In this interview with Muazu Abari, the Deputy Majority Leader and member representing Gombi state constituency, Adamawa state House of Assembly, Hon Japhet Kefas, speaks on the recent Boko Haram attacks on Garkida community of his constituency, and how they are strengthening security in the area.
What losses were incurred by your constituency during the recent Boko Haram attacks?
It will be difficult for me now to quantify the losses incurred by my constituents in terms of monetary value because we are yet to fully engage the affected people to hear from them as their houses were burnt down and most of them had to flee for their lives.
But suffice it to say many houses were burnt and properties worth millions of Naira were destroyed. Both public and private buildings of prominent sons and daughters of Garkida such as Andrawus Sawa, his brother Bitrus, Chief Emmanuel Bello, among others were destroyed. Development area office, general hospital, police station and police barracks, four churches and many other places were equally burnt.
What efforts were made to bring succour to the affected victims in your constituency?
After the attack, I went there the following day to assess things for myself and the governor, condole those that lost their loved ones, and later Governor Ahmadu Fintiri also visited and subsequently directed ADSEMA to provides relief materials to the affected victims, which was done.
Some of the relief materials distributed to the affected victims included rice,cans of palm oil, ground nut oils, indomie, bathing and washing soaps, mattresses, blankets and these were distributed to them under the supervision of state, federal and local governments officials, to ensure transparency.
The federal government through the Minister of Humanitarian Affairs also presented relief materials to the state government for onward distributions to affected victims and the government has shown commitment to continue cushion the effect of the attacks on the Garkida community.
So what is the present security situation in Garkida and its environs after these attacks?
Security has now been beefed up in the area and its axis because the governor had mobilised vigilante groups, hunters’ association and join task force of police, army and other para- military organisations and they were deployed there. There are not less than 200 security personnel currently safe guarding lives and properties of the citizens there. So the level of security presence now is commendable and ‘am satisfied with the current security arrangement and we will continued to strengthen it to the best of our ability.
What other efforts are being made to secure and to unite the people against insurgents, kidnappers and other forms of criminalities in line with the principle of community policing?
During my campaigns, I had promised to unite our people, ensure that they are adequately protected and also to provide them the dividends of democracy that will improve their living conditions because I believed without peace no development can take place.
Our major security challenges in this constituency are the farmers/herders clashes, Boko Haram insurgency, and kidnappings. when I came on board I realised the existence of divisions within our hunters and vigilantes, so we have been making efforts to reconciled them so that they can work together to protect our people. Only recently, we were able to bring them together on a round table and reconciled their differences.
You would recall in the last 4 to 5 years there were clashes between them that resulted to killings of seven people. But now, we have been able to reconcile them and they have embraced peace and have agreed to work together to protect our people. I took them to the governor where we had a fruitful discussion on the way forward.
They agreed to have one leadership, share vehicles for operational activities and we have taken the responsibility of repairing the vehicles, so now we don’t have any problem and they are working collectively to protect our people.
Alleged lackadaisical attitude of government towards support community policing against Boko Haram has been a major security challenge, what difference will this reconciliation make?
Yes, we will play our part by supporting them to the very best of our ability, and we are also looking forward to government assistance in this direction in terms of making provisions for certain allowances for them. This was part of what we discussed with his Excellency and he promised to provide the necessary supports and assistance needed for them to carry out their duties. You know this administration has considered security very important, in fact, the most important among its 11 points agenda.
We have more than 150 villages in Gombi and we don’t want a situation whereby tomorrow other communities will also be invaded so the security arrangement is all over Gombi not Garkida alone because there are some routes which the insurgents normally come through.
The only problem now is that most of these communities don’t have mobile network services for effective monitoring of suspicious movement and communications, but thanks to Zain it is making efforts to establish their presence there, and they have already installed their mast remaining other accessories, so gradually we are moving.
The insurgency has last long despite government efforts to end it, why?
Personally, I think there are two things government failed to understand; firstly we don’t have enough security and secondly, lack of effective intelligence gathering and utilization of information. For instance, the DSS as an intelligence organisation is supposed to work assiduously than the police, their intelligent officers ought to go out and get information and share the information with the police, military and other security agencies for necessary actions to avert a security threats before it happens.
But what is happening is that even if you tell the police or army officers that something fishy is happening or about to happen they won’t act on that or take proactive actions. For instance, look at what happened in Garkida, the military were given four hours notice that Boko Haram would invaded Garkida, they could have prepared properly to protect lives and properties but they didn’t take any action.
Boko Haram invaded the community in their numbers killed 3 army officers, fours later. Had military acted on the information that would have averted. If Boko Haram will come to a town most times they usually give notice of their coming it is only the negligence of our security personnel to act and work with the information that lead us to where we are now.
Is this the reason the country is not succeeding much in the ongoing fight against Boko Haram in the country?
Yes, part of the reasons. But there are other factors like the weapons Boko Haram members are using are more sophisticated than the one used by our military. With your AK 47 how can you withstand somebody with machine guns and other sophisticated weapons? Even their ammunitions are superior than that of our military.
What in your view what is the way out of this insecurity quagmire?
I think the way forward is for the federal government to recruit more security personnel ranging from police, army and other security agents provide them with sophisticated and modern weapons and ammunitions. It should also give priority to their welfare and other incentives.
In the seven (7) affected local government areas where we had been experiencing Boko Haram attacks in the state it shouldn’t have less than 50 police officers and they should be fully armed officers, not for them to send police officers with sticks.
That is why sometimes, you see the army and police officers running away from the insurgents because they know that their own guns and ammunitions cannot withstand that of Boko Haram. So they have to run for their dear lives because they are human beings like us.
Besides, if you die today in the battlefield in the name of defending your country who will take care of your family? The military authority themselves will abandoned your family after your demise, that is also one of the problems why most of our soldiers are not committed to this war against insurgents.
One example, I could recall my uncle die in Jada, and uptil now the military authority have not paid his gratuities and other entitlements. I followed up the matter up to Lagos, was later directed, yet they kept twisting and frustrating me. Sadly, the following day he died his family was given notice to leave the barracks.
Our military officers especially those in the battle field in the war against Boko Haram know that if they die today their family will be abandoned to their fate, so there is low morale. We really need to go back to drawing board if must completely succeed in our war against Boko Haram.
What is your message to the people of your constituency at this critical moment?
My message to the people of Gombi constituency and by extension the people of Adamawa and Nigerians is to be security conscious, for them to observe social distances and other safety measures against COVID 19, be law abiding and support government efforts aimed at protecting and improving our living conditions. Let’s unite and work together in the overall interest of the country.