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How to bring permanent end to insurgency in Northeast, by Ndume 

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As the Presidency moves to rejigging the country’s security architecture with a view to addressing the spate of insecurity, a former majority leader of the Senate and Chairman of its Committee on Army, Mohammed Ali Ndume, has declared that bringing permanent end to insurgency in the Northeast requires further steps, in addition to replacing the service chiefs. 

In this interview with AZIMAZI MOMOH JIMOH in Abuja, Ndume listed proper coordination among security agencies, strict supervision of the service chiefs, timely release of funds for the military, among others, as some of the issues that should be urgently addressed. 

• ‘NSA Should Coordinate Security Agencies, Not President’s Chief Of Staff’

‘As chairman of Senate Committee on Army, what hopes are there for a quick end to insecurity, particularly insurgency and banditry, especially with the appointment of new service chiefs?
The appointment of new service chiefs is a welcome development. That goes to show that President Muhammadu Buhari is keeping to his words.

He promised to rejig the security apparatus when he made his new year broadcast and assured Nigerians that the war against insurgency and other forms of criminality that have been disturbing the country will be properly addressed. What he just did is part of the implementation of his promise. 

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It is just a change of guards, but the good thing about it is that the new military chiefs are not only qualified, but they also have the field and operational experience.

The new Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), Maj-Gen. Lucky Irabor, is well known to me; he is a gallant, intelligent, humble and performing officer. It was during his tenure that he upgraded the army-civilian relationship to the next level.  

The Chief of Army Staff (COAS), Maj-Gen. Ibrahim Attahiru, was also a theater commander at one time, even though it was for a very short time. He knows the terrain very well and he has the experience.

The Chief of Air Staff (CAS), Air Vice Marshal Isiaka Amao, was also at the theatre at a time and was deputy commandant of the Operation Lafiya Dole.

The Chief of Naval Staff (CNS), Rear Admiral Awwal Gambo, is also not new to fighting insurgency.

We are confident that the team, which is very conversant with the insurgency problems, will perform and Nigerians would heave a sigh of relief. 

The Senate had on several occasions at plenary passed resolutions urging the President to change the service chiefs, and now the change has been effected. Do you think this is this enough and does that solve the problem?
No! That is not all! Some efforts have been put in place and more efforts are still being made.

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A new military hardware has started coming in. Twenty-three fighter helicopters have started coming in and we are expecting the arrival of the Tucano this year.

The budget of the armed forces has improved so much. We expect that the Federal Ministry of Finance should release money off front. The President should then give them a time-line, since they now have everything they need. If they don’t perform as expected, government should not waste time to sack them.

I believe that if the new service chiefs are given what they need to execute the war, they would tackle insurgency, banditry and all forms of criminality. 

What about the problem of lack of teamwork among the security agencies? What do you think should be done to enthrone proper coordination in the fight against insecurity?
Personally, I would suggest that the office of the National Security Adviser (NSA) be strengthened to perform that job. The NSA should monitor and coordinate the activities of security agencies for the President and report to the President on daily or weekly basis.

I believe that the war against insecurity could be brought to an end within six months if the current service chiefs are given what they needed. 

Also, there must be deadline for delivery. There must be a work plan for insurgency and work plan for the banditry. The President should ask the service chiefs to give him the time within which they would end the insurgency and the time provided would determine their tenure. If they don’t perform, government should not waste time in replacing them. 

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The war could be brought to an end before the raining season starts. Therefore, the beginning of the raining season should be the target for the issue of insurgency, especially in the Northeast.  

There have been concerns about the performance of the armed forces, particularly in terms of intelligence gathering.

How do you think this can be improved upon?
No! Intelligence gathering is not the problem; the major problem is the lack of synergy among the security forces.

The idea of the service chiefs reporting to the President’s Chief of Staff is wrong. It is totally out of place, because we have a senior person in the military hierarchy that should do the work.

The role of coordination and supervision of security issues in this country must be that of the NSA. The minister of Defence, who is a retired general, should equally supervise them. 

How do you think this can be achieved?
The President should not deal directly with the service chiefs, because they will tell him what he wants to hear. But the NSA would be able to ask questions and put them to more tasks.

There must be a situation room in the office of the NSA where reports of what is happening in the operations would be obtained on daily basis. There must be work plan too to be brought by all the service chiefs. At the moment, everybody is doing what they like.

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Since their budget has been improved, the performance should improve too. The funds should be released upfront. If they are given what they need, they would perform. The NSA should coordinate or monitor their activities. If necessary thing are done, insurgency would end in six months. 

Generally speaking, as a lawmaker who has been representing Borno South, the hotbed of insurgency, for over decade, what do you think can permanently put an end to this insurgency?
Let me be honest with you. Anti- insurgency operations in the Northeast won’t succeed without the cooperation of Nigerians.

The security agencies should relate with governors of affected states. The Army should improve on the relationship between them and the civilian JTF, vigilante and hunter groups. It is very important to have numbers, but more importantly, the hardware to tackle insurgency.  

The Army is now coming in with 8, 000 new recruits. The security outfit should be adequately equipped to address the issue of banditry in most states of the country.

As I said, the office of the NSA, not Chief of Staff to the President, should coordinate the service chiefs. There must also be synergy among the security agencies and armed forces. And they should strive to get and make use of civil intelligence too.

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