Service chiefs on national security

SPEAKING at the Green Chamber when he led service chiefs to address parliamentarians on pertinent security issues last week, the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), General Chris Musa, accused some personnel of the Nigerian Correctional Service (NCoS) of conniving with inmates to finance the operations of terrorists. He said: “On the issue of correctional facilities in the North-East, when we were debriefing some of the arrested Boko Haram members, they were able to tell us how, from the prison, they could plan operations out in the field. They pass funds across. They use some of the warders there. We are not saying all of them are corrupt. They use their accounts and the deal is that anyone whose account is used shares it 50/50. Those are the challenges.” The military chief called for special courts to try terror suspects and for improved funding of military activities and the anti-terror war. The other service chiefs also addressed specific concerns on their commands, with the Inspector General of Police (IGP), Mr. Kayode Egbetokun, saying that police personnel were grossly inadequate.

To be sure, the issues raised by the service chiefs deserve to be looked into, and very quickly too. Security of life and property is the raison d’etre of the state, and not even the most optimistic assessment of Nigeria’s security situation would fail to acknowledge the dire straits in which the country is engulfed. In this regard, the CDS’s statement indicting personnel of the NCoS for indulging in corruption and money laundering activities for inmates, including terrorists serving jail terms, signposts yet another instance of the breakdown of probity and integrity in the country. How could warders be aiding criminals in correctional facilities to commit more crimes? What kind of system tolerates warders acting in cahoots with inmates to commit more crimes from within prison facilities? And how could criminals in correctional facilities and their collaborators fund terrorist activities without the connivance of workers in the country’s commercial banks?

The truth is that the country no longer runs on the basis of adherence to truth and what is right: almost everybody is angling for riches and wealth through any and all means. A society works on the basis of the ideals or non-ideals set and adopted by the leadership, given that those in leadership typically show the way for others to follow. Unfortunately and quite regrettably, the reality in Nigeria is the denigration of principles and morality and integrity by many in leadership positions, making it almost impossible to know who should call those enmeshed in all these heinous crimes to order. Yet, a perpetual resort to criminal behaviour by all would only end up destroying the entire society. To address such repugnant behaviour as warders aiding criminals to commit more crimes from within correctional facilities, there must be a turnaround in attitudes to wrong behaviour generally. That is how the directive by the Minister of Interior, Olubunmi Tunji-Ojo, to the Controller-General of the NCoS, Haliru Nababa, to investigate the allegations against personnel of the service can be effective in the long run.

Besides, it cannot be cheering news that terrorists continue to operate in many parts of the country, shedding blood at will, and as if they do not have the slightest belief in the power of the Nigerian state to roll out an appropriate response. In particular, and as we have noted time and again, the terrorists have made farming a risky vocation, significantly curtailing the ability of farmers to produce food. To take just one of the terrible examples, farmers in Borno State had to resolve, last month, to repel terrorist attacks following the killing of some of their colleagues in the rice fields of Zabarmari in Mafa Local Government Area of the state. The terrorists had struck while the farmers were harvesting their farm produce, murdering 13 of them in cold blood. The killing of farmers by the terrorists in the state has not abated even with personnel of the Civilian Joint Task Force and the agro-rangers employed by the state government  working hard to protect farmers in the fields between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m.

Given the extant challenges faced by the security agencies, we agree in principle with the request for more funding to enable them to discharge their constitutional responsibilities. By the same token, however, we believe that the vexing  issue of corruption should be looked into because, if anything, a number of  Generals are under trial for fraud. Besides, the service chiefs need to raise the bar of performance and be ahead of criminals.  That is the way to justify the improved funding being called for. It seems fairly obvious that they have not inspired confidence among Nigerians. But they can if they step up their act. It is important for all for those in leadership positions to see the ineluctable destruction awaiting the country if nothing is done to arrest the takeover of the soul of the country by  criminals.

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