By Iliya Kure
Spokesperson of the Northern Elders Forum (NEF), Hakeem Baba-Ahmed, has tasked Nigerian Government to cease attack on Catholic Bishop of Sokoto Diocese Matthew Hassan Kukah and focus on improving its strategies on war against insurgency and terrorism.
Baba-Ahmed was reacting on African Independent Television (AIT), to a Presidency statement, which blamed Bishop Kukah among others, for delay in supply of Super Tucano planes from the American government, meant to fight terrorists.
Baba-Ahmed said overtime Nigeria is known to have problem procuring weapons due to human rights issues by the armed forces and related agencies, as well as dealing with prisoners of war and people caught up in conflicts.
He said government should direct it’s energy towards fixing that, instead of attacking Bishop Kukah.
He said, “You know, the presidency spokespersons have a way of deflecting criticism by making it personal. When you say that there is a shortfall in the quality of government, they find something to stick you with.
“People like Bishop Kukah and I, are used to this. We don’t take it seriously. This, this organization should be criticized and must be criticized, and those who are ready to do so should be willing to take some of the words that Garba Shehu and Femi Adesina recycle every once in a while when we point out certain facts about the failings of President in terms of securing the country.
“But the truth is, maybe they know this, maybe they don’t know, Nigerian Government has problems procuring weaponry from Western countries, because these countries, in most cases have standards regarding conduct by their armed forces and related agencies, in terms of dealing on human rights issues, dealing with prisoners of war, dealing with populations caught up in conflicts.
“Everybody knows this. They will not sell you one bullet unless they are satisfied that you’ve met certain criteria. And they have raised issues over and over and over again. The Nigerian government knows this. But they need to improve the conduct of the Nigerian military, in the fight against the insurgency, against terrorists. They know this.
“And when someone points them out, either it is because of lethargy, it takes them a long time to adjust, or perhaps the challenges of the conflict doesn’t allow them to make adjustments while they’re also fighting, I don’t know what it is, but whatever it is, it is true that if we have met, or comply with standards, set by countries that should give us weapons, well, sell us weapons, we would have a lot more weapons that we have now.
“So, whether it comes from Bishop Kukah, or it comes from me, we made this point. We want to buy weapons from some countries, improve the way we wage this war. It can be done; it must be done if you want these weapons.
“You certainly don’t want to go the option of some other members of the government who say procure weapons from anywhere in the world, or just bring in mercenaries to fight a war for you.
“So, I agree with Bishop Kukah that the government needs to review its attitude, some of those issues raised by countries that are creating problems, well, seemingly creating problem for us in terms of selling weapons, and that the onus is on us to improve those conditions. It’s fact and we need it now.”
On Sunday, Aso Rock spokesperson, Malam Garba Shehu in a statement alleged that Bishop Kukah provided quotes to a new book written by former US Ambassador to Nigeria, John Campbell, and well as addressed the US Congress, which fainted Nigeria’s image and affected supply of weapons to fight terrorism.
Parts of the statement reads: “In 2015 the then newly-elected Buhari government requested US military support in the form of Super Tucano jet fighters for the Nigerian Air Force. The Nigerian military, security, and intelligence services repeatedly made this request.
“The US administration of the time concurred: the delivery of such jets would help deliver a critical turning point in Nigeria’s struggle against jihadist terrorists across the Sahel.
“Yet two years later, that jet delivery was rescinded, the reasons given that unless Nigeria improved its religious relations between Christianity and Islam then US support would not be forthcoming in this, and many other areas.
“Such views were compounded by the constant lobbying of US Congress by the opponents of the Nigerian government who had lost the previous election, and many of their southern religious supporters – including Bishop Mathew Kukah, the Catholic Bishop of Diocese of Sokoto, who, unsurprising, provides a supportive quote for the dustcover of the new edition of Campbell’s book. (Kukah even took to addressing the US Congress himself, briefing his audience on the history of coups in Nigeria–without, of course, mentioning that none had occurred since 1993, some 29 years ago).
“Fortunately, now today under a new US administration these jets have been delivered, and with it, a serious blow against the terrorists – with the supreme leader of Islamic State in West Africa and scores of other leaders of the group eliminated in airstrikes.”