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Islamic cleric, Sheikh Ahmad Gumi

Islamic cleric, Sheikh Ahmad Gumi, tells ALEXANDER OKERE why the plan by the Central Bank of Nigeria to curb kidnapping in the country through the redesign of the N200, N500, and N1,000 notes will not be effective.

With less than four months to the end of the regime of the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), how will you rate the level of security or insecurity in the country, especially in the North, in the last seven and a half years?

I think the security situation in the country, to be honest, every Nigerian has had a taste of it. But I think now, there is a little improvement from what has been happening in the past. I think we are coming down from the crescendo because mostly it is kidnapping and ransom-taking for many factors. I think one of the factors is that the people concerned are realising the failure of their attempts. So, there is improvement in general security. But has it reached the level we expect it to? I don’t think it has reached that level.

Now, you hear about lesser cases of kidnapping even though it is still rampant, it is lesser than before. We have reached the climax and after reaching the climax, like in a graph, everything comes down. So, I think we are reaching the end of the crisis.

What do you think is responsible for the shift from bombings by terrorists that used to be rife in the North to the current spate of kidnapping in the region and beyond?

In any phenomenon, the zealots burn out like a candle. Maybe in the beginning, they had a lot of zealots and fanatics. But now, they are out; what remains is a younger generation of people who are becoming enlightened that that way of life is not feasible. So, we are seeing the end of the insurgency. Even in the South-East, when their leader was caught, things went down, and even though there were cases of criminality and killings, the tempo is coming down. Probably, people are conscious that a new government is coming, so they want to see whether they will have a government that is sympathetic to them.

Some Nigerians believe the train attacks in Kaduna State in March 2022, and the one in Edo State on January 7 that resulted in the abduction of scores of passengers are a new trend among kidnappers. Do you see it that way?

The one recorded in Kaduna is completely different because it was carried out by a terrorist organisation that felt aggrieved; they (terrorists) said the state was suppressing them. Now, I think there are proactive steps taken to see that there is dialogue and it is working. As we learn more and more, I think we improve. When there is an attack from outside and it is overwhelming. I can’t blame the managers (of the trains) because the attackers came in large numbers and attacked the train from outside. Really, the security in Nigeria needs to improve, and the social grievances and economic hardship should be addressed. But I think that as we approach a new government coming in, the new government should have a grasp of what has happened and try not to make the same mistakes in its approach to all the social agitation.

Why do you think the train attack in Edo State was different?

It is more or less a criminal case of kidnapping rather than a terrorist organisation trying to send a message. That is why I think it is different. The economic situation has produced small groups of criminals; everybody wants to be rich. When there is economic depression and leaders show affluence in whatever they do and engage in things that are not really necessary, like having parties, and the rest of the people are in abject poverty, this produces criminality.

But many wonder why bandits who blame their criminal activities on the deprivation they suffer at the hands of their leaders, attack poor or ordinary citizens like them…

Criminals go for soft targets because these leaders are guarded by heavily-armed police or military, so they cannot get to them. So, they attack soft targets; that is psychology.

Do you subscribe to the notion that governments at all levels have not been able to address security challenges, like banditry and terrorism, because such crimes are sponsored by some politicians?

None of the politicians I know is involved in violence. Maybe you can say they have political thugs here and there. If some politicians don’t have thugs and they go into a community where they are not popular, they can be lynched. Sometimes, it becomes necessary for them but as we become more civilised, I think thuggery will come to an end.

The major contenders in the 2023 presidential race claim to have the solution to insecurity. Do you think any of them can solve the problem?

The challenge of insecurity needs a leader who listens, tries to see the original cause, and tries to deal with the issue, not just bombard and kill militants. No! A leader should try to see what led to the problem and address it. The Niger Delta militants claimed that they were marginalised and their resources vandalised. So, when the government became serious, it created amnesty, a ministry, and a commission for them, it reduced the agitation. And they (the government) are using them (ex-militants) to police the areas because they know better than the security agencies. When (Government Ekpemupolo, also known as) Tompolo, was given a contract to protect pipelines, you saw the results; exposing the illegal tapping of our oil. Such engagement and discussion with them is the way out.

Do you think the President has not been listening or trying to address the problem?

It’s his style of leadership. When you see a leader fighting his disciples and they are running away from him, then you know there is a problem with the leadership style. A leader should be able to mobilise, redirect and use people to effect a change.

Who were you referring to as his disciples? His service chiefs?

No. Service chiefs are servants of the state. I mean every leader usually has people who are close to him. But when he gets power and you see that he is no longer close to the people who struggled with him, then you know there is a problem with the leadership.

Interestingly, the Kaduna State Governor, Nasir El-Rufai, on Wednesday alleged that some elements in the Presidential Villa were working against the presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress, Bola Tinubu. Is this part of what you mean?

