By Oluwole Josiah, Mike Odiegwu, Chukwudi Akasike, Allwell Okpi and Leke Baiyewu/PunchBarely three months after President Goodluck Jonathan fired Gen. Owoye Azazi (retd) as the National Security Adviser, leaders of the South-South geopolitical zone have X-rayed the performance of his successor, Col. Sambo Dasuki (retd), with some giving a damning verdict, noting that Boko Haram bombings and gun battles are escalating.
Consequently, they wondered why the president sacked Azazi.
But others say Dasuki needs more time to take the bull by the horns as the situation is very complex.
Investigations by SUNDAY PUNCH showed that over 254 people had lost their lives to a rash of bombings and gunfights perpetrated by suspected terrorists and Fulani herdsmen in the North, in the 11 weeks that Dasuki had been in the saddle. He came to office on June 22.
Findings showed that 45 of the cases were bombings, 20 gun attacks, mostly battles with security agencies, while there were 26 attacks on public buildings and infrastructure, such as telecommunication equipment of MTN, Airtel, Globacom and Etisalat in Potiskum and Damaturu.
Also, within the period under review, the sect successfully extended its operations to Sokoto and Kogi states and scaled up attacks in the cities of Kano, Jos, Kaduna, Maiduguri, Damaturu and Okene.
Deeply worried by this development, the President engaged two of his predecessors — Chief Olusegun Obasanjo and Gen. Ibrahim Babangida (retd) — to intervene; and on July 29, they warned that Nigeria was on the brink of disintegration.
They had said, “The loss of innocent lives by the day across the nation is simply unbearable. Currently, the nation is gripped by a regime of fear and uncertainty that virtually all citizens have difficulties going about their normal day-to-day activities without great anxiety and trepidation. This cannot be allowed to continue.”
Reviewing the situation, the spokesperson for the Ijaw Republican Assembly, Ankio Briggs, said the violence in the North had escalated under Dasuki’s watch, adding that it was an indication that the sacking of Azazi was politically motivated.
She said, “I don’t think for one bit that Azazi was removed because of incompetence, but due to political pressure and the need to appease the Peoples Democratic Party and a section of the country.
“Nothing has changed since Azazi was removed. In fact, it is even worse right now. They (Boko Haram) have gone to another level by now targeting telecommunications masts. If you know the importance of telecommunications to Nigerians and to government, then you would realise how serious these recent attacks are.”
Briggs also accused the political class of double standards, stressing that Dasuki had made worse political comments on the violence in the North than Azazi.
Prior to his removal, the former NSA had blamed the PDP for the insurgency.
Similarly, a former Bayelsa State Chairman of the Nigerian Bar Association, Mr. Stanley Damabide, said the prevailing insecurity had shown that the fault was not with Azazi.
He said, “It is obvious that the removal of Azazi has not really made any difference. The insecurity situation is a problem that has grown beyond the office of the NSA.
“It requires a deep incisive surgical operation in the security system.”
The Coordinator, Ijaw Monitoring Group, Comrade Joseph Eva, in the same vein said, “Now it is obvious to everybody that since Azazi was removed, things have gone worse.
“It was under Dasuki that they started destroying telecom facilities and I think they have a plan. The ones in government are pushing Jonathan to make unpopular decisions so that the President will be unpopular towards 2015.
“This is giving the South-South people a serious concern. In fact, we are still protesting the removal of Azazi.”
The communal concern was evinced on August 24, in Yenagoa, Bayelsa State, at a meeting of Ijaw leaders where Jonathan’s safety was on the agenda as most of his security chiefs were not from South-South.
However, the Publicity Secretary, Ijaw National Congress, Mr. Victor Burubo, told one of our correspondents the President had the prerogative to hire and fire anybody.
Burubo expressed optimism that Dasuki had what it takes to perform as NSA, adding that the decision to remove Azazi was not a mistake.
