President Muhammadu Buhari has described as “extremely unfortunate” the mass killings of innocent people by bandits in Zamfara State, as he conveyed his condolences and that of his government to the people over recent bloody incidents in some communities in the state. Buhari reiterated his earlier commitment to tackle the monster of terrorism head on, assuring that the terror will not survive for much longer.
The president gave the assurance in a statement on Wednesday by his spokesman, Garba Shehu, following a condolence visit to Zamfara State by a six-man presidential delegation led by Minister of Defence, Major General Bashir Magashi (rtd).
Speaking during the visit by the presidential delegation, Governor Bello Matawalle of Zamfara State said there was an urgent need for review of the military’s anti-terrorism strategy with the introduction of modern equipment and technology.
President of the Senate, Dr. Ahmad Lawan, also expressed concern over the escalating killing of innocent citizens by bandits in many parts of the country. Lawan emphasised that Nigerians were tired of hearing stories of carnages and challenged the military to live up to expectation by urgently addressing the myriad security issues facing the country.
In an address to the governor, commissioners, Emirs, the Chief Judge and Grand Khadi, legislators, council chairmen and political leaders in Zamfara State, Buhari, who was represented by Magashi, expressed the strong determination of the federal government to get rid of the bandits, who had now been classified as terrorists.
The president said, “There will be no let-up in the on-going campaign to rid Zamfara and other affected states of the menace of these terrorists. Since they have no regard for the sanctity of life, so shall they be dealt with.
“The government is fully informed of what is going on and will do whatever it takes to end this. We are here to talk to the governor and to assure the state that the administration is determined to do more to defend the life and property of the people.”
Buhari condoled with the government and the people of the state over the loss of lives and directed the military and other security agencies to intensify the on-going campaign until everyone and everywhere was safe.
The delegation conveyed the approval of the president for palliative items to the Anka and Bukkuyum emirates, the latest to be attacked, and for other areas equally affected by the attacks in the recent past.
Welcoming the delegation earlier, Matawalle said the condolence visit was a testimony to the strong support of the president and the government at the centre. He appreciated the wisdom and vision of the president in approving the on-going military campaign in the state, the effect of which led to the dismantling of terrorists’ hideouts used as launching grounds for kidnapping, rustling and terrorism. But he said there was still need for more to be done.
The governor said Buhari was an example to the world in the establishment of democratic values and commended him for responding positively to all the requests so far placed before him by the state government. He called on the federal government to fortify the security of the state with additional Armoured Personnel Carriers (APCs) and roll out a special intervention fund for Zamfara and other states equally affected by the scourge of insecurity.
Other members of the delegation were Minister of Police Affairs, Alhaji Maigari Dingyadi; Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Affairs, Hajiya Sadiya Umar Faruk: National Security Adviser, Major General Babagana Munguno (rtd); Inspector General of Police, Usman Alkali Baba; and Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu.
Matawalle Calls for Review of Fighting Strategy
Matawalle stated that a major problem the military faced was lack of modern equipment to prosecute contemporary warfare, despite their zeal. According to him, the prosecution of modern warfare depends largely on modern equipment and gadgets.
The governor stated, “It is very vital for these modern war instruments to be provided to our troops if we are to win this fight against banditry in Zamfara and the North-west. It is evident that unless enough modern equipment is provided to our security forces to fight the war effectively, the country faces the danger of anarchy. This could be foreseen from the recent calls by some leaders for their people to take up arms to defend themselves. It is a recipe for lawlessness when the state loses its monopoly over the instruments of coercion.
“As a matter of urgency, the federal government should procure Armoured Personnel Carriers (APCs) and deploy them across all parts of the country. If 1,000 APCs could be made available, they would go a long way in turning the tide of the war against the bandits in a short period of time, Insha Allah.
“I want to draw the attention of the federal government to the fact that the pockets of insurgencies in many parts of the north are interrelated. In some instances, evidence has been found of connection between Boko Haram and some of the bandit groups operating in the North-west.