He said for four years he didn’t see any need to go to Aso Rock because good and effective advice is not accepted. That shows there is something wrong with the style of leadership.

Do you think the security challenge in Nigeria is a dent in Buhari’s legacy?

For eight years, I have been talking about Buhari. I’m tired. I’m looking forward to (a new government in) in 2023.

There are concerns that the elections may not be held in some parts of the country perceived as hotbed of crime. What are your thoughts on that?

This is the time leaders in such areas should make sure that votes count there. Look at how Zamfara (State) is a hotbed of banditry, but all the political leaders have gone there to campaign without incidents. Look at Sokoto. Social (violence) is more or less partly political, economic, or social upheaval. It is not just mere criminality. So, I think leaders in those areas can go into an agreement with all these agitators and tell them to calm down so that leaders that listen can be elected and I think it will work everywhere. Even in the South-East, the traditional and religious leaderships are important because all the people you see armed attend a church or a mosque and have somebody they listen to. So, I think if some areas will be affected by insecurity during the elections, they are few.

The new naira notes have continued to generate controversy as many Nigerians can’t access them in commercial banks and Automated Teller Machines, leading to an apparent shortage of the affected denominations in circulation due to the initial deadline given by the Central Bank of Nigeria to phase the old notes out. Do you think this situation has any security implications?

Yes. I was one of the people that said it (the deadline) was not feasible and I envisaged that it was going to be removed. The government has programmes but in executing the programmes, it is very clumsy; it’s not well thought out. I heard an economist saying that when you have three great events in the same year using the same resources, one has to give way. You cannot over-task your donkey, else, it will collapse.

What do you think would have gone wrong if the CBN did not extend the deadline?

An upheaval would have come. Look at how popular Buhari was in Kano and suddenly, people in Kano were turning against him. It is really sad to see that. In Sudan, a mere increase in the price of bread caused the fall of the government because the people depend on it. There is despair among people; they will turn against you, so you don’t take people for granted.

While the masses are struggling to get the new naira notes, an unverified video surfaced online showing a notorious terrorist displaying wads of the new notes, claiming that he had enough to purchase more weapons. What do you make of that?

These (terrorists) are people who have grievances and also like to improve their image. The CBN governor mentioned that the reason for changing the notes was to deprive terrorists (of money). They (terrorists) hear him and say, “Here is your money with us”. They can catch (kidnap) people and collect new ones (naira notes) and even demand something else like foreign currency. So, citing terrorism as the reason for this draconian rule in a democratic nation is negative; it will not bring any good results. It (the display of new notes by the terrorist) is a show of mockery.

How best can the government address this problem?

First, those in the almajiri system are not involved in criminality, banditry, or Boko Haram because they (pupils) are already under the tutelage of a leader they respect, though they can be engaged in other forms of crime like thuggery. So, no child should be left behind in Nigeria. Every government should make sure education is well-taken care of.

The economy is very important. The person (new President) should improve the economy. Once the economy is improved, a lot of these problems will go down naturally. Another thing is employment. Job creation is a very important programme any government should embrace. Security should be improved too. There is a lot of corruption in our security (agencies) which should be flushed out. They know how to bring out the moles. They just need to be proactive.

Do you think the call on bandits in the North to surrender their weapons and get amnesty was effective?

It was just ‘photoshop’. They (the government) brought journalists and a few bandits and made superficial peace. Where are the roads, hospitals, schools, and amnesty? There is none. They (bandits) need to be engaged and be shown that there is hope.

What about the call for bandits to face justice for killing unarmed civilians?

That is why amnesty is needed. Just recently in Nasarawa, innocent people were killed in the name of fighting terrorism; they are victims too. So, it has to be a general amnesty, and reparation, and the government can pay for the damage done.

As a Nigerian, who do you think is the best person among the presidential candidates to occupy the office of the President?

None of them can handle Nigerians’ problems alone but all of them can handle Nigerians’ problems collectively. So, I will look at the candidate who has the ability to work together with others. He is the man that Nigeria needs.

And who is that man?

I think it is left for Nigerians to go and cast their votes on February 25.

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Birthdays are special days. And today is Madam Patricia Nwabugo Nweke’s day. Her family paid a moving tribute to her:

On a day like this, a virtuous woman was born into the family of Mr and Mrs Ikeobi. A woman of substance who is married to Elder Nweke is a mother of 6 beautiful children and a grandma of 4 kids and counting.

She’s indeed the best wife, mother, grandma, sister and friend anyone would ever ask for. A hardworking and successful woman filled with love, kindness and with a heart of gold.

We want to use this medium to wish her the very best on this special day and to pray for her to live long, healthy, and prosperous.

We wouldn’t have asked for anything else if not you Mummy.

