Members of the Senate Committee on Defence engaged in hot arguments with the Chief of Army Staff, Major General Kenneth Minimah, on Thursday over the increasing spate of insurgency in the Northeast.
Chairman of the senate committee, George Sekibo, had told reporters on Wednesday that his 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 insurgency situation in the North East.
Others also invited to the meeting according to Sekibo, included the Inspector General of Police, Suleiman Abba, and the Director General, Directorate of State Security , Mr. Ekpeyong Ita.
However, it was only Minimah that turned up for the parley to represent the Chief of Defence Staff, Badeh.
Sekibo informed the Army Chief that the agenda of the parley was very important because politicians were busy scheming for the 2015 election, while the insurgents were on the other hand having a field day especially in the Northeast.
He noted that Nigerians were becoming impatient and irritated not only with the military but also with the government and those who represent them at various levels.
He said, “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 $1bn for the President to purchase arms and ammunition 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 over 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 invited Minimah to explain himself over the issues he had highlighted.
Minimah, after taking a long breath said “I came to interface with the Senate Committee on Defence, can the press leave us please because operational matters are never discussed on the pages of the newspapers.
However, Sekibo insisted that Minimah should just reassure Nigerians that the military is on top of the security situation in the affected areas but 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 remained an important stakeholder in the fight against insurgency.
Ojudu noted that Nigerians could only get to know how the security agencies were prosecuting the fight against insurgency.
Notwithstanding the arguments of the committee, 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 but Minimah refused to comply.
The lawmakers reluctantly asked the journalists to leave the venue of the meeting but Sekibo promised to brief the press after the closed door meeting.
Sekibo, after about two and half hours of the meeting, said: “You (reporters) were here with us when we started at about 1pm. Now it is about two and half hours. We have deliberated on the security issues affecting our country and the Chief of Army Staff has also responded on all the issues that were raised before him.
“As a committee, we have come to find out or have an opinion that the Nigeria Army is doing well. There are areas where we may have setbacks because this insurgency is not a conventional warfare.
“Because it is not conventional, few mistakes might come here and there and the issue is that it will be corrected.“We are also assured that within a very short period, some of the territories that were taken by the insurgents will be taken back for the country.
“We are assured to inform our constituents that it will not go worse than what we have now. We believe from the charge we have given to them from tomorrow and perhaps the nearest couple of weeks, we are going to have better results.
“When a man is in a tunnel, when you are getting close to the end of the tunnel, you will always see light but at the middle of the tunnel, it is always very dark. I think this is our dark hours and I believe that as we are going towards the end of the tunnel we are going to see light and the military will be able to salvage Nigeria from this problem.”
The Chief of Army Staff said the army had a setback in Bassa which resulted in lost of territories up to Mubi which according to him, was painful.
He said, “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”