Northern Elders Forum (NEF) has flayed the Presidency for blaming the opposition and the Catholic Bishop of Sokoto Diocese, Bishop Matthew Hassan Kukah, for the delay by the United States in delivering 12 Super Tucano jet fighters for the Air Force to fight insecurity across the country.
The Presidency in a recent statement by Garba Shehu had blamed Bishop Kukah and opponents of government for creating the wrong perception of Christianity and Islam relations in Nigeria, which led to the delay in the supply of fighter jets to the country by the US.
But NEF’s Director of Publicity and Advocacy, Hakeem Baba-Ahmed, speaking on an AIT programme, yesterday, faulted the Presidency over the way it responds to criticisms.
He said Nigeria has a problem procuring weapons because of the conduct of its armed forces and related agencies on human rights issues, its dealings with prisoners of war and citizens caught up in conflicts.
“Everybody knows this. They will not sell you one bullet unless they are satisfied that you’ve met certain criteria. And they have raised issues over and over and over again. The Nigerian government knows this. But they need to improve the conduct of the Nigerian military, in the fight against the insurgency, against terrorists. They know this.”
Baba-Ahmed said rather than blame Kukah or the northern elders group, the Federal Government should ensure the country’s military operations satisfy the basic standards demanded by US weapon suppliers to facilitate easy purchase of fighter jets. He tasked government to reassess the way it wages the war against insurgency and terrorism to avoid issues that lead to delays in weapons procurement from Western countries.
NEF also reiterated its earlier call for President Muhammadu Buhari to resign if he is unable to resolve the nation’s security problems. .
“You know, the presidency spokespersons have a way of deflecting criticism by making it personal. When you say that there is a shortfall in the quality of government, they find something to stick you with. People like Bishop Kukah and I are used to this. We don’t take it seriously. This organisation should be criticised and must be criticised, and those who are ready to do so should be willing to take some of the words that Garba Shehu and Femi Adesina recycle every once in a while when we point out certain facts about the failings of the president in terms of securing the country.”
Baba-Ahmed who noted that it was regrettable that whoever pointed out flaws of the Buhari government is attacked by his spokespersons, said if the military does the right thing, by complying with standards set by western arms-selling countries, they would always get weapons.
“So, whether it comes from Bishop Kukah or it comes from me, we made this point. We want to buy weapons from some countries, improve the way we wage this war. It can be done, it must be done if you want these weapons. You certainly don’t want to go the option of some other members of the government who say procure weapons from anywhere in the world or just bring in mercenaries to fight a war for you. So, I agree with Bishop Kukah that government needs to review its attitude, some of those issues raised by countries that are creating problems, well, seemingly creating problem for us in terms of selling weapons, and that the onus is on us to improve those conditions. It is fact and we need it now.
“We must not go to the 2023 elections with the current state of insecurity or a worse state of insecurity, not just because of the elections, but because life is getting worse by the day and it is time to reverse this trend. We cannot continue to live like this. Every inch of this country has one form of security challenge and there are solutions to them. It cannot be that there are no solutions to the insecurities.
“So, if we can, so, if there are solutions, you have to ask, is the problem with the people who are supposed to find the solution? Are you saying that we can’t deal with bandits and kidnappers and IPOB and ESN and people who are making billions of money from oil theft and using it for other illegal activities?
“There must be something wrong in the way we are running the country. We should say so. We should raise our voices and demand that the people we voted into office, the president, the National Assembly, governors, they must do better. We can’t live like rats hiding in holes and running away every year from criminals. We just can’t. We’re tired. If they can’t operate the country, there is an option. There is a provision in the constitution for stepping down if you can’t perform the most basic function available to you, which is to protect and secure citizens. That’s what we’re saying, but a few people thought that extreme, but it is a statement of fact.”
First published in Daily Sun