Thank you for all you do and may the beautiful smiles and joy that comes with this birthday never seize in you life. God bless, strengthen and protect you Mum. We love you so much 😘😘

Cheers 🥂 to a brand-new year. Cheers to good life too. Happy birthday Mum

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Chairman, Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Prof. Mahmood Yakubu (left) at a meeting with the Inter-agency Consultative Committee on Security in Abuja… yesterday. PHOTO: LUCY LADIDI ATEKO

• Igini: BVAS didn’t fail, it put an end to exaggerated election results

• 2023 elections fascinating, positive, says outgoing British envoy

Ahead of Saturday’s governorship and state Assembly elections, Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, and the National Security Adviser (NSA), Babagana Monguno, have warned politicians and their supporters against causing mayhem that might disrupt the smooth conduct of the polls.

The NSA specifically vowed that the Federal Government would deal decisively with anyone who attempts to disrupt the March 18 polls.

The duo gave the warning, yesterday, during the Inter-agency Consultative Committee on Election Security (ICCES) held at INEC’s headquarters in Abuja.

Yakubu, who called on political parties and their members, to remain peaceful during and after the elections, said Saturday’s election would be more intense and a bit complicated.

According to him, unlike the first round of elections involving 470 constituencies, Saturday’s election will involve 1,021 constituencies.

The INEC boss said the election would require more collation centres and will need the deployment of more security personnel.

His words: “ Governorship elections will hold in 28 states. Governorship elections in eight states (Anambra, Bayelsa, Edo, Ekiti, Imo, Kogi, Ondo and Osun) are held off-cycle and therefore not conducted during the general elections. However, elections will be conducted for all the 993 state constituencies nationwide.

“Our state offices have made available to the Nigeria Police Force, being the lead agency in election security, the delimitation details for the elections, including locations of Polling Units and Collation Centres. On that basis, we expect a coordinated deployment plan in synergy with other security, intelligence, law enforcement and safety agencies.

“Unlike the last election involving 470 constituencies (1 Presidential, 109 Senatorial districts and 360 House of Representatives seats), the state elections will involve 1,021 constituencies (28 governorship and 993 state Assembly seats). There will also be more candidates involved and more collation centres to protect.

“They are also local elections involving keen contests. It is, therefore, important for parties and candidates to speak to their agents and supporters to see the elections as a contest and not war. They should refrain from acts of violence that may mar the elections or compromise the security of our personnel, observers, the media and service providers,” he said.

On his part, Monguno urged politicians, especially at the state level to demonstrate equal level of maturity and discipline by calling their supporters to conduct themselves in a peaceful manner.

“Anybody thinking to undermine the process should please think again because that won’t be in his or her interest or the nation’s interest.”

MIKE Igini, a former INEC Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC) in Akwa Ibom State, said the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) functioned optimally in the presidential election, despite observed technical glitches.

INEC had extended the voting time beyond 4:00p.m. in some places to make up for the time lost. However, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) also cited BVAS failure as one of the factors that affected the efficiency of the election.

But commenting on the concerns during an Arise TV interview yesterday, Igini said it was incorrect to say BVAS failed. He said findings from an ongoing review of previous elections showed that the BVAS significantly reduced exaggerated figures from being uploaded.

“The BVAS, as I said and I will repeat and reiterate here, functioned. The BVAS delivered, BVAS won. It’s grossly incorrect to suggest that BVAS failed at the just concluded presidential election.

“The BVAS put an end to the invidious figures that were posted in several parts of the country in previous elections.”

THE outgoing British High Commissioner in Nigeria, Catriona Laing, has described the presidential and National Assembly elections as fascinating and offered future assurance for democratic governance in the country.

The British envoy made the declaration at the Senate wing of the National Assembly, yesterday, while fielding questions from journalists after a courtesy call on the Senate President, Ahmad Lawan.

She said despite contestation on the process of the election by some political actors, it was fascinating and portends bright future for the country.

She said: “I made very good friends. I love Nigerian music a lot. The culture here is so rich. The politics in Nigeria is so fascinating. I was here till the last election and I finished with this election and I’m impressed with Nigeria’s democratic journey.

“Yes, a bit of setback, but overall, I see this as positive and Nigeria should be proud, but with a remarkable difference when I came in 2019.”

She added: “Nigeria is the biggest democracy in Africa. The world watches your progress to democracy.

“Though there were some disappointments in the last election, overall, every Nigerian should be proud because since 1999, Nigeria has been on the right track as far as participatory democracy is concerned.

“The election here is very different and fascinating as you are moving to a three-party system or maybe even four. I think Nigerians as well should realise that their votes count,” she added.

The Senate President, in his remarks, commended the British envoy on her positive disposition to the country. He tasked her with help in strengthening bilateral relations between Nigeria and Britain.

Also, the Speaker, House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, poured encomiums on Laing for her selfless service and collaborative efforts with the Nigerian Parliament during her five-year assignment in the country.

