For about seven hours Thursday, President Goodluck Jonathan, governors of the 36 states of the federation, service chiefs and heads of security agencies, among others, met behind closed doors in Abuja to examine the security situation in the country.
They resolved to put aside their political differences and present a united front in the fight against terror, which in recent weeks, has been politicised.
The meeting also discussed the fiery memo from Adamawa State Governor, Alhaji Murtala Nyako, to his colleagues in the North in which he accused the federal government of committing genocide in the North-east, ravaged by Boko Haram terrorists.
Besides, it considered the abduction of 234 schoolgirls from Government Secondary School, Chibok, Borno State and the frequent clashes between Fulani herdsmen and local farmers in some northern states.
Shortly after the expanded meeting of the National Security Council (NSC), northern governors also met in Abuja and deliberated on the frequent clashes between Fulani herdsmen and farmers.
The conflict between the duo has spilled to the Nigerian border with Cameroun where 20 people were killed in a clash between the herdsmen and famers in some villages in that country.
After the security council meeting, four governors and the Minister of Defence. Lt. General Aliyu Gusau (rtd), took turns to brief State House correspondents on the various issues discussed and decisions taken.
Ekiti State Governor, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, told reporters that the meeting stressed the importance of rising above partisanship when dealing with security issues, as well as tackling it in an objective manner with security agencies being professional.
The meeting also resolved that “data should be shared across board among security agencies. A holistic approach in curbing terrorist activities, including the anti-poverty approach should also be adopted,” he added. According to him, they also stressed the importance of ensuring capacity building of media organisations so that journalists are more conscious of the implications of their reports on national security.
On the abducted schoolgirls, Fayemi said security agencies were mandated to “do everything to ensure that the abducted children are rescued from heir abductors which the military assured”.
His Niger State counterpart, Dr. Mu’azu Babangida Aliyu, who also briefed reporters on the deliberations at the meeting, told them that they discussed the Nyako memo and the author, who was in attendance was made to read his memo before the reactions started flowing.
He said: “I am sure many of you must be curious about the letter or memo written by one of us, we looked at it all. In fact, he (Nyako) was allowed to read it to all of us. We discussed it and we concluded that for many of us, we need to be very careful about the kind of statements we make.
“We need to be very careful so that whatever we say must be either evidence-based or something that can be authenticated, otherwise there is no need to give terrorists the opportunity of thinking that they are succeeding.
“The terrorist, all he wants is for him to find out that whatever he does, it is carried out in such a way that people will think he has made some impact.” It was gathered that Nyako stood by the content of his memo, saying he was misunderstood.
But most of his colleagues, irrespective of party affiliation, disagreed with him and urged him to be more careful with his statements.
According to the governor, the meeting agreed that there must be massive public security awareness, saying many Nigerians have taken security for granted.
“If you notice, many Nigerians have taken many things for granted for a long time and many people do not think they are part and parcel of efforts in making the nation safe. We must not leave security issues to security agencies, as all of us, whether in the village or in the city, we must become very security conscious even in our activities,” he added.
On the crisis between Fulani herdsmen and farmers, Aliyu explained that the meeting agreed that the final objective would be to relocate the herdsmen.
He however stated that the short term solution would be to ensure that all the grazing routes and the grazing areas that had not been gazetted, be properly gazetted for peace to reign.
The meeting, Aliyu said, also cautioned religious leaders on messages they preach to their followers in order not to jeopardise the security of the country. On his part, Abia State Governor, Chief Theodore Orji, told reporters that the meeting noted that “security issues should be handled as a corporate issue involving all arms of government with state governors playing prominent roles in this regard”.
According to him, they all condemned Nyako’s memo while all officials, including those from the security agencies, were advised not to make inflammatory comments that could aggravate the security crisis Nigeria is facing.
Borno State Governor, Alhaji Kashim Shettima, said it was also resolved that there should be greater investment in the deployment of advanced technology and curbing small arms proliferation as part of efforts to fight the insurgency.
Also speaking on the meeting, Gusau said the overall security challenges facing the country, the military operations in the North-east against the insurgency, kidnapping and other criminal activities were discussed.
He said it was resolved that everything would be done with collaboration of states and local governments as well as every Nigerian to bring the situation under control.
However, a source, who gave further insight into the deliberations at the meeting, told THISDAY last night that contrary to expectations, the issue of whether or not to extend the emergency rule in Adamawa, Borno and Yobe States, due to lapse in May, did not come up at the security council meeting.
He said the meeting agreed that as part of efforts to tackle the incidence of herdsmen-farmer clashes, cattle ranches and meat processing factories should be established in the north.
The meeting also made a case for modernising animal husbandry in the north to do away with the old method of breeding cattle. According to him, the meeting, which condemned the Nyanya bombing and the abduction of the schoolgirls in Chibok, urged the military to do all within its power to rescue the pupils.
Among those present at the meeting were Vice-President Namadi Sambo; Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Senator Anyim Pius Anyim; governors of 24 states while those from Oyo, Imo, Jigawa, Rivers, Ogun, Kano, Yobe, Edo and Plateau States were represented by their deputies.
Also in attendance were the National Security Adviser (NSA), Colonel Sambo Dasuki (rtd); Inspector General of Police, Mohammed Abubakar; Director General of State Security Service (SSS), Ita Ekpeyong; Chief of Staff to the President, Gen. Jones Arogbofa; President of Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor; and the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Sa’ad Abubakar III.
Shortly after the expanded security council meeting, northern governors were billed for another meeting to discuss the security situation in their zone, particularly the raging clashes between herdsmen and farmers. However, Nyako was not at the meeting which looked at ways of ending the clashes.
The herdsmen, under the auspices of the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association, were also expected at the meeting with the governors to brainstorm on the increasing spate of killings in the region over grazing rights.
Meanwhile, about 20 people were killed and thousands forced to flee their homes in Camerounian villages sharing a border with Nigeria as heavily armed gunmen, believed to be herdsmen, Tuesday, had a face-off with farmers of the Francophone country.
Voice of America (VOA) Thursday cited eyewitnesses narrating that hundreds of Fulani herdsmen fleeing conflicts in Taraba and Benue States turned belligerent when Camerounian farmers asked them to leave the area. The villages affected include Efung, Afu, Gayama and Mayi, situated about 20 kilometres from the nearest military post.
According to it, a Camerounian legislator, Walang Richard, said the Fulani were armed and caught the villages by surprise.
“These guys are heavily armed. Heavily armed, I repeat. They have burned down schools, they have burned down houses, they have destroyed crops, it is a disturbing issue.
“They are so many. There are even some we are looking for and not seeing. They are taking the thing lightly, but we must secure our border,” he said.
Camerounian soldiers have however been deployed along the country’s borders to deal with violent spill-over from the conflicts in Nigeria and the Central African Republic.
The BBC Hausa service yesterday morning reported that Niger Republic had started similar operations in the South-eastern town of Diffa where Boko Haram has commenced recruitment of adherents.
In another development, Senate President David Mark has described the abduction of female students of Government Secondary School, Chibok as embarrassing and sacrilegious and pleaded with their captors to free them.
Mark in a statement by his Chief Press Secretary, Paul Mumeh, said he imagined the harrowing experience of the students in the hands of their captors vis-a-vis the mental and psychological torture of their parents and guardians and restated the need for the captors to allow common sense to prevail.
Observing that the only sin of the pupils was that they chose to go to school to better their lot and contribute to the socio-economic and political development of their father land, Mark described the situation as a sad commentary, taboo and an assault on the collective psyche of Nigerians.