President Muhammadu Buhari has described Boko Haram insurgents in the north-east as “mere scavengers desperate for food”.
Speaking at a virtual meeting in the presidential villa on Tuesday, Buhari said the service chiefs had done their best but they need to develop in terms of intelligence gathering.
The meeting was attended by the Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo, heads of defence, security, intelligence agencies, and members of the security committee of the Nigerian Governors’ Forum (NGF).
Gabriel Olonisakin, chief of defence staff; Tukur Buratai, chief of army staff; Sadique Abubakar, chief of air staff, and Ibok-Ete Ekwe Ibas, chief of naval staff, were in attendance.
The president expressed concern over insurgents’ access to small weapons despite border closure.
“These terrorists are in the localities. How is it that they are not short of small arms? We have said enough on the need for them to rejig their operations,” Garba Shehu, presidential spokesman, quoted him to have said.
“I am glad that there is better synergy and cooperation which are very important. I have directed the Service Chiefs to meet among themselves in-between the National Security Council meetings.
“The services have resources; yes, they need more, and mobility, and are doing their best, but there is a need for better gathering and interpretation of intelligence. Our intelligence-gathering must be improved.”
Discarding the assumption that insurgents in the north-east possess better weapons than the military, the president reportedly said what is left of them are: “mere scavengers desperate for food, raiding shops and markets, and killing innocent persons in the process.”
Buhari informed the governors of the imminent shipment of military weapons and aircraft from Jordan, China and the United States, but added that patience is required because the new weapons and aircraft must be manned by trained fighters and pilots.
He also expressed satisfaction with the level of naval activity in the Gulf of Guinea, using newly-acquired equipment, but demanded that hard-to-reach areas of Lake Chad where Boko Haram terrorists have found new havens, as well as the forests now inhabited by bandits, must be accessed and rid of nefarious elements.
“The Chief of Defence Staff has spoken about their study of the forests and their potential danger to security. We must make sure we follow the bandits and terrorists, but there must not be deforestation in view of the climate situation,” he said.
Among other reactions, the governors urged Buhari to consider a “bail out” for security of the states in view of expended funds in support of the military and police efforts in combating insecurity.