Senator Sani Musa, an All Progressive Congress member representing East Senatorial District in the National Assembly, opened up on why Amnesty won’t work for bandits.
Musa made the revelation during an interview with a Sunday Aborisade; he also explained why he moved the motion for a state of emergency to be declared in the country, especially the states greatly hit by insurgency.
Read his full interview below;
What is the update on the abducted Kagara schoolchildren?
”The Inspector General of Police has deployed more than 150 operatives of the Mobile Police Special Squad to the area. My sources have told me they have identified the particular area where the bandits have taken the people to. At the moment, based on the aerial view analysis, it has been established that the bandits have forced the schoolchildren and their teachers to wear military camouflage. The President, (Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.)), has given an order that the schoolchildren and their teachers should be returned home unharmed.”
One of the prayers in your motion on this issue which was adopted and passed by the Senate was that the President should declare a state of emergency on security in Nigeria. Do you still hold this view?
”Yes, it is a major prayer in my motion and I am appealing to the Federal Government to declare a state of emergency on security, without further delay. The purpose of doing so is to have a timeline within which insurgency, kidnapping and banditry among other forms of criminality will be defeated, even if security agencies and the armed forces require additional funding and logistics to achieve that purpose. The Executive and the National Assembly can agree on a supplementary budget to achieve that objective. That arrangement would enable the government to equip the military so well, send the personnel on training and even recruit more people into the various agencies of security and armed forces. This is because I don’t see how Nigeria, with an estimated population of about 250 million will cope with the number of police and military personnel that we currently have. The military, especially, is being overwhelmed just like the Federal Government also.”
If the Federal Government is overwhelmed, don’t you think it should now allow other tiers of government to be legally involved in the issue of security?
”This is the right time for the state government and the local authorities to be involved in security issues because it is now a general problem; it is no longer what the Federal Government can tackle alone. The governor of Niger State has been trying his best on this matter. He has been working hard with the elected officials from the state and his cabinet members to ensure that we overcome these challenges.”
How come all the efforts are not in the public domain?
”It is because the media don’t report most of the things happening in Niger State. Every day in my senatorial district, for instance, bandits kill and kidnap people. They burn villages but nobody is reporting these incidents in the media.”
Aren’t you afraid that the political structures would be suspended should the President declare a state of emergency on insecurity?
”It is a national declaration; it has nothing to do with the political institutions in the country. It has nothing to do with the functions of the elected political officeholders. When we want to do an affirmative action on anything, it doesn’t affect political structures. When the United Kingdom Prime Minister declared a state of emergency on the COVID -19 pandemic, he didn’t ask the elected politicians and government appointees to resign.”
The state of emergency declared in the UK is on health issue, but you are demanding one on security now, don’t you think that they are two different things?
”The state of emergency that I have in mind is a situation that will allow the government to give priority to security strictly. For instance, instead of approving N500bn to be shared as palliative, the same amount of money should be spent strictly on security to buy arms, recruit more personnel to fight bandits and insurgents and drive them away completely from our shores. Is it not better for us to be in peace first before talking about other things? Farmers can no longer go to farms and everybody is scared of going about their legitimate businesses because of bandits and insurgents. Most of the farms have been set ablaze and the villages where the farmers live with their families have also been set on fire. The animals belonging to some people have been rustled.”
Some of the states in the North-West that have been experiencing banditry before yours are now preaching amnesty for bandits. What is your position on this?
”I don’t support any form of amnesty for bandits under whatever guise. There is no reason to give criminals amnesty. The promoters of amnesty for bandits are trying to compare it to the amnesty programme put in place for the ex-agitators and repentant Niger Delta militants but these are completely different issues. Apart from the economic sabotage they carried out to protest the injustice done to their environment and people by the government and the international oil companies, hardly will you hear that the militants left their base in the creeks and come to towns to kidnap innocent people or destroy their property. What is the demand of the criminals who live in the bush, come to town at will to kill and kidnap people and destroy their properties for no just cause? If you are giving amnesty, who are you giving amnesty to? What reasons do you have to give them amnesty? I don’t support it and my governor is also not in support of such an idea.”