“There should be a comprehensive review of our strategy of fighting insurgency. We need a more workable plan of action tailored explicitly in tune with the realities on the ground. This is a clarion call for us to step up efforts in this fight before the dreadful monster consumes our region and the country as a whole.
“I would like to add that any strategy to be drawn for fighting banditry and all forms of insurgency should focus greater attention on Zamfara State. Our forests have become fortresses for bandits, from where they plan and launch attacks to other parts of the North-west.”
Lawan Flays Incessant Killings across the Country
Meanwhile, Lawan, who spoke Wednesday at a brief reception to mark his 63rd birthday, lamented that Nigerians were tired of tales of killings, saying the situation is bad for the country.
The senate president said, “Few days ago, reports have it that over 200 people were killed in Zamfara. This is not the kind of story we want to hear as a people and as government. The situation is not too good as far as the wanton killings by all manners of criminals are concerned.
“I, however, believe that things can be turned around for better within the remaining one and a half years left for this present administration, inclusive of the Ninth National Assembly.”
He added that though the armed forces and security agencies, generally, had been putting in their best to try to curtail the killing spree, more efforts and results were still expected from them.
Lawan disclosed that the National Assembly in 2022 would focus on security through oversight of funds appropriated in this year’s budget to the armed forces and security agencies. He explained that doing so would guarantee transparency in the procurement process and ensure the welfare of military and security personnel tasked with restoring security across parts of the country.
Lawan said, “Today, the security situation still begs for more attention. We will give a lot of attention to the security situation.
“We have appropriated about a trillion for our security agencies and armed forces, now it is for members of the National Assembly to ensure that the procurement process by the armed forces is transparent and everybody there is accountable.
“And, of course, we should do oversight as much as possible for the welfare of our soldiers and security personnel. They need to continuously be motivated.”
The senate president added that the upper chamber would also in the first quarter of this year focus on addressing the challenges of revenue generation, collection and remittance to shore up earnings by the federal government.
According to him, an improvement to the country’s revenue figures would reduce Nigeria’s dependence on external borrowings for the execution of capital projects captured in the national budget.
He said, “We still have a huge responsibility, and, in fact, it is something that we wanted to do last year, but because of the COVID-19 pandemic we couldn’t do so. This year, by the grace of God, we are going to resuscitate that plan, and it is to keep and maintain focus on revenue generation, collection and remittance.
“Our revenue to GDP ratio is very low, and the economists will tell you Nigeria’s problem is not debt but revenue. So, if that is the case, it means those of us in government must focus on dealing with the challenges of revenue generation, revenue collection and remittance.
“This year, we are going to have engagements with the revenue generating agencies, such as Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Customs, Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), and so on, on a quarterly basis, to have their targets set for them, and we want them to come and brief us on their performance every quarter.
“We hope to start the first meeting, which is an exploratory kind of meeting with them either this month or early February.
“The government owned enterprises are supposed to give us more money. In 2022, we are expecting, maybe, about a trillion, I’m not an economist, but I believe that we should be expecting maybe double or triple from them.”
On the current National Assembly, Lawan said Nigerians would remember the legislative arm under his leadership for its outstanding legislative achievements after the end of its lifespan in June 2023.
According to him, the upper chamber and, by extension, the National Assembly remains committed to serving the interest of Nigerians in the discharge of its constitutional duties.
He added that no amount of name-calling by critics would deter the upper chamber from considering and passing pro-people legislations needed for the development and advancement of the country.
According to him, “We believe that there is a price to pay for anything, but we are patriotic. Let us be called any name, what we want to do and achieve is for our country to be better. Tomorrow, some of these people that are calling us all types of names will be writing very good commentaries about what we have been able to achieve in this Ninth National Assembly.
“Majority of Nigerians are happy with what we are doing, we are not perfect, we make our errors and we will correct them.
“We identify with our citizens but we will always do what is in the best interest of our country.”