Alhaji Lai Mohammed, the Minister of Information and Culture, has revealed that the terrain where bandits operate contributes to making security operations difficult.
But human rights lawyer, Mr. Femi Falana (SAN), said Nigerian soldiers can defeat bandits and terrorists if adequate weapons are provided for them to engage the anti-state forces.
The minister who said this yesterday during a radio programme on Bond FM, added revealed that the current administration has invested in tackling insecurity, adding that efforts would be more impactful if citizens support government’s efforts.
“We are also pleading with Nigerians to join in this fight because they have a lot of roles to play in tackling this insecurity. This is because these criminals called bandits are living among us; they interact with the people as well,” he said.
“Who are the ones supplying them with food? More so, they also have landlords. People should expose these criminals and then, the various efforts of the government will be effectively complemented and we will see the results.
“We have been trying our best in the fight against the bandits by equipping our security apparatus. The government has purchased aircraft so that they can fight alongside the soldiers. We have not rested on our oars.
“The welfare of the police is also given adequate attention and very recently, this administration recruited 25,000 constables and deployed them to their home states. This will go a long way in community policing.
“It will be easier for the newly-recruited constables to work effectively. There are lots of work in progress in the security infrastructure and personnel.”
The minister also spoke on the suggestion by the Governor of Kaduna State, on the use of mercenaries to fight bandits.
“Governor el-Rufai spoke out of a deep concern about the situation. He might have spoken out because of the circumstances at which the bandits are emboldened to operate,” he added.
“If we employ mercenaries to fight the bandits, we should have it at the back of our minds that they are only mercenaries and not our security personnel who will return to wherever after their task is done.
“The mercenaries cannot be compared with our security forces; the fight against the bandits is a difficult one because of the terrain.
“We cannot just go with full force to bomb them or else the innocents living around them will be killed and we don’t want that to happen.”
Meanwhile, human rights lawyer, Falana at the weekend said Nigerian soldiers can defeat bandits and terrorists if adequate weapons are provided for them to engage the anti-state forces.
He expressed this concern after the burial of Kwara State Chairman of Trade Union Congress (TUC), Akinwumi Akinsola, at Ijoko, Ogun State. Akinsola was killed during an attack on a Kaduna-bound train on March 28.
Speaking on the country’s security challenges, Falana asked Nigerians to dismiss the proposal of Kaduna State Governor, Malam Nasir el-Rufai that foreign mercenaries should be hired to fight insurgents.
“I can say without any fear of contradiction that Nigeria has some of the most patriotic soldiers in the world. All that is missing is appropriate weapons to fight the terrorists who are well-equipped.
“I am speaking from my personal knowledge because I defend top-ranking soldiers – generals who are charged illegally for demanding weapons to fight terrorists. Troops are prepared to fight, but they are simply saying it is suicidal to face terrorists with inadequate weapons.”
Frankly speaking, according to the senior advocate, Nigerian soldiers are ready to wage counter insurgency operations but they are ill equipped and ill motivated.
He said: “We have one of the best armed forces in the world but the huge fund earmarked for acquiring military hardware was cornered and stolen by some unpatriotic officers.”
He, however, lamented that members of the ruling class “have a penchant for diverting the attention of our people from addressing the problems confronting our country.”
He cited the case of the Minister of Transportation, Mr. Rotimi Amaechi recently acknowledged that the Abuja-Kaduna train bomb blast could have been prevented if the security gadgets had been acquired and installed.
He added that it had been revealed that the minister wanted an incompetent company to be awarded a contract of N3.7 billion to secure the train, which according to him, happened seven months ago.
He rhetorically said: “Why did the Minister not recommend another security agency to fix the problem and save precious lives? For goodness sake, why were the Chinese not asked to fix the security gadgets since they constructed the train and the railroad tracks?
“In 2014, the APC leaders asked President Jonathan to resign on account of the increasing wave of insecurity. Why have the same fellows who have demonstrated worse incompetence not called it quits? Can you imagine that they want terrorists to massacre more passengers?
“Without installing the much needed security gadgets, the Nigerian Railway Corporation has announced that the Abuja-Kaduna train will resume services in two weeks time. “
Also after Akinsola’s burial, TUC National President, Quadri Olaleye urged members of the union not to be discouraged despite the death of two members —Musa-Lawal Ozigi, TUC secretary-general, and Akinsola — in the Kaduna train attack.
“I call on union members to keep the flag flying and continue the struggle. As a trade union, good governance is our goal; that is why we established a programme to ensure stability in the system,” Olaleye said.
“It was during our national tour that our members were attacked on the Abuja-Kaduna train service. Our comrades lost their lives for a purpose, which is stability and good governance.”