Fear of ICC prevented military from wiping out bandits – El-Rufai

From Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja 

The Governor of Kaduna State, Nasir El-Rufai, has blamed the fear of being dragged before the International Court of Justice (ICC) for the military‘s reluctance to engage banditry and terrorism besetting the northwest fully.

He said this Thursday while featuring on the weekly ministerial press briefing organized by the Presidential Communications Team at the presidential villa, Abuja.

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According to him, while he had campaigned for the bandits to be classified as terrorists, there were some push backs on the ground that they do not have a recognized leadership structure.

El-Rufai expressed delight over the court ruling, which recently declared the bandits as terrorists and therefore made them “a fair game.”

He said to deal with the criminality permanently, there must be a simultaneous ground and air attacks in all the states hosting the criminals to prevent them from escaping.

He said the locations of the terrorists are known, saying that they must be wiped out at once rather than the present piecemeal approach if the problem must be solved.

He also said the Fulanis who are involved in the criminality will never abandon the business on their own because they make far more money from it than they would have made from legitimate cattle business.

El-Rufai affirmed that kidnapping and terrorism had since become business but with the added element of collaborating with Boko Haram even as he said the effort to tackle the menace had been uncoordinated.

According to him, some state governors that thought that negotiating with the criminals would end the problem later realized that it was a mistake.

He revealed that northwest state governments began a process of cooperation and co-financing the military operation against cattle rustling.

El-Rufai regretted that the operation was not sustained because some of them backed out after some success was recorded only for kidnapping to take over.

He said in the reported cases, while 937 were killed and

1,972 kidnapped by bandits in the state in 2020, a total of 1,192 killed and 3,348 kidnapped in 2021, suggesting a deterioration in the situation.

The governor while stressing the need to recruit more hands and procure sufficient equipment, regretted the lack of capacity of Nigeria’s security agencies in terms of adequate personnel and equipment.

El-Rufai who said the banditry  is far more lethal than Boko Haram crisis going by the growing number of the people killed and kidnapped.

He underscored the need for coordinated solution and single-minded attention to defeat what he “a massive monster” that used better equipment than our security forces.

El-Rufai, while reacting to a question on banditry and kidnapping in the North West, said: “I am persuaded that the insurgency in the North West is far more serious than Boko Haram both in terms of the numbers of the people affected. I have shown you the numbers in Kaduna. I can assure you that the numbers on Zamfara, and Katsina are up to three times this if they are keeping taps. The numbers in Sokoto, Niger, and Kebbi will be about this.

“We are talking of tens of thousands of people getting killed, getting kidnapped. It is far more serious than Boko Haram. The only thing is that these guys don’t occupy territory, they are in the forest and ungoverned spaces. So, they do not attract the kind of single minded attention that Boko Haram does. And because Boko Haram’s ideology is religious, intentionally religious, it elicits more passion but really, this is a far more serious problem.

“Because, this is a situation largely in which people of about the same ethnicity, same religion are killing each other, stealing each other’s property. Creating an industry out of criminality. It’s very, very serious and it requires single minded attention.

“Yes, we know where these bandits are, we have the maps. But somebody has to go in and kill them. I can’t do that. If that somebody doesn’t have enough men, doesn’t have enough fire power, doesn’t have technology, no one is going to commit suicide. This is why under this administration, Nigeria’s governors forum collaborated with the federal government to take money from the excess crude account to buy super Tucano jets and other armaments to strengthen our Defence system.”

While advocating simultaneous air and land attack on the terrorists by contiguous states, he said the piecemeal attacks had not been effective enough to curb the spate of kidnapping in the North West.

El-Rufai, who said the terrorists seamlessly move to neighbouring states because of the vast forest range when they were attacked and chased out of Kaduna, stressed that they now engaged in kidnapping because of the lucrative nature of the “business” of kidnapping.

The governor said although a simultaneous land and air assault in all affected states might lead to the loss of innocent lives, his administration was willing to risk the collateral damage to secure Kaduna State and its environs.

The Governor said his administration has invested in the technology that enables him know where the terrorists are in real time.

With a budget of over N200 million every month, he said his state remains one of the most committed to security.