The ex-service chiefs, who have been appointed as non-career ambassadors-designate appeared before the Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs on Thursday for screening and they expressed their frustration while fighting insurgency and banditry. They declared that military actions alone could not win the war. What is your reaction to their submission?
”I agree totally with them in that regard. If the local government administration is not functional, it would lack the capacity to check the activities of strangers who come into the various communities under them. What should we expect when the lowest level of governance is not functional? We have three tiers of government, let us allow the three tiers of government to operate. We have embraced it in the constitution, why should we abrogate it in practice?”
Does that mean you support the call for the creation of state police?
”I am not in support of the creation of state police at the moment because they would suffer the problem of funding. If the local government administration is not even functioning due to inadequate funding, is it the police unit of a state which the Chief Executive Officer of the state has control over that will perform? Most of the states cannot even pay half of the salaries of their workforce. They cannot pay workers’ salaries and you expect them to fund state police. There is no way the states, at the moment, could recruit 2, 000 security personnel each and effectively equip and fund them. What do you think will happen if we have state police whereby the personnel are owed salaries and don’t have arms and modern gadgets to operate?”
If you are against the creation of state police, how are we going to achieve effective policing of the forest reserves which are in care of the states but had been taken over by bandits and other criminal elements?
”In all my motions at the Senate chambers, I have always mentioned that the various forests in Niger State are the den of criminals. I have always said that if we really wanted to checkmate what was happening, we should empower village chiefs to check the activities of the people going through their communities to those forests. We should be able to make our forests look like the ones that we have in other countries of the World.”
What does the forests of other countries look like and why are they not hideout for criminals?
”Go to Kenya for instance and see what a forest should look like. First, they have forest police and the forests are functional day and night. They are always illuminated and people, especially tourists, move in them freely under the eagle eye of security operatives. Criminals don’t like where there are illumination and movement. There are also functional forests in Namibia which the government is effectively managing. They have functional offices inside their thick forests. They have rangers who are there day and night to ensure adequate security.”
We do have forest rangers in Nigeria too, why are they not protecting our forests again?
”In the time past, most of the forests have grazing routes for herdsmen; but today, the herdsmen are scared because their animals are rustled. The same Fulani herdsmen that we are accusing of being terrorists are also crying because many of their cows have been rustled.”
What is now the way out of this unfortunate predicament?
”The way out is for the Federal Government to prioritise security issues in the country and make it one of the cardinal objectives at this moment. The exigencies of this period require that. We should give ourselves a timeline. The National Assembly also have a role to play, the state governors have roles to play, the same thing with the local government chairmen, community chiefs and leaders. The situation at hand demands a multi-level approach. Individuals in every community also have critical roles to play because we can easily identify strangers coming into our communities.”
There are reports that bandits make use of motorcycles to kidnap people. Can’t anything be done in that regard?
”I want the Federal Government to take a decision on the issue of motorcycles in this country. There are certain security-prone areas that government could make a pronouncement that no motorcycle should be allowed to move during certain hours of the day.”
Don’t you think that there will be a problem with enforcement particularly when there are inadequate security and military personnel in the country?
”Absolutely, I agree with you because there are some local government areas that do not have more than 10 police officers on duty without functional vehicles. That is why I am appealing to all Nigerians that we must make our local government administration perform optimally. The issue of states and local governments’ joint account should be scrapped because it is not good for this country. We should go back to the Ibrahim Dasuki Local Government Reform System. We should adopt that document and make our councils functional.”
What is your position on the closure of boarding schools in all the banditry-prone areas?
”I support the closure of boarding schools at this period because the students are endangered. If you look at the boarding schools that the bandits and terrorists are attacking, they are science schools where we have very brilliant students. These schools in northern Nigeria are the best; they are the places you find the most talented students. For instance, Dapchi is a science school, the same goes for Chibok, Kankara and now Kagara. The situation we are facing now did not start today. We have been grooming this for a very long time and we are seeing the effect now. If we don’t checkmate it now, it will be worse than what we currently have.”