…Says he gives advice to FG but doesn’t make noise about it
…IBB wasting his time advising Buhari —Afenifere
…We’re solidly behind IBB on this —ACF
…No amount of weapons, without review of security infrastructure, will resolve insecurity —Ohanaeze
…IBB’s call good, but… — CAN
By Anayo Okoli, Regional Editor, South-East, Clifford Ndujihe, Luminous Jannamike, Ibrahim HassanWuyo & Davies Iheamnachor
Former military President, Gen.Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida, IBB, has expressed concern over the state of insecurity in Nigeria, asking the Federal Government to urgently equip the military with modern arms and training to adequately confront the problem.
Babangida also said he often advises government on the matter but was not making noise about it.
While the Pan-Yoruba socio-political and cultural organisation, Afenifere, its counterpart in the north, Arewa Consultative Forum, ACF, and the Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN, concurred with the former military President, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, however, disagreed, saying unless the country security’s architecture is restructured, no amount of arms will resolve the insecurity problem.
Military needs modern weapons, training — IBB
However, the former President, who spoke in an interview with BBC Hausa Service monitored in Kaduna yesterday, said it has become imperative for citizens to support government and soldiers in order to bring an end to the crisis but not without adequately equipping the military with modern weapons and training.
Asked if he believed Nigerian soldiers needed modern weapons, he said: “Yes, they do. They also need to be trained on how to use the modern weapons, not to get weapons and just hand over to them. They should be trained.”
On whether he has ever advised the Federal Government on ways to end insecurity,which has now crept into his state, Niger, Babangida said: “ We give advice as we can..but we don’t make noise about it. We don’t announce that this is what we say.
“We should unite. We should support those in power; we are all working towards achieving the same goal. Between the leaders and citizens, we need peace and a harmonious relationship.
“This problem of insecurity, every government had its experience… but if we unite…I remember how we fought the civil war for three years, the people supported the government, the government did its best, bought what was necessary. Those who fought were made to understand that this country is the best for them.
“It’s not only in Nigeria, many countries encountered this kind of problem. Some had it for ten years but through concerted efforts, they are out of it. I believe we can get out of this problem.
“Both citizens and those governing are trying, but we should know that it is not an easy task.”
On whether politicians are playing the desired role to bring an end to insecurity, Babangida said there are many things that had to be put right, noting that “if they agree to sit down and think over, I believe success will be achieved.’’
On what to put right, he said it is important to rally round soldiers and other security agents, support them and let them know the citizens were are behind them.
“Provide them with all they require and let them know this is their country, they’ve no other country better than this.”
Not enough weapons — COAS
It will be recalled that Chief of Army Staff, Lt. General Attahiru Ibrahim, had told the National Assembly that troops fighting insurgency in the North-East, banditry in the North-West and other parts of the country lack the requisite arms and ammunition to fight insecurity.
He revealed this when he was summoned by the Senate Committee on Army to give account of the $1 billion approved by the National Economic Council, NEC for purchase of arms to fight insurgency.
His revelation propelled the Senate to also summon the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Mrs Zainab Ahmed, for explanation.
Appearing before the committee on Tuesday, May 4, Mrs Ahmed said the Federal Government had in 28 months, given the Army N1.08 trillion for purchase of arms and other equipment needed to prosecute the war against insecurity in the country.
“The Ministry of Finance and National Planning and, indeed, the Presidency give priority to funding of the Armed Forces of Nigeria. Apart from the fact that we try our best effort to fund what is provided for in the budget by almost 100 percent, there has been a lot of instances where the security services go to the President, get special approvals and we still provide funds.
“So, perhaps what we are providing is not enough but the fact is we provide what is budgeted and we provide what is approved.
“Maybe the thing to do in the meantime is to take stock of the real needs of the Nigerian Army. You have an opportunity in the supplementary budget that is coming in so we can address some of that,’’ the minister had told the Senate committee.
Tucano fighter aircraft coming July
Also, it will be recalled that the Presidency had in August 2017, placed an order for 12 Tucano fighter aircraft valued at $593 million, six of which government said will be delivered in July.
The money for the Super Tucano aircraft was part of the $1 billion approved for strengthening of the military to confront the insecurity in the country.
IBB’s advice not taken — Afenifere
Reacting to General Babangida’s advice that our soldiers should be given modern weapons and training to combat insecurity, Leader of the Pan-Yoruba Socio-Political Oganisation, Afenifere, Chief Ayo Adebanjo, said Babangida should not pretend because he knew that his advice would not be taken.
He said: “Why is he (IBB) pretending? Does he not know that Buhari will not listen? He should be bold enough to say that Buhari does not take advice.”
IBB knows what he’s talking about — ACF
Similarly, Arewa Consultative Forum, ACF, said Babangida, being a former military President, knew what he was talking about.
Spokesman of the group, Emmanuel Yawe, said: “Gen Babangida was Chief of Army Staff and Commander-in-Chief,so he should know what is required. ACF supports his assertion that our soldiers be provided with modern weapons and training to handle the weapons.
