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News Analysis: SURE-P/FERMA Federal Task Force: An Appendage Of Impunity

By Tajudeen Balogun, Head, African Examiner, Nigeria Bureau, Lagos

It is very unfortunate that certain ruling class in this country does not learn from the history or the past errors committed by others. Therefore, it is unimaginable and unthinkable that at this time, that the country is held back, agonized and left in a total confusion due to insecurity challenges (previous and renewed) which had consumed too many innocent and promising lives, to see some, attempting or moving  to launch yet another version of insurgency on the country.

Federal Taskforce officials arrested recently for fomenting trouble on federal roads

Federal Taskforce officials arrested recently for fomenting trouble on federal roads

As the combined efforts of the country’s Military, with the neighbouring and other foreign supports are still driving towards stemming the raging insurgents killings, invasion, harassment and secession of towns and Nigerian communities, the expectation is that every stakeholder will sustain the support (s) being offered, while lessons are learnt especially on the genesis of the dreaded group (Boko Haram), with a view to avoid similar occurrence in the future.

But certainly that is not the case, as the insurgents still rampage in the North Eastern part and some other zones in the entire Northern part of the country.

Around April  this year, the media spot and reported the recruitment of and para – military training being given to over 5000 young men and women at an expansive yard around old Lagos toll plaza axis (7up area). Named the Federal Task Force, later findings confirmed that they were engaged under the Subsidy Reinvestment and Empowerment Programme (SURE – P) – a social – economic measure by the present administration. When it came to the public glare, the force was later re – branded as SURE-P/FERMA Federal Task Force.

Still, so far, all is not well with the manner this yet to be clearly defined Task Force officials, reputed for restiveness operate in Lagos State, South Western Nigeria. In late May this year, the Task Force men entangled with the State traffic control and management agency (LASTMA) officials. The fight involved attack on both staff of the parastatal as well as its head office in Oshodi area of the State. There was a renewed clash about two months later, this time, the State Police Special Task Force, got involved and arrested some of the SURE-P/FERMA Federal Task Force men. They were later released after questioning.

For the third time within six months, the SURE-P/FERMA Federal Task Force men are back to work. On Monday, November 3, 2014, Lagos residents woke up to see or read or later told about the news of the task Force men taking over traffic control at some locations on Ikorodu road as well as certain points at the Lagos end of (Lagos – Ibadan expressway). The exercise (take over) was not without a fresh and fierce clash between the men and LASTMA officials as the latter were dislodged to allow them operate.

About two days later, the State Governor, Babatunde Fashola (SAN) who somewhat has since maintained a cautious silence on the Force formation, presence and controversial activities in the state, finally and heavily descended on the men of SURE-P/FERMA Task Force.

Fashola in his remarks at the fifth anniversary of Uniformed Voluntary Clubs in the State’s Public Schools challenged the Task Force, describing it as an “illegal” outfit, therefore called on the residents to resist them in advancing its operations. His reasons were hinged on the fact that the SURE-P/FERMA Federal task Force is not on the list of constitutionally recognized traffic management and control agencies, which he mentioned included: the Federal Roads Safety Corps (FRSC) and LASTMA.

What could have been more frightening when the Governor alleged “They brought out guns and that made everyone to scamper for safety. On that day, motorist abandoned their vehicles to avoid attack. And today, their activities led to traffic gridlock on the road. In fact, the traffic didn’t subside until 1:30 pm”.

Fact number one note please. Then questions; first, which of the recognized and existing traffic management officials (State or Federal; within Lagos or any other part of Nigeria) known to be operating with guns on the roads as alleged by Governor Fashola? Who gave them the guns and for what? What is or are the known constitutional backing (s) for this body? The latter question has been asked severally and no one has provided exact, sufficient and satisfactory answer to it.

At most, the National Publicity Director of SURE-P/FERMA Task Force, Olawale Oyeboh at the height of May 2014 mayhem that denied the purpose of the body was not to destabilize the 2015 general elections.

Oyeboh offered that the Task Force’s presence fell under the jurisdiction of SURE- P/FERMA as backed by the laws which established them and I ask: including forcing, driving away, other replica officers and holding of guns by para – Military officers to manage traffic? Does this really flow?

On his part while commenting on Monday brawl, the SURE-P/FERMA Task Force, National Coordinator, Abdul-Razak Rafiu Otto, submitted that the agencies’ men were not engage to create confusion in the State as accused, rather was floated to “recover government’s properties in Lagos and maintain traffic on Federal roads”. Which properties are they guiding which the police and other security operatives could not?

