The House of Representatives Committee on Defence, on Friday, held an emergency meeting with the military high command over threats by terrorists to attack the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja.
Saturday PUNCH learnt that the committee’s meeting with military top brass on Friday took place about 24 hours after the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), met with the nation’s security chiefs under the auspices of the National Security Council at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
Some members of the National Assembly, especially the minority caucus, had issued a six-week ultimatum to the President to address the security crises across the country or be impeached.
The opposition lawmakers, who issued the threat, were said to have the backing of some aggrieved members of the ruling All Progressives Congress.
The meeting with the military top brass came less than 24 hours after gunmen attacked a military checkpoint at the Zuma Rock, Madalla, a few kilometres from the seat of power.
The terrorists, who launched the ferocious attack on the soldiers manning the checkpoint on Thursday, also abducted five persons.
There were reports that some of the attackers had been arrested but this could not be confirmed as of the time of filing this report.
The incident occurred on the heels of a similar attack on the Presidential Guards Brigade troops on the Bwari-Kubwa road on Sunday in which a captain, a lieutenant and six others soldiers were killed, while others were wounded.
The commander of the Vigilance Group of Nigeria in the Bwari area council, Titus Awyebemye, who was killed during the attack on the presidential Guards Brigade, was buried on Thursday.
The elite soldiers were on their way to the Bwari campus of the Nigerian Law School, which received a terrorist threat, when they were ambushed.
Following this development, security agencies, on Tuesday, deployed troops and policemen in strategic locations in the FCT, together with helicopters and drones.
Also on Tuesday night, there were reports of sporadic shooting at the Dantata Bridge, Airport Road and Ministers’ Hill, Maitama, creating panic among residents.
Similarly, a leaked memo from the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps indicating that Boko Haram and Islamic State West Africa Province terrorists were amassing dangerous weapons for massive attacks on Katsina, Lagos, the FCT, Kaduna, and Zamfara states heightened the fear in Abuja.
The criminals were reported to have acquired high-calibre weapons, including anti-aircraft guns and general purpose machine guns, among others, in preparation for an attack on Katsina State.
The report forced the FCT Administration to order the closure of schools.
Following these developments, the House of Representatives security committee held an emergency meeting with the military authorities on the measures being taken to curb the security threats.
Though the National Assembly has commenced its two-month annual recess, the leadership of the House asked the committees on security to continue working with the military and paramilitary agencies to address the growing insecurity in the country.
It was learnt that the House leadership cancelled the committee members’ recess so that they could focus on the urgent security issues.
The security panels include the Committee on Defence, Committee on Army, Committee on Air Force, Committee on Navy, Committee on National Security and Intelligence, and the Committee on Police Affairs.
The Chairman of the House Committee on Defence, Babajimi Benson, confirmed the meeting with the heads of the military to Saturday PUNCH on Friday.
“I actually have a meeting with them at 4pm,” he said but declined to disclose the details.
Benson, however, disclosed that the Nigerian Air Force collaborated with the Nigerian Army by deploying armed aircraft to dispel terrorists who attempted to attack the Nigerian Law School in Bwari, Abuja, and other locations around Abuja’s borders with Niger and Kaduna states last Sunday.
He added, “The raid was in conjunction with the Nigerian Air Force. Helicopters were used to extensively cause collateral damage to them (terrorists). Their camps were destroyed and that informed the sporadic shooting in other places. They were just targeting soft targets and continued shooting just to make everyone have fear, their major weapon. Once you feel you are not secure, everybody goes back to attack the government.
“But a lot still needs to be done. Security needs an all-government and all-society approach. While those people (terrorists) were camping there, we will like to find some well-meaning Nigerians who will provide intelligence. When there is such an approach, intelligence gathering will be easier.”
Benson lamented that the military was now taking over the task of internal security of the country statutorily meant for the Nigeria Police Force. He also said some of the intelligence reports from security agencies lacked specific details to make them actionable.
The Deputy Chairman of the House Committee on National Security and Intelligence, Adejoro Adeogun, told Saturday PUNCH on Friday that the committees would be working during the break due to the security situation.
“Some committees were mandated to sit and work during the break. All the committees involved in security were asked to continue to work, to liaise with the agencies throughout the period of recess. So, we will work through the recess. We saw that at this point in time, we could not afford to shut down oversight on security,” he said.
It was also learnt that the committees mandated by the House to investigate the recent jailbreak at the Kuje Medium Custodial Centre had yet to commence the probe.
Meanwhile, the Federal Capital Territory Administration said it had taken steps to rejig security operations and collaborations with states contiguous to Abuja to curb the rising insecurity in the nation’s capital.