He said, “As the President of the country, he (Jonathan) has the prerogative to hire and fire. We should also know that no two situations can be similar.
“We have to give Dasuki a chance and I know he will prove that the President did not make a mistake by appointing him a National Security Adviser.”
Similarly, the Chairman, Senate Committee on Defence and Army, Senator George Sekibo, from Rivers State, said “The appointment of the new NSA was in response to calls by Nigerians. Now that he has assumed office, he has to continue to build consensus. The security situation can only improve with time.
“We cannot expect the security situation to be totally resolved suddenly. As time goes on, things will normalise.”
A former President, Movement for the Survival of Ogoni People, Mr.Ledum Mitee, told SUNDAY PUNCH that national security should not be the sole responsibility of the NSA just as he said where the occupant of the position hails from was irrelevant.
According to him, addressing the problem requires a blend of social security and military approach.
He explained, “Bombings in the North are national issues. They (Boko Haram) have been attacking churches and also mosques. Even if you take someone from Maiduguri and make him the NSA, it is not a guarantee that the violence will cease. It does no matter what part of the country the NSA hails from.”
A political economist, Prof. Pat Utomi, corroborated Mitee’s position, and maintained that the insurgency had gone out of hand, stretching beyond the original interests that fuelled it.
Utomi, in an interview, said, “Anybody that thinks the violence is still running on the political or religious interests that originated it, is making a mistake.
“On issues like these, ancillary interests take over along the line; then, it becomes difficult to control. So, it has become a national problem and all of us are paying a price, one way or the other.”
Shortly after Azazi was sacked, Jonathan said he had to go because the Federal Government was changing strategy in its fight against terrorism. Dasuki, perhaps, demonstrated this when made spirited visits to Maiduguri, Damaturu, Potiskum and Jos seen as haven for the terrorists.
However, the series of visits, during which Dasuki met with political and religious leaders in the affected areas, as well as the purported ongoing negotiation between the Federal Government and the Boko Haram sect, were yet to impact positively.
ABRIDGED FACT FILE
• Three persons killed on June 26, when 30 suspected terrorists attacked three banks, a police station and a brewery in Wukari Local Council, Taraba State.
• The Chairman, Peoples Democratic Party in Sharubutu Ward of Bachit District, Riyom Local Government Area, Plateau State, John Baren, his wife and child were killed on June 28 by suspected Fulani herdsmen.
• Over 100 persons were killed by suspected terrorists between July 7 and 8, in Barakin-Ladi and Riyom local government areas, Plateau State, less than 48 hours after Dasuki visited the state. Senator Gyang Dantong and the Majority Leader of the state assembly, Gyang Fulani, died in the attacks.
• Ten persons were killed on July 13, when a suicide bomber targeted the Borno State Deputy Governor, Alhaji Zanna Mustapha, and the Shehu of Borno, Alhaji Abubakar El-Kanemi.
• Gunmen killed two Indians and injured three at the Gum Arabic Factory, Bayan Quarters in Maiduguri metropolis, Bornu State on July 25.
• Suspected suicide bombers on July 31 also attacked the office of the Assistant Inspector-General of Police, Zone 10, Sokoto, Mr. Muhtari Ibrahim, and a shop owned by the Police Officers Wives’ Association, Marina, Sokoto. A hairdresser, a policeman and the two suspected bombers died in the attack.
• Gunmen opened fire on worshippers at the Deeper Life Bible Church during a Bible study in Okene, Kogi State on August 6, killing 16 instantly, while four later died of gunshot wounds.
• On August 24, an expatriate employee of PW Construction Company, Mr. Robin Grey, an Irish, was killed by suspected terrorists along the Takum-Wukari Road, Taraba State.
• Suspected terrorists killed 16 persons and bombed over 26 telecoms base stations of MTN, Globacom, Etisalat and Airtel, valued at N1.03bn, in multiple attacks on Borno, Taraba, Bauchi, Yobe, Gombe and Kano states between September 5 and 6.