He also denied the men were not hoodlums as suggested by many. Can these explanations really hold, given the repeated standoff orchestrated by them against the state owned traffic officials?

Even if the majority of Nigerians lack the detail knowledge or have forgotten, the people behind the way and manner the so called Federal Task Force has been operating know very well, the history of Boko Haram – especially the angles of government officials fraternity with its leadership; funding of its activities; the deals to involve its leaders in government and do its bidding if it (BH) delivers winning votes; its leaders’ disagreement with the Chief Executive of its origin State (Borno); its leadership eventual pull out from the government and the trailing escalation which the country and stakeholders in the sub region and other continents still battle with up till the moment.

Therefore, it is disturbing that some people despite the current security challenges, still believe they could eat their cakes, yet have it, in the egocentric displaying of and entrenching of lawlessness and unbridled abuse of law.

They have been told and warned severally, that this was exactly the same manner the Boko Haram were being ‘powered’, funded and supported before the members and the origin state government fell apart. Today, the larger Nigerian society is now suffering for the wicked, silly and short – sighted interests of (the then State) ruling mafia. Why won’t Nigerian politicians learn from the past mistakes; why should the personal interest override the National’s?

More questions and critical issues. First, the SURE-P/FERMA  Task Force, National Coordinator, Rafiu Otto’s take on FERMA as a traffic control body (as one of its responsibilities) is mostly an after thought and a ruse. The fact that is very clear to many Nigerians is that, this establishment – FERMA maintains (repairs and reconstructs) Federal roads. So, what is the relevance in arrogating the responsibility of traffic control here? Those behind the Lagos Task Force  gangsterism have deliberately muddled the points. For instance, why can’t these men and women join in the workforce of FERMA, properly in roads repairs and constructions if there is really no sinister motive?

Even if these Task Force men are meant to manage the traffic, can’t their managers reach out to the State government on the necessary and needed working synergy, just as existing between the same LASTMA and other Federal owned security and traffic agencies – which over the years have been collaborating and working peacefully and harmoniously together? One more question; Does the SURE-P/FERMA Federal Task Force exist in other States of the Federation? If it does, do its men operate in the similar manner the Lagos do? I doubt ever hearing of such a case from other parts of the country, if at all it exists.

If this is the case, what is then the special interest and the grandstanding the State’s SURE-P/FERMA Federal Task Force are meant to achieve, especially at the twilight of the 2015 general elections?  Oyeboh and Rafiu Otto must definitely go back to their ‘masked’ superiors, dig in and get more convincing facts, explanations and justification for the rascality of their ‘self – recognized’ Task Force men.

Well, let it be said here that if the brazen anarchy is at the instance of that errand, opportunist State politician, so linked with unruliness and who since his cross carpeting from his old party to the present, has battled for control of his new political association in the State; still battling for supremacy and will continue with the struggle within it, he would end up wreck more damages on his ‘flat’ image which he also knows has cost him so much in the past and present, fortunes to launder. He has even lately joined in the aggressive social media reach out and campaign. Sure, those platforms have huge and live audience, but the hunting ghost of his past misgivings will largely impede his ultimate goal and desire. Pity, he and others in his shoes deliberately turn blind eyes to this bitter truth.

For Governor Fashola who had called for resistance of the Task Force offensives, that was a good advocacy and timely public sensitization, yet the overall approach must still conform with the law and within the ambit of law. Good, he is a Lawyer – understands better, the implications of taking the laws into one’s hand. Therefore, before his clamour is misconstrued, he should rather calm nerves and quickly consider a legal action against this appandage and reigning impunity in Nigeria. After all, two wrongs cannot be right.

It has been said often, that by this present moment, the country is in its political ‘harvest’ era, having gone through over three years of cultivation – serious governance. So, any politician who feels he could deploy any form of shortcut or try tricks will achieve little and largely nothing! Everyone can see, that incompetence, lingering disregard to the rule of law and pronounced and constructive criticism have aroused the interest of so many well-meaning Nigerians, on how best the country should be governed, hence shifted attention to politics.

The implication of this is that the traditional politicians should be faced with the reality that if electioneering campaign remains in their care, not so to the voting. Now, it is less of cajoling with propaganda, violence, intimidation, confrontation, ‘naira rain’, but rather more of your score cards – performance while in power, pedigree and the past records, the latter especially for the fresh aspirants.

