Senators and service chiefs held a six-hour meeting in Abuja on Wednesday to review threat to Lagos by the violent Islamic sect, Boko Haram.
Present at the meeting, which held behind closed doors at the Senate chamber between 10.56 am and 5.00pm, were the Chief of Defence Staff, Admiral Sa’id Ola Ibrahim; Chief of Army Staff, Lt. General Azubuike Ihejirika; Chief of Naval Staff, Vice-Admiral Dele Ezeoba; and Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal Alex Badeh.
Also in attendance were the Director General of the Directorate of State Services, Ita Ekpeyong; the Inspector General of Police, Mohammed Abubakar, represented by Deputy Inspector General (Administration), Suleiman Fakai.
While the security chiefs were billed to brief the senators on their operations concerning curtailing the Boko Haram menace and insecurity generally in the country, our correspondents learnt that the security chiefs were reluctant to give details of their operations.
At a point during the meeting, the Senators were said to have queried the representation sent by the IG, wondering while Fakai who is in charge of administration should represent the police chief at a meeting to discuss operational strategies.
Senators were quoted to have said the DIG in charge of operations could have made better input to the discussions since the IG was said to be on another official assignment .
Fakai reportedly explained to the Senate that he had to stand in for his boss because the DIG in charge of operations was briefing the President on the same issue being discussed at the senate at about the same time.
A Senator at the meeting who pleaded for anonymity confided in one of our correspondents, “You know these are security men and they are fully aware that they are speaking to politicians. They chose their words carefully so that they will not play into the hands of people they are dealing with.
“You are aware that one or two of our colleagues in the Senate are facing investigation or trial for links with the Boko Haram group.
“After their briefing, we asked general questions about the seriousness of the threat we are facing and whether their strategy would get the job done.
“One of us asked what their position was on calls for dialogue with the sect and the unanimous answer they gave was that they were in support of whatever decision the President takes.”
Asked what specifically was discussed about Lagos, the source said, “You know I can’t give you details. Everyone was concerned because attacking our commercial capital will have dire consequences. We all agreed that we must do everything to nip it in the bud. On the whole, all options are open. That is all I can tell you.”
Another source said, “At some point it appeared as if there was a sense of helplessness over the issue.”
He however said that, unlike before, they noticed a sense of inter-agency collaboration “at least in the area of what to divulge.”
A defence source said that the service chiefs were summoned by the Senate to brief the senators on the state of security in the country.
The senators were said to have demanded explanations from the Chief of Defence Staff and the chiefs of the three services of the nation’s Armed Forces on the escalating cases of murder and kidnapping in the country.
They were said to have observed that stories of killings have become a daily occurrence in the society and this should be stopped.
At the end of the meeting, the President of the Senate said, “At plenary, the Senate was briefed by the Service Chiefs and afterwards they took questions on the same subject matter.”
At a press briefing shortly afterwards, the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Information and Media, Eyinnnaya Abaribe, told reporters that the Senate was satisfied with the briefing it received.
He said, “The Senate devoted the entire plenary to an interaction with the service chiefs and heads of security agencies in Nigeria with a view to finding out problems and work with the different security agencies in Nigeria.
“We are satisfied with the level of interaction and the efforts aimed at making Nigeria a safe place, we are calling on Nigerians to cooperate with our security agencies to resolve these issues. “
Abaribe added, “All options on how to operate and fight terrorism for which we also signed several protocols I'm sure that all these kind of interaction that our security agencies are having with their counterparts in terms of security means that the fight against global terrorism is a collective one.”