Senior officers responsible for giving order on Kaduna village bombing should resign – General Williams (retd)

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A former Chairman of Transparency International Nigeria, Major General Ishola Williams (retd.), shares his perspective on the error bombing of a crowd of people celebrating Maulud Nabbiy in Tudun Biri village of Igabi Local Government Area of Kaduna State by the Nigerian military forces. He said senior officers who are responsible for giving the order, especially the General Officer Commanding the area, the Brigade, and Battalion Commanders should resign. Excerpts:

What is your perspective of the judiciary taking cognizance of the reactions that have been trailing the Supreme Court’s judgment on the presidential election?

To me, when you have a controversial president who is supposed to represent the country outside, you don’t expect him or her to be respected abroad. People believe that the court should have taken into consideration the interest of the country and its people. But that is not the case. They did not listen to legal issues that affect legitimacy. They should have looked at legitimacy.

There is a need for the court to be very careful in its rulings and judgments. The second thing is that we have a peculiar case in the sense that we have a president who has been taken to court outside the country for dealing in drugs and somebody is saying there is no case. He has not been able to go to the United States all these years.

During the campaign, he said he was going to the US, but he never went. If not for the UN meeting, maybe he couldn’t have gone. When you look at all these issues, the court should have taken into consideration the available documents to show that there are some gaps about the presidential candidate.

By the judgment, they have created a precedent. To me, both INEC and the judiciary have not lived up to public expectations. That is unacceptable to me. One other key area is a situation where a judge will give a ruling about one candidate somewhere, and in another area, another judge will give the opposite judgment. How do you want that kind of judiciary to be respected? Even before that, the case of Hope Uzodimma who was number four in the Imo State governorship election and eventually became the governor. It isn’t easy to convince Nigerians that our judiciary is living up to expectations.

But you also know that it is not a must that judges must give the same judgment on the same subject matter because, in law, every judge has the right of discretion. What would you say about that?

You are talking of a jungle judiciary. Anybody telling you that story cannot be serious. If you have been reading what Prof Chidi Odinkalu has been writing, you will know that our judiciary is in crisis. Why is it that they have not been able to respond to his write-ups? The judiciary has not lived up to expectations. Before now, they were complaining about their salaries. I think the president can now look into their salaries and their welfare. Maybe that will help the system better.

Let’s go to the specific area of your military profession. What do you see in the recent error bombing of innocent villagers in Kaduna by the military?

Mistakes can happen anytime, but the point is that somebody must take responsibility for that mistake. In this particular case, somebody should step aside for this mistake. They bombed the place twice, which means that there was an intelligence failure.

We have always been having this problem of intelligence and that is why we have not been able to defeat Boko Haram. Again, this is not the first time this kind of incident will happen, not only in the army but also in the Air Force.

In other climes, senior officers would have stepped aside and taken responsibility for that mistake. But here in Nigeria, we don’t care about our lives. This is too grave to accept as an accident. Senior officers who are responsible for giving the order, especially the General Officer Commanding the area, the Brigade, and Battalion Commanders should resign. They should all step aside.

President Bola Tinubu has ordered an investigation into the matter. Do you think the report will see the light of the day?

You are asking me an obvious question. Because of corruption in our system, you will never see the report. We have had many Air Force helicopters crashed, and officers died, but we have never had the report of them. Even if the report is released, who will take action?

The Commander-in-Chief, of course…

Let’s see what will happen. In other countries with professional ethics, the officers concerned will not even wait for investigation before stepping aside. They won’t wait for any investigation to resign. It should be investigated so that such incidents will not happen anymore. But the question is: Who will implement the report?

It then implies that lack of consequence is the reason the incident has been a recurring decimal in our national life. Isn’t it?

Yes, because, like you did say, the report is never made public. Also, unlike other countries in the West, the media do not push for the report to be out. Thirdly, the members of the National Assembly who are responsible for the oversight function on the activities of the military do not bother. They only sympathize with the families of the victims who lost their lives and possibly award some millions of naira as the Chief of Staff has done to the relatives of the victims.

