By Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye
President Muhammadu Buhari, Thursday presided over the National Security Council at the Presidential Villa and the National Security Adviser, Major General Babagana Munguno (retd), briefed State House Correspondents about outcomes and fielded questions on security concerns in the country.
Why is it difficult to deploy technology, especially in some areas that the military has been having problems?
On why it is difficult to deploy technology in troubled areas; one, technology is expensive. It takes time to acquire these things; since inherently we do not produce these very, very delicate equipment.
It’s not as if the is not making any effort to acquire but we need to know who to acquire this technology from, where, when and there are certain processes. For now, I know we have but the plight is that they are inadequate, so to the it’s a continuous process. That’s what I can say about the issue of deploying technology.
During your briefing, you dwelled so much on the threats from the border. Is there a correlation between the threats from the border and the level of insecurity in the country? Is there any suggestion that foreigners may have been responsible for the fighting of insecurity in the country?
On border security, obviously, we have very extensive borders, and I’m not going to deceive anyone. All of us know that we have problems of infiltration by virtue of the fact that we have a very large economy. It attracts a lot of people from outside and they come in illegally, not just through the land borders, but also through the maritime waters.
Of course, in the case of the maritime borders, most of the things we have been doing in the last one year, to secure the maritime domain have been noticed up to the point that the International Maritime Bureau has acknowledged the fact that in 27 years, our maritime borders have not been as secure and peaceful as they were in the last one year. That is a fact not a conjecture, I didn’t cook up this thing. So we want to see how we can replicate that type of effort put in the maritime domain on our land borders. That is something that the council is looking into.
During the briefing, you also said : unless the wider society provides the intelligence to tackle insecurity, this problem may linger beyond the time intended for it to end. What then is the duty of our intelligence agencies? Is it that the capacity is lacking? Why are you trying to depend on ordinary citizens for intelligence to tackle this insecurity?
When I talk about intelligence from the local community, I’m talking about complementarity. There are too many types of intelligence. But the most immediate intelligence that you require is human intelligence. And that human intelligence comes from the local communities.
The local communities have to find a way of sending whatever information to their leaders, their community leaders or whoever, and that information is passed to the agents of states within that locality. And that intelligence is converted into actionable information which the security agencies will work on.
We’ve read in the past that ordinary citizens that provide intelligence have had to bear the brunt, because somehow they are sold out. Their identities were exposed? How is it going to work this time, so that they are protected if they are to be involved?
It is because of the nature of intelligence, intelligence has a very, very short shelf life. If something happens and you do not deliver it to the right person, perhaps you’ve been giving your intelligence to the wrong people. And that’s why it’s compromised, you must be able to seek out the right agents of to give them that intelligence, and they can pass it on to the next layer. And that’s how they can use other elements to deal with whatever problem that exists.
So that’s what I mean by getting intelligence from the local community. It is not something that is compelling, we have to look out for each other’s interests, you have to be your brother’s keeper. Because the troops we have and the policemen we have are not everywhere at the same time, that type of ambiguity is not possible for us. So we need to rely on human intelligence, which is the most accurate, but if you are adverse, if you are inhibited, then it makes it difficult for all of us. So that’s what I mean by that.
On the other hand, again, there’s a suspicion between the local community and the agents of it is not helpful. It’s natural in our type of society. Because we don’t expect everybody to operate on the straight and narrow. You have elements in uniform, who can be rogue elements. Out of 200 people, you could have a handful that are operating at cross purposes, outside of the confines of legitimacy or legality. So, the problem here is that we have to weigh all these issues. And it can make the local community uncomfortable.
I admit that you’re perfectly right, that if you have a perception that they’re bad elements, and those bad elements, you report them to the local commanders and local commanders, for whatever reason, are reluctant to deal with those people. Then it exacerbates an already delicate situation and you will be reluctant to lose your life or to allow harm to come to you. I understand that that is something we’ve been going over, day in and day out with the intelligence and security agencies. It’s a genuine concern. So, I agree with you absolutely. And that is why, once you have a situation like that, and you alienate the local community, they’re not comfortable with you, then there’s a big problem.
So that’s what I mean by human intelligence. Human intelligence does not just involve the person who wants to inflict pain or harm on the community, but it also involves the agent of who is acting at cross purposes. So you have to find a way, you must seek out someone who is ready to help and give them that information.
You said President Buhari is not happy with the situation. This is not the first time you’ll be telling us that Mr. President has directed and Mr. president is not happy. Does it mean that the people responsible are not carrying out the directive of Mr. President? Because after directing, the problems still persist?
