The Federal Government may soon commence a clampdown on “extremist groups”, especially the Oodua People’s Congress and the Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra.
President Goodluck Jonathan has said the OPC, MASSOB and the violent Islamic sect, Boko Haram, constitute threats to national security.
“The Nigerian state faces three fundamental security challenges posed by extremist groups like Boko Haram in the North; the Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra in the South-East; and the Oodua People’s Congress in the South-West.
“The activities of the Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra and OPC, though not as violently intense as those of Boko Haram, they still pose a serious security challenge to the Nigerian state,” Jonathan said in his 234-page mid-term report presented to Nigerians as part of the activities marking the nation’s Democracy Day, a copy of which was obtained by our correspondent on Thursday.
But both factional leaders of the OPC, Dr. Fredrick Fasheun and Chief Gani Adams, on Thursday denied the allegation that their group constitute security challenges to the country. They spoke separately to one of our correspondents on the telephone.
While Fasheun described the allegation as unfair, Adams said such assessment did not take into consideration the activities of the group in the last eight years.
“OPC does not constitute any security threat to any people let alone Nigeria. So, anybody that ties the rope of insecurity around our waist is being unfair to us. We love Nigeria but we love social justice more,” Fasheun said.
Adams added that rather than constituting a security threat to the country, OPC had for the past eight years, helped to promote peace in the South-West Zone of the country and by its festivals, helped to develop Nigeria tourism.
The MASSOB also denied that its members constituted threat to national security.
Its Director of Information, Mr. Uchenna Madu, told our correspondent on telephone that the President could not have said MASSOB had been a threat to national security.
He said this was because MASSOB supported and voted for Jonathan in the last election because of the role he played in the burial of the late Biafran leader, Chief Emeka Ojukwu.
Madu said, “MASSOB is not a threat to Nigeria’s security. We have been conducting ourselves in a non-violent manner in line with the Constitution of Nigeria.
“If they are looking for those that are threatening national security, they should go after Boko Haram. They should go after government officials who through corruption have become the greatest threat to national security,” he said.
Already, The PUNCH learnt that the Federal Government had put both OPC and MASSOB under security watch while a full-blown military offensive against Boko Haram is ongoing under the emergency rule declared in the three northern states of Borno, Adamawa and Yobe.
Curiously, Adams was among the dignitaries at the event where Jonathan presented the document on Wednesday in Abuja. Some former Heads of State, including ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo, had shunned the event.
The President stated in the document that the Nigeria Police Force was upgrading its intelligence and counter-violence infrastructure across the country to respond appropriately to the threats being posed by the groups.
He said, “… the greater challenges are in the North where Boko Haram continues its intense violent campaign against citizens that have led to loss of lives and the destruction of poverty in Borno, Yobe, Adamawa, Kano, Bauchi and Gombe states.
“While attacks have been launched on government and international institutions like the Nigeria Police Force Headquarters and the United Nations House in the Federal Capital Territory, government has contained the violent activities of the Boko Haram sect by restricting it to communities in the North-East where the Joint Task Force, of our national security agency, is currently engaged in anti-terrorism battle.
“The challenge of containing a group with no identifiable structure is huge: but within our broad counter-terrorism coordinated framework, government has scored several successes with the arrests and trials of many insurgents.”
Jonathan said whenever any group organised itself against the prevailing laws and established democratic institution, government would stand up and effectively remove such threat to ensure that the protection of lives and property was not compromised.
Meanwhile, the President again met with security chiefs behind closed doors on Thursday.
Presidency and security sources said the meeting was to appraise the state of the nation’s security vis-a-vis the military operations in the North-East states under emergency rule.
The meeting which held at the Villa had in attendance the heads of the Navy, Army, Police and the State Security Service, among others.
National Security Adviser, Col. Sambo Dasuki (retd.); Minister of State, Defence, Olusola Obada; Minister of Police Affairs, Navy-Capt. Caleb Olubolade (retd.); and Minister of Interior, Abba Moro, also attended the meeting.
Chairman of the Presidential Committee on Dialogue and Peaceful Resolution of Security Challenges in the North, who is also the Minister of Special Duties, Mr. Kabiru Turaki (SAN), and a female member of the committee also made an appearance at the meeting.
As usual, none of those who attended the meeting was willing to talk to journalists at the end of the meeting, but a source close to the meeting told one of our correspondents that the meeting reviewed the success of the state of emergency in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa states.
He said Turaki also presented to the meeting the progress report made by his committee that had been meeting with members of Boko Haram, and other stakeholders in troubled parts of the country.
The source added that issues bordering on early lifting of the emergency rule in the affected states to further give room for dialogue took centre stage at the meeting.
Jonathan had on Sunday, during a talk with the United Nations Secretary-General, Mr. Ban Ki-Moon, on the sideline of the 21st Ordinary Session of the Assembly of Heads of State and Government of the Africa Union in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, hinted that the state of emergency declared in the three northern states might soon be called off.