Speaking at the FCT security committee’s meeting, the Commissioner of Police, Sunday Babaji, explained that with the move, security operatives in the neighbouring states and the FCT would take the attack to the enclaves of the terrorists in their jurisdictions.
The neighbouring states are Niger, Nasarawa, Kaduna, Kogi, Benue and Plateau.
Babaji believed that the action would help to adequately secure the FCT.
In a related development, the Nigerian Correctional Service said it had recaptured many inmates who fled the Kuje Medium Custodial Centre
ISWAP terrorists had attacked the custodial centre on July 6, leading to the death of three terrorists, an official of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps and four inmates.
Also during the attack, 879 inmates, including 69 terrorists, were freed, while a total of 443 were recaptured.
But the spokesperson for the service, Abubakar Umar, declined to disclose the number of those recaptured so far.
He added that investigation into the attack was ongoing.
Meanwhile, the Federal Government has provided N4.85tn to the armed forces in the last eight years, through its yearly budgetary allocations.
The budgetary allocations made by the Federal Government to the Army, Navy, and Air Force were mainly to cater for personnel and overheads, as well as recurrent and fixed expenditures.
The three forces have continued to enjoy an increase in their allocations over the years.
According to documents from the Budget Office of the Federation made available to one of our correspondents, the Nigerian Army received N3tn between 2015 and 2022, while the Nigeria Navy got N889bn from the Federation Account in the same period.
The Nigerian Air Force also got N964bn in the same period.
For the Nigerian Army, there has been an increase in its allocation except in 2016 when it received N2bn lower than in 2015 (N150bn).
It received N155bn in 2017; N224bn in 2018; N228bn in 2019; N463bn in 2020; N511bn in 2021, and N580bn in 2022.
The Army received higher allocation than the other armed forces. In 2022, it received 65 per cent of the N1tn overall allocation provided for the Defence Ministry.
The Nigeria Navy received N75bn in 2015; N86bn in 2016 and N90bn in 2017. The agency received an increase in allocation in 2018 when it got N97bn.
In 2019, it received from the federation account the sum of N101bn. In 2022, it got N131bn.
It was observed that the Navy received N173bn in 2022.
In the case of the Nigerian Air Force, it had witnessed a steady increase in its allocations in the last eight years.
The NAF received N77bn in 2015; N100b in 2016 and the same amount in 2017.
From 2018 to 2022, it not only received more than the Nigerian Navy, it also got more than in previous years.
It got N112bn in 2018; N115bn in 2019; N136bn in 2020. In 2021 and 2022, it was allocated the sums of N184bn and N964b, respectively.
The Federal Government also withdrew the sum of $1bn from the Excess Crude Oil Account in 2018 and another $1bn from the same account in July 2022 for the war against insurgency.
This was disclosed by the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed.
The ECA had been depleted from $35.7m as of June 2022 to $376,655.09 as of July 25, 2022.
Army redeploys officers
The Chief of Army Staff, Lieutenant General Faruk Yahaya, has approved the posting and appointment of some senior officers of the Nigerian Army to command, instructional and staff positions across various formations and units.
The CoAS also directed all the newly appointed senior officers to redouble their efforts and commitment to duty in tackling the security challenges bedevilling the nation, as they assume their new roles.
The Director, Army Public Relations, Brig Gen Onyema Nwachukwu, in a statement on Friday, stated that those affected included some principal staff officers of the Army Headquarters, General Officers Commanding, Corps Commanders, Commandants of training institutions, Brigade Commanders and Commanding Officers, among others.
A member of the Senate from Benue State, Senator Emmanuel Oker-jev, said the latest impeachment move against the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), would have failed if it was initiated earlier than now.
According to him, the crises being recorded under the regime have now reached a point where the President’s removal by the National Assembly would be popular.
Also, a former member of the National Assembly, West Idahosa, SAN, explained the processes that would lead to the impeachment of a President.
Idahosa, who was also on the programme, said, “In this case, look at the numbers. They will require 156 members of the National Assembly to even commence this process; that is one-third to sign that notice. So, even if all the (109) senators were to sign, they will still require members of the House of Reps to reach the 156 figure that can ignite a notice.”
APC blames Jonathan
The All Progressives Congress on Friday fought back against the move to unseat the President, saying the immediate past government of Goodluck Jonathan condoned insurgency and banditry before it became full-blown.
It also accused the Peoples Democratic Party of being insensitive by leading other opposition members to rebel against the President over what should be a collective fight against terrorism.
Members of the PDP, All Progressives Grand Alliance and two APC senators had on Wednesday threatened to impeach Buhari over the worsening insecurity ravaging the country.
Shortly after they staged a walkout during plenary, the minority caucus in the opposition gave the President a six-week ultimatum to address the security crisis or face impeachment proceedings.
