Deji Elumoye in Abuja
The National Security Council (NSC) has labelled the National Taskforce on the Prohibition of Illegal Importation/Smuggling of Arms, Ammunition, Light Weapons, Chemical Weapons, and Pipeline Vandalism (NATFORCE) as an illegal organisation that should not be operating anywhere in the country.
The Council, which met yesterday at the State House in Abuja and was presided over by President Muhammadu Buhari, also gave security agencies a vote of confidence in their current efforts to address the country’s numerous security challenges.
Following the meeting, Minister of Interior, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola, advised the NATFORCE leadership to disband immediately or risk being forced to disband by security agencies.
The Senate had in July, 2022, passed the Bill establishing the Commission, while the House of Representatives was expected to pass its version upon resumption from annual vacation in September, 2022.
But security experts had recently kicked against the Senate’s inclusion of NATFORCE in the new Act establishing the National Commission for the Coordination and Control of the Proliferation of Small Arms and Light Weapons.
Aregbesola, therefore, stated that government was not singling out only NATFORCE but all other illegal security outfits operating across the country.
He said, “Equally of concern to the Security Council is the presence of some illegal outfits that impersonate the legitimate security agencies. Of particular concern is a body called National Task Force on Illegal Importation of Goods, Small Arms and what have you, but the short name for it is NATFORCE.
“The Council declares that body an illegal organisation, it should just simply disband itself, because the Council has ordered all security agencies to enforce the disbandment of that body and other such bodies that operate illegally without any force of law.”
Asked about those behind the taskforce and the reason for declaring it illegal, the Minister said, “The National Task Force to combat Illegal Importation/Smuggling of Arms, Ammunition, Light Weapons is an illegal body. There was never a time the Nigerian government set it up with any legislative instrument or power.
“So, what I’ve come here to tell Nigerians through you is that the body should simply disband itself or risk being forcefully disbanded by all security agencies. It is unknown to Nigerian laws and therefore illegal.
“It does not have any power at all to operate and it has been illegal all the while, but we are now reinforcing the fact that it’s an illegal organisation that doesn’t have to operate anywhere in Nigeria. It should just phase out itself or risk possible disbandment by all security agencies.”
On why the security council took the decision, he said, “From my statement, it is very clear that this body is illegal; it’s not known to Nigerian law and once it’s not known to law. It is an illegal body. Actually, we are not singling out NATFORCE alone, all such bodies that impersonate security agencies and commit illegality all over the place.
“We are just saying with this announcement, disband themselves or risk being disbanded forcibly by the Nigerian law enforcement agencies. I’m reporting to you the decision of the Nigeria Security Council, if you understand what it means, this is the highest executive organ on security in Nigeria.”
On the issue of Kaduna train attack victims still being held captive by terrorists, Aregbesola said investigations were still on and that the abductors would face the wrath of the law in due course, even as he maintained that efforts were being stepped up to have all Nigerians in captivity either by kidnappers or bandits released before long.
His words: “Yes, we discussed this and we are assuring Nigerians we are concerned about those Nigerians that are still in captivity of these criminals. We’re not sparing efforts to get them all released. Works are in progress. The assurance is that we will get them all out, safe. All those who are abductor, kidnappers today, will face the wrath of the law in due course.
“I will repeat what I said. Efforts are ongoing to have all Nigerians in the captivity of either kidnappers or bandits and we are not sparing anything to get them released. Mamu has been arrested by the DSS (Department of State Service) for actions that are not friendly to the objective of security management and control, as it concerns the victims of kidnapping that you have mentioned.
“The matter is in court and the court has ruled accordingly. We are not sparing any effort to release our abducted brothers and sisters, who are still in captivity.”
The Minister also said the Council received reports from all the service chiefs and Inspector General of Police, adding, “We are pleased with the performance of all security agencies” while the country is moving to the phase of consolidation.
Minister of Police Affairs, Mohammed Dingyadi, who also spoke, said, “What we’re saying, as far as NATFORCE is concerned, we are aware that the Constitution has provided the liberty to all Nigerians to associate and to mingle with other Nigerians, freely, but the issue is when it comes dealing with the issue of security, I think we need to have some restriction, you need to be regulated.
“The issues of unlawful weapons, arms and ammunition, are being properly managed by the Office of the NSA and we don’t think any private organisation should come into these security issues and try to bastardize them and that’s why we are insisting that they should disband themselves or government will disband them. It is a voluntary organisation; they set themselves up.”
He assured Nigerians that there were other negotiators involved in the matter of the kidnapped train passengers, noting that, the arrest of the terrorists Negotiator, Tukur Mamu, would not stop negotiations.
“Additionally, maybe you only came to know Mamu, because he made himself known. There are other negotiators who are there negotiating on behalf of those captives. The parents are also there, security agencies are also there, we are all negotiating.
“So, don’t say because Mamu has been arrested, there’s no negotiator. People are there, working to ensure that, and as Nigerians, who are committed to the maintenance of peace, liberty and security for our fellow Nigerians, people go in to assist security agencies in this direction,” he said.
On the identity of the unknown gunmen operating in the Southeast, Dingyadi said, “This is a question that you and me will have to sit down and answer. They are unknown gunmen, we don’t know them and we take everybody to be an unknown person until he’s proven himself otherwise.
“We are doing our best to ensure that we try to identify the unknown persons and deal with them appropriately. I think that is progress and we are making a lot of in-roads to ensure that peace is maintained in the Southeast.”