President Muhammadu Buhari, yesterday, mandated the armed forces to quell the gale of insecurity across the country by the end of the year. Minister of Interior, Alhaji Rauf Aregbesola, disclosed this in Abuja at a Joint World Press Conference.
The session, which focused on Nigeria’s effort to tackle the terrorist-induced insecurity wreaking death, destruction, and danger in the country, was moderated by Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, and addressed by Minister of Defence, Maj-Gen Bashir Magashi, and Minister of Police Affairs, Alhaji Mohammed Dingyadi.
Aregbesola said the president gave the marching orders to the security chiefs to move against bandits and terrorists, stressing that they must be smoked out, while the security challenges facing the country must end by the end of the year.
Addressing the meeting, Magashi said the Abuja-Kaduna Expressway had been secured through a combined effort of the armed forces, the police, and other security agencies. His position was corroborated by Dingyadi, who added that the security situation in the country had begun to improve, in spite of the activities of some unpatriotic elements.
Dingyadi said daily situation reports in the last two months showed relative peace on many of the highways regarded as prone to bandit attacks, such as the Abuja-Kaduna, Kaduna-Birnin-Gwari, Sokoto-Zamfara, and Zamfara-Kaduna axis.
Magashi said ground operations supported by air assets had resulted in the neutralisation of several terrorists, including the notorious Alhaji Shanono and 20 of his gang members. He said weapons and equipment belonging to the terrorists were destroyed in the operation, while some suspected terrorists were arrested.
The police affairs minister said in the North-east, the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) had started to return to their ancestral homes in a safer and more secure environment. He recalled that in the past the weeks, more than 3,407 Boko Haram terrorists, including members of their families, had surrendered to the military, while 66 terrorists were neutralised, including one of the key Islamic State’s West Africa Province (ISWAP) commanders, Modu Chaka Bem Bem, and 20 of his fighters.
Magashi stated, “Let me, at this juncture, reassure this esteemed gathering and, indeed, Nigerians that the Ministry of Defence and the armed forces, in conjunction with other security agencies, remain committed and resolute in our collective efforts to facilitate federal government’s drive of guaranteeing the safety of lives and property across the country.
“In addition, this present administration is doing everything possible to ensure the safety and security of all citizens. I, therefore, urge all Nigerians to support the Armed Forces of Nigeria in its effort towards ensuring peace and security to the nation. The Ministry of Defence is fully on top of the situation and all hands are on deck to ensure these threats are curtailed.”
He added that Operation WHIRL PUNCH, a subsidiary operation codenamed Operation FOREST SANITY, had been launched to flush out the terrorists from the forests that straddle Kaduna and Niger states.
Magashi said, “These efforts were geared towards flushing out criminal elements from the Kaduna-Abuja Expressway and its environs, and I am pleased to inform you that the Abuja-Kaduna Expressway has been secured through a combined effort of the armed forces, the police, and other security agencies.”
The defence minister also referenced the most notable operational achievement in the South-south over the past few months as the prevention of crude oil theft worth more than $500 million. He said for the first time in one year, no single incident of piracy was recorded in the country’s territorial waters, adding that, in the past four weeks, several illegal refinery sites, comprising 493 dugout pits, 512 storage tanks, 413 cooking ovens, and 59 wooden boats, were destroyed.
After the daring attack on Kuje Prison in July, Aregbesola said the Nigerian Correctional Service (NCOS) had been able to keep inmates in all correctional facilities in safe custody and prevented any jailbreak from inside. He said the attack on Kuje prison was clearly behind the government now, as it had been able to strengthen the custodial facilities with very tough measures.
He said, “They are now strong, well-fortified and impregnable. If anyone or group dares to test our will now, they may not live to regret it.”
Aregbesola explained that 19,064 (representing 25 per cent) of 75,601 inmates in custody were convicts. The rest, according to him, were awaiting trial persons, which were disproportionately usurping resources and space.
The interior minister added that 3,150 convicts were on death row, waiting for execution, because governors had not assented their execution warrants. He appealed to state governments to speed up the justice delivery system.
Aregbesola said of the inmates, “Many of them have been in detention for periods longer than the maximum jail terms prescribed for the offences they were alleged to have committed. Justice delayed for these detainees is justice denied.
“Prosecution and defence counsels also deliberately ask for long adjournments (as delay tactics meant to wear each other out) and obtain advantage for their sides. This should be discouraged. There should be a judicial reform that will bring all criminal cases to an end within a specific period once trial begins, as obtains in some other countries.”
Aregbesola added that the Federal Fire Service (FFS) salvaged property worth N273.7 billion in the second quarter of 2022. He said the ministry was now putting together armed escorts to accompany fire-fighting trucks to fire scenes to deter touts, obtrusive and unhelpful onlookers at fire incident scenes, who sometimes make access to fire scenes difficult.
He said the armed fire escorts had now been authorised to shoot and kill touts that attack firemen and damage their trucks and equipment at fire scenes.
Intelligence Agencies, Others Vow to Contain Terror-financing
The Department of State Services (DSS), Defence Intelligence Agency (DIA), Nigeria Financial Intelligence Unit (NFIU), and other agencies, yesterday, vowed to disrupt terrorists’ networks as part of measures to mitigate money laundering and terror-financing in the country.
The resolve was the highpoint of a two-day workshop held at the headquarters of the DSS in Abuja. The workshop was themed, “Terrorism Financing Risk (TFR) for Anti-Money Laundering/Combating the Financing of Terrorism/Countering Proliferation Financing (AML/CFT/CPF).”
The conference was organised for stakeholders from relevant law enforcement agencies and other regulatory and criminal justice sector agencies to brainstorm on the scourge of terrorism financing and money laundering.
In his opening remarks, Director-General of DSS, Mr. Yusuf Bichi, called for critical thinking by law enforcement agencies in order to achieve the desired results. Bichi called for strict application of anti-money laundering/countering financing terrorism measures.
Represented by Director, Training and Staff Development, Mr. Brown Ekwoaba, Bichi said, “The ever-changing nature and sophistication of threats makes it imperative for security operatives to be critical thinkers in order to fashion out better and efficient ways of tackle threats.
“Among the evolving global crimes is money laundering and terrorism financing, which require the development of a working national anti-money laundering and countering the financing of terrorism policy.
“Nigeria, as a committed stakeholder, needs to contribute its quota in protecting the integrity and stability of the international financial system by terminating resources available to terrorists, as well as making it difficult for those engaged in crime to profit from their criminal activities, as stipulated by the Financial Action Task Force. This process requires countries to identify, assess and understand prevailing terrorist financing risks, with a view to mitigating it.”
He added that any nation striving for cohesion, like Nigeria, must effectively disrupt terrorist networks through the application of Anti-Money Laundering/Countering Financing Terrorism measures.
According to Bichi, “Through money laundering, criminal organisations and organised crime syndicates benefit from their illegal activities, with some utilising cross-border channels, such as drug and human trafficking, arms smuggling among others.
“With criminal elements perfecting concealment of origin of illicit funds, it behoves us that a strengthened anti-criminal response to money laundering activities will contribute to cutting off sources of finance, as well as countering the financial incentives, which drive the crime.”