Meanwhile, the Presidency in a statement by the President’s spokesman, Garba Shehu, described the action of the opposition senators as babyish, advising them to put their time to better use.
Shehu’s position on the matter was re-echoed on Friday during a telephone interview with Saturday PUNCH where the APC National Publicity Secretary, Felix Morka, called the threat to impeach the number one citizen a major distraction.
Morka, who told one of our correspondents that he was preparing to release a statement on the party’s position on the matter on Monday, reiterated that the blame should have been directed at Jonathan for not taking decisive steps to end the insurgency at the incubation stage.
In a related development, a source within the National Working Committee of the APC told one of our correspondents that there was little or no
“But again, the PDP should not be seen as the one leading other opposition members in the minority caucus because their government was equally helpless after the rise of these same hydra-headed monsters.
“I still believe though, at the end of the day, this threat to remove the President won’t see the light of the day.”
Efforts made to reach Jonathan’s media aide, Ikechukwu Eze, for reaction proved abortive.
As of the time of filing this report, he had not answered or returned the calls by one of our correspondents.
Abuja hotspots avoided
Meanwhile, residents of Abuja are avoiding hotspots in the FCT as fear grows over alleged plans by terrorists to attack the nation’s capital.
Our correspondents observed that many fun spots were also deserted as some workers now close early and head for their residences instead of staying back in town to catch fun.
Many of the gardens hitherto filled up by fun seekers are now deserted or half-filled in the city centre.
“It is better to now go home and sit with family members to have fun instead of drinking and catching fun in the midst of fear,” said Emeka Ikenna, who works with one of the federal ministries.
Another worker, who claims to be a security official, vowed not to stay back in the city centre after closing from work, saying “I don’t want to die early. My children are still young. I will go and sit at home. If I die now, nobody will take care of my young family.”
Lagos security beef-up
The Lagos State Police Command said it had beefed up security in the state amid fear of bandits and terrorists’ attack.
The Public Relations Officer of the command, Benjamin Hundeyin, said “Everything is under control,” stressing that strategies had been put in place to tackle such attacks.
He said, “The Lagos State Police command is leaving no stone unturned to ensure that the safety and security of all residents of Lagos remains intact. We are doing everything humanly and operationally possible.
“We have deployed all our resources optimally to ensure that the peace being enjoyed in Lagos remains intact and nothing happens.
“Yesterday (Thursday), the Commissioner of Police had a meeting with all DPOs that have borders with all neighbouring states and strategies were mapped out and deployed. So, Lagosians have nothing to worry about.”
A meeting of heads of all security agencies in Katsina State took place on Friday to map out new strategies to tackle the security challenges in the state.
The four-hour meeting, which took place at the police command headquarters, was chaired by the Commissioner of Police, Idris Dabban.
The spokesman for the command, Gambo Isah, confirmed the development.
He said the meeting mapped out various strategies which were deliberated upon.
Governor Aminu Masari’s Special Adviser on Security matters, Ahmad Katsina, could not be reached for comments.
Ayokunle advises govt
The Federal Government should fasten its belt and holistically address the security challenges in the country, the immediate past President of the Christian Association of Nigeria, Rev Samson Ayokunle, advised on Thursday.
According to him, the spate of insecurity in the country is no longer a child’s play.
Ayokunle stated this during a valedictory church service held in his honour in Abuja.
Other dignitaries at the event included the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha; Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue State; Christian lawmakers in the National Assembly; 2023 presidential candidates, Peter Obi (Labour Party), Adewole Adebayo (Social Democratic Party) and Prof Chris Imumolen (Accord Party).
Others were leading clerics in the country, members of diplomatic corps amongst other notable dignitaries.
According to Ayokunle, the Presidency needs to stop living in denial and support the security agencies to protect the people.
He said, “The government of the day has to fasten its belt. The security situation in the country is no longer a thing of play anymore.
“In the presence of the government, the terrorists are bragging and executing their threats. To deny the obvious is to be caught napping.
“So, the Presidency, especially the spokesmen, should no longer deny the obvious. They are not talking to kids.
“It has never happened in the history of this country that the highest professional security troop, the Presidential Guards Brigade, will be attacked by terrorists, who had boasted that they would kidnap the President, will strike and kill 10 among those guarding him. That is not music at all.”
Ortom, in his address, said, “Don’t be intimidated by what is going on in our country Nigeria. Today, Nigeria is under siege and there is also a siege laid against the church. The truth must be told.
“I want to implore all Christians to arise, because I have discovered one thing, which is that every time we, as children of God derail, God allows the enemies to rule over us, and today we are under siege.”
Mustapha challenged Christians to rise up in prayer for the nation to overcome its present challenges.