The National Security Adviser, Gen. Andrew Owoye Azazi, suddenly found himself in the eye of the storm after he spoke extempore at the recent South-South Economic Summit in Asaba, Delta State on some hot national issues. The Economic Confidential magazine provides excerpts of Azazi’s comments on the issues.
On the South-South Economic Summit
I support the problems that have been discussed; I believe that some are keys to the development in the Niger Delta. For instance; maritime security, today, from the records, we are told Nigeria is only second to Somalia in terms of insecurity. Today we talk about aerial bombing; today we talk about drop in oil revenue. I believe there are ways to address all these issues and it is possible for us to discuss not just at the South-South level but at the national level and all others to ensure we address those key areas about maritime security.
Violent Crimes in Delta and Edo
But beyond that, there are also other violent crimes. In Delta state today, and in Edo state, kidnap is a problem. Every day we hear about wives, children, and others and I wonder why it is difficult for us to tackle this if we have an efficient and well-motivated security service.
General insecurity in the country
Now in looking at these security problems, whether it is Boko Haram, whether it is the problem in Jos, kidnapping, armed robbery, bank robbery and so on, I want to address three basic challenges. The first is the ability to understand the problem that confronts us. Today I discovered that many people believe that Boko Haram will end tomorrow, and we will go back to our former lives. Sometimes ago I made a public statement saying that the security challenges we have are going to be with us for a long time, this is what is said but by the next day it was said “Boko Haram here to stay- Azazi.”
Some security measures abroad
But today many people realize that once there are security issues they don’t go away overnight. I am going to address them. People have to change to different standards and I like to make an example with this; how we check in at the airport. In those days, if you are travelling abroad they give you 30 minutes before time to check in your bags and you are at the point of flying. Today, they say you must arrive the airport two hours before time or you check in on line 24 hours before time. Everything is to make sure that they provide a secured environment. Everybody starts dealing with it because nobody wants to travel abroad without going to the airport to check in his bag, it will take a matter of time, and then you get to your destination. All over the world, for those of you who travel, you discover there are security measures. You can walk in the bank in the US and say that everywhere is free but I can assure you, your pictures are taken at every point that is because the security environment created the portfolio.
The efforts of the government
The government is working to ensure that the public feel secured in their daily activities: going and returning from work safely; living a decent life; having a family with children going to schools as well as getting a job.
On Boko Haram Menace
I think all issues being raised are relevant when we discuss security. All agencies of government are working to ensure the issue of security is addressed. Let me give you an example: Boko Haram, some people say, well, they are just hungry and all kinds of names. But I think that is misunderstanding the problem. What we have as a problem today started several years ago and we didn’t realize it, till we decided to make sure that every society has protection. Somebody told me of an incident 22 years ago, that he drove in from Kaduna and he found these people all dressed in white preaching and people cleared the roads as they pass. Nobody saw the problem. When the problem was discovered in 2004, the people call themselves the Afghanistan Republic of Pakistan, before then, people said, they were religious, they were praying on their own, and nobody bothered. So you discover that we like to play the ostrich, covering the problem believing that things will blow over. Of course when those young men attacked police stations, and raided Damaturu, everybody ran including the governor. So we must understand the source of the problem and how to address it.
Examining the roots of the problem
Today if you’re talking about Boko Haram, and not talk of chain situations like: what kind of people are being recruited into Boko Haram? How did it start? Is it a phenomena that started just in Nigeria or it has an extension? Of course when we talk of the concept of Wahabism, Salafis, what are these concepts? Who understands them? Why does it apply to Boko Haram? Of course they are intellectual. There are some of those individuals who are educated as anybody in this hall, but they are all part of Boko Haram. But let us understand that we have to understand something comprehensively so that we take decisions and proffer tactics that will address these problems. I think we are not doing that. And for those of you in the Niger Delta, whether you like it or not, like you travelled this morning, don’t think that any problem is isolated. It’s not only to the North, North East or North West. Today we say this hall is very secure, that is because we know that if it is not secured those people would come to shatter the programme.
Recalling the Niger Delta Militants
We were in Warri three years ago talking; when we suddenly had a problem in the hall during deliberations. That was not Boko Haram. That was some elements of the Niger Delta militants who made it possible to disrupt the session. Nothing is isolated. All security issues are related and people don’t look at them comprehensively.
Maritime security and oil installation
And talking about comprehensive address to this issue in the Niger Delta, you talk about maritime security. If you are to travel to say from Ondo state to Cross River state, you find out that every oil installation has security. They own their vessels and personnel that protect the facilities. At the end of the day they provide no security to anybody, just those facilities and even the facilities are not well protected. What I am saying is; it is possible for us to provide concrete marine surveillance. Somebody said this morning that government cannot stop illegal bunkering. Of course it is possible to stop. You don’t have to use force every day. Are there alternatives? Have you thought of creating environment for green refineries that can sustain the Niger Delta environment? You find out that the kind of environmental degradation that we have today, would be prevented. But I say it must be discussed. To prevent illegal bunkering, if those people cannot ship out their illegal oil, where will they go to? They’ll go to the refineries. If you provide alternatives for them to go to refineries, is it possible for us to take a look at how all these things can be resolved.
Politicization of Security
The third problem I looked at is politicizing of security. I believe that, I have talked to them at the council of states and I said: how come the extent of violence did not increase until the proclamation by the current president that he was going to contest. And I would like to say the PDP will not agree with me. I want to believe the PDP got it wrong from the beginning by saying Mr. A can rule, Mr. A cannot rule, Mr. B can rule Mr. B. cannot rule according to PDP conventions, rules and regulations. And not according to the constitution. I believe that created the climate for what has manifested itself this way.
Recalling the election riots
Because I believe that there are some elements of …. For instance, the election riots in some parts of the North, where some people felt that some other persons would win and at the end of the day when they did not get it, there were riots. So is it possible that somebody was thinking that only Mr. A would win if they did not win there would be problem in this society?
Again, North-East and Boko Haram’s sophistication
Let’s examine all these issues to see if the level of violence in the North East escalated because Boko Haram are better trained, better equipped. And in any case how did they get all done? It takes a very long period for somebody to train a sniper. But I can assure you that Boko Haram has got to that level of sophistication over time. There’s a lot we know they are doing. There’s a lot that could be done to address the problem. But again I also seek to point out that today, even if all leaders we know in Boko Haram are arrested, I don’t think the problem will end. I don’t think they will be satisfied, because the problem that created the phenomena; religion, poverty, or the desire to rule. I think it is a combination of everything.