“Ex-militants cannot secure Nigeria’s territorial waters, ”Keku
“Ex-militants cannot secure Nigeria’s territorial waters, ”Keku
Otunba P.H. Keku, Executive Director, Centre for Security Education and Research is a former naval officer who has participated in the patrol of the creeks of Niger Delta and coastal areas of Nigeria. A founding member of Nigeria Professional Security Association, (NPSA) in the 1980s, Keku is also a member of the prestigious American Society for Industrial Security (ASIS). He was trained in security matters in India, London, United States, Israel and South Africa. He spoke to Tunde Akingbade on the issue of coastal security in the country and the contract allegedly awarded to a company owned by Asari Dokubo, ex – militant leader, the Boko Haram threat confronting the country and the appointment of a ne Inspector General of Police who he knows. Excerpts:
Q:- What is the implication of giving the contract of our coastal waters to a company reportedly owned by an ex – militant?
A:- During our time in the navy, we were saddled with the responsibility of protecting our territorial waters.
Militancy is not a qualification to be awarded maritime security job, except there is another ulterior motive about it. There is need to answer some questions on such a contract. First, what are the mandates for this security job that is going to be done? Militancy is different from maritime security. They are two different things entirely. But if the government wants to empower the militant or a militant, they should empower the militant in what he can actually do which can benefit the whole country so that after his “god father” has left office the impact can be felt in the country. It’s not just too good to say; “because I was a militant, I can be given this.” Second, if you do this you are sending a wrong signal and everybody will try to become a militant. It’s just like saying in the case of labour that if they have to get something from government, they have to go on the street first to protest. Why can’t the government do the right thing first? What the government will be telling us is that if you want to get something from the government, you must first of all be a militant, one way or the other. This is not the right thing.
Q:- It’s like we are building a nation where those who are getting close to government and getting things done are those who have become violent at one stage in their life?
A:- Why should it be so? Why should it be that it’s the violent ones that are now getting close to the government? And the government will be telling people; “oh, don’t be violent.” There must be a way out of that violence. You must let the person know that what he is doing is not the right thing to do. But this time around the country has changed. The moment you are violent, you form a group, call yourself one thing and starts to disturb the populace there and here, you will be called to parley with the government and whatever you need will be given to you. It’s wrong.
Q:- It’s that not the same mentality that seemed to have entered the Boko Haram people from some alleged sympathizers in government in the north east?
A:- I think that is it. People now think if they make things tough, they will be recognized and that is what is happening. In the case of Boko Haram, we all know they have sponsors somewhere. But the important thing the government would have done is an in-depth gathering of intelligence of who is who? They should do this instead of bringing those who have been identified as terrorists to be in government. It’s like you are giving a rat a fish and asking the rat to keep the fish. What do you expect the rat to do? The fish will be eaten. I cannot understand how such a sensitive security matter can be given to the police Commissioner Zakari Biu that they are talking about who was fingered as a notorious person, someone alleged to be in charge of terror in the days of General Sanni Abacha. He is also from the area of the Boko Haram threat and the suspected Christmas Day bomber. I cannot understand why and how they asked him to keep the suspected Boko Haram bomber. Do you think he is going to kill his own brother? He is not going to kill his own brother. The ground would have been paved by those powers for the Kabir Sokoto, the suspect to escape. Where does the Inspector General of Police, Ringim come from? That’s another thing. He seems to be from that axis too. Physically, he might try to say he is doing one thing to tackle the problem. But within him, he will have some kind of emotion for his people; no matter how! I remember many years ago, I investigated a case over some Ghanaians who did some wrongs in Nigeria. Our contact person to their roots in Ghana told me; I cannot give information about my people for Nigeria to just punish them like that. And I was a small boy then. The man simply told me to go with them and gather whatever information I could gather but he would not volunteer how I could send them to jail. He said he would not be party to release information about his own people. That’s similar in Boko Haram thing. The Ghanaian said; “I cannot bring out my people for you outsiders to arrest. You can go with them and use whatever information you gather on your own and you can go back with INTERPOL to arrest them.” And the same thing is happening here. You cannot give someone from the same state to Zakari Biu to interrogate. The appointment of a new IG is a welcome development. The new IG, Abubakar is someone known to me when he was in Lagos and I know he is a very intelligent officer.
Q:- And the same village, possibly?
A:- Yes, and you except that he will now hand him over for the gallows! No way; lai lai! He will not.
Q:- Perhaps, he will think when the retires he will go back to that village?
A:- Yes. So, he went. That’s what probably happened.
Q:- Ethnicity has really gone deep in Nigeria much more than in the1960s?
A:- Oh yes! You cannot compare the 1960s and 2000s. Even now, sometimes you feel that I cannot feel comfortable when I am out of my own people and community because of their level of civilization or their level of thinking or level of exposure.
Q:- Let’s go back to the issues of contract that was said to be given to Asari Dokunbo and you look into Nigeria’s constitution that says the job of Navy is to protect Nigeria’s territorial waters, is the government not breaking the clause?
