*Says we’re in an emergency
*Notes it hasn’t been easy to keep election promises
*President meets Makinde, Akeredolu, Ooni over insecurity in S-West
*Why Akeredolu visited Buhari —Ondo Govt
*We’re only after criminals, bandits — Makinde
*Ooni warns against politicizing security issuesl40 Generals face retirement
*Removal of service chiefs not caused by public pressure — Presidency
*New service chiefs not enough to fix Nigeria’s insecurity problems, say Northern Elders, ask Buhari to meet govs, security chiefs to de-escalate tension in South-West
By Kingsley Omonobi, Johnbosco Agbakwuru & Luminous Jannamike
PRESIDENT Muhammad Buhari, yesterday, asked Ondo State governor, Rotimi Akeredolu, to flush out all the criminals in his state, especially the forest reserves.
He also told the new service chiefs in a close doors meeting that the country was in a state of emergency.
Akeredolu briefs Buhari
Although the governor failed to grant State House correspondents an interview at the end of his close doors meeting with the President at Aso Rock in Abuja, his Information Commissioner, Donald Ojogo, disclosed the President’s call in a statement issued in Akure.
The statement read: “The governor seized the opportunity of the meeting to brief the President regarding the precarious security situation in the region, especially Ondo State.
“The governor met with the President at a meeting; and it centered on the issue of security concerns in the Southwest, especially in Ondo State.
“It was a huge opportunity for the governor to put the records straight as regards the erroneous impression that Governor Akeredolu had asked all Fulani and herdsmen to vacate the state.
“The meeting afforded both leaders a great window to explore ingenious methods to tackle the issue of insecurity in the region.
“In particular, Governor Akeredolu sought and, indeed, obtained the President’s support and encouragement to flush out criminals in the forests of Ondo State.”
The President also told the service chiefs that it has not been easy to fulfill the promises he made to Nigerians 2015 which were to secure the country, revive the economy, and fight corruption.
Admonishing the new service chiefs to be patriotic in discharging their duties, he also told them to serve the country well.
The President in a statement by his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Chief Femi Adesina, said: “We’re in a state of emergency. Be patriotic, serve the country well, as your loyalty is to the country.”
He congratulated the service chiefs on heading their various services, adding that “there’s nothing I can tell you about the service, because you are in it.
“I was also in it, and I will pray for you. I also assure you that whatever I can do as Commander-in-Chief will be done, so that the people will appreciate your efforts.
“You know the stage we were in 2015, you know the stage we are now, and the undertakings we made. We promised to secure the country, revive the economy, and fight corruption. None has been easy, but we have certainly made progress.”
The President also charged the Service Chiefs to be concerned about the morale of their officers and men, saying they should be made to feel physically and professionally secure.
He pledged that Government would do its best in terms of equipment and logistics.
The Service Chiefs, who were led to the meeting by the Minister of Defence, Major-General Bashir Magashi (retd), are: Major-General LEO Irabor, Chief of Defence Staff; Major-General I. Attahiru, Chief of Army Staff; Rear Admiral AZ Gambo, Chief of Naval Staff; and Air Vice-Marshal IO Amao, Chief of Air Staff.
Buhari’s meeting with the new service chiefs at the Presidential Villa, was to strategise on the way forward for the nation’s security.
The President also had a meeting with Ondo State Governor, Oluwarotimi Akeredolu, SAN, his counterpart in Oyo State, Seyi Makinde, and the Ooni of Ife, His Imperial Majesty, Adeyeye Ogunwusi, Ojaja II, over the security situation in the South-West, especially in Ondo and Oyo states, with a call on Akeredolu to flush out all criminals in his state.
The new service chiefs at the meeting with the President include Major-General LEO Irabor, Chief of Defence Staff; Major-General I Attahiru, Chief of Army Staff; Rear Admiral AZ Gambo, Chief of Naval Staff; and Air-Vice Marshal IO Amao, Chief of Air Staff.
Vanguard learned that insurgency, banditry, kidnapping and other violent crimes nationwide topped the agenda at the meeting.
Recall that the President on Tuesday, announced appointment of the new service chiefs, following the groundswell of opposition that trailed the continued stay in office of their predecessors without commensurate improvement in security in the country.
President Buhari also met separately with the Oyo state governor over the tension generated by herdsmen attacks in his state.
He had met with the Ooni, Oba Ogunwusi, over the same insecurity problem in the South West on Tuesday night.
Why I came to see Buhari — Oyo gov
But addressing State House correspondents after his meeting with the President, Governor Seyi Makinde said he came to brief the President to be sure he (Buhari) had accurate information on the insecurity situation in Oyo State, given the amount of fake news flying about.
