Following the revelations in recent weeks on the diversion of funds meant for the procurement of arms and equipment for the military, President Muhammadu Buhari monday in Abuja said that his administration was taking urgent and appropriate action to restore order, due process and probity to the procurement process of the Nigerian Armed Forces.
A statement issued by his media aide, Mr. Femi Adesina, said Buhari spoke at a meeting with the British Secretary of State for Defence, Mr. Michael Fallon.
He said Buhari expressed disappointment that the procurement of equipment for the Armed Forces, which followed due process in the past, was subjected to corruption and shady deals under the last administration.
“They just put foreign exchange in a briefcase and travelled to procure equipment for the military. That is why we have found ourselves in the crisis we are now facing,” the president said.
Welcoming the offer by the British Government to assist Nigeria in defence procurement, intelligence gathering and training, Buhari restated his call on the international community to COLLABORATEmore and work with greater unity of purpose to overcome global terrorism.
“Terrorism has become very sophisticated now. If developed nations can be attacked and hundreds of lives lost, how much more developing countries.
“In the West African sub-region, Nigeria is the main battleground of the Boko Haram insurgency. We have made a lot of progress against the terrorists, but we will welcome more assistance from our friends and the international community,” the president told Fallon.
Fallon said he was in the country to see what more Britain could do to support Nigeria in battling terrorism and violent extremism.
“Groups like Boko Haram don’t believe in democracy and freedom of choice, so it’s a common fight for us all,” he told Buhari.
Answering questions from journalists after the meeting, Fallon said: “We discussed what we could do to help Nigeria deal with this country’s insurgency. Britain and Nigeria are democracies; they are free people. Boko Haram and its way of life needs to be defeated.
“So we have been discussing today what probably we can do to step up Nigeria in the area of training on how to deal with improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and what can be done to improve the intelligence you need to deal with terrorism.”
He said that this year, the British government had 130 military personnel in Nigeria helping to train the army.
“Next year, more than double that, more than 300 are coming to offer training and particularly to improve the army’s resilience on IEDs obviously that have been left behind by Boko Haram,” he said.
He said Britain wanted to do more to help stabilise areas recovered from terrorists once the insurgents had been driven out, adding: “That means sustaining them with not only rehabilitation but economic development, providing security for this place for them to go back to their villages, with the knowledge that they need to be protected and for the infrastructure there to be restored.”
Fallon said his visit was part of a series of visits to Nigeria.
“Our Chief of Defence Staff was here recently, our Deputy National Security Adviser was here. And the president and I are aware both have to do with this kind of terrorism facing our countries.
“So he has welcomed our offer of support to help to clear the terrorists out of the North-east of Nigeria. And we are going to be working together as well as on the wider issues of stabilisation and economic development of these areas, providing long-term security,” he added.
The Nigerian Minister of Defence, Mansoor Dan-Ali, admitted that handling IEDS remained the most difficult area the security forces have to contend with.
He, however, promised that terrorism would be uprooted from Nigeria.
The British Secretary of Defence also met with the Minister of Defence at his office in Abuja yesterday, during which he emphasised the UK’s commitment in assisting the Nigeria military with the required equipment to end terrorism in the country.
He said: “We have discussed defence equipment again, how Britain can do more to help, not simply in providing equipment but in assessing Nigeria’s needs and better matching the equipment with the capabilities that are required to deal with Boko Haram.
“In Britain, we want to do more to help here, we want to increase military training, to do more to help the Nigerian Army deal with the IEDs, to help with battlefield medicine, and to improve training in air field defence.
“I also discussed with your minister how we need to tackle this terrorism across the board, to improve coordination between the agencies, not simply to push the terrorists out, but to be able to hold and secure the ground that is liberated.”
Responding, Dan-Ali commended the British government for its long history of military assistance to the Nigerian Armed Forces, but added that Nigeria required more from the UK.
He disclosed that after a request by the Nigerian government, 13 experts were sent by the British government to assist with training in the handling, detonation and disposal of IEDs.
“Like he rightly observed, we have discussed a lot of issues like the reform of our armed forces, including the equipment platforms that we require for the successful conclusion of the insurgency as soon as possible,” he said.
In a related development, the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, has asked Nigerians to disregard the propaganda antics used by the Islamic State (IS) against the people of Nigeria.
The minister offered the advice in a statement by Mr. Segun Adeyemi, his media aide monday in Abuja, reported the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN).
He described as a “hoax” the purported figures bandied around by IS concerning the number of attacks and people killed by Boko Haram terrorists in Nigeria in the last two months.
He said: “The imaginary figures were part of an IS strategy to shore up the morale of its dispersed and defeated fellow terrorists in Nigeria.
“Apart from these fake figures, we are aware of the planned release of old videos of Boko Haram attacks in Nigeria through the terrorists’ preferred channel to give the impression that they have continued to carry out spectacular attacks. Those videos are neither recent nor genuine.
“The IS/Boko Haram propaganda is being deliberately timed to coincide with the December 31, 2015 deadline issued to the military by the president to decimate the terrorists.
“It is also aimed at distracting the military and striking at its morale.”
The minister maintained that the capability of the military has improved drastically.
“There is a higher level of awareness among Nigerians concerning the war against terrorism, which has led Nigerians to increase their support for the troops on the frontline and to also own the war.
“Therefore the figures being pushed out by IS on behalf of Boko Haram represent nothing but a figment of the terrorists’ imagination.
“We recently visited Bama from where they once ran their phony caliphate, but all we saw were gallant troops holding sway.
“We even shared a delicious lunch of ‘balango’ (a kind of barbecued meat) and soft drinks with the troops.
“We therefore wonder where the terrorists have been carrying out their so-called spectacular attacks, as propagated by IS, when indeed the capability of the shameless cowards has been so degraded.”
Mohammed added that Boko Haram had been weakened considerably, hence the resort to guerilla tactics and use of innocent women and children as suicide bombers.
“Decimated Boko Haram terrorists are so hungry, so broke, so sick and so desperate that all they can now do is to clutch at straws, hence Nigerians should ignore their meaningless propaganda.
“In the days ahead, there will be more of such Boko Haram propaganda, targeted at weakening the resolve of our brave troops and instilling fear into the minds of Nigerians.
“The terrorists are also seeking to impress their fellow terrorists in IS. Nigerians should see the propaganda for what it is: a hoax,” he declared.