After an expanded National Security Council, NSC, meeting, the Federal Government on Thursday, September 15, 2022, at the State House in Abuja, “urged” the promoters of the so-called NATFORCE (National Task Force on the Prohibition of Illegal Importation/Smuggling of Arms, Ammunition, Light Weapons, Chemical Weapons and Pipeline Vandalism) to disband itself or be dismantled by the security agencies.
Minister of the Interior, Rauf Aregbesola flanked by his Police Affairs counterpart, Mohammed Dingyadi, said the Federal Government is satisfied with the performance of security agencies in the fight against insecurity and did not need an illegal body like NATFORCE to meddle in its self-assigned task of tackling small arms and light weapons.
It is curious that this NATFORCE, which was declared illegal by the National Security Adviser, NSA, retired Major General Babagana Monguno in 2021, continues to operate. Five months later in November 2021, the media reported an impending crackdown on the organisation by the security agencies. NATFORCE has reportedly issued about 18,000 “fake” appointment letters after allegedly collecting between N6,000 to N35,000 from prospective personnel.
NATFORCE’s Director-General, Dr. Osita Okereke, claims that it has 300 personnel in all 774 Local Government Areas which, if true, means they have at least 232,200 personnel. Not being a government agency, how was this organisation allowed to operate? How does it pay its personnel? Why is it allowed to duplicate the mandate of the National Centre for the Control of Small Arms and Light Weapons, NCCSALW, which is under the Office of the National Security Adviser, ONSA?
Shockingly, in addition to the inability of the NSA and the security agencies to forcefully dismantle the outfit, the Senate has even passed a Bill which, if the House of Representatives concurs as expected this September, will convert the NATFORCE into a federal security agency!
Monguno has spent over seven record years as the NSA, yet he has woefully failed to curtail the inflow of small arms and light weapons. Indeed, under his watch, access to light and heavy weapons by terrorists, bandits and armed herdsmen has reached unprecedented levels. What has the NCCSALW under him achieved?
The FG, NSA and security agencies are left to bark at NATFORCE but seemingly lack the teeth to bite. This is flabbergasting!
At a time when the Oronsaye Report is calling for the disbandment of about 400 money-guzzling federal agencies, we see no reason for private outfits like NATFORCE seeking to be converted into an agency to duplicate the duties of already existing federal outfits.
Beyond the dismantling of NATFORCE, it must be probed to ascertain its real purpose and staying power. We will also like to know why government seems powerless to tackle it.