Nigeria Under Siege – J.T. Useni

Nigeria Under Siege – J.T. Useni
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Senator Jeremiah Timbut Useni is a retired military officer and security expert that served the country in various capacities, occupying enviable positions of trust. He is now a Senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria representing Plateau- South Senatorial District at the National Assembly. In this exclusive interview with Fidelis Yughur, he expressed disappointment and surprise at the inability of the Police and other security agencies to fish out the killers of innocent Nigerian citizens, where they are coming from and their real motive.

According to him, the Senate is seriously looking into the matter through its security committee to draw the road map towards a security summit to proffer the way forward. “It appears Nigeria is under siege,” he says.  Excerpts:

 The country is engulfed in a series of attacks from various corners of the country and up till now the leadership is yet to identify the cause and those behind these attacks. As a retired top ranking military officer of this country, and one who experienced this same attack from your senatorial district, who will you say are these people, where are they coming from and their motive?

Well, the general saying is that most of these people are from outside Nigeria; some will say Nigeria, some will say there are people from outside Nigeria. That is what we do hear but there are people who are supposed to tell us exactly who these people are and where they are coming from. We are also worried and are discussing the issue at the floor of the Senate. For instance one Senator from Zamfara was accusing the governor and his deputy over security challenges and some I don’t want to mention here.

In his report, thousands of these attackers come in Army or Police uniform and attack people and the governor is not doing anything about it, and when contacted, he became angry, the Senator alleged. The Senator put up a report for us to look at. These are the things that everybody is asking just like you have asked me here now. We cannot really say what is happening. Is it the Police that are not doing their job or is it that most of these people are doing these with the knowledge of the Police? This is because the Army is supposed to intervene where the Police cannot. And before this and many years back you hardly see the Army intervening in this type of thing but you can see the Army intervening  and almost taking over the security in almost all the states across the country. We had in the Army 4 divisions but now we have 8 divisions. Even when we fought the Biafran war, we did not have that large number of people in the Army. So the question everyone is really asking in the Senate is that there are people who are supposed to tell Nigerians who these people are and why they attack Nigeria. The Police have more than enough personnel or are they just sleeping?  Everybody is watching whether these people are doing their job or not. So I think the government really needs to sit up to address all security and to sit up and answer the public or these security challenges are appear as if Nigeria is under siege.

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So if these persons are coming from outside Nigeria, what then is happening to our borders?

It baffles me too because we have Immigration and one wonders whether they are doing their job or not. I think this is where the immigration service should tell us why.

In some quarters some Nigerians are having a feeling that a battle line has been drawn between Nigeria and a people who are on a mission to eliminate some persons in order to take over their lands with particular reference to the North Central owing to the fact that the attacks are more in that zone.

The mission is not targeted at the North Central states alone. As we speak, there are killings going on in Zamfara State and even in Katsina State where the president comes from. We have soldiers sent to those places. So when we talk of North Central as if it is only North Central, it is not. The attack is against Nigeria as the attack is going round almost all the states of the federation.

 It was at some point predicted that Nigeria might not survive the year 2015 as a country. Could these attacks be a pointer to this prediction?

2015 is gone and we are still around. Somebody said by 2015 Nigeria will not be there; we are now in 2018, so their prediction is not correct. Even come 2030, Nigeria will still be one. People are only talking. Nigeria will still remain one. During the Biafran war people thought that by now we will be no longer together but here we are together over the years, even though the security challenges are rising. We have never experienced the level of kidnapping we are experiencing now. Kidnapping has been taken as a career because of absence of jobs to do now. So I want to say that the Senate is so much worried about this and have set a committee on Security to look into these issues. We are working towards having a public hearing on Security where all stakeholders will be involved. Everyone will be allowed to come forward and testify with the facts on ground.

Now that the Senate is heading for a Security Summit, what kind of structure are we expecting because the National Assembly? Who are the participants to this Summit and what is the nature of submissions to be made here?