How can the President be happy with a situation when people are dying? He can never be happy. If 10 times something happens, 10 times he will be unhappy and as the leader of this country, the father of the nation, he has to express his displeasure. You know, he is just at the managerial level, he gives us instructions. And his displeasure is probably because he feels enough is not being done. So we can’t put this thing on his shoulders completely. He’s at the strategic level, he takes the decisions. But when these things become endless, he has to express concern. And that’s just what he did.
Governor El-Rufai said after the train attack, that the security agents know where the terrorists are and were aware of the planned attack but failed to act. If you know where they are, why are you not attacking them? But the terrorists are coming to the military base to attack?
Governor Nasir El-Rufai, spoke about the security agencies saying we know who they are, where they are. Again, that is the danger. When you start talking too much, you give a lot away. Now, even if they say we know where they are, that in itself is already a problem. Because once you say it, whether it is true or false, the person who has your people in captivity will move to another location. It’s just as simple as that. So sometimes, it is best to just keep silent. Mum is the word.
Mr. President has directed that all those who are held captive should be rescued. Now, the terrorists have demanded for ransoms. Will getting them rescued involve paying ransom?
With respect to the order given by the President to rescue hostages, the Kaduna train incident was like the last straw, breaking the camel’s back. The President is using that as a reference point to let the security agencies know that they have an obligation to get every innocent soul that is in captivity, out of captivity. He is not particular just about the Kaduna incident, but about all other incidents. Now, the way and the manner in which they’ll be rescued is beyond me, is not something I’m willing to disclose because that, in itself, can become a springboard for compromising whatever efforts we’ll be putting, I have to be very, very honest with you. That’s one.
Now, the thing I said about local intelligence is that local intelligence complements other forms of intelligence, whether it is signal intelligence, technical detectors, measurements, and whatever. You see, it has to be complemented. Whatever intelligence the intelligence agencies have, is usually an expansion of local intelligence; that local intelligence is very, very critical. And I know a lot of people are suspicious, a lot of people are adverse. Moreover, a lot of people want to hide their own. Regardless of what your own is doing, you feel the need. Whether it is, maternal, paternal, whatever you have, that need is a psychological thing that we have to break away from. You see someone who is inherently toxic, and want you to hide him. You’re not just doing your community, but the entire nation a disservice. This is what I mean by local intelligence, you have to bite the bullet, you have to make up your mind, as painful as it is.
You must give away that person, whether he’s addicted to drugs, whether he’s helping people to bring in small arms and light weapons illegally. Whether he’s colluding with bandits, whether he has 500 SIM cards in his pocket, which is giving criminals, once you know, and you identify, that is what we mean by local intelligence, human intelligence.
Last week, it was reported that the United States approved additional arms sales to Nigeria in the sum of $1 billion. You said you submitted a recommendation to the President. Does that include this and if it does, when are we expecting these new sales? Is Nigeria actually ready to buy more equipment with this amount?
On the US arms deal worth $1 billion, the President directed, the chief of staff and myself, to go to Washington and speak with the relevant authorities, and try to explain to them and defuse whatever tension that exists. Because of some of the things that have gone out from our own people. And as a result of whatever messages that have been sent across to the United States, we’ve had difficulties in working with them. Of course, naturally, they’ve been our allies. So we had to make a case on behalf of the and people of Nigeria to set the record straight. And that resulted in the offer they made to give us the equipment, because they were concerned about certain issues. So, we went to Washington, and we spoke with members of Congress and members in other departments. So that’s what gave rise to this deal.
On if there is a timeline in securing the equipment. Well, this is just an initial statement that was given, the ball is in their court, they will be the ones to let us know. These are things that will have to be manufactured, you don’t get them off the shelf. But, the commitment is already there, there is an understanding.
How come we are having more security in the Niger Delta, and yet our oil production is depleting. How do you reconcile the success of the maritime sector?
On the oil theft and the improvement in the maritime domain, this thing is in two compartments. I am talking about the threats on the high seas, piracy and sea robbery. I’m talking about the blue waters, I’m not talking about the brown waters, where we have the oil spill, the bunkering and other things. That’s a different aspect. I’m talking about the broader Gulf of Guinea situation in which the Nigerian Navy in the last one year has been able to work on the security situation in the maritime domain. And that is what will lead to us trying to see what you can do with the land domain. You are right about the oil production and other things, that’s a different issue, which is being worked on in conjunction with the management of the NNPC as well as the security agencies. We are well aware that something is being done; I don’t think it’s necessary for me to go into details here.