Confab holds closed-sessions on security, evicts journalists

Delegates to the conference yesterday held closed-door sessions to discuss issues bordering on national security.

There was however drama as Justice Idris Kutigi, chairman of national conference ordered journalists out of the session about an hour into the plenary because of what he described as sensitive issues contained in the report of the security committee.

The first session which started at about 9:30 am was meant to consider the report of the Conference Committee on National Security headed by a former Inspector General of Police, Mr. Muhammmed Gambo Jimeta and former Director General of the National Intelligence Agency, Chief Albert Horsfall.

“Can the press men clear yourselves; the pressmen should disappear, please. Press men disappear. Shut your cameras; shut everything and get out. Disappear, please. Press men disappear from the hall,” the retired Chief Justice of Nigeria said to the anger of journalists. Security operatives responded promptly by chasing journalists out of the media gallery.

However, some delegates with links to the media, Civil Society Organisations and the Labour Unions protested the order and said the retired Judge should have addressed the journalists in a more decent manner.

They included former Presidents of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), Messrs Lanre Ogundipe and Sani Zoro, Damien Dodo (SAN), Senator Florence Ita-Giwa, and Femi Falana (SAN).

Others were Chief Raymond Dokpesi, owner of Daar Communications, a representative of NAWOJ, Mrs Brenda Akpan, and Mrs Joe Okei-Odumakin, among others.

But they appealed to journalists not to allow the incident affect their reportage of the conference.

Later, James Akpandem, the Assistant Secretary, Media and Communications to the conference in company of Professor Bolaji Akinyemi, the Vice Chairman of the Conference came to appeal to journalists, thus paving the way for the media men to go back to the Conference Hall.

But the drama continued when the Conference resumed in the afternoon to consider the recommendations contained in the report and some proposed amendments, when information about plans by Boko Haram to burn down 50 communities in Borno State was raised and discussed by the delegates.

As the discussion progressed, news of a bomb blast at a shopping complex in Abuja was received by the delegates.

After deep discussions, the Principal Officers of the Conference agreed that a closed session be held to discuss the Boko Haram phenomenon on Thursday morning.

However, the plan changed when Femi Falana, SAN, raised an objection to the arrangements and asked the Conference to reconsider its position and go into a close session immediately in view of the seriousness of the issues involved.

At this point, Justice Kutigi mandated his Deputy to clear the gallery and proceed with the closed-door session where delegates discussed freely on Boko Haram.

The session started with a retired general who led the Conference through the strategies involved in the war against Boko Haram.

He traced the history of the insurgency and dazed delegates with information on what should have been done at the beginning that were not done.

In addition to poor intelligence gathering, he said low morale among the soldiers from remuneration to kitting, to provision of ammunitions were responsible for failure in the war against Boko Haram.

He said in fighting war against a group that exists in splinters, a group whose membership exists principally in the imaginations, would require extreme intelligent gathering and implementation without any attempt at politicking with facts.

Another speaker, a politician, said Boko Haram is thriving because they have been allowed to outsmart security agents in the area of funding and morale-boosting.

It was his view that people entrusted with the management of funds and proper application of other forms of resources meant to combat insecurity in the country have diverted such resources to personal use; a development which has resulted in the current state of affairs.

Another delegate, a journalist, said the growth and strength of Boko Haram were based on the wrong impression that the violent sect is a northern conspiracy against the southern parts of the country; especially the South South.

According to him, such a belief and other misconceptions have made the war against Boko Haram a failure when actually the real victim in the entire bloody affair is the Nigerian State.

“I don’t believe Boko Haram is a Nigerian issue,” said one of the outspoken female delegates from the far north.

She explained further: “I believe Nigeria is being invaded. But because we have massacred ourselves already, we are not organized to confront them. We must be united with government against terror. We are facing a declaration of war.”

Another delegate, a former ambassador, said the seeming failure of the war against Boko Haram was traceable to the inability to implement recommendations contained in various reports submitted to government by different formal and informal groups.

“We must know how this thing started. We must know who the sponsors are. We must know the people involved. We must know the mission of Boko Haram.”

The delegate disclosed that Boko Haram has grown to a level where “its funding is offshore; its weapons accumulation is offshore; its training is offshore and its strategy is offshore.”

It was also disclosed that the war against Boko Haram cannot be won purely by military might except the country improves on its intelligence gathering method and most importantly win the hearts of the people.

A Christian religious leader in his contribution said it was time for everyone to open up on the issue of Boko Haram rather than pretend that nobody knows where the executors of the insurgency live or how they get their food.

These insurgents, according to him, are no spirits. They live among the people, interact with the people and get their supplies from the people and communities. The genuine involvement of the local communities will go a long way in tackling the problem.

“Boko Haram phenomenon is not a northern phenomenon. Boko Haram is a Nigerian phenomenon. A time has come for us to unmask the masquerade. A time has come for someone to tell us the home truth about Boko Haram.”

The delegate challenged his colleagues and other Nigerians especially those from the operational base of Boko Haram to locate the source of Boko Haram and identify who does the recruitment and expose the members to ideological thoughts.

It was his view that if the war against terror must be won, the sponsors “who give the terrorists weapons that are even superior to those used by the military must be exposed; even the parents who handover their children to be so radicalized must be brought to book.”

Another delegate from the North East said the action of security men who carry out reprisal attacks on communities where Boko Haram carry out their operation contributed to the lack of confidence and trust being exhibited by the people.

He said there was need to show genuine concern to the people and communities attacked by Boko Haram; and there must be concerted effort by the leadership of the country to show that the people deserve the required care and compassion.

It was also suggested that those who divert monies meant for security matters must be made to face the law if the trend must stop and if the security agencies must have the required equipment and logistics.

The morale of the countries security agencies and forces must receive adequate boost and the people must enjoy the trust and confidence of the leadership as a first step to fighting insurgency and other forms of criminal activities in the country, it was recommended.

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