Borno State Governor, Professor Babagana Zulum, yesterday, expressed concern about the increasing sophistication and spread of the terrorist group, Islamic State’s West Africa Province (ISWAP), in the state. Zulum said the federal government must do everything in its power to defeat ISWAP now, or else the menace constituted by the Boko Haram terrorist sect would be nothing compared to what the group would do when they gain stability.
He advised the government to seek external help in the fight against insurgency, including hiring mercenaries, saying there is nothing wrong with such. He cited the fact that advanced countries, like United States and United Kingdom, sometimes sought external help.
The governor took a swipe at the current recruitment process into the armed forces and other security agencies, saying unless it is addressed, the security situation may just get worse.
In a related development, the federal government, yesterday, said an analysis by the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit (NFIU) between 2020 and 2021 had revealed some 96 financiers of terrorism in the country, 424 associates of the financiers, and involvement of about 123 companies and 33 bureaux de change. It said the inquiry also identified 26 suspected bandits/kidnappers and seven co-conspirators.
Zulum, who spoke yesterday at the State House, Abuja, during a media briefing, however, attributed the successes so far recorded against insurgency in his state to the free access he had to President Muhammadu Buhari.
According to the governor, “Notwithstanding all the contributions of the federal government, we still have some challenges. One, I said it before, a growing number of ISWAP in some parts of the state is a matter of great concern to everybody. Why? They are in the shores of the Lake Chad, again in southern Borno State. Luckily enough, I was told there was military deployment yesterday (Wednesday) to southern Borno State to fight the insurgents in the Tudun Katarangwa.
“But I think this is the early warning system. We shouldn’t allow ISWAP to grow. ISWAP are more sophisticated, more funded and they’re more educated. And we should do everything possible to defeat ISWAP; otherwise, what Boko Haram did will be a child’s play.
“This is an early warning system. Nigerian Army has to re-strategise and defeat ISWAP. ISWAP will be a threat to the entire nation, because of the proximity of Sub-Saharan Africa. They are coming from Libya and others resettling here.”
Zulum listed various successes recorded by his administration. He said before the advent of the All Progressive Congress (APC), the insurgency had triggered acute humanitarian and post-displacement crisis, with devastating social and economic consequences on the population, which further deepened fragility and poverty in the North-east region.
Zulum said the outcome of the recovery and peace-building assessment by the World Bank, European Union (EU), and the United Nations (UN) revealed that the total sum of $6.9 billion was lost as a result of the insurgency in the entire North-east states, with Borno incurring over two-thirds of the losses.
He said the insurgents had destroyed about 5,000 classrooms in the state, and 800 municipal buildings, comprising local government secretariats, prisons, and traditional rulers’ buildings, among others. He added that the terrorists also destroyed about 713 energy distribution lines and about 1,600 water sources, and produced an estimated 49,311 widows and about 49,974 orphans.
While describing the above as “official figures”, he contended, “The unofficial figures are more than this”. He said before now, out of 27 local governments in Borno State, at a time, about 22 of them were under the control of Boko Haram insurgents.
Zulum recalled that there was a time the state had only one access to road to Maiduguri, which was from Kano to Maiduguri.
“The magnitude of the destruction was scary,” he said, adding that, today, the situation is better.
Zulum stressed, “I want to say something categorically. One of the major reasons why we have been succeeding in the North-east, in particular in Borno State, is because of one major fundamental thing: there was never a time I requested to see Mr. President and I was denied access.
“And then whether we like it or not, a few days ago, I’ve said something about two local governments still not occupied by human population. I think that there is some misunderstanding. Some say that two local governments are under the control of Boko Haram, no. Two local governments are not occupied by human population. But whether we like it or not, it’s right because if two local governments are not occupied, what does it mean?
“It means the capacity is not there to protect this human population to go to this local government areas. But we’re working with the Nigerian Army to ensure immediate resettlement of people to Malam Fatori, which is the headquarters of Abadam local government. And again, Ogunbaden, headquarters of Mainari local government.
“We are not saying that these two local government are under their control, but these two local governments are not under human occupation. We need support from the federal government to support the relocation of these people to these local government areas. This committee that has been constituted by the federal government will look into these matters, among others.”
The governor said the second challenge was Lake Chad. He explained, “We want clearance of the shores of the Lake Chad. Again, in conclusion, while the challenge of insecurity is being solved gradually, it is not yet over.
“I have said it times without number that in addition to what we are doing, there is a need for government to rethink and look into the possibility of hiring mercenaries. I have said it times without number, there’s nothing wrong. America, Britain, and many more countries that are stronger than Nigeria, who used to seek support outside, there’s nothing wrong, because this problem has been compounded. And it’s not easy for us to solve the security challenges that we’re having now.
“While Nigeria is providing a lot of things, the federal government is buying equipment, there is the need for us to seek support from external agencies to defeat these insurgents once and for all before the matter will reach other parts of the nation. This is very important, whether we like it or not, we have existing gaps that we need to fill and this gap by now cannot be filled without external support, while we continue to build our own institutions, training and retraining.