A:- I can say they are breaking the clause, but there must be Sub-heads of the clause. Normally the main job of the navy is to protect our territorial waters. Even in the United States that’s the main job of the Navy. But in additional to the navy, you still have the Coast Guards guarding the water ways. We don’t have that. It’s important that we form the Coast Guard, employ the young retirees into it and train new ones with a mandate because these people that they want to give Nigeria’s maritime security, will be authorized to carry guns because they are not supposed to carry guns. If they allow them to carry guns; I don’t know the type of guns that they are going to carry. Is it AK47? Then it’s illegal for them to carry guns. Are they going to mount Patrol Craft Gun? Will they use this without the Navy? If they are saying it’s going to be a combination of Nigeria Maritime Administration and S Agency (NIMASA) and Navy and possibly the Nigeria Ports Authority, (NPA) it could have been a better strategy rather than use a militant who I believe is known to that area of his operation as a militant to be given that job to collaborate with NIMASA to protect out territorial waters. It’s wrong!
Q:- Don’t you think that the same way that Boko Haram silently went into the fabrics of North Eastern Nigeria, Nigeria has now opened its door to a situation where ex-militants are being given Federal cover to creep through territorial waters to the extent that if they bring guns and bombs, no one will blink?
A:- I think those who are venturing into this contract are not looking at that properly; How are they sure of the character of those people ? Have they been vetted? Have they made proper checks on them? If the head is okay what about the people he is going to employ? In this era of money speaks and corruption reigns; if you go ahead, train these ex- militant people – for example if they arrest a ship carrying crude oil illegally – will they not succumb to bribe and allow the ship to go? They will say those in the office are eating and stealing their own with biros. They cannot tell me ex- militant are incorruptible.
Q:- Is Nigeria safe, when you look at what Boko Haram is doing in the North and again the controversial maritime security contract? Is the government not trying to box in their people inadvertently creating problems from the north and south?
A: What I will say is what we say in security parlance that your own security is within you. And if you are within these volatile areas you have to look very well before you step out because there could be mines everywhere. The security of a nation is not for the police or the army or navy. You are a part of it. Your own job is to look beyond your nose and be vigilant all the time and give information to the right quarters.
I agree that even when information is given to the right people, action is delayed until it exploded. And they will say; Oh yes, this information came and I was passing it to my superior before the thing happened. Above all, Nigerian is safe. There are people living in certain areas and they don’t even know whether there is any problem of Boko Haram or not. In some rural areas of the North where there is no light or communication, they carry out their normal duties. Likewise those in the creeks of Niger Delta where there is no light or television. That’s why you will remember it was the “One-million-man-march” during the Abacha’s regime that opened the eyes of the Niger Delta boys when they were taken to Abuja to support Abacha. Before then, they did not know anything and they were contended with what they had. They got to Abuja and said:”Oh, so they used our oil money to build this place.’ Some people believe Nigeria is safe. I remember an expatriate friend who told me;”I have been in Nigeria too long what you think is hot today, by tomorrow it will cool down.” He has known the Nigerian system, and he believes it’s one of the safest places to stay in the world.
Q: How do you think Niger Delta can be empowered?
A: I think the empowerment of Niger Delta should first of all start with orientation of the people.
Empowerment is not giving money to the people or giving big contracts. If you don’t teach him what to do with the billions, he will squander the billions and come back to you to square one. I know some ex-council chairmen who were very flamboyant while in office with different cars and SUVs in their houses. One year after their tenure, some sold their vehicles and went about begging people for money. They didn’t know they could use that money to establish a small scale industry. If you tell an Indian or a Chinese that you have some money and you want to establish plastic industry or polythene industry, you will employ people and it will continue to grow. Even when you are out of office it will give you and people earnings. But that’s not the case in Niger Delta. And that is why I shout against government empowering them wrongly because at the end of the day, they will come back to square one. The President can empower them to and ensure that they put things in place for the youths who are coming behind. It’s not empowering them to buy cars ranging from 20 to 100, and for them to tie wrappers, come out in the morning and smile. “Oh I have all these cars!” They then pour out some bottles of whisky and enter their houses. That is not empowerment.
Q: It’s like those in government now often forget that the way they were empowered was through education?
A: Of course, it’s through education. But now in the Niger Delta, some people believe that education does not matter and that it’s through dashing out money because I remember that if we probe into the qualification and educational background of some people in the area there will be problem. That is why some of them who got into the position in that area could not do anything. You can imagine, a Commissioner in Bayelsa coming to Lagos and been taken out by his counterparts in Lagos will marvel atg the level of development and exposure of the Lagos Commissioner because some of them have not gone outside their State before. If I am the Governor of that State, and I appoint Commissioner, I will ensure they go out of the State to learn and see what their counterparts are doing from time to time and get a monitoring team to monitor what they do with money allocated to them.
Q : What is the way out of insecurity in the country?
A: Lack of intelligence gathering is one of the problems of the security agencies. Some Boko Haram people are in government as we are told and they probably disseminate information to others outside. Apart from this, there is no central point of coordinating information gathering from all the agencies just as Pentagon in USA. Pentagon is a different office from National Security Adviser. It may be different but its part of them and it gives advices on threats, collects information analyses and gives them for action.