Everybody has the right and will be given the opportunity to talk. May be some people may have some ideas and may not know where to present them or how to present them. So all stakeholders will be invited and may be from there a solution will come out, but as for the Senate, we have an adhoc committee on security and we are meeting already.

What is your advice to the leadership of the country and Nigerians at large with reference to security?

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You see, the fact remains that government is not just about one person because the president does not know and cannot know everything.  So the people working with the president must give him good advice, and the president must listen and accept good advice. In essence, what I am saying is that everybody working with Mr President has a responsibility. What we need to do is ask people with the requisite knowledge on issues and we must be able to believe in ourselves. We must give the President good advice and do the right thing at the right time. We should advice the President as much as we can and we believe the President too should listen. He has Advisers; whether the advisers are giving the President good advice or not is another thing entirely. All the type of people the President needs to work with he has them. But the question is: ‘‘are the people doing the correct job?” These are the issues that we have to get to the bottom and that explain why we as Senate told Mr. President that if you are forwarding names for screening for appointment, you should specify the position you intend to give to such a person so that the Senate can screen such a candidate properly. So there are a lot of things to be looked at, and I want the people to put their trust in the National Assembly.

The National Assembly must and should work closely with the Executive so that no arm should be seen to be overlapping or going beyond borders of the demand of such offices. We must work together as a family; and everybody whether you are a cleaner, you must obey the law. Some people think and act as if there is no law in this country.

Recently Sen. Dino Melaye presented a bill advocating for an Act to establish ‘Residency Rights’ to enable residents who must have stayed in a particular place for up to 5 years or more to contest elections there. What is your take on this proposed bill? 

Well, we are yet to finish the case. The bill has to be looked at properly and I know in that proposal it says a person who has stayed in a given area for more than five years but I think we had a clause in the law that says someone who stays in a particular place should be so and so. We have to look at it critically to see whether it is a repetition. But even without that law, people have been winning elections in places they have lived for long not that you must be born there before you win elections. So to me it is not a new thing really just that when you reach a certain level new things must be raised and guided properly.

And one thing which is worrying Nigerians is that because somebody is married from your place, then when it comes to the issue of appointments they say no, you are not from this place and cannot contest elections here.  We did entertain a case like this at the Sovereign National Conference under President Jonathan.  Some of those things must be looked into so that a lot of people will not be deprived.

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Sir, you served the country as a top Security Officer and retired honourably. While one will be expecting that you have a well-deserved rest, your people called you to serve them in this capacity as a Senator. Having accepted, what do you have in mind to achieve for your people now as a legislator?

Well, I feel I am still strong and I think I am still useful to my people to do more for them. And even before coming into the Senate, I was helping my people. I have sponsored a lot of people into positions but found out that they did not perform at all. I have one which I sponsored in the House of Representative for 8 years and one as Senator for 4 years, but he cannot even show me a single borehole. And a lot of them like that and they have no respect for the people just because they have got a little money. You can’t work like that. That is why my people say I should come, and here I am for them. I am not here for making money, no.  And those I have been helping have never given me a penny; some have not even given me a Ram during festivities. When they are coming to you looking for something, they humbly show that they are good but once they get it, they become changed persons. It is disheartening; many people disappointed me. It is like what is happening with the Governors, when they are looking for governor, you are together but when they get that Governor, you are no more together again. So I want to advice that electorates should be allowed to make a choice and there should be no imposition of candidates on people. So even before I came to Senate I have been doing a lot of things for my people. For some, when I left the government, you know when Abacha died, I voluntarily resigned from service. I have been helping my people at home by assisting them in building Churches, that is for Christians and mosques for our Muslim brothers. I have done a lot of things such that even the elected members in the House of Representative could not  do. Now that I am in the Senate, it is an opportunity for me to do more but unfortunately, money is not forth coming but there are a lot of things I still do with my own money. You can see the 2017 budget even as you go round, you find that some money for projects have not been released up to 40 percent. So one cannot say I have done much but definitely, I have done something for my people.


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