*Unveils 2022-2026 project plan

*Buhari sad over military’s inability to end insecurity —NSA

*Issues fresh order to security agencies to rescue abducted Abuja-Kaduna train victims, others

*Why we have more police presence in South-East—IGP

*Again, Govs express concern over rising insecurity, use of hard drugs in Nigeria

By Henry Umoru, Johnbosco Agbakwuru & Omeiza Ajayi, ABUJA

IN SPITE of the raging waves of insecurity in the country and the killing of one of its staff on voter registration duty last week in Imo State, the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, has vowed to continue with its preparations for next year’s General Elections, declaring that the exercise must hold.

INEC Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, disclosed, yesterday, in Abuja at the official presentation of the INEC Strategic Plan 2022-2026 and the INEC Election Project Plan for the 2023 General Election.

The election umpire spoke as President Muhammadu Buhari expressed sadness over the persistent insecurity in the country, which the nation’s security agencies have been unable to end, according to the National Security Adviser, Major General Babagana Monguno, retd.

The President, who was not happy that his previous directives to the military to end insecurity in the country had not yielded many results, further directed all the operational and intelligence agencies to rescue unhurt all kidnapped persons by terrorists, including those in the Abuja-Kaduna bound train.

Briefing State House correspondents after a three and half hours meeting of the National Security Council presided over by the President at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, the NSA said Buhari cannot be happy when people are being killed on a daily basis.

No going back on 2023 polls – INEC

The INEC boss said the Strategic Plan 2022-2026 and the 2023 Election Project Plan drew lessons from and thoroughly reviewed the level of implementation of the last plans.

“They build on the successes of the preceding plans, especially in the planning and conduct of the 2019 General Election as well as off-cycle and bye-elections. Against the backdrop of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and the current security situation in the country, both plans had to prioritise the institutionalisation of the Commission’s processes for the effective delivery of its mandate by focusing on capacity-building, promotion of professionalism, encouraging greater synergy among departments, improving efficient utilisation of resources, increased deployment of technology as well as greater sensitivity to threats to the electoral process as well as election personnel and infrastructure.

“We are also aware of the security challenges and their impact on the electoral process. We will continue to engage early and intensely with the security agencies to ensure the safety of our personnel and materials, accredited observers and the media and, above all, the voters. Clearly, these are challenging times but we are determined that the election must hold in 2023.

“However, this is a shared responsibility. INEC plays a critical role but the Commission alone cannot deliver the elections we all desire. I, therefore, appeal to all Nigerians to join hands with us in ensuring that we make a success of the process,” Yakubu pleaded.

He said by next week, the Commission will conclude the revision of the Regulations and Guidelines for the Conduct of Elections to comply with the provisions of the Electoral Act 2022.

“Work has also commenced on the review of the manuals for the training of election duty personnel. With the planning processes virtually completed, the Commission will now focus its attention on election technology and election administration.”

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Why Buhari is sad

Monguno said that the last straw was the recent attack on the Abuja-Kaduna train leading to the deaths of some passengers and scores kidnapped, adding that the President feels enough was not being done by the security agencies despite what has been provided.

He continued: “We have just concluded a sitting of the National Security Council, a three and a half hours meeting, which was presided over by the President, Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces. This meeting is the first for 2022 and the meeting deliberated on several issues, at the strategic and operational levels, as well as other issues that are broader.

“In his opening remarks he spoke about his sadness in respect of the recent developments in the country, the recent security challenges we have had, in particular, the incident in which several Nigerians lost their lives and many more were taken into captivity by criminals and bandits.

“If 10 times something happens, 10 times he will be unhappy, and as the leader of this country, the father of the nation, he has to express his displeasure. You know he is just at the managerial level, he gives us instructions. And his displeasure is probably because he feels enough is not being done. So, we can’t put this thing on his shoulders completely. He’s at the strategic level, he takes the decisions. But when these things become endless, he has to express concern. And that’s just what he did.

Fresh order

“Mr President has directed all the operational and intelligence elements to rescue these innocent people immediately and unhurt. This is the basis, on which other issues were discussed. Obviously, the Chief of Defence Staff and the service chiefs, as well as the Inspector-General of Police, all briefed the President on the occurrences in their respective organizations.”

He said: “I submitted a memo to Council and my recommendations are being looked into by the President. My recommendations are wide-ranging and they touch on all aspects of security, starting with the level of security of our land borders, as well as within the country itself. In terms of securing the nation, we have recorded a lot of successes in the maritime domain and obviously, the problem now has shifted to our borders from outside. As a result of that, there is a need for us to configure how we are going to make our borders more secure because of the threats coming from outside the borders.”

He also said that the surrendering of Boko Haram elements especially in the North-East has not engendered the desired result in the stemming insurgency in the country as the threat has shifted to the North-West and North-Central

According to him, “in the North-East, there has been a lot of improvement and that has been attested to by the Governor of Borno State during our last National Council of State meeting. Nevertheless, the fact that the North-East is becoming much more stable, more and more terrorists have started surrendering to the government, has not really brought to an end the way we would want the situation in the country because the threat is now shifted from the North-East to the North-West and North-Central, and this threat has to be contained.

