President Muhammadu Buhari, Minister of Defence, Maj.-Gen. Bashir Magashi (rtd); representative of Chief of Army Staff, Lamidi Adeosun; Chief of Defence Staff, Gen. Abayomi Olonisakin; Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Admiral, Ibok-Ete Ibas; Chief of Air Staff, Sadique Abubakar and Inspector General of Police, Mohammed Adamu were all in attendance at a security meeting at the Presidential Villa, Abuja…yesterday.
The Federal Government yesterday said it would pull the military out of hotspots in the country in 2020 and hand over security operations in those areas to the police.
The Chief of Naval Staff, Admiral Ibok-Ete Ibas, disclosed this following a security meeting chaired by President Muhammadu Buhari at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
In attendance were: Minister of Defence Bashir Magashi; Chief of Defence Staff Abayomi Olonisakin; Chief of Air Staff Sadique Abubakar; Inspector General of Police Mohammed Adamu; Director General of the Department of State Services Yusuf Bichi; Secretary to the Government of the Federation Boss Mustapha; and National Security Adviser Babagana Monguno. A senior officer represented Chief of Army Staff Lt. General Tukur Buratai.
Briefing State House correspondents after the closed-door session, Ekwe-Ibas said: “In the circumstance that the military has to come in to stabilise the situation, it is only proper that once one area has been dominated by the military and the situation has returned to normal, the Nigerian police take over the responsibility. And in this instance, we also have the civil defence corps, which is supposed to support the police in this regard.”
He recalled: “Mr. President recently approved the recruitment of about 10,000 Nigerians into the Nigeria Police Force, hoping that once these get the appropriate training, they will be in a position to fill the gaps. You are aware that Nigeria is such a big country that we cannot tie down the military even in those areas that the deliverables have been achieved and the objectives achieved.”
On whether the northeast ravaged by Boko Haram insurgents was safe for a military withdrawal and consequent police deployment, the naval chief said the Federal Government was set to deploy more resources to the police so that they could fulfill their responsibilities.
He explained: “I better make it very clear that an assessment of what the military will do will be based on the situation on ground. It is not expected that the military will withdraw when it is apparent that there are still some threats in such locations. I’m sure we are also aware that the nation is procuring equipment for the military.
“It is expected that before the second quarter of next year, most of the equipment shall be in place.
It therefore means that all our hands are on ground, looking at technology-backed surveillance that will enable the military to react more efficiently and effectively.
“It is also believed that the police will take the lead in containing insecurity in such areas. I don’t believe that a responsible military will want to withdraw when it is apparent that there is still risk that cannot be overcome by the police.”
The naval chief disclosed further that security agencies repelled over 27 attacks by Boko Haram in the northeast within two weeks. According to him, the military, alongside other regional partners, is doing all in its power to ensure that the menace of the Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) is contained.
“With respect to operations within the country, it was generally agreed and noted that the security agencies have done their very best in ensuring that the deliverables are made clear,” he said.
He noted: “Mr. President has directed that the council and the members of armed forces ensure a peaceful society in 2020. To that effect, we are more than determined to continue from where we stopped in 2019 and to ensure that we sustain our various operations, to ensure a secure Nigeria for all of us.”
On maritime security, Ekwe-Ibas disclosed that a lot had been achieved in the protection of the nation’s maritime environment. “The outcome of the operations there have seen to the arrest of about six vessels that were involved in stealing of the nation’s maritime resources,” he added.
Meanwhile, a retired director of the Department of State Services (DSS), Dennis Amachree, expressed optimism that the decision could free up the military, helping it to focus on the insurgency in the northeast.
“The president and the service chiefs have finally agreed to what security experts have been proposing. This move is definitely going to curb the excesses of some soldiers in the country and restrict them to their statutory mandate of protecting Nigeria from external aggression,” he said.
He hoped that the police “have been given all the support in training and technology to effectively enforce the law and reduce crime.” The security expert added: “I believe the government is taking the state of insecurity very seriously. With this new plan, I hope the military will now concentrate and bring this insurgency to an end.”