“There has been a lot of fake news all around and I wanted to be sure that Mr. President clearly has first hand information from me, which I did. We also exchanged ideas on what we need to do better, some of the programmes we have put in place to ensure this security issue is tackled. So, that’s basically why I came here.”
On the specific issues he discussed with the President, the governor said: “Well, one of the issues I discussed with Mr. President is that Oyo State land mass is quite big, Oyo State is close to 29,000 square kilometers.
“If you take all the states in the South East geo-political zone of Nigeria, they are still not as big as Oyo State, and the state right now only has two mobile police squadrons.
“So, I requested for more mobile police squadrons to be deployed to Oyo State and also ask for support for joint security outfit because the underlying issue here also has to do with limited opportunities.
“The tension will definitely go down if a lot of our youths are gainfully employed. So, I briefed the President on what we are doing in that regard.”
When asked about his disagreement with the activist, Sunday Igboho, on the ultimatum for Fulanis to leave Oyo State, the governor explained: “Well, we have a history of living together peacefully among all the ethnic groups that are present in Oyo State.
“For instance, what triggered all of this was that Dr. Aborode was brutally murdered. That is criminal, but on the other hand, Seriki, Alhaji Kabir, has been staying in that same place for 40 years.
“So, quite frankly, the people we are after are criminals. They are the bandits, hoodlums, armed robbers, kidnappers. Those are the true enemies of the state and those are the people we will go after.
“The constitution of Nigeria guarantees that you can live in any part of Nigeria, you just have to be law abiding, obey the local laws in such areas. That is what we are pushing and will continue to push as a government.”
My mission to Buhari — Ooni
On his part, the Ooni of Ife, Oba Ogunwusi, told State House correspondents that his visit to Aso Rock was to appeal to the President not to allow the issue of insecurity in the country politicized.
He admonished that politics should be separated from insecurity in order not to jeopardize the lives of citizens.
He added: “I am here particularly because of all the issues of security threats here and there and to get the blessing of Mr. President, so that it won’t turn out to be very political because political parties might probably want to hijack it.
“To the glory of God, as the co-chairman of National Council of Traditional Rulers, it is our responsibility and our fiduciary duty to make sure that everything is right, all and sundry is in good shape.
“So, the take home here is the President has assured that it is not going to be a political thing because we all know the problem all over the country, we have a lot of bad eggs that mix across the entire country and we are having that issue again in the South West.
“So, I am here as the co-chairman of National Council of Traditional Rulers to get the assurance of Mr. President that either of the parties won’t turn security to a political funfair for us to just risk the lives of our people, our innocent citizens, not only in the South West but also the entire country.
“I am happy he has told me that I should assure other traditional rulers that we must work with them now. It is very important for us to work very closely with the government, so we can separate the good, the bad and the ugly.”
While stressing the need to separate “the corn from,the chaff,” the monarch bemoaned the porosity of nation’s borders, noting with delight, however, that the introduction of “e-border” would make policing the borders more efficient..
The Ooni stated further: “The President has assured that our governors and other political leaders must work with the traditional rulers, so we can actually separate the good from the bad and get the right society in proper perspective .
“So, here, the objective is politics shouldn’t be mixed with the safety and the security of our people. Politics should be completely taken out of it and to the glory of God, the President said he is fully on board with us as traditional rulers.”
On his impression about the replacement of service chiefs, the Ooni described the President’s action as positive, as it would bring fresh ideas to the fight against insecurity.
He stated: “It is a very positive coincidence for me, it’s a good refreshment; there is new blood, new intake, fresh ideas will come on board and we have actually given very positive encouragement to Mr. President that he should keep it up. It is a very couragous move for fresh minds.
“At least, there has been a lot of hue and cry about this, we are not all safe but with what Mr. President has done and providentially, I am experiencing it at the seat of power, it is a welcome development.
“Everybody in Nigeria will be very happy about it and we expect more of refreshments within the confines of this government because it is a legacy that he is building for himself and we will continue to support that legacy for the betterment of our country. So, it is a good thing that Mr. President has done.”
40 generals to retire after ex-service chiefs
Also yesterday, indications emerged that about 40 Generals from the Army, Navy, and Air Force, may proceed on retirement, following the appointment of new service chiefs.
According to military tradition, once a junior office is appointed commander of a service (service chief), the senior officer is expected to resign, as it is usually believed that taking orders and saluting a once junior officer is condescending.
With Major General Irabor as Course 34 graduate; Major General Attahiru, Course 35; Air Vice Marshal Amao, Course 35; and Rear Admiral Gambo, Course 36, many of the generals, including some of their course mates, would have to go, particularly as a result of non-availability of vacancies and non-deployability.
Though the terms and conditions of service, as contained in the Armed Forces Act, makes room for officers who still have time on retirement age or number of mandatory years to serve, to remain in service, experience has shown that these officers would prefer to retire, go home and maintain their dignity.
