Amid worsening security situation across the country, the Senate has expressed grave concern over the inability of the Nigerian Army to rise to the occasion, noting that it was, unfortunately, “overwhelmed and overstretched.”
The Senate’s committee on Army made the disturbing disclosure yesterday during its visit to various Army formations in Kaduna State, as part of its annual oversight obligations.
While deploring the challenges created by additional responsibilities for the army from internal security, Chairman of the committee, Senator Muhammed Ali Ndume, who led the visit, bemoaned the stark reality of the Army having to operate in about 33 to 34 states across the country without having the required personnel to effectively man operations.
“The Army we used to know is very different from the Army of today. But we are hoping that things will get better,” Ndume lamented.
The General Officer Commanding (GOC) 1 Division of the Nigerian Army, Kaduna, Usman Mohammed, had, in a meeting with the committee, disclosed that the Army was currently operating in at least 33, out of 36 States of the Federation.
Mohammed noted that by constitutional design, the Army shouldn’t be involved in internal security arrangements.
Reacting, Ndume, who was accompanied by four other senators, said the Army must be supported to enable it to succeed.
He said: “We insisted on this oversight visit for some reason. The Army is facing its own challenges. By our constitution, the Army isn’t supposed to be involved in civil security. But we have security challenges across every part of the country. The Army had to be drafted to provide internal security. Right now, the Army provides internal security in about 33 states in the country. We can’t sit in Abuja and talk.
“We need to see for ourselves. We are hoping that the Army will get back to its feet. As a country, we are known to have a formidable Army. But these days, we are worried.
Speaking on the recent kidnappings along Kaduna-Abuja road, Ndume, however, urged the Army to go after bandits and kidnappers in their various hideouts.
Ndume, who noted that there had been peace along the Kaduna-Abuja road in the last few months, expressed sadness that the peace was punctured with the worrisome development that occurred on Sunday. “Along the Birni Gwari road, the security situation is alarming. Unfortunately, the Army doesn’t have the number needed to provide security,” he noted.
In his response to the kidnap, Mohammed, however, told the senators that contrary to media reports, only two persons were killed along the Kaduna-Abuja road on Sunday and not 15. He said the two victims were a driver and a woman.
He also revealed that the nine persons who were kidnapped by the bandits were rescued and set free on Sunday by soldiers, who immediately swung into action soon as the attack happened.
Mohammed disclosed that the army had concluded plans to go after bandits during the Christmas period, adding that more camps belonging to bandits will be located and destroyed in the coming days.
He said: “We want to appreciate the support of your committee. We are succeeding because of your support. We need your support to keep succeeding. We are not unmindful of the security challenges. Right now, we have three operations going on. There is one along the Kaduna-Abuja road. We are going after bandits during this Christmas period. We will flush them out. We have been seeing their recent hand along that road. We will keep doing our best.
“We always go after the bandits in their camps. On Sunday, only two persons were killed. Nine persons were kidnapped. We went after them and the kidnappers left their victims and ran away. It is false to say that 15 people were killed. That’s not true. We will keep dislodging them. We will redouble our efforts and ensure that they don’t have their way.”
A member of the Senate committee, who is also a retired Army Colonel, Bulus Amos, said many villagers and peasants in areas where bandits operate often serve as informants. He urged the Division to be more tactical in its operations.
“Most people who are farmers, bike riders, and villagers are informants. These bandits have informants everywhere. Soldiers need to go after them. If they meet them face to face, soldiers will finish them.
“Soldiers need to disguise and find a way to get the people to cooperate with them. These bandits live with us. They’re part of us, and they live in communities. We need to do more,” he said.