If it were in other countries where there is a rule of law, the families of those victims would take the military and Federal Government to court. It is only the media that can push for this report to be released and follow up on what action has been taken on the report and how those responsible for the incident have been dealt with appropriately. If not, any military in the world will keep the report to themselves.

Do you suspect any sinister motive for this incident?

There is a weak intelligence system. The intelligence that gave them information to bomb the place ought to have given them the correct information. Why they will go and bomb, where the people are celebrating, is what I don’t understand. The former Minister of Digital Economy, Prof Isa Pantami, recently wrote a piece where he said that there are existing drone technologies that are smart enough to detect to a certain extent whether those people are terrorists or not.

How can the military strengthen its intelligence to forestall a recurrence of this kind of sad incident?

That has been said over time. In some countries, there is an Inspector General of the Air Force, who is above the Chief of Air Staff, who supervises the Armed Forces to make sure that they are doing what they are supposed to do. In this kind of case, there will be an investigation, and the report taken back to the Commander-in-Chief. But we haven’t got that here.

I have always said that we need to reform our security architecture. A lot of money has been spent on the Air Force and a lot of equipment bought too. Why are we still in this kind of situation? The people too need to help intelligence to make sure that they get the right information for the police and the military forces to be able to carry out their duties in a way that will do little damage even to the terrorists.

“This is too grave to accept as an accident. Senior officers who are responsible for giving the order, especially the General Officer Commanding the area, the Brigade, and Battalion Commanders should resign. They should all step aside”

The issue of security architecture has been said time and again, but it remains the same. What do you think is happening?

To a great extent, Amotekun is working in the South West. But if you ask IG today, he will not want state police. The members of the National Assembly too do not want to pass the necessary law to support the creation of state police.

If there were state police, the incident that happened in Kaduna would not have happened because it is not the duty of the Army to be running after terrorists. It should be the responsibility of the state police and the mobile police.

That is why I have always maintained that we need a redesign of our security architecture because terrorism can only be eliminated at the state level not at the federal level. It is impossible. It can only be eliminated at the state level.

If they want to find a way to minimize the situation in which we are, we need to establish state police which will have community police backed by the mobile police to engage in counter-terrorism. It is not the duty of the military to engage in fighting terrorism.

The other day, Olubadan was begging the military to help in dealing with land grabbers. Can you imagine that? What are the police and Amotekun doing? We have the structure already; it is a matter of redesigning the security architecture and making it perform its functions and when necessary coordinates. We need an Inspector General for the security agencies and the Armed Forces. We also need an Inspector General for the state police.

Are you saying that the military went beyond the call of duty by venturing into the fight against terrorism?

Yes. But what I am saying is that the Federal Government gave them an assignment to fight terrorism. So, it is not the fault of the military. The military must obey the order of the Commander-in-Chief. And that is why Nuhu Ribadu, as a former police officer, said the police should take up the responsibility of fighting terrorism because he is not in support of that arrangement. But nobody has seen any change.

So, Ribadu’s position is in order?

Yes, because the police have an anti-terrorism unit that has been trained on how to deal with terrorists, but they are not giving them responsibility for what they are supposed to be doing. If the police take up the challenge of fighting terrorists, the military will have time to concentrate on Boko Haram and ISWAP. The state police will focus on prevention of crime at the state and local government levels. That is how security architecture works. If there is law and order at the state and local government levels, there will be law and order throughout Nigeria.

By way of classification, are the Boko Haram insurgents also not terrorists?

Boko Haram and ISWAP are occupying some ground in Borno and Yobe States. Once people occupy grounds, it means they are threatening the territorial integrity of the country. Terrorists have a different story and they are higher than armed robbers and bandits. They also keep moving from one point to the other.

Boko Haram insurgents have never left Borno and Yobe States because they want to form their caliphate. Therefore, it is the exclusive preserve of the military to curtail them because they are threatening the territorial integrity of the country.