–Insists terrorists suffer heavy casualties
–Blames worsening economic situation on PDP
–Approves N36.1bn for Keffi-Nasarawa-Toto Road
By Johnbosco Agbakwuru, ABUJA
THE Federal Government yesterday said that contrary to public perception, it is not overwhelmed with insecurity issues across the country.
The Government also said that not every success of the military in its war against terrorism was in the media space.
The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, stated this while responding to a question on insecurity after the Federal Executive Council, FEC, meeting presided over by President Muhammadu Buhari at the Council Chambers, Presidential Villa, Abuja.
The Minister blamed the media for providing oxygen for terrorists by publishing their activities on the front page of every newspaper.
He also confirmed the attack on a military base in Birnin Gwari area of Kaduna State but insisted it was quickly repelled and that the terrorists suffered heavy casualties.
Recall that about 16 soldiers were reportedly killed and several others injured in the attack on Tuesday.
According to him, “Yes, there was an attack on a military base in Kaduna state but what was not reported was the very timely and efficient manner it was repelled, and the huge casualty suffered by the bandits/terrorists. I also have a video of the area interdiction by the military.
“I keep saying that this is an asymmetrical war in which we are not in liberty only to tell you how in detail, how the camps of the bandits are being decimated daily. It is a war of attrition, but our military is living to the billing, our military is working day and night to ensure that the terrorists are neutralized.
“We will continue to give information on the progress we are making in our fight against terrorism but we can assure you that we are on top of this matter.
“But unfortunately, it is the story of second-guessing that is going on and we will continue to give relevant information on the progress we’re making in our fight against terrorism.
“But we can assure you we’re on top of this matter and in any country in the world, while we are fighting terrorists, the oxygen they need is what is being provided daily today, which is they want to occupy the front page of every paper, they want to carry out spectacular attacks even when they are down.
“This is where I think we also seek your support in understanding the mentality of terrorists, that even when they are dying, they will look for the soft underbelly that will keep them relevant, and enable them to get more money from their sponsors, more support from their sponsors.
“But clearly the last three, four, five days, the military recorded massive victories against terrorists and bandits, either in the northeast or in the Kaduna, Niger axis.”
Asked if the Federal Government was listening to Kaduna governor who said the terrorists can be tracked as they listen to their conversations, he said, “I know that Monday, there was a very successful area interjection, where scores if not hundreds of bandits/terrorists were eliminated.
“Even when we’re able to identify where the bandits are, sometimes out of fear of collateral damage to the innocent civilians, you choose the time you want to strike. But I just want to assure you that the administration is not unmindful of your anxieties and your concerns.
“But probably because we are in charge, we can assure you that there’s really, really no cause to feel that the government is overwhelmed, not at all. We are not overwhelmed and the last few days I think have confirmed that.
“But unfortunately, when we inflict these victories on the bandits for many reasons, we do not come out and say we have killed so many. Because it’s continuous.
“But very soon Nigerians would feel the impact of these victories. Already thousands in the northeast, in particular, have surrendered, we have decimated their camps, we have destroyed their equipment, destroyed their weapons.
“And two days ago, a big cache of arms was recovered including trucks from them. So the war is going on in our favour I can assure you, I can say this very, very confidently, and this is because we’ve also been very mindful of the needs of the military.
“We have provided within our very little resources, a lot of equipment to the military. We have provided about 150 MRaps, 120 trucks, and about 60 APCs to the army. In addition, we’ve employed an extra 10,000 personnel in the military. We have provided accommodation for Army.
“The Air Force, of course, it is not just the 12 Super Tucano jets that they have that is helping, we also provide them with three JFI -anti-craft fighters. And that is why they are able to give support to the ground forces.
“And this is why we are recording this kind of success. Also, the federal government has supplied the Navy with helicopters, given Eshore boats, given them 90 rigid inflatable boats, they have locally constructed seaworthy boats to fight piracy and all kinds of miscreants.
“We have also not left the police. We have taken seriously the community policing initiative of the federal government. Today, we have been able to graduate per 25,000 constabularies from the various police colleges in Nigeria. They have been trained in basic police duties, intelligence gathering and the like and they’ve been taken back and reassigned to their own local governments of origin because security is very local so that they can collect intelligence and at the same time improve police visibility.
“About 418 I think three of the academy was graduated also just increase the officer personnel of the police. In addition, we have been able to provide the police recently among other things 200 Buffalo anti-virus Medical equipment.
“In addition to also looking at their welfare. In terms of welfare, we’ve reviewed and jacked up police salary by 20%. We have also given a waiver for the junior staff from paying income, and tax we have also employed another 10,000 to boost their personnel.
“So, this is why we are confident that in a matter of time, we will overcome the terrorists and bandits and criminals all around. But far from being overwhelmed, I think we are in control.”
On what the government was doing for the worsening economic situation in the country, Alhaji Mohammed blamed the opposition people’s Democratic Party, PDP, saying that the party laid the foundation for the current hunger being experienced by Nigerians.
He,, explained that despite the various challenges, the current administration was doing everything within its power to address the situation.
Asked why the administration has not improved on the alleged bad economy it met in 2015, instead, things were getting worse with hunger everywhere and prices of goods going up, he said:
“I think those who are binding data about the economy and survey are not been very fair to this administration because they’re taking this data out of context.
“It is as if they think the economy is only getting worse in this part of the world. The economy especially in terms of prices for food, in terms of gasoline, in terms of what is a global phenomenon. And I challenge anybody, what was the price of gasoline in 2016 in China, in South Africa and what it is today?
“And look at also the situation in Nigeria. But that is not my argument. My argument is that this administration is doing a lot to ensure food security and ensure health security.
“Before we came in, scarce foreign exchange was being used to not just import rice but other staple food. When we came in, the entire local production of rice in this country was under four million metric tons, today it is 7.5 million metric tons thanks to the Anchor Borrowers Programme.
“When we came in, there were only 15 standard rice mills in Nigeria, we have about 50 standard mills in Nigeria today. Over 4.8 million farmers today benefit from the Anchor Borrowers program not just you in rice, cassava, psalm oil, livestock and the like.
“So, we have records, we have a story to tell about what we have done in the whole of agriculture for instance. I challenge them to come and contradict me and say it’s not true that we use to import rice, that the total production of rice in 2015 was not under four million metric tons, that four million farmers did not benefit from the anchor borrowers programme, we had only 15 rice mills. These are all true.”
Also briefing, the Minister of Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola said that FEC approved N36.130 billion for Keffi-Nasarawa-Toto Road in Nasarawa State, Central Nigeria.
He said, “The Ministry of Works and Housing presented a memorandum to council for a contract for the rehabilitation of 118.9 Keffi-Nasarawa-Toto road in Nasarawa State and the memo was approved for the award of the contract for N36.130 billion.”
The Minister also explained that the new Executive Order 11 signed by President Buhari will help improve the life span of all public buildings.
He said Nigerians stand to gain a lot from the Executive Order, adding that this was the first time the Nigerian government is making maintenance a matter of national policy.
On his part, the Minister of Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika said the council approved N5.65 billion for the maintenance of air terminals in Abuja and Port Harcourt for three years.
He said the council also approved N469.6 million for parts of L3 xray machine for clinics at the Abuja, Kano and Lagos airports.