Despite giving no fewer than 29 directives to security operatives in three years to end activities of terrorists, bandits and other sundry criminals, Nigerians have continued to live with the menace amid loss of lives and property.
Some Nigerians and security experts have blamed the development to lack of political will on the side of the government while others said most of the directives were not directly from the president.
Daily Trust reports that after every serious attack on innocent Nigerians or on symbol of authority, presidency officials do issue a statement condemning the act and also directing military authorities and others to go after the attackers and not to allow a repeat of the incident.
However, in most cases, the criminals tend to commit more atrocities shortly after every presidential directive.
Even though the military and sister agencies have recorded some successes in the last few days by neutralising many Boko Haram terrorists and bandits, some pundits said Nigerians need more commitment from them to bring an end insurgency in the country that is dragging for over a decade.
Endless presidential orders
Nigerians were thrown into a state of melancholy on March 28, 2022 as terrorists attacked a Kaduna-bound train after blowing up the rail tracks, forcing the train to derail.
Many passengers were killed during the attack while over 60 were abducted.
Worried about the situation, the Nigerian Railway Corporation (NRC) temporarily suspended activities, while President Muhammadu Buhari issued a directive to the military and other security agencies to rescue the victims.
Buhari, while reacting to the incident, described it as ‘callous’ and a matter of grave concern.
Spokesman of the president, Garba Shehu, in a statement titled, ‘President Buhari directs urgency in dealing with kidnapped railway passengers’ case’ said that upon the president’s approval, the government was continuing on the two-lane approach – kinetic and non-kinetic – to secure the passengers’ safe release.
He said the president’s directive was that the hostages must be brought home alive, stressing that the country’s military and security agencies were aware of their duties and were determined to give effect to Buhari’s charge with increased urgency.
There was another presidential directive sequel to terrorists’ attacks in Sokoto, Kaduna and Plateau states, which led to the loss of many lives and destruction of property.
“I condemn these barbaric attacks on the country. I wish to assure the states of all possible support from the government of the federation. My thoughts are with the bereaved families. May the injured recover quickly,” Buhari reportedly said.
The directives cited above are just few out of a total of 29 issued by President Buhari on different occasions following incidents of attacks by terrorists and bandits in different parts of the country.
The directives, according to a survey conducted by Daily Trust, covered a period of three years: from 2020 to July 2022.
The survey, based on newspaper reports, indicates that Buhari had issued 13 directives in 2021, nine in 2020, while 7 have so far been issued from January to August this year.
For instance, following the deadly attack on the Kuje Correctional Centre by gunmen, who freed hundreds of inmates, including 64 Boko Haram members that were being held in custody, President Buhari reportedly ordered the armed forces to wipe out terrorists, bandits, and other enemies of the country from the surface of the earth with immediate effect in order to bring lasting peace to the country and the African continent in general.
Buhari, who gave the order at the graduation ceremony of Course 44 of the Armed Forces Command and Staff College in Jaji, Kaduna State, warned that the masterminds of the Kuje attack and others around the country must be eliminated.
“It will be part of your duty to confront these terrorists and insurgents and wipe them off the face of the earth and bring peace to our countries,” the president told the graduates.
Earlier in April this year, President Buhari had directed security agencies not to spare or forgive those behind the recent killings in Plateau State. In yet another statement issued by Garba Shehu, Buhari ordered law enforcement agencies to work strenuously with the government of the state to bring the situation under control and take steps to bring the culprits to justice quickly.
“As full details emerge on the scale of the brutal terrorist attacks in Kanam and Wase communities in Plateau State, President Muhammadu Buhari has described the killings as heinous, saying that the perpetrators should not be allowed to escape justice.
“He ordered law enforcement agencies to work strenuously with the government of the state to bring the situation under control and take steps to bring the culprits to justice quickly and not be spared or forgiven,” the statement reads.
Daily Trust on Sunday recalls that following bandits’ attack on Bethel Baptist School in July last year, President Buhari directed security agencies to ensure the safe and early release of all kidnapped victims in the country.
In a statement issued by his spokesman, Shehu, Buhari described the abduction as cowardly and despicable, and urged security outfits to “act swiftly” to rescue all school boys and girls in the affected states and ensure their safe return.
Till date, some of the victims of the Kaduna- bound train attack and the Baptist school are still in captivity.