Yes, the cross carpeting can continue in the land, as the operating constitution still allows it for now. But if the law provides for the opposite, it may be costly, yet it will strengthen our democracy in the long run. That is a separate debate, to be featured when necessary. Yet, it is part of the impunity in discourse, to see for instance party B at the receiving end, just because members jump from Party A to it. Whereas, the A party dines and wines when other folks either return home or dump their original party and come on its board. Shame and what a peak of hypocrisy!

President Goodluck Jonathan, you know and everyone does, that you and your administration have been substantially distracted with the five years of Boko Haram deadly militancy. I believe your government and this country have had more than enough of the insurgents attacks and invasion. Also, you know and would agree to the fact that Lagos State is a mini Nigera. Mr. President base on this, I wish to hold you should not ignore this definite and imminent disaster to bring down your peaceful house – the former country’s capital and very strategic state. You should please note, if Lagos is on fire, the entire Nigeria is under fire.

Finally, President Jonathan, kindly face with the reality and share the genuine concern as well as the stress of many others, that the vicious mode the Lagos SURE-P/FERMA Federal Task men are being tele guided in their operations, poses a dangerous signal and very inimical to the peaceful co-existence of the state and the country in general. So, to absolve the Presidency from this mess and another ‘insurgency’ in making, (note please, the issue here is not about calling the men to order), rather, you should order their disbandment, after which the arms with them are retrieved and after, the officers to be productively and more professionally re –engaged in any government establishment or agency known to the law. Lagosians and Nigerians beg of you to do this so as to avert another major calamity to befall the country!

Is CDS Air Marshal Badeh A Career Officer Or Politician?

I do not know of how many of the Nigerian critical audience have taken notice recently, the uncoordinated utterances and ‘I don’t care’ like body language of the Nigerian Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), Air Marshal Alex Badeh on his reactions to questions relating to lack of desirable results from the Military, especially as related to the efforts made so far, on release of the over 200 abducted Chibok girls as well as insurgents seizure and capturing of towns and communities in the North Eastern part of the country.

Some weeks back while addressing journalists, Air Marshal Badeh took a swipe on the media and the public that if the military should go the way of public demand on the Chibok girls’ release, then they should have expected the girls were killed in the bush and their corpses returned. If this is not too shocking, this is another one. On Wednesday (this week), while again addressing the State House news men, when on a visit to brief the Council of State meeting on the state of security in the country, the CDS whose town – Mubi, in Adamawa State has not only been captured and occupied by the Militants, but also renamed  as Madinatu Islam did a self – conceited comparism. Quoting him:  “If a CDS loses his home town it’s the same thing as losing Lagos; it’s the same as losing Enugu. Any part of the country that is lost CDS carries the weight, Ok.

“So, it is immaterial whether it is my home town, whether it’s my house that is burnt or Emeka’s house or whoever’s house that is burnt in Nigeria, the CDS is pained.”

Is that really well said? By virtue of his very sensitive national security (officer) position and in view of the embarrassment (on the over six months abduction and recent secession) the insurgents advancement has brought to the country, it is not a empty and offensive boasting we really need or the CDS should engage himself. Instead, he should show exhibit more of courage as a Military officer and let his speeches and remarks be laden with words of hope and subsequently be inspiring as well as re – assuring.

Resulting to jabs as he is recently doing is not impressive and does not depict the weight of office he occupies. The CDS should please remember that he is highly remunerated for the job of protecting the country against aggression – internal or external. And he should also remember that being asked serious or sensitive but unavoidable questions by the journalists is about doing what the profession demands. Or does CDS Badeh expects the media not to ask questions on the Friday October 17, 2014 declaration by him that the Boko Haram and the Military have signed a ceasefire to close insurgency, an announcement later turned to be unreliable? He should know that the media interest is working for the common goal of the country and not necessarily for him to conclude that he is being spite, thus feel offended; but why should he in the first place, when faced with those professionals trained to always be inquisitive?

No wonder, we are the country said to have crop of leaders who do things other way round; otherwise, statements of this magnitude would have occasion some stirs. But the country will still have to bear with this abnormality, as long as the the dancing masquerade has in his beneath his highly favored undertakers.

No wonder again, that all the country’s Security Chiefs, including the just confirmed Chief Police Officer – IGP Suleimon Abba were recently rewarded with the National Honours, which the merits are still in questions, recall this was captured in the Editorial of Friday, October 3, 2014, with headline: The National Honours In Want Of Merits. Nigerian leaders, with so many deceits and contradictions.

E – Mail: tjaysuccess10@gmail.com; Twitter: @tajudeen balogun       


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