By Soni Daniel, Northern Region Editor, Festus Ahon & Davies Iheamnachor
Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, said yesterday that prosecution of kidnappers and bandits was not federal government’s responsibility but that of states.
Mohammed, who stated this at a briefing in Abuja, was reacting to claims by the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, that the government was not doing enough to stem the tide of terrorism, banditry and kidnapping across the country.
He said: “The PDP accused this Federal Government of not engaging and of running a government of exclusion, forgetting, conveniently, that this government has consistently engaged Nigerians on topical national issues, including security, the fight against corruption, terrorism, infrastructure and farmer-herder conflict.
“The town hall meeting series, which we launched in 2016, has so far been held 18 times across Nigeria. It’s always a no-holds-barred opportunity for the government to engage with critical stakeholders, briefing them on government policies and programmes and getting their feed backs, thus ensuring inclusion and deepening of democracy.
“The latest of such town hall meetings was the one in Kaduna. I will go ahead and read the 10-point recommendations from that Town Hall Meeting, and you can then judge for yourself who is ahead of the other.
“Now, we have gone a step further. We have taken those resolutions to the National Economic Council, NEC, chaired by the Vice President, and which also includes all the state governors.
“As a prelude to adopting the recommendations, the NEC has directed all state governors to organize state-wide consultation on them, and then revert to the council in its next meeting.
“You can now see that the PDP was more interested in playing politics with national challenges than helping to find solutions to them. They presented as original thinking some of the same resolutions that we are already working to implement, without a single reference to those same recommendations that emanated from our town hall meeting of April 8, 2021.
“They disparaged the President and the Federal Government, engaged in name calling and finger-pointing, gloated about the security challenges facing the nation, lied about how they resolved security challenges under their watch and then went ahead to say, at their hysterical press conference, that they have not come to play politics. Who is fooling who here?
“The PDP alleged that kidnappers and bandits are not being brought to justice. This is apparently aimed at the Federal Government. It is shocking that a party that ruled this nation for all of 16 years does not know that kidnapping and banditry are not federal offences.
“The PDP should, therefore, call out the states, including those being controlled by it to ensure a rigorous prosecution of arrested kidnappers and bandits.
“Meanwhile, PDP conveniently forgot that as far as terrorism, a federal offence, is concerned, this Federal Government has successfully prosecuted thousands of Boko Haram members in Kainji, as part of a continuing exercise. We are now seeking the cooperation of the judiciary to continue with the trial of arrested terrorists.’’
FG wrong on this — Gov Okowa
But reacting to the minister’s statement, chairman of South-South Governors Forum and governor of Delta State, Senator Ifeanyi Okowa, who spoke through the State Commissioner for Information, Mr Charles Aniagwu, said: “We understand that terrorism is not a small crime; it’s a crime against the nation not even the particular state where it happens. So we want to believe that may be the man is being misquoted.
“The Federal Government cannot say they are not in a position to do so. What is most important, even beyond the prosecution, is to prevent because prosecution is when it has happened. What we are saying is that as a government, what do we do to ensure that there is no terrorism, banditry, kidnapping and all that in our country?
“For us, that is much more important than the issue of who prosecutes who. If we are able to bring back our country to the path of peace like it used to in the 80s and 90s; it will be better for all of us, both those at the federal and the state levels.
“So, we all must be put hands together to ensure that terrorism, banditry and kidnapping are wiped out of our country.
“For those of us who are at the state level, we have a responsibility when there is information to give to Intelligence if it is available to us but we do know that the security of the nation at that level is highly much more with the central government.”
FG’s position unacceptable— PANDEF
Also reacting, the Pan Niger Delta Forum, PANDEF, lambasted the minister over his statement, saying it was the responsibility of the federal government to provide security for Nigerians.
National Publicity Secretary of PANDEF, Ken Robinson, said in Port Harcourt that the statement is unacceptable and a mark of irresponsibility .
Robinson said: “It is an irresponsible statement from the minister. The federal government is the federal government of Nigeria, so it is wrong to say that it is not their responsibility to prosecute criminal elements.
“Even the constitution explicitly says that it is the responsibility of the government. We can’t be talking about bandits when internal security is under the Federal Government.
“State governments do not control the police or the Army. So it is irresponsible for a minister to make such statement in the face of what is going on in the country.