Nigeria’s federal government said on Thursday that Nigeria is the most hit by the death of President Idriss Deby of Chad given its dire security implications, assuring Nigerians, however, that security has been beefed up around the Chadian border to forestall the influx of refugees from the troubled neighbour.
Minister of Defence, Maj. Gen. Bashir Magashi (rtd), stated the federal government’s concern at the weekly presidential ministerial briefing organised by the Presidential Communication Team at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
He said Nigeria was being proactive by beefing up security at the Chadian border to avoid any spillover of the crisis that might arise from Deby’s death.
Deby, who was killed on Tuesday at the frontlines in Northern Chad by rebel fire, has been replaced by his son, Gen. Mahamat Deby.
But there have been reports of in-fighting amongst the ruling junta as well as a build-up for an onslaught on the capital, Ndjamena, by the rebel forces, raising concerns about a spillover of the crisis to Nigeria.
The minister, however, stated that following the killing of Deby, Nigeria had beefed up security around the border to prevent the influx of undesirable elements and refugees.
He said: “If there’s no security in Chad, there will be a lot of trouble for all neighbouring countries. But thankfully we have a lot of ongoing military cooperation, through the Multinational Joint Task Force (MJTF), which we expect to continue. We remain mindful of our borders and developments in Chad. When we heard of this unfortunate killing of the Chadian president, we knew that problem is bound to be replicated among neighbouring countries, and Nigeria will be most hit by his absence. If there is insecurity in Chad, there will be a lot of problems.
“But thank God, we have a lot of military activities with the Chadian, Niger Cameroon. We have all that military concern. So, in the name of that multinational Joint Task Force (MJTF), all these countries, including Chad, are contributing countries for the operation.
“We are beefing up security in our borders to ensure that no bandits come into Nigeria after the killing of Chadian president. All we have prayed for is that African countries will find a solution to the problem of Chad.”
According to him, the problem of Chad will be aggravated “because we are not sure of the direction in which that country is going to face but I assure you that we are mindful of the borders and we are mindful of the development, and politically, the government is putting its heads together to see how best they can restore the peace in that country.”
Speaking on the progress on the fight against insecurity in the country, Magashi, who admitted that the country was bleeding, said the federal government had compiled a comprehensive list of ethnic, political and religious ‘enemies’ of the nation.
He added that those who killed some soldiers in Benue State have been arrested.
Magashi said while domestic terrorism had reduced due to the measures put in place by the federal government, other problems arising from intolerance had heightened.
According to him, the emergence of herders/farmers clashes, IPOB, banditry, among others, resulted in violence being seen as a legitimate alternative.
He said: “Make no mistake that our nation is bleeding now. It is bleeding because of self-interest and other primordial considerations underlying decisions, which quite a number of our elite; political, ethnic and religious, make it so.
“Such elites are quick to attribute blame to groups other than theirs. The whole idea is to exploit the social division for their political gains and it is because of this divisiveness that Nigeria lacks a national consensus or common comprehensive understanding and the interpretation of what national security is – Boko Haram, farmers/herders clashes, IPOB and other political associations that are coming up with different mandates and different concerns.”
All these, he said could encourage groups to seek violence as a legitimate alternative.
He added: “From here emerges a narrow vision of national identity and vision, which threatens our country’s prospect of social cohesion and stability. This is why we’re seeing the rise of self-help syndrome, often endorsed by states and local elites seeking violence as a legitimate alternative.
“The rise in vigilantism and identity-based militia, who claim to be working for the political and ethno-religious emancipation of their people, a.k.a resource control, secession and regional self-determination, define the potent threats to the national security in our country.”
The minister added that the government has come up with a comprehensive report on identified enemies and have taken a position, which he said he would not want to preempt.
Magashi broke it down: “We have made a comprehensive brief as far as the security of this country is concerned, and the methods we want to use in ensuring that we strategically and tactically get rid of all enemies of this country, be it, political enemy, religious enemy, ethnic enemies and all the political enemies of this country.
“We have made a comprehensive report or research on that and we have taken our position, which I don’t want to preempt here, but certainly we are coming back with that. What is important is that we are just trying to inform you of our impression and our concern as far as the security of this country is concerned.”
He warned that stern action would be taken against killers of soldiers in Benue State, especially the recent murder of about 11 soldiers and one officer.
The defence minister said: “Let me just tell you this. I have been to the Benue State government. I have seen the governor and we have told him the blatant truth about the position of the military in this country.
“Whoever touches the military has no regard for this country and this country is governed by the rule of law and we have accepted democracy as a solution to the liberty of individuals in this country.
“We have been very firm; we have succeeded in reiterating to them what we actually want and we have got some answers that the weapons that were captured from the soldiers have been retrieved; at least we have nine out of the 12 and the perpetrators – they have been captured and taken to the police for proper interrogation and subsequent prosecution.”
Magashi said the military would not be deterred but focused on eliminating all perceived threats.
He also expressed hope that this objective could be achieved with the deployment of new military assets that would soon arrive.
Deji Elumoye in Abuja