Senate Tongue Lashes Army Chief Over Boko HaramFeatured, Latest News Thursday, November 13th, 2014
Ayodele Afolabi, Abuja
The meeting of the Senate Committee on Defence and Army and the Chief of Army Staff, Lt- Gen Kenneth Minimah yesterday almost degenerated into shouting match over the worsening spate of Boko Haram insurgency in the North Eastern part of the country.
Even before the meeting began, it was more of shouting match between the Army Chief and the Senators on whether he should address the press or not before facing them proper in the meeting.
The Committee had invited the Service Chiefs including the Chief of Defence Staff, Air Chief Marshal Alex Badeh, Chief of Army Staff, Major General Kenneth Minimah. Chief of Naval Staff, Rear Admiral Usman Jibrin, and Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal Adeola Amosu, to brief its members on the state of affairs in the Northeast with regard to the fight against Boko Haram.
Others also invited to the meeting included the Inspector General of Police, Suleiman Abba, and the Director General, Directorate of State Security (DSS) Mr. Ekpeyong Ita.
It however turned out that only the Chief of Army Staff, Minimah appeared for the parley to represent the Chief of Defence Staff, Badeh.
Chairman of the Committee, Senator George Thompson Sekibo gave the synopsis of the meeting by informing the Army Chief that the agenda of the parley was “very loaded.”He noted that while politicians were busy scheming for the 2015 election, insurgents were on the other hand having a field day especially in the Northeast part of the country.
Sekibo informed the Army Chief that Nigerians were getting impatient and irritated not only with the military but also with the government and those who represent them at various levels.
He added, “I believe that we are trying our best but is our best the best we can offer? What is happening is becoming increasingly difficult to explain to Nigerians. We want to be told what is happening.
The insurgents are having a field day.“We are aware that they (government) is releasing your funds to you because you have not complained. We also approved $1billion for the President to purchase arms and ammunitions to fight Boko Haram. We are aware that your budget is being released to you. If you have difficulties you should tell us.
“The spate of insurgency, the way and manner the insurgents are taking areas, is getting worrisome. We want to know what is happening. We also want to know the issue of the reported cease fire. We want to know whether there was actually any cease fire.
“We want to know whether there was a dialogue, the stage of the dialogue if any because few days after the announcement of the cease fire, the insurgents struck and have continued to strike.
“At the last meeting we were told that the insurgents have captured seven local government areas. The CDS confirmed that and asked that they should be given some time to liberate the captured areas.
“We want to know where we are. We are approaching election year, are we going to conduct election in the Northeast under the dire security challenge? These are our concerns and the concerns of Nigerians.”
Sekibo then asked Minimah to throw light on the issues he highlighted.
Minimah took a measured breath and said “I came to interface with the Senate Committee on Defence, can the press leave us.”The Army Chief said that operational matters are never discussed on the pages of the newspapers.
Sekibo asked Minimah to “just reassure Nigerians that the military is on top of the security situation in the affected areas.”The Army Chief insisted that he would not discuss security matters in the presence of the press.
A member of the Committee, Senator Babafemi Ojudu, intervened by reminding Minimah that the press is an important stakeholder in the fight against insurgency.
Ojudu also told the Army Chief that Nigerians could only get to know how the security agencies were prosecuting the fight against insurgency but Minimah stood his ground.
Another member of the Committee, Senator Abdul Ningi, also attempted to persuade Minimah to reassure Nigerians on what the military is doing to win the war against insurgency.
Minimah refused to comply, before reporters were reluctantly asked to leave the venue of the meeting by Sekibo, it was obvious that the lawmakers were not happy that Minimah refused to tell Nigerians through the press how the war against Boko Haram is progressing.
However after about three hours of holding the meeting, the Army Chief later addressed the press by vowing that the military will reclaimed all the captured territories in the next week.
He said: “We had a setback in Bassa that resulted in lost of territories up to Mubi and painful though but we are working very hard to retake those territories.
“And very soon we will reclaim those territories and indeed other territories that the insurgents have taken.
“I want to continue to rekindle the confidence of Nigerians and particularly the ordinary Nigerians who have suffered the pain of this insurgency that the Nigeria Army will continue to do its best and strive to win this war and reclaim the lost territories.
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