Senator Mohammed Ali Ndume heads the Senate Committee on Army. He is a former leader of the Senate and represents Borno South in the upper legislative chamber of the National Assembly.
In this interview with our correspondent, he spoke on military operations and other security issues in the country, suggesting what President Muhammadu Buhari should do that can help him to win the Boko Haram war.
What is your take attack on military formations?
They now even have the audacity to attack the military. In the Northeast, Boko Haram terrorists took the fight to military formations. They attacked barracks and dislodged military formations. The military had to withdraw from those areas. As I speak, the Bama Barracks has not been rebuilt. The situation in Mongonu is still the same. There are so many formations that were dislodged. There are countless times that the military formations have been attacked. In the Southeast too, many police formations were attacked and burnt down. In some cases, their arms were taken away. Remember a military general who was killed in Kogi. There are several cases. But this is the first time the bandits will have the audacity to take the fight to a military training institution, that was very daring. I think this is the time for the Armed Forces to act. I must admit that they’re overwhelmed. They’re facing so many challenges. In every geopolitical zone, there are security challenges. The only difference is the magnitude. Some are higher than others. This is the peak of it and these bandits want to send a message that they’re still there. What I’m expecting is that the military will go after these bandits. If someone challenges you and they want to embarrass you, it will be time for you to respond immediately.
There are claims that insiders are giving information to these bandits…?
(Cuts in) There will always be insiders. The only thing is that, if they can’t go outside, you keep them inside. You’ve to take measures. It is the responsibility of the military to expose them.
People are alleging that some of the sponsors of these bandits and criminals are in government. What do you think the government should do?
Let those alleging come out. The institutions are there. They’re ready to listen. If you’ve intelligence, why not bring it out? I can’t dispute the fact that insiders will be there. I was a victim of being called a sponsor of Boko Haram. Once you’re innocent, in a matter of time, your innocence will be proven. I was convicted by the press as a sponsor of Boko Haram. As at the time they’re accusing me of being a sponsor of Boko Haram, the government was already reaching out to their leaders. Jonathan even went to Tchad to talk to the late president about one character who was a Boko Haram leader. They spent a lot of money. If you’ve information, share it with the right people.
What should the president do?
The only thing the president isn’t doing is that, he is not talking to Nigerians. He should be talking more. You can see what is happening in other countries, their presidents are talking to the people. We can’t rely on Garba Shehu or Femi Adesina. The president should create a situation room where everyday, he can brief or maybe weekly. That will encourage Nigerians. The president should take charge. From the briefings he gets, he can share some with Nigerians. That may not change the situation, but it will help. We are not asking him to lead the fight, but he needs to do more.
What is your take on the reintegration of repentant Boko Haram fighters into the society?
What people are saying isn’t true. They’re taking them in and the process is long. Each and everyone who has surrendered is being interrogated. Once someone surrenders in a war situation, you don’t go ahead and shot the person again. You take him and he becomes a prisoner of war. You now have to prosecute him. But you can’t do that without interrogation or some evidence. It is not true that they’re taking them in and allowing them to go freely. In my village, hundreds are surrendering. A facility somewhere is available. Boko Haram fighters are being kept there. There are judges assigned. Some of these people have been tried and sentenced already. Some of them who were innocent and forcefully conscripted, are set free. What we are saying is that, those of us directly affected should be involved. We know some of them. Those from my area, I may know their level of involvement. We can explain to them and give them information that can help.
It is only through investigation and interrogation that we can get the right results. There are many of them who are victims. In my village, so many innocent people were captured. Terrorists have been using them as human shields. Our people know them. When they come out, you can’t just tag them terrorists. The government is coming out with a programme that will strengthen this process. The media should be on the positive side. The government should pursue the Boko Haram war and bring it to an end. They should start thinking of resettlement and other issues surrounding those displaced. We have thousands of IDPs across Nigeria.
Have they recruited any of those surrendered into the military?
Do you recruit people like that? It is not possible to do that. The best they can get from repentant Boko Haram fighters is information. The army can’t even do that. There is a process. It is not also not true that commanders of Boko Haram are being resettled. They can’t grant a blanket amnesty to these terrorists. There is a process. Not even the president can do that.