Gbajabiamila said during her term, she provided a lot of support to the House, which he said was helpful to the Parliament.

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Owie Osadebamen, the husband of Elizabeth Osadebamwen, who was shot dead during the February 25 presidential and National Assembly elections in Edo State, shares his grief with ADEYINKA ADEDIPE

What is your relationship with the deceased?

My name is Owie Osadebamen. The late Elizabeth Owie Osadebamwen was my wife. We met over 10 years ago when I was working in a bank. She was a customer at that time and was very lively whenever she came into the banking hall. We got talking and started a relationship. We got married on September 14, 2013.

How will you describe her?

She was a family person who placed importance on the family as an institution. She was nice, caring, lively and fun to be with. She always exhibited joy. Before I met her, I thought I was generous, but when I met her, I found out that she was more generous than me. She put people first and she was always available to offer help. She was a perfect mother who was loved by her kids and they are still very wonderful despite the demise of their mother.

Was she politically active or a member of a political party?

She was never involved in politics. However, she decided to vote this time round so that she could be part of the move to bring a positive change to the country. She went to cast her vote for Peter Obi. That was the first time she voted.

Was she a member of the ‘Obidient’ movement?

She was a part of the Obidient movement but she did not belong to any support group that I know of. She was a staunch supporter of Obi.

What made you think she was a strong Obi supporter?

Whenever she met people she used to ask to know who they would vote for. For those who did not support Obi, she used to talk to them at length about the need to support the Labour Party’s candidate. She also encouraged people to get their permanent voter cards and she had to change her polling unit from our previous place of residence to the Ogheghe area just to be able to vote.

Can you recall your last moment with her?

When she woke up that morning, she greeted me, did the household chores and moved to her polling unit to cast her vote. She opted to walk, but after talking to her, she decided to mount a motorcycle to the venue. There was no sign to suggest that it could be the last time I would see her when she left home that morning. It was a normal day and I looked forward to her coming back but unfortunately, she was killed that day.

How did the news of her death get to you?

I actually called her in the afternoon of that fateful day but she didn’t take her call. When she called back, she said she had cast her vote and she would be at home later, but she never came back alive. The news got to me between 7.30pm and 8pm that day. I am sure the incident happened before then.

Who notified you about her death?

Someone called one of my late wife’s adopted daughters, who handed over the phone to me. The person said she heard that the polling unit where my wife cast her vote was invaded by those who killed her.

How did you find her corpse?

When I got there (the polling unit), some people were still around and they showed me where her body was. I believed she was alive, so I took her to two hospitals where she was rejected.

Where was she pronounced dead?

Was she alive when you got to the scene of the incident?

To me, she was still alive and that might be due to the fact that it was difficult to come to terms that she was dead. Even when they pronounced her dead at the specialist hospital, I insisted that she was still alive and that they should do something. But they didn’t because they had confirmed that she was dead.

Did you report the incident to the police and what action have they taken?

Actually, I did not report the case personally, but my family members did at the police station near Christ Embassy on Sapele Road. They were told that the case had been transferred to the force headquarters.

What is the latest about the case?

Well, we all know how cases like this are treated due to their political nature. However, the police said the case was under investigation and that the perpetrators would be brought to justice.

How is the family of your late wife taking the news of her death?

Her parents are dead but her uncles, aunts, brother and sister are as sad as I am. Her children have been moody, but they just have to stay strong because of their education and make their late mother proud.

The state government and some leaders of the Labour Party paid condolence visits to you. What kind of support are you getting from them?

The Labour Party has not done anything. I have not heard anything from them. However, I heard that the governor promised to support the family with N2m. And since the governor made the pronouncement, those who initially wanted to help all pulled back. But as we speak now, the government has yet to redeem the pledge.

Has your wife’s death affected what you think about elections in Nigeria and voting as a civic responsibility?

It is a duty the citizens have to perform but they have to be careful because some people go to election venues with a bad agenda. If you know you can’t wait after casting your ballot, you can go home. If you decide to wait for the votes to be counted and there is an outbreak of violence, quickly leave the venue. For me, it will be difficult to take part in any election soon.

Do you suspect anyone or a group of people as perpetrators of the crime?

 I don’t know those responsible or suspect anyone or a group of people but hopefully, they will be arrested and brought to justice. I need the support of the public to ensure that the family does not lack support. It’s not going to be easy for me.

Do you intend to take any action to seek justice for her?

We are planning a one-million-man march for her. The plan is on and when it is perfected, we will make it public. We will also use the march to demand justice as many people have been calling me from home and abroad to ask what is being done to arrest the culprits.

When will she be buried?

I intend to bury her remains in one of the properties I acquired. Hopefully, her family from Delta State will show understanding and allow her remains to be buried here (in Edo).

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