A human rights activist, Deji Adeyanju, talks to DIRISU YAKUBU about the deteriorating security situation in the country, and the current administration’s war against corruption, among others
The security situation in the country is taking a dangerous dimension. What do you think is responsible for this?
The security situation in the country is really worrisome but is an inherited problem for the President Bola Tinubu administration, to be fair, because when Muhammadu Buhari took over as President in 2015, insecurity was restricted to only Borno, very few parts of Adamawa and Yobe States but under his watch, he exported insecurity to every part of the country.
Taraba, Gombe, Bauchi, Benue, Plateau, Kogi, and Nasarawa States, the entire South-West, South-East, and South-South were engulfed and kidnappings became the order of the day. It is the same as Kaduna and Abuja.
Throughout the eight-year term of Buhari, the Abuja-Kaduna expressway was conceded to bandits and criminals. To date, there has been no attempt at reclaiming those territories. His home state of Katsina was overrun by bandits. The story is the same in Zamfara, Kebbi and Jigawa states.
The failure of the government is responsible for this. The lack of political will of both the Buhari and the Tinubu administrations is responsible because a serious government will tackle the root cause of insecurity and not be dancing around and playing to the gallery.
President Bola Tinubu has been commended for the swift manner he suspended his Minister of Humanitarian Affairs and Poverty Alleviation, Betta Edu, over alleged corruption. Would you say the fight against corruption has started on a good note in the current dispensation?
It will be too hasty to say he has started well. While I commended him for the decision he took, that suspension is just a metaphor. There is nothing Beta has done that other ministers or ministries are not doing. Worse things are being done in the Ministry of Defence and other ministries. I have challenged the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission on this.
If we are interested in the truth, the only reason Beta was caught was because she was apparently fighting someone who she had reported had stolen N42bn. The person was loyal to the former Minister of Humanitarian Affairs. And because they were engaged in a tug of war, the lady said, ‘You are also a thief. You stole N3bn of the COVID fund that was given to the ministry and you paid one of them into a private account’ and so on.
What I am saying is that this government must fight corruption in all the ministries and agencies so that the whole crusade would be holistic. When this is done, we will commend the government of the day.
The Federal Capital Territory has never had it this bad. Kidnappers freely access estates, and abduct people for ransom with little or no intervention from the security agencies. What is the Inspector General of Police and heads of other security agents not doing right?
Insecurity in the FCT is getting to an unimaginable level now and the minister (of the FCT), Nyesom Wike is to blame because instead of focusing on his job as a cabinet member, he is preoccupied with the political tussle in Rivers State. Wike’s attention is divided. He is not interested in running the FCT because he is struggling to maintain a political structure in Rivers State. He is shouting all over the place and instead of being all over the place in FCT to secure lives and properties, he is jumping all over the place.
It is ironic that just two days ago, Wike was blaming the area council chairmen for the insecurity in the FCT by claiming that they did not stay in their councils. Wike is barely here (in the FCT) and when he is, he is meeting Rivers people in the ministry or at his house. The meetings are, in essence, about Rivers’ politics. So, he is not interested in the administration of the FCT.
There is a complete failure of intelligence gathering in the country, not just about the IGP’s office alone. Yes, the police which were originally created for the maintenance of internal security, and intelligence gathering have failed in their responsibility. The police are more of a VIP protection institution now and the Department of State Services should be doing better and helping the police since the police have failed in their responsibilities and are busy eavesdropping on conversations of political enemies, opposition members, activists and critics of the government.
When it is time for the DSS to invade a protest, they are always very proactive; when it is time for the DSS to be used by a state governor to harass opposition members, to harass people, they are swift to swing into action. Recall that a former first lady got someone arrested over a Facebook post using the DSS. The person was kept in the DSS custody for months. These are the kinds of things that the DSS are so excited about, but when it comes to gathering intelligence to prevent a breach of security, they are not as effective. So, it is part of the failure of intelligence that is responsible.
Many Nigerians believe Wike would turn the FCT around for good when he was appointed by President Tinubu. Do you think he has lived up to that expectation?
As a person, I hailed the appointment of Wike and I even said that he was going to be the best minister in the FCT. However, look at it today, the reverse is the case. I believe his absence from the FCT, not just physical absence, his mental absence, is what is responsible for how dirty the FCT is. The darkness of the nation’s capital at night is worrisome and this is fueling insecurity. The man is so distracted. His fight with his political godson, (Governor Siminalayi) Fubara, is completely to blame for the decay we are currently witnessing in the FCT.
Do you support the call in some quarters that Wike should choose between serving as the FCT minister or relocating to Rivers to continue his battle with his political godson?
Whether it will be right to call for redeployment of Wike from the FCT is neither here nor there. I believe that Wike still has what it takes to govern FCT well, going by his track record. It is too premature to call for his relocation from the ministry of the FCT but he should put his mind to work and he will succeed.
He should leave Rivers politics alone and stop demolishing poor people’s homes because you demolish these shanties and these guys have nowhere to go and they are not relocated. This is partly what is responsible for the insecurity in the FCT, because when the poor man has nothing to eat, he will eat the rich. Wike and all these people who are acting all-powerful are not immune from all the social vices they are creating by some of these hasty and ill-advised policies.
Some people think the FCT should be run by an appointee from the region who understands the issues and needs. Don’t you think so?
I don’t believe running the FCT is a wrong choice for Wike. I think the President’s idea of giving Wike the FCT is because of his track record in Rivers and the President was counting on him to get the job done. Wike is distracted because of the political tussle in Rivers State. There are still three more years to go and he can wait for Fubara in the next election and focus on the governance of the FCT.
What is your take on calls for a cabinet reshuffle with particular reference to the Ministry of Defence?
I condemned the choice of Abubakar Badaru and Bello Matawalle as Minister of Defence and Minister of State for Defence respectively. My reason was that they had no previous experience of that turf and we have been proven right. I believe that the President should redeploy them and put someone who is more conversant with the internal security of the country in charge.
How impressed are you with the steps taken so far by the Federal Government to cushion the effect of the removal of the petroleum subsidy?
I am not impressed whatsoever with the steps taken by the government. In my view, the monies allocated to address the challenge of subsidy removal from petrol would end up in the private pocket for the enjoyment of the ‘big boys’.
There is growing optimism that the coming on board of the Dangote Refinery may put an end to the perennial petrol-induced crisis. What is your take on this?
The Dangote Refinery, as far as I am concerned, is not working. It is mere propaganda. The only way that I can be convinced that the Dangote Refinery is truly working, is if fuel goes back to N150 or at most N200 per litre because we cannot have a refinery in Nigeria where we have the crude oil and fuel will still be selling at almost N700. They are doing media propaganda but I will be convinced when the price crashes.