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Moghalu absent, APC, PDP, ANRP represented, as CDD kicks off presidential debate series

FROM the start of the event till it ended close to three hours after, neither Kingsley Moghalu nor any representative of the Young Progressives Party (YPP) made a show on Tuesday at the presidential debate organised by the Centre for Democracy and Development.

The event, which is the first of the Nigerian Political Parties Discussion Series for parties fielding presidential candidates, was held at Sheraton Hotel, Abuja, and received support from the Open Society Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA).

Scheduled to participate in the debate segment, which focused on security issues, were the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), the Abundant Nigeria Renewal Party (ANRP), and the YPP.

However, while others were represented by top party members, the lectern reserved for YPP remained unoccupied for the whole of the event.

Speaking on its party’s achievements in the area of security, Lanre Issa-Onilu, APC’s newly appointed national publicity secretary maintained that the Niger Delta and North-eastern regions of the country experience more peace under the incumbent administration.

“Today, North East is a lot better than what it was years ago,” he said. “We are not there yet. Niger Delta, we know what it was. Today, the Niger Delta is relatively peaceful. Our main source of income, oil, we have access to it — which was not possible four years ago in the Niger Delta. Also, the Ogoni cleanup is only possible because we have an improvement in security in the Niger Delta.”

He also said, while in Maiduguri a couple of weeks ago, he observed that the city was as peaceful as Ibadan or anywhere else, though he admitted there are still “issues on the outskirts and we still have surprises coming from the Boko Haram element”. Drawing from the United States of America’s occupation in Afghanistan, Yemen and other Middle-eastern countries, he argued that the war against terrorism takes several years.

“If the past government had looked for ways of tackling this issue in a way that will make this peace more durable, we will not be where we are today,” he said. “They didn’t have such policies and the implementation was completely not durable.”

He said the credibility of the Buhari-led administration accounts for its successes in tackling insecurity and is the reason neighbouring countries such as Niger and Cameroon are teaming up with the government to restore peace in the region. “They did not work with the past government because there was no such credibility,” he added.

Checks by The ICIR, however, revealed that it is incorrect neighbouring African countries did not collaborate with the previous administration to fight terrorism as there are numerous records showing otherwise.

In July 2014, following attacks outside local borders by the terrorist sect, defence ministers of Nigeria, Cameroon, Chad and Niger met in Niamey and pledged to expedite the creation of a 2,800-strong regional force to tackle.

Months earlier, in March, Nigeria entered into an agreement with France, the Republic of Benin, Cameroon, Chad, and Niger “to increase the level of coordination and exchange of intelligence as well as hold regular meetings of experts with a view to containing the menace.”

And beginning in 2015, before Buhari’s inauguration, the coalition of West African troops launched an offensive against the insurgents, with soldiers from Niger and Chad crossing into Northeastern Nigeria for the operation.

Osita Chidoka, former Minister of Aviation who represented the PDP, said the plan of the party’s presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar, is to return to the fundamentals, review the recruitment process in the police, redefine the national identity card system and then devise a funding mechanism for the police before going into restructuring the police into community and state policing.

He, however, did not provide the financial implications of his party’s plan, and said the details will be unveiled gradually. He lamented the inadequate level of funding that goes into financing activities of the Nigeria Police.

“In 2016, the police had roughly 9,413 police divisions and the budget for fuel was N430 million,” he said. “If you divide it by N145 per litre of fuel, that will give you at least about 2.9 million litres of fuel. It looks like a lot of fuel, but if you divide it by 365 days, it amounts to 8000 litres of fuel.”

He continued: “If you divide it by the 9000 police formations in Nigeria, it amounts to one litre of fuel … so there is no funding for the Nigerian police to function. If you go back again into the issue of recruitment, all these agencies are filled with their brothers and sisters. There is nowhere in Nigeria you go to and you apply to the police force and the best and brightest are taken.”

During his address, Tope Fasua, presidential candidate of the ANRP, said his party’s focus is on technology, intelligence, and the role young Nigerians have to play in this.

“A lot of internal security has to do with youth unemployment and youth poverty when young people who are above 18 years old are not under any direction and nobody cares for them,” he explained.  “More than 80 per cent of them in this country are kind of ruderless, so what happens is that if the country does not put jobs in the hands of our youth, the devil is going to put jobs in their hands.”

“What we want to do is to create a certain programme called the Cleanest, Safest, and Most Organised Country in Africa Project, and what it is going to do is to channel the efforts and the energy and the passion and the innocence of our youth towards protecting their country,” Fasua added.

“We believe there are a lot of job opportunities in the security sector and we believe there are a lot of opportunities also in intelligence gathering and it is our youth who will do the work for us.”

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