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Insecurity: Jittery Reps Meet Military Chiefs, Cancel Committees’ Recess

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.

According to Saturday Punch , the committee’s meeting with military top brass on Friday took place about 24 hours after the President Muhammadu Buhari , 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.

N4.85tn spent

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.

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Copyright 2022 SIGNAL. Permission to use portions of this article is granted provided appropriate credits are given to  www.signalng.com and other relevant sources.

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