“It has to be contained collectively by both the armed forces as well as the constabulary forces: the Nigerian Police Force, Civil Defence, and the intelligence agencies also have been directed to enhance the acquisition of intelligence.”

The NSA stressed the imperative of intelligence from ordinary citizens as he noted that unless the wider society is willing to provide the necessary intelligence, the problem of insecurity will linger beyond the time frame intended to end the menace.

“The present situation in the country calls for a collective effort by all, not just those that have been charged with the responsibility of physically securing the country, the most important thing, for now, is the acquisition of intelligence and the type of intelligence that is needed is human intelligence and I need to make it very clear.

“I have to be very honest; unless the wider society, right down to the local governments, are willing to give the type of information that is needed to block the activities of these criminals, this situation will continue to linger beyond whatever time frame we are looking at, towards ending this problem.

“A lot of lives are being lost, the President is not happy about this situation, he’s made it very clear. The first assignment he’s given to the security agencies, especially the armed forces and the police, is to rescue those that are in captivity, not just those that were captured during the last train incident, but those that have been in captivity in other parts of the country. That is the first thing that has to be done.

“On the other hand, my memo dwells on the prevailing situation within the security outfits; their needs, their challenges and the President has decided to look into these things and might as well call for another meeting in the near future.”

Asked why the country has not deployed technology to tackle the menace of terrorists and bandits, he said the effort was being made to deploy technology to tackle insecurity, even though he submitted that the required technology was expensive and would take time to acquire.

“It’s not as if the government is not making any effort to acquire it but we need to know who to acquire this technology from, where, when and there are certain processes. For now, I know we have but the plight is that they are inadequate, so to the government, it’s a continuous process.”

Sabotage in military

On alleged sabotage within the ranks of the military agencies in the fight against terrorism, he said the possibility of having rogue elements could not be ruled out.

Asked whether he would draw a correlation between the threats from the borders and the level of insecurity in the country and whether there is any suggestion that foreigners may have been responsible for the insecurity in the country, the NSA said: “Obviously, we have very extensive borders, and I’m not going to deceive anyone.

“All of us know that we have problems of infiltration by virtue of the fact that we have a very large economy. It attracts a lot of people from outside and they come in illegally, not just through the land borders, but also through the maritime waters.

“Of course, in the case of the maritime borders, most of the things needed have been done in the last one year, to secure the maritime domain up to the point that the International Maritime Bureau has acknowledged the fact that in 27 years, our maritime borders have not been as secure and peaceful as they were in the last one year.

“So we want to see how we can replicate that type of effort in the maritime domain on our land borders.”

Massive police presence in South-East

On why there is a massive police presence in the South-East and not enough on Kaduna/Abuja road where bandits are terrorising and kidnapping innocent Nigerians, the Inspector-General of Police, Usman Alkali Baba, said: “I think the question is about deployment. Deployment is being determined by a lot of issues or yardsticks.

“Just like two states may have different numbers of local governments, so also there can be a different number of formations in that state. We have formations, we have commanded, we have zonal commands and so forth. So, deployment should not be based on either size or number of persons or threat assessment in that place.

“It is all about how you police a particular place based on the number of people you have, based on your ability to gather that manpower. If your command, for instance, say Kaduna command, has 3,000 personnel, I know already that 3,000 personnel cannot take care of Kaduna.

“What we normally do is to deploy from other states to complement the efforts of Kaduna by what we are called, let’s say, special duty. We can take from states where we feel the threat is not as imminent or as bad as what they have in Kaduna to compliment Kaduna. So, you can also complement Imo, Anambra, it’s based on your threat analysis.”

Again, Govs express concern over rising insecurity, use of hard drugs in Nigeria

Also yesterday, governors of the 36 states of the federation, under the aegis of the Nigeria Governors Forum, NGF, have again expressed concerns over the increasing rate of insecurity, which has resulted in massive killing and wanton destruction of property in the country and the use of hard drugs among Nigerian youths.

The governors, whose worry was contained in the communique issued at the end of NGF’s 4th   teleconference meeting, yesterday, also promised to provide land across the states of the federation to National Drug Law Enforcement Agency, NDLEA, to build barracks for their operations.

In the communique signed by the NGF Chairman and Ekiti State governor, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, the governors said the decision was taken after a briefing on drug abuse and Insecurity by the Chairman/Chief Executive of NDLEA, Brig. Gen. Mohamed Buba Marwa, retd.

The communique read, “We, members of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum, NGF, at our meeting held today (yesterday), deliberated on issues of national importance and resolved as follows.

“The Forum expressed concern over the connection between drug use and rising insecurity across parts of the country, following a briefing on drug abuse and insecurity – Relationship and New Perspectives – by the Chairman/Chief Executive of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency, NDLEA, Brig. Gen. Mohamed Buba Marwa, retd.

“In furtherance to its March 2021 commitment to the agency when the NDLEA Chief Executive first presented to the Forum, governors reiterated their commitment to maintaining logistical support to the agency, and committed to providing additional opportunities for operational synergy, including bringing the agency into the State’s Security Council meetings, and providing land for barrack operations.’’

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