Mohammed Abdullahi Gana is the commandant- general of the Nigerian Security and Civil Defense Corps. In this interview with select media men, the CG stated that, to complement their regular staff during the elections, they would use 30,000 volunteers. RUTH CHOJI presents the excerpts.
How prepared is the Civil Defense for the forth coming general elections?
As you are aware, we have pre-election preparations, election preparations and post election preparations. We have called our state commandants and other senior officers to brief them. We had a summit twice, one for the ACGs (Assistant commandant generals) and one for the state commandants and desk officers all over the country. We had resource persons who told them the dos and don’ts of elections. These are preparations before the real elections and the INEC chairman also briefed us. We also canceled all staff that are on leave so that the actual number of staff we have will be able to cover the polling units. As you are aware, we have 56, 900 staff; we intend to work hand in hand with the Nigerian police because they are the lead agency in internal security and to ensure that we have hitch-free elections. Also, based on what the INEC chairman said during the meeting, the Civil Defense, SSS and the police are the key agencies that will be deeply involved right from accompanying the materials from the collection material point to the voting units and they will accompany the ballot boxes back to their various destinations.
How much has been earmarked for the elections for Civil Defense?
Like I told you, we have about 56, 900 staff and part of what we applied for has been giving to us. About 80 per cent of it will be going into allowances for the personnel in the field and others are for logistics, the sea boats, cars and dogs, which will be actively involved in the elections. We have to feed them and take them to various states, local governments and polling booths because we have the canines in places like Kaduna, Abuja and Abeokuta only for now. I can tell you that 80 per cent of the amount given to us like allowances have been released. In essence, we were given #3.5bn and we will spend about 2.5bn on staff allowances, the rest is for fueling, feeding and the rest. We intend to use the packaged instant military food that staff can cook instantly while on duty so that they won’t have the problem of moving from their duty post to go and look for food. We don’t have money for the instant military food package because it was not budgeted for, but I intend to squeeze out of what we have to buy these foods for our staff so that they will be comfortable.
But will the number of staff you have be enough to cover the elections?
We have about 30,000 volunteers and we intend to use them to complement our regular staff on the field so that we will cover all polling booths in the country.
Nigerians are afraid that, with the attitude of ‘do or die’ politics in Nigeria, there might be violence during the elections, how prepared is Civil Defense for this?
Like I said yesterday, politics is not supposed to be a ‘do or die’ affair. Power belongs to God and the people have the power to vote in whomever they want and vote out anybody they don’t t like. I urge politicians to be fair to all. We cannot all be leaders at the same time. God knows why he brought us together in Nigeria. We have other countries and other religions, yet we are not all born to be in one place or one party. We must have the interest of the country first. There is synergy among all the security agencies now. We will work together to make sure that, we have hitch free elections.
Still on elections matters, how much will be given to each staff participating in the elections as allowances?
We have budgeted about #15,000 for each election. So, for the two elections, we have budgeted #30,000 for each staff. By the time you multiply it, you know what it means, it’s about 2billion naira. I am going to spend money on the instant military food they will be eating on the field. It is a form of motivation and they won’t have any reason to leave their duty posts to go and look for food. So, we are prepared for the elections.
How prepared is the Civil Defense to protect the pipelines from Niger/delta citizens?
I am not aware of that, but I thought Nigerians would praise the corps because we have brought down vandelisation to about 30 per cent. Whatever it is, we are ready to protect our critical infrastructure. We are warning the vandals and troublemakers to be careful. They should not touch our infrastructure. We have two elections.
International organisations like International Republican Institute (IRI) and National Democratic Institute have expressed worries that most Nigerians think, security agencies including Civil Defense seem to be skewed towards the ruling party, APC, what is your take on this?
I would have said this question was answered in 2015. Why didn’t the security agencies support the ruling party then? We are lucky to have the type of security agencies we have in Nigeria today. We don’t value our security agencies but when we send our men outside for peacekeeping, you will notice that they always perform credibly. With the quality leadership we have in Nigeria today, along with the police, SSS and NIA, they are going to be fair to all.
There are some states in Nigeria that are regarded as flashpoints, have the corps taking note of such and what has been done to secure them?
Like I told you, we have met and it’s not everything I can divulge on the pages of the paper, but I can assure you that we have put in place measures that will check this flashpoints. Security agencies have met and we have notified this flash points, which are places like Kaduna, Zamfara, Bornu, Yobe, Taraba and the rest.
What is the main problem of national security in Nigeria?
The primary objective of any government is to protect lives and properties and in every society, you have deviants, even in families, you will see that, there are one or two that will be deviant. So, insecurity is not peculiar to Nigeria, and terrorism that has come to Nigeria now is not peculiar to us. Even places like America with their advanced technology, still have issues of insecurity. As you advance as a nation, you must experience these challenges of insecurity but we have put measures in place and we have one of the best agencies that have been trained to tackle insecurity.
What would it take for Nigeria to attain this high level of national security in which everybody will feel safe?
If you are talking about technology, remember the 9/11 bombing in America, with their technology, America was still attacked. So, it is almost impossible to eradicate crime in the society but we will try our best. With the type of government we have in place now, that is fighting corruption, financial discipline has been installed in the system and so, these issues will be tackled. Government is doing all it can to make sure that, they secure the country and protect lives and properties.
One of your mandates is restoring peace in conflict zones. What has the corps done to restore peace to places devastated by insurgency?
Our military has won the war against terrorism. So, our people are on ground to assure affected people that there is peace now and they can return to their homes. I would want to commend the Bornu State governor, because he has really tied. If you are in Bornu in the night, you will not know that it is a place devastated by insurgence because there is peace in the state capital and life is going on peacefully. There is construction going on in Bornu. There are states living peacefully in Nigeria that are not doing what Bornu is doing. Our core mandate is disaster management, which is rescue, relive, rehabilitation and reintegration of the effected victims. Now, we have gone into areas that have been liberated and are assuring citizens to come back to their houses. Most of them have returned to their homes and farms. Our people are living with them with the police.
One of Civil Defense’s mandates is to arrest and detain offenders. What happens after that?
We arrest, detain and take offenders to court especially those involved in vandalising critical assets. It will surprise you to know that, we have arrested lots of people caught destroying key national assets.