Good advice, but not new — CAN
In its reaction, Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN, said the advice by the former military President is good but not new.
He, however, argued that many Nigerians had made similar calls in the past, but the country’s leadership had not taken such advice seriously.
Rev. John Hayab, who is CAN’s Vice Chairman (Northern Region), also noted that the Federal Government had previously budgeted for modern military hardware and for the training of troops with little or nothing to show for it.
He said: “It is true that many of the weapons Nigerian security agencies are using are obsolete. The personnel also lack some basic skills and, therefore, need training.
“Bandits and criminals who are terrorising the people in the North have better weapons and are well-trained by their sponsors than what our security have.
“So, the call by our former President, IBB for the military to be given modern weapons and be trained is good, but not new because many Nigerians have made similar calls.
“However, due to reasons best known to those in power, such wise counsel were never taken seriously and were sometimes viewed as voices of the opposition and also tagged as disgruntled elements or wailers.
“Now that a former President has added his voice on the matter, we hope something concrete will be done. Though we have been told that money was voted for weapons that are not anywhere to be found now, any new release of funds for weapons when the last funds has not yet been accounted for could also disappear.
“Nonetheless, our military really needs our support as IBB said, but those in power, at the federal, state and local government levels must do something serious to win the trust of the general public which will help boost the people’s support for our military.”
New equipment can’t revive dampened morale — Ohanaeze
Also reacting Ohanaeze Ndigbo, however, said no amount of equipment could revive the already dampened spirit of the soldiers.
Ohanaeze blamed the poor performance of the military on the nepotism being exhibited by President Buhari in his appointments, including the service chiefs.
“The only solution is for President Buhari to begin to reverse some of his policies and appointments because they are the cause of the problems in the country, including in the armed forces.
“How can you have such lopsided appointments in the service chiefs and you expect the troops to have high spirits to fight? They are human beings. The nepotism is too much, in every aspect of the nation’s sector,” said Alex Ogbonnia, spokesman of the group.
He said unless the security architecture of the country is reversed and balanced by the President, no amount of modern equipment procured for the military will ginger their morale.
He said: “What is needed is to correct the security architecture of the the country; appointments should be devoid of nepotism; it must reflect federal character and merit. The same thing for other appointments. Buhari should reverse all the lopsided appointments he had been making. He is the one causing the problem of insecurity.
“Buhari is the one lionizing Nnamdi Kanu and other agitators. His nepotism in all his appointments are the main cause of the tensions in the country.
“Look at all the police commissioners in the South East, all of them, except Abia, are from the North. The same thing with military formations. Is that how to run a country?
IBB’s advice critical — PANDEF
Also reacting, the Pan Niger Delta Forum, PANDEF, said the advice offered President Muhammadu Buhari from an elder statesman like General Babangida is critical to the peace of the nation.
National Publicity Secretary of PANDEF, Ken Robinson, in Port Harcourt yesterday, also stated that Nigerians are now vulnerable in the hands of criminals, calling on the Federal Government to heed the advice.
Robinson said: “He is a former head of state. We assume that he knows what he is talking and for civilians like us, training and re-training is essential.
“Upgrading of ammunition and training for the military personnel is critical. We know the level of security challenges in the globe. His suggestion is most appropriate of course and that is what we have been saying. The Nigeria Government should accommodate views and opinions from well-meaning Nigerians.
“The Government should stop isolating itself. Suggestions like this shouldn’t be taken for granted, and the right thing should be done.
“There is dissolution in the military. They are vulnerable now. They are being killed by some elements for whatever reasons that are not acceptable on daily basis.
“The government should take this advice seriously and the best attention, welfare and care should be given to the military.”
Don’t ignore IBB’s call — NEF
On its part, the Northern Elders Forum, NEF, faulted the Federal Government’s approach in handling the issues of defence, security and law and order.
The Forum urged the Buhari administratiion to ensure that the advice by former military president, Gen. Ibrahim Babangida for equipping soldiers with modern weapons and training was not ignored.
NEF’s spokesman, Dr. Hakeem Baba-Ahmed, said: “Under all circumstances, the advice of President Babangida should be accorded the highest consideration.
‘He is not given to advising Presidents outside the most confidential settings. The substance of his advice, which acknowledges major deficiencies in our military’s capacities, is fairly well-known, but few persons in his place have addressed them.
“It is an advice that must not be ignored because it reinforces the concerns that our military needs massive injections of additional technical, manpower and other professional requirements, if it is to carry the increasing burdens it is being asked to shoulder.
“There are other related matters that should also be addressed. The need to re-invent policing and related agencies that should deal with internal security challenges is a major and an urgent priority. So is corruption in all our defence, security and law and order institutions.
“There are major issues with our country’s ability to procure weapons that our leadership is aware of. They must be addressed. We are talking about the foundations of our very existence as a country here, and the fact that leaders of the calibre of President Babangida are raising issues around them should alert the country over threats and our abilities to deal with them.”