He said before the end of May 2022, Kaduna will be covered with CCTV cameras and facial recognition technology that would enable easy crime investigation.

The Safe City project, he said, is powered by the Chinese company, Huawei, and others.

The governor also clarified  that the All Progressive Congress APC presidential ticket is yet to south west, saying it was  still opened to all contestants in the South West, South East and South South.

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El-Rufai while responding to questions on the zoning of the party approved by President Mohammadu Buhari on Tuesday, revealed however, that the zoning arrangements was to send signals about the party’s direction.

He said: “What we have done with the zoning we presented to Mr. President on Tuesday and which he approved, is sending a signal about the directions of the party, it is not about zoning the Presidency to anyone yet. But we have sent the signal.”

He however confirmed that the Presidency has been zoned to the South, added that “It is not zoned to any particular place in the South. But we are waiting to see who the aspirants are. A few people have declared their interest. We are waiting.

“I want to clarify that the APC zoning arrangements that we announced is the zoning arrangements for the party.

He disclosed that the party had always did that in the last three elections that it had.

“When we elected, John Oyegun as Chairman, we had this zoning arrangements. Each of the six zones had offices allocated to them. We also carried that along when we elected Adams Oshimhole as our National Chairman.

“All we did now is to flip it. Since the Chairman is going to be from North Central, it means that the North Central will take all the positions of South South. If you check, you will se that all the positions allocated to the North Central were the positions held by the South South under Oyegun and Oshiomhole.

Similarly, he revealed that all the positions held by North West, went to the South East and Vice verse.

Under the new arrangements, all the positions held by North West, will be going to the South East and those held by the North East, will go to the South West.

“That is why the South West will produce the Party’s National Secretary.

“We are not talking about the Presidency yet. When we do this convention and elect our national officers, then we start preparing for the party convention that will produce our candidates for National Assembly and the Presidency. That is when that conversation will come up”.

Speaking on whether he will support a South West candidate, el- Rufai said he will, support any qualified candidate from the south.

“I will support any APC candidate, if I an satisfied that he will do the best for Nigeria. It doesn’t matter if he us from South West, South East, South South.

He however added that only the President’s decision will influence his choice in exceptional cases.

“All I can tell you is that unless in an exceptional situation, whoever the President Buhari tells me, this is the person I want, that is where I am going, because I trust his judgement.

“Now, if I disagree, I will go into the room and tell him. We have done that a few times and he knows. If he still insist that Nasir, I have heard you, but this is what I want, I will say ok. I will do it”

On his ambition for 2023, the Kaduna Governor who second term ends in 2023, denied having other ambitions aside from writing books.

According to him,  the President had in 2014 forced him to contest the governorship election against his own will

“I have zero ambition, I just want to finish this job and get on with my private life, write another book, make tonnes of money. The largest amount of money, I ever got in my life was writing the “ Accidental Public Servant” and it is still selling.

“So, I have never had no ambition. If I die today, I am satisfied, accomplished and happy because, I never in my life, based on my humble background ever thought that I will even enter this building ( the Presidential Villa). How would I ever enter the office where the President is? So, for me, even being here is a privilege if you know my background.

“God has been very kind to me and my outings in public service have all been satisfactory and why push my luck and even with a job of 90% of failure.

“I am not an ambitious person. I am just a person that gets things done, when given the opportunity.

“That is why I have never lobbied for a job, or desired any. Even this Governorship, it was President Mohammadu Buhari that literally forced me to run.

“I wasn’t interested in it. I just wanted us to defeat former President Goodluck Jonathan and I will come to the Villa and be enjoying myself.

He declared that his intension was to serve as Special Adviser (Domestic) to the President.

“Anytime they are flying to New York, I will be there. That was my ambitions, I would not have had grey hairs. The President insisted that some of us must go and run for Governorship, just in case he did not get elected again. He felt that we needed some strong Governors, those were the words he used. I was forced into this.

“I never desired to be Minister of the FCT. Obasanjo just called me and said he wanted me to be the Minister.

“ I never wanted to be the DG BPE, I was drafted into it. So, I have zero ambitions, I have no aspirations.”