provide rail then they would open up their countries, there will be an influx of businesses and I think in that area we have succeeded tremendously.’’