In November 2020, Buhari reportedly said he had directed the country’s armed forces to take the anti-terrorism fight against the insurgents more seriously.
The president, according to his spokesman, gave the directive in a message he sent through his chief of staff, Ibrahim Gambari, to the Borno State governor, Babagana Zulum, Shehu of Borno and the Zabarmari community, where 43 rice farmers were killed by insurgents.
The statement was titled, ‘High-powered government delegation visits Maiduguri; President Buhari vows to end terrorism.’
Shehu said Buhari committed himself to making more resources available to the military to prosecute the war, adding that he would “work closely with neighbouring countries on bilateral and multilateral levels to ensure that there is no hiding place for the terrorists.
“As we mourn the loss of our sons in Zabarmari, the armed forces have been given the marching order to take the fight to the insurgents, not on a one-off but on a continuous basis until we root out the terrorists,” Buhari reportedly said.
In December last year, the president also directed security agents to fish out the killers of the Katsina State Commissioner for Science and Technology, Dr Rabe Nasir.
Nasir was earlier killed by gunmen at his residence in Fatima Shema estate of the State.
Buhari, who issued the directive in a statement by Garba Shehu, charged security agents to conduct a thorough investigation and bring justice to all those behind the crime.
There is no steam in presidential directives
President Buhari has been widely criticised for his seeming poor handling of incessant killings in many states, with critics saying his directives have been largely ineffectual.
Despite the numerous orders by the president, people are being killed especially in northern states during attacks while others are being kidnapped for ransom.
Mohammed Sani, a resident of Minna in Niger State said Nigerians rarely take the presidential orders seriously.
“Many of us see presidential directives as empty messages. On a personal note, I strongly believe that most of the directives are not from him.
“I am saying this because I have not seen the president taking any serious action after the orders he gave were flouted. Of course, he removed his service chiefs at a time but I think the situation is beyond that.
“There is a rot in the system as people do whatever they like because they know there is limited punishment for failure,” he said.
A retired military officer, Colonel Mohammed Abdullahi, said commanders flouted Buhari’s orders due to corruption, lack of leadership and because they are aware that he (Buhari) lacks the political will to enforce his directives.
“There is no clear leadership as to who is in charge. All the security agencies are doing it their own way and reporting to no one,” he said.
He also blamed disregard for Buhari’s orders on what he termed ‘lack of timelines and feedback’, saying, “The president only gives instructions to no one in particular and gives no timeline until another incident.”
Abdullahi also identified lack of sanctions for failure to deliver.
“There is also the lack of motivation as the welfare of the troops is almost zero. Entitlements of some troops killed since the beginning of the crises remain unpaid, while their families are in pitiable states,” he added.
Abdullahi dismissed claims that the military is overwhelmed or overstretched, saying the whole security sector in Nigeria is over a million personnel, with enough resources, equipment and funds “compared to a meager percentage of the criminals.”
Reach out to NSA or CDS – Presidency
When contacted, Malam Garba Shehu declined comments and rather requested our reporter to reach out to the National Security Adviser, Major-General Babagana Monguno (retd) or the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), General Lucky Irabor.
He said the questions could be answered by either of the two key personalities.
Current threats asymmetric, not conventional – Military
When contacted, the Military High Command insisted that the troops are carrying out the orders given by the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces properly; saying present security threats are not conventional but asymmetric.
The Director, Defence Information, Maj.-Gen. Jimmy Akpor, explained the military is not overwhelmed or overstretched as being insinuated in various quarters – hence the reasons terrorists’ kingpins are being neutralized every day.
“Assuming that the military or security forces were overwhelmed or overstretched, as you put it, what solutions are you proffering? The threats that we face as a society are not conventional but asymmetric.
“Some research needs to be done to know the nuances of fourth/fifth generation warfare and the complexities involved. Hence, there is now a greater collaboration between the military and other security agencies to deal with the existential security challenges that bedevil us as a nation.
“All stakeholders, including the media must therefore have a positive mindset about the efforts of the military and security agencies, and not denigrate them. Even small efforts need to be appreciated. That should be the spirit,” he said.
He appealed to the general public to ensure all hands are on the deck to help the security forces in tackling present challenges.
Maj.-Gen. Akpor said, “But as the CDS said, we must, as a whole of society, take ownership of all efforts that would bring peace and security to our land through sacrifice and genuine appreciation of all the small efforts being made by Nigerians of goodwill, especially the military and security forces.”