Senate, Army chief in war of words over losses to B’Haram

Semiu Salami
Semiu Salami

Members of the Senate Committee on Defence grilled the Chief of Army Staff, Maj. Gen. Kenneth Minimah, on Thursday over the increasing rate of insurgency in the North-East.

Trouble started when the senators asked the Army chief to tell them the stage of the ongoing Boko Haram war but Minimah refused, insisting that he would not discuss military operational matters in the presence of journalists.

The Chairman of the Senate Committee on Defence, George Sekibo informed the Army chief that the agenda of the parley was important because politicians were busy scheming for the 2015 elections, while the insurgents were on the other hand having a field day, especially in the North-East.

He noted that Nigerians were becoming impatient and irritated, not only with the military but also with the government and those representing them at various levels.

He said, “I believe that we are trying our best but is our best the best we can offer? What is happening? It is becoming increasingly difficult to explain to Nigerians. We want to be told what is happening. The insurgents are having a field day.

“We are aware that they (government) are releasing your funds to you because you have not complained. We also approved $1bn for the President to purchase arms and ammunition to fight Boko Haram. We are aware that your budget is being released to you. If you have difficulties, you should tell us.

“The spate of insurgency, the way and manner the insurgents are taking over areas, is getting worrisome. We want to know what is happening. We also want to know the issue of the reported cease fire.

“We want to know whether there was actually any ceasefire. We want to know whether there was a dialogue, the stage of the dialogue, if any, because few days after the announcement of the ceasefire, the insurgents struck and have continued to strike.

Sekibo then invited Minimah to explain himself over the issues he had highlighted.

Minimah, after taking a long breath, said, “I came to interface with the Senate Committee on Defence. Can the press leave us please? This is because operational matters are never discussed on the pages of newspapers.

However, Sekibo insisted that Minimah should just reassure Nigerians that the military was on top of the security situation in the affected areas but the Army chief insisted that he would not discuss security matters in the presence journalists.

A member of the committee, Senator Babafemi Ojudu, intervened by reminding Minimah that the press remained an important stakeholder in the fight against insurgency.

Ojudu noted that Nigerians could only get to know how the security agencies were prosecuting the fight against insurgency.

Notwithstanding the arguments of the committee members, Minimah stood his ground.

Another member of the committee, Senator Abdul Ningi, also attempted to persuade Minimah to reassure Nigerians on what the military was doing to win the war against insurgency but Minimah refused to comply.

The lawmakers reluctantly asked the journalists to leave the venue of the meeting with Sekibo promising to brief the press after the meeting.

After about two and half hours of the meeting, Sekibo said, “You (reporters) were here with us when we started at about 1pm. Now, it is about two and half hours. We have deliberated on the security issues affecting our country and the Chief of Army Staff has also responded on all the issues that were raised before him.

“The Chief of Army Staff said the army had a setback in Bassa which resulted in loss of territories up to Mubi, which according to him, was painful.

“Very soon, we will reclaim those territories and indeed other territories that the insurgents have taken.

“I want to continue to rekindle the confidence of Nigerians, and particularly, the ordinary Nigerians who have suffered the pain of this insurgency that the Nigeria Army will continue to do its best and strive to win this war and reclaim the lost territories.”

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