Zamfara Assembly Goofed on NSA, By Lawal Ibrahim

Last Thursday, the Zamfara State House of Assembly purportedly passed a vote of no confidence on the National Security Adviser, retired Major General Babagana Monguno, allegedly over the state of insecurity in the state. The resolution, among others, followed a motion raised by the House Leader Hon. Faruk Musa Dosara, under matters of urgent public importance at the resumed plenary last week.

The curious knee-jerk reaction of the state assembly presumably was a push-back against the stern measures enunciated by a clearly miffed President Muhammadu Buhari following the recent kidnap of 279 schoolgirls from the Government Girls Secondary School Jangebe in Talata Mafara Local Government Area of the state.

The President had imposed a “no-fly-zone” on the state, ordered total ban on mining activities in the state and handed down a shoot-on-sight directive against anybody illegally in possession of an AK-47.

The reaction of the ranking member of the state Assembly, Dosara, which mirrored the consensus position of the state legislature, provides a useful insight into the mindset and peculiar counter-footing it had chosen to adopt against the presidential stance. Dosara actually wondered out aloud why Zamfara State deserved what he felt were unwarranted laws by the central government. He was not done yet. He asserted that the abduction of school children did not start from Zamfara State and cited Chibok in Borno State, Dapchi in Yobe State, Kankara in Katsina State, as well as Kagara in Niger State as the state’s bedfellows, which were not penalised by the Buhari Administration. More, he also called on the Federal Government to immediately rescind its decision.

Not unlike a low-budget Nollywood script, after laying out the specious grounds of their grouse, they then zeroed in on their presumable target – the National Security Adviser. The Zamfara State lawmakers pointed the finger at the NSA for not allegedly properly handling the precarious security challenges in Zamfara State, accusing him that he had not for once paid a visit to the state to assess the security situation.

While the anger of members of the state parliament may be understandable, given the massive disruption banditry, kidnapping, insurgency and other criminal activities have wrought in the state, it would be proper to situate the challenges far less sentimentally and more objectively than they have done.

It is no common secret that the gold mining activity in Zamfara has acted like a huge magnet, drawing all sorts of cut-throat criminal activity to the state. The exploitation of high-value gold resource has spawned well-funded criminal activity up to the point that aircraft are been used to ferry arms to the state and ferry out gold to the international market. No government worth the name would permit such to continue unchecked.

That the state parliamentarians would want these bloody and disruptive activities to continue certainly bodes ill for the state and may betray either a shocking naivety or fundamental misunderstanding of the core issues. Worse, it might unthinkably suggest complicity.

The swift presidential move, advised by the NSA, is targeted at cutting off oxygen to the key crisis entrepreneurs operating in that theatre so that the bloody fire can flame out. Attacking the NSA, instead of cooperating and commending his effort and office is simply to unduly politicise a sensitive security issue.

It does not need an expert to know that unrestricted air movements in Zamfara are a core enabler of criminal activity there. With foreigners falling over themselves to exploit and export gold at any cost, crises and bloody intrigues follow naturally.

The National Security Adviser is not an appointee of Governor Bello Muhammad Matawalle of Zamfara State. Rather, he is a senior official in the cabinet of the President of Nigeria who serves as the chief advisor to the President on national security issues. He participates in the meetings of the National Security Council and other deliberations on security and intelligence matters. The NSA manages national security on behalf of the President through the National Security Council.

He further chairs the Intelligence Community Committee, Joint Intelligence Board and General Security Appraisal Committee on behalf of the President and the supervising ministers of defence and security agencies. The appointment of the NSA by the president does not require confirmation from the Senate.

Monguno’s military background, career trajectory and technical competence recommended him for the crucial presidential appointment he holds. As we speak, Nigeria is not in a full-blown war situation in the conventional sense of the term because it is not engaging a standing opposing army. The nation is confronted by a mix of new-to-country insurgency driven by the Boko Haram – gradually morphing into an enlarged asymmetric conflict with the African wing of ISIS (called ISWAP), which has access to sophisticated weapons and foreign funding.

Throw in flagrant banditry, kidnapping, sundry sabotage, cattle rustling and rogue herdsmen activity, then a fair picture of the nature of the extant challenges can be appreciated. The danger of undermining an office that manages the national security through various critical inter-face with the relevant agencies, at this or indeed any other period, will spell disaster for the Nigerian state.

A strategic national crisis containment response plan falls squarely within the purview of the Office of the National Security Adviser. The NSA is certainly not sleeping on his duty as the Zamfara parliamentarians erroneously want Nigerians to believe. In Nigeria, it is the ONSA, currently led by Monguno, which deals with the big picture, determines and coordinates the intervention templates in synergy with other relevant security organs.

This is simply one, out of the unfolding, multiple national security threats confronting the country currently. More, this underscores why undermining or smearing this office and its leadership, for any reason, bodes ill for the nation’s survival. The NSA is certainly not the Inspector-General of Police and need not be misperceived as such by mischievous stakeholders. The ONSA and its boss Monguno certainly should not be undermined – whether by the Zamfara state assembly or other stakeholders.

The Zamfara lawmakers also should know that the NSA’s brief covers the other 35 states as well as the federal capital territory. Equally troubling is the message being passed to the international community.  Cooperation rather than reprobation should be the best footing for Zamfara law makers and executive to adopt to quickly bring to heel the demons of Zamfara.

Ibrahim is an attorney based in Kaduna.