TEXT OF THE PRESS CONFERENCE BY THE HON. MINISTER OF INFORMATION AND CULTURE, ALHAJI LAI MOHAMMED, ON NATIONAL SECURITY….IN LAGOS ON TUESDAY, 11 MAY 2021
Good morning gentlemen, and thank you for once again honouring our invitation.
2. It is no longer news that our dear nation is facing security challenges. However, I have read comments saying the Federal Government is overwhelmed and doesn’t have a clue as to how to tackle the challenges. Some have even gone as far as suggesting a truncation of the democratic order, a clearly treasonable stance.
3. Well, I am here today to assure all Nigerians that while the government acknowledges the security challenges we face at this time, from terrorism to kidnaping, banditry and farmer-herder conflict, it is definitely not overwhelmed and indeed it has the wherewithal, as you will see in the days ahead, to confront the challenges headlong and restore law and order, peace and security.
4. One of the most difficult things to do, for a democratically-elected government, is to use the instruments of coercion against its own people. For example, while the nation’s military have superior firepower over the rag tag band of Boko Haram and ISWA, the terrorists most often than not operate among the populace, either in our villages or towns, hence the military, in tackling them, is usually careful to avoid collateral damage. The same applies to the kidnappers who abduct our school children. Usually, the location of the kidnappers is not unknown to the security forces, but they still have to exercise caution in order not to hurt the same children they are trying to rescue. Despite these inhibitions, the
security forces have the wherewithal to decisively tackle the challenges.
5. Now, there is a growing dangerous trend which I will like to comment on. It is the practice of launching deadly attacks against the nation’s security personnel. Soldiers as well as police, customs and other security agents have been killed and maimed in some parts of the country in this growing trend of targeting security forces. I want to say, unequivocally, that any attack on our security men and women is an attack on the state and a declaration of war against the nation. It follows, therefore, that this will be countered with overwhelming force. When those whose responsibility it is to protect us are themselves being subjected to mindless attacks, it can only be for one reason only: To instill fear and evoke a sense of pervasive insecurity among the people. Whether known or unknown gunmen, those engaged in this dastardly act will pay dearly for their actions.
6. Gentlemen, the government realizes that the security challenges we face today are systemic, hence has – in addition to kinetic efforts – also embarked on various non-kinetic measures to most effectively tackle the challenges. Recently, specifically on April 8th 2021, we held a Town Hall Meeting on national security in Kaduna, after which we came out with an implementable, 10-point agenda.
i. That the governance of human society should be based on Law rather than the whims and caprices of human beings and must be obeyed by all as all persons are equal before the law including the law givers.
ii. That there is an urgent need for political restructuring and not separation.
iii. That the Judiciary be decentralized and reformed through Constitutional Amendment to remove the unitary control of the Superior
iv. That governments at all levels should ensure free, qualitative and compulsory Primary Education for all children of school age.
v. That the Military, Police and other Security Agencies should be expanded in number, retrained, provided with modern equipment and technology to cope with emerging security challenges.
vi. That both religious and traditional leaders should encourage and promote inter-marriages for unity as contained in the 1999 Constitution as amended, Article 15, 3(c) which prescribes inter-marriage among persons from different places of origin, or of different religious, ethnic or linguistic association or ties.
vii. That the establishment of State Police should be supported by the National and State Houses of Assembly to enable State Governments have firm control in addressing security issues.
viii. That Traditional Rulers should be given their age-long role of maintaining peace and security within their domain.
ix. That the Local Government Autonomy be actualized to enable them have control of their areas including the ungoverned spaces in tackling security challenges.
x. And finally that the Farmers/Herders clashes be addressed by establishment of ranches, grazing reserves with modern amenities to check the trans-humans of the herders.
7. As far as a national stakeholders’ engagement is concerned, the town hall meeting fits that bill. In a complete departure from our town hall meeting format, we invited panellists and discussants from outside the government . The Lead Presenter was Prof. Jibrin Ibrahim, and the four discussants were Mrs Ibukun Awosika, the erstwhile Chairperson of the First Bank; Prof. Saka Nuru, a renowned veterinary surgeon; Prof Chudi Uwazuruike, an academic and a former member of the House of Representatives, and Prof Kokunre Eghafona, also from academia. The stakeholders who attended included all the service chiefs, members of the legislative and executive arms of government, civil society organizations, traditional and religious leaders, women and youth groups as well as labour. It is therefore baffling that some commentators give the impression that the Administration is not engaging with the various stakeholders to find a lasting solution to the challenges facing the nation.
8. Now, we didn’t just engage in a talk shop. We have taken those resolutions to the National Economic Council, Chaired by His Excellency the Vice President, and which also includes all the state governors. As a prelude to adopting the recommendations, the NEC has directed all state governors to organize state-wide consultation on them, and then revert to the Council in its next meeting.
9. Of course, you are all aware that the Honourable Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice has announced that the Federal Government is set to prosecute 400 suspects arrested for allegedly funding terrorism. This is unprecedented and its a testament to the government’s determination to decisively tackle terrorism and other violent crimes.
10. While the government continues with these efforts to restore peace and security continues, I want to appeal to all of us to play our part in lowering the palpable tension in the polity as a result of the security challenges. The first step is to tone down the rhetoric.
While the media must continue to carry out its primary responsibility to inform, criticize and stimulate debate, it must also realize that
it can only carry out this responsibility in an atmosphere of peace and security. I am therefore appealing to the media to play its part in dousing the pervasive tension. Lending your platforms to uncompromising separatists and die-hard pessimists about the survival of our nation can only overheat the polity and aggravate the security challenges. This is not a call for censorship. It is a call for responsibility, in the national interest.
11. For the avoidance of doubt, the government retains total confidence in the ability of our security forces to tackle the security challenges we are facing now, whether it is terrorism, banditry, kidnapping or even the farmer-herder conflict. We therefore appeal to all Nigerians to continue to support our security agencies, who today face the added task of having to watch their backs while working to protect us. The least we can do is to give them our unalloyed support.
12. I thank you for your kind attention. I will now take your questions, which must be on the issues that I have addressed here