Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja
President Muhamamdu Buhari, on Thursday, met behind closed doors with the nation’s security chiefs as part of efforts aimed at end the spate of insecurity across the country.
Top on the agenda were the stringent conditions imposed by the United States government for the sale of 12 Super Tucano A29 planes and other weapons worth $495 million.
The meeting which last three hours was held inside the President’s office at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
The Minister of Defence, Mansur Dan-Ali; and the National Security Adviser, Babagana Monguno, led the security chiefs to the meeting.
The new Director-General of the National Intelligence Agency, Ahmed Abubakar, attended the security meeting for the first time since his recent appointment.
In attendance were the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), General Gabriel Olonisakin, Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen. Tukur Buratai, Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshall Sadique Abubakar, and Chief of Naval Staff Vice Admiral Ibok-Ete Ekwe Ibas, and the Inspector-General of Police, Ibrahim Idris.
Dan Ali, who briefed State House corespondents after the meeting, said while the US government insists that the payment must be made by February 20, 2018, it also maintained that the aircrafts can only be available in 2020.
Apart from that, the US government has also forbidden Nigerian personnel from being sent to understudy the production process of the aircrafts as Nigeria had done in the case of other countries.
The minister said the council has approved that the Ministry of Defence meets with the US Ambassador to Nigeria, Stuart Symington, to iron out out the contending issues.
The Donald Trump administration, last December, agreed to proceed with the sale of the aircrafts to Nigeria after the Obama administration had delayed it following bombing of a refugee camp in January last year by the Nigerian Air Force.
He said, “The contract include cost which is $494 million to acquire the Super Tucano A29 plans as well as training, where the facilities will be accommodated and continuous servicing among others.
“Some of the stringent measures include that we will start having them from 2020, which is two years from now. They are also thinking of not allowing our technicians to be part of the production inspection.
But this is what we normally do in all the defence contracts, we send our personnel to go and understudy especially when it comes to specialized aircrafts like in Russia, our personnel are permanently based in where the production is being done for this MI35 helicopters.”
On the curtailment of the proliferation of light arms, Dan-Ali said the council has set up committee to work out modalities to transform the Presidential Committee on Small Arms and Light Weapons (PRESCOM) to a National Commission.
He said the members of the National Commission are drawn from all security services with the Office of the National Security Adviser, Ministry of Defense as well as Ministry of Interior and will be headed by a retired General.
He added: “In compliance with the presidential directive for the establishment of National Commission on the Control of small Arms and Light Weapons in the country, the Ministry of Defence in conjunction with the office of the National Security Adviser has set up a committee to work out modalities to transform the Presidential Committee on Small Arms and Light Weapons (PRESCOM) to a National Commission.”
The said he informed the meeting that in line with the decision of the present government to increase the strength of the Armed Forces to address manpower problem, the three services have in the last two years enlisted and recruited qualified Nigerians.
He said the Ministry of Defence is also building befitting accommodation for members of the Armed Forces in the six geopolitical zones.
According to him, “similar accommodations were built by Defence Headquarters and commissioned by the HMOD in Abuja last month. This has gone a long way to solving accommodation problem and boosting the morale of personnel serving in Abuja.”
He also spoke on the the Military Pension Verification Exercise was conducted in all the 36 states and FCT during the period under review, saying that yhe process enabled the Military Pension Board to update its data payroll and ensure financial savings for the government.
He said he also stressed to the council, the need for the relevant security agencies to as a matter of urgency tackle “the propagation of hate speeches especially through the social media particularly by some notable Nigerians.”
The minister revealed that the council also discussed the remote and immediate causes of the frequent farmers/herdsmen deadly clashes in the country, which he blamed on the blockage of cattle routes and the establishment of anti-grazing laws by some states and the existence of local militias.
He said in compliance with the presidential directive for the establishment of National Commission on the Control of small Arms and Light Weapons in the country, the Ministry of Defence in conjunction with the office of the National Security Adviser has set up a committee to work out modalities to transform the Presidential Committee on Small Arms and Light Weapons (PRESCOM) to a National Commission.
Asked if the solutions to the clashes were discussed, Dan-Ali said, “Yes we did. First I mentioned about this commission on proliferation of arms into the country. You see, whatever crisis that happens at any time, there is remote and immediate causes.
“Look at this issue (killings in Benue and Taraba), what is the remote causes of this farmers crisis. Since the nation’s Independence, we know there use to be a route whereby the cattle rearers take because they are all over the nation. You go to Bayelsa, Ogun, you will see them. If those routes are blocked what do you expect will happen?
“These people are Nigerians. Is just like one going to block shoreline, does that make sense to you? These are the remote causes of the crisis. But the immediate cause is the grazing law.
These people are Nigerians and we must learn to live together with each other. Communities and other people must learn how to accept foreigners within their enclave. Finish!”
Asked if he was justifying the killings because of the blocking or the routes, the minister said, “you are going away from what I came here to do. However, this is internal security, I can provide some answers. I have told you that the remote cause is part of the grazing law. Since independence there are clear routes where these people pass.
“On the issue of arms, there are all over. In that killings you are talking about they are also militias that also did the killings. Some people were caught with arms and they call themselves Forest Guards or whatever with AK47. There is no where in this country where arms are allowed to be carried apart of legitimate security forces. So anybody carrying any arm is doing so illegally.
Militias were caught in the same land doing the same killings, so the killings are not done by any particular group, is a communal issue.”
Asked which one will Nigerians believe, the fact that the killings were done by foreign terrorists or local militias, Dan-Ali said, “Of course that is why I said they are militias. Militias are part of illegal immigrants. They are the people”. (The Sun)