“One very serious challenge that we have, our recruitment process has to be looked into. Yes, you can just say recruitment for army, collecting notes from governors, ministers and others and the people are queuing in. As long as we are not willing to sanitise our recruitment procedures into the armed forces, police, SSS and others, we will not get the right people. This is something that needs to be done. The truth is bitter.
“And then funding is critical. Yes, funding to our military. Let us investigate how much has trickled down. The commanding officers are important; procurement processes are also very important. Then stronger solidarity among the security forces and sustained campaigns are needed to finish off the remnants of the insurgents in the fringes of the North-east. It is very important.
“The resettlement needs to go hand-in-hand with livelihood support and more resources are needed to do more for the people. Greater understanding is required of the security forces to support protection, action in places of resettlement, and all over Borno.
“The last, but not the least, we must not allow the 2023 general election to shift our attention completely away from the focus and restoration of peace in North-east and, indeed, other parts of the nation.”
Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, who also spoke in Abuja while detailing Buhari’s fight against corruption and terrorism, stated that an analysis by the NFIU had resulted in the arrest of 45 suspects, who will soon face prosecution and seizure of assets.
Mohammed said, “Also, from its analysis of tax evasion and tax avoidance linked to corruption, NFIU has identified N3.90 trillion VAT and N3.7 trillion in Withholding Tax due to the government. NFIU has also sent 1,165 intelligence reports on cases of corruption, money laundering, and other serious offences to 27 domestic agencies for investigation, prosecution and asset recovery.
“On terrorism financing, NFIU had intelligence exchanges on Boko Haram, ISWAP, banditry, kidnapping and others with 19 countries. During the same period, 2020-2021, the organisation returned fraudulently-obtained funds totalling US$103,722,102.83, 3,000 Pound Sterling; 7,695 Singapore Dollar and 1,091 Euros to 11 countries of victims, who came into the country.”
To check terrorism financing in Nigeria, the minister explained that the federal government had deployed a plethora of tools, including Money Laundering Act, 2004; EFCC Act, 2004; ICPC Act, 2000; Department of State Services (DSS); and NFIU to deal with the issue of corruption, money laundering and terror-financing.
He said the on-going harmonisation of Bank Verification Numbers (BVN) with National Identification Numbers (NIN) was also a means of tracking the flow of funds within Nigeria and, by extension, tackling terror financing.
Mohammed said one of the three major policy planks of the Buhari administration was the fight against corruption, with the others being to tackle insecurity and also to revamp the economy.
The minister said, “It is common knowledge that one of the most difficult tasks for any government is to fight corruption, because when you fight corruption, corruption will fight you back! This explains why naysayers have continued to belittle or dismiss the administration’s anti-corruption efforts.
“Let me say here that fighting corruption is a marathon, and never a sprint. Also, investigations, arrests, prosecutions and asset forfeiture, which are the immediate, visible indices by which many measure successes in tackling corruption, constitute as important as they are just a part of the strategies to combat corruption.”
Mohammed said the federal government had taken bold steps to streamline cumbersome bureaucratic processes in the implementation of government policies, checking corrupt practices, and ensuring accountability in the implementation, as well as delivery of the policies.
The areas of reform, according to him, included the Treasury Single Account (TSA), Integrated Personnel and Payroll Information System (IPPIS), Petroleum Industry Act, Financial Autonomy for State Legislature and Judiciary (2020), Whistle-Blower Policy, Assets Recovery, Justice and Law reforms, and Nigeria’s membership of the Open Government Partnership.
On TSA, the minister said the system had been implemented in more than 90 per cent of the federal ministries, departments, and agencies (MDAs) and it had resulted in the consolidation of more than 17,000 bank accounts previously spread across Deposit Money Banks in the country, and monthly savings of an average of N4 billion in bank charges.
On Monetary recoveries, Mohammed revealed that in 2021 alone, EFCC recovered a total of N152,088,698,751.64; 1,182,519.75 Pounds Sterling; 50 Emirati Dirham; 1,723,310 Saudi Riyal; 1,900 South African Rand; US$386,220,202.85; 156,246.76 Euros; 1,400 Canadian Dollars; 5.36957319 Bitcoin; and 0.09012 Ethereum.
He explained ICPC’s pivotal role in bringing about structural changes in the operations of the government, especially, regarding improvements in MDAs budget utilisation, better value for money, improved project completion, service delivery and higher level of anti-corruption awareness.
According to the minister, “Between 2019 and 2021, ICPC traced 2,000 projects worth over N300 billion. During the same period, 326 contractors of abandoned projects across the six geo-political zones were forced by the commission to return to site to complete projects worth N32.183 billion.
“The ICPC’s Assets Tracing, Recovery and Management (ATRM) project led to the recovery of cash totalling N34.346 billion and US$1.62 million between 2019 and 2021. Also, the commission’s System Study and Review of personnel and capital votes of MDAs resulted in savings of N261 billion to the government between 2019 and 2021. ICPC has also secured 66 convictions from the 243 cases.