Recall that the retention of the former service chiefs – General Gabriel Olonisakin, Course 25 intake; Lt. Gen Buratai, Course 27; Vice Admiral Ibas, Course 26; Air Marshal Abubakar, Course 27, because of the emergency insecurity situation in the country by President Muhammadu Buhari, also resulted in the retirement of many officers of Courses 28, 29, 30, 31, 32, and 33 before the new appointments.
For the Navy for instance, Courses 34 and 35 Rear Admirals still in service are expected to go, while for the Air Force, Course 34 Air Vice Marshals still in service are expected to proceed on retirement.
Same applies to the Army which has a Lieutenant General, Lamidi Adeosun, and Chief of Policy and Plans, who is senior in rank to the incoming COAS.
‘New service chiefs appointed not because of pressure’
Similarly, the Presidency has said President Buhari replaced the erstwhile service chiefs because he felt now was the time to do so and not due to pressure or calls by the public.
Special Adviser on Media and Publicity to President Muhammadu Buhari, Femi Adesina, who stated this in a Channels TV programme late on Tuesday night, said: “The President knew the time to do it and I believe the time has come and that is why it has been done.
“I don’t think it is a matter of right or wrong; it is just a matter of doing what is best for the country at the best time.
“It will not be right to say one side was right or one side was wrong because the President even in the statement we issued, also commended the outgone service chiefs for their contribution to engendering a safer country.
“That shows that by and large, he was satisfied with their performances and he just felt it was time to rejig the system; have fresh energy, have fresh blood, have fresh ideas”.
He dismissed insinuations that the resignation of the service chiefs was as a result of a number of security failures under their tenure or a result of the pressure mounted on the government for the sack of the service chiefs.
Insecurity won’t vanish because of new service chiefs — NEF
Meanwhile, the Northern Elders Forum, NEF, said yesterday it would require more than the appointment of new service chiefs to fix Nigeria’s security challenges.
The Forum argued that the change of the service chiefs by President Muhammadu Buhari was not an end in itself, but a means to a better security, adding that it would, therefore, require his active involvement and interest in their conduct, records and performances for the country to win the war against insurgency and other threats.
While urging the new service chiefs to prioritise real improvements in professional standards and morale of the troops, the Northern elders stressed the need for them to lead a military which operates with higher levels of respect for rules of engagement.
NEF’s Director, Publicity and Advocacy, Dr Hakeem Baba-Ahmed, who stated this in a statement in Abuja said: “ÿþNorthern Elders Forum welcomes the appointment of new service chiefs. In our current circumstances, where the nation is being swamped by old and new security challenges, a change of leadership in our Armed Forces should be a signal that President Muhammadu Buhari accepts the need to effect major changes in his disposition to security issues and improvements in the nation’s capacities to deal with security and public safety.
“Nigerians will hope that these changes, even if belated, are intended as a response to the persistent demands for changes at leadership levels as part of the requirements to improve professionalism, morale and integrity of command structures of our Armed Forces.
“The Forum warns the nation not to be misled into thinking that these changes will dramatically change the nation’s fortunes in its fight against multiple security threats.
“The new service chiefs will be a lot more effective if they are inspired by a Commander-In-Chief who adopts an involved and active interest in their conduct, records and performances.
“President Buhari must, therefore, reduce his distance from defence and security matters, and hold service chiefs and senior commanders accountable for successes and failures.
“The Forum believes that the priorities of the new service chiefs should include real improvements in professional standards and morale of fighting men and women as well fighting corruption within the Armed Forces.
“They will be aware that our frustrations regarding access to vital weapons and criticisms from foreign and domestic monitors of the war are related to the manner our Armed Forces execute the war, and it will be important for them to lead a military which will operate with higher standards of respect for rules of engagement.”
The Forum also countered the argument that new security heads were part of the military that was severely challenged in the battle against insecurity, saying the service chiefs stood a chance of retaining public confidence, if they improved on the records of their predecessors.
“The new service chiefs have been part of the military that has been severely challenged in the fight against a decade-old insurgency and many other threats. However, they can retain the confidence of Nigerians by substantially improving on the records of their predecessors.
“The Forum invites the nation’s attention to the need to rise in support of leaders to reduce tensions and other threats to our security.
“Events unfolding in the Southwest, particularly inflammatory comments and threats by groups and individuals, represent existential threats to the whole nation.
“All Nigerians must eschew the temptation to tamper with sensitive matters in pursuit of narrow goals.
The Forum repeats its call on President Buhari to summon a meeting of governors, leadership of security and intelligence services and other Nigerians with capacities to advise and assist in de-escalating tensions in the Southwest.”