Meanwhile, terrorists, in the early hours of yesterday, attacked Daddaran-Liman community in Jibia Local Government Area of Katsina State and killed the Village Head of Yan-Gayya, Alhaji Jafaru Rabiu, and five other villagers.
A resident of the area, Abdulmalik Usman, who confirmed the incident to THISDAY on telephone, said the hoodlums also injured six persons and kidnapped scores, including children and elderly women.
Usman said, “The terrorists attacked Daddaran-Liman in the early hours of today (Thursday) and killed Magaji Yan-Gayya, his house help, Mansir Danye, and four people. They also kidnapped many people, including children.”
He explained that an armoured personnel carrier belonging to the Nigeria Police, which was deployed to the community to repel the terrorists’ invasion “developed technical problem and couldn’t serve the purpose.”
But the state Police Public Relations Officer, Gambo Isah, while confirming the incident to THISDAY, said the hoodlums, armed with sophisticated weapons, killed five people. Isah added that the criminals kidnapped almost everybody in the community but police operatives engaged them in a gun duel and rescued “all the abductees on the spot”.
Isah, a superintendent of police, said, “Yesterday (Wednesday) around 2300hrs, terrorists in large number with AK-47 rifles attacked Daddara village. They were shooting sporadically. In fact, according to the DPO, they gathered almost everybody in that village.
“But our men engaged the terrorists in a gun duel and they were able to rescue all the people. When they scanned the area, they discovered that five people were killed and six persons were taken to the hospital injured. Those killed include the Magaji Yan-Gayya.”
He noted that terrorists, under the camp of Dan-Karami and other criminal gangs, had migrated to the state as a result of the on-going military operations in Sokoto, Zamfara and Kebbi.
According to him, “What is happening presently in Katsina is as a result of on-going operations in Sokoto, Zamfara and Kebbi states. These terrorists have been down to Katsina because that place is too hot for them.
“Like the camp of Dan-Karami, some groups of Bello Turji are presently in Jibia. So, that is the issue we are having now. I believe a combined operation of military and other security organisations is in the pipeline with a view to tackling the hoodlums.”
The leadership of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), yesterday, described the claims by the Minister of Information and Orientation, Alhaji Lai Mohammed that the federal government had discovered sponsors of terrorism in the country as part of President Muhammadu Buhari-led All Progressives Congress (APC) administration as shameless lies from barefaced thieves, who had pawned their souls to the devil.
The PDP, which shaded the APC, had reacted to the claims by the minister that the APC government had uncovered 96 sponsors of terrorism and arrested 45 persons confirmed to be terrorists adding that the government was even struggling to lie.
According to a late night statement by the National Publicity Secretary of the opposition party, Debo Oligunagba, the PD position was predicated on what it described as desperate attempt by the Buhari administration to whitewash itself by sending Mohammed, whose stock-in-trade was well known to assault the sensibilities of Nigerians with litany of fake claims on anti-corruption and anti-terrorism fight, when in reality the administration was sinking deeper into the abyss of failure on such planks.
The PDP said the APC administration was unsettled by the Transparency International (TI) Report, which ranked Nigeria under Buhari as the second most corrupt country in West Africa and 154 out of 180 in Global Corruption Index, given APC’s humongous corruption, including the exposed looting of over N16 trillion public funds by APC leaders and their cronies in government.
“In its ludicrous anti-corruption scorecard, the APC government has no response to the reported looting of $25 billion under its watch as detailed in the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) leaked memo under its watch.
“The APC government should give answers to the reported stealing of N165 billion in the Nigeria Ports Authority (NPA), the N1.5 trillion and $9.5 million reportedly stolen from Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), the $65 million frittered from the Federal Mortgage Bank of Nigeria (FMBN) as well as the N90 billion reportedly looted from the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS).
“This is in addition to the reported looting of N33 billion from the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), the reported stealing of over N18 billion from the rehabilitation of IDPs in the North East, the over N25 billion from the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) as well as the looting of N500 billon Social Investment Programme Fund as revealed by the First Lady, Aisha Buhari, among others,” the main opposition party said.
Furthermore, the PDP said in the very pathetic attempt to conceal the apparent complicity of the APC in the advent and continuing insecurity in the country, the minister laboured strenuously and claimed that the APC government had uncovered 96 sponsors of terrorism and arrested 45 persons confirmed to be terrorists.
“This is laughable, because Nigerians know that the APC administration habours within its rank a self-confessed terrorism apologist, Dr. Isa Pantami, who superintend over the very critical Ministry of Communication and its agencies, which are very vital in any meaningful fight against terrorism.
“Nigerians ask: if the APC cannot purge itself of a self-confessed terrorism apologist, how can it claim to have effectively confronted terrorism in the country? The PDP restates its demand to the APC to publish the names and details of those it claims to be sponsors of terrorism and those it claims to have been arrested,” the party stated.
Ologunagba, however, said Nigerians had decoded the lying propensity of the APC and could no longer be hoodwinked, adding: “Like everything in life, the lies and propaganda of the APC at every election cycle has expiry date and as such, the APC should expect the inevitable crushing verdict of the people in the 2023 elections.”