Boko Haram Bounces Back In Sambisa Forest, Captures Five Local Govts
The National Economic Council (NEC) has warned that Boko Haram insurgents are waxing stronger in the North-east, adding that the terror group has captured five local government areas in Yobe and Borno States.
Briefing State House correspondents after its meeting yesterday in Abuja, the council said the occupation of the five local government councils was confirmed by the Governors of Yobe and Borno States — Ibrahim Gaidam and Kashim Shettima — respectively.
They also informed the NEC that the insurgents were still hiding in Sambisa forest, the stronghold of Boko Haram insurgents, and called for increased military deployment and provision of sophisticated military equipment in those areas.
The disclosure was a disappointing departure from the accomplishments of the Nigerian military and the neighbouring armies of Chad, Cameroun and Niger, which recaptured all the territories occupied by the sect and had the insurgents on the run before former President Goodluck Jonathan handed over to President Muhammadu Buhari on May 29.
Since Buhari, a retired military general who has sworn to defeat Boko Haram assumed office, the sect has stepped up attacks in the North-east and is estimated to have killed more than 600 people in less than two months.
Also at the NEC meeting, which was presided over by its chairman, Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo, the vice-president disclosed that security reports had revealed that garbage scavengers were being recruited by the sect to dump refuse laden with bombs at the residences of very important persons (VIPs).
He however did not disclose which homes or the names of the important personalities that were being targeted.
Also, Lagos State Governor Akinwunmi Ambode while briefing journalists after the NEC meeting, said that the state governors had been advised to reduce the cost of governance in their respective states.
He said NEC agreed that the current cost of running government was not sustainable.
The council said it received a presentation from the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Mr. Godwin Emefiele, on the update of restructuring of bank loans for the states and payment of salary arrears.
The governor informed the council that following meetings with banks, it was agreed that existing commercial loans should be restructured to a minimum of 20 years.
He added that states could opt for either of two options: the bond option which will attract a market rate; and the debt restructuring option which will attract a single digit rate of interest.
At the end, the council resolved that a four-man team made up of the governors of Bauchi, Rivers, Ondo and Osun States should follow up with the CBN to ensure that the issues of Excess Crude Account (ECA) collateral for the states is sorted out by next Tuesday.
The council also received a presentation from the Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Finance on the status of the ECA.
The permanent secretary took the council through the summary of inflow and outflow of excess crude savings from January 2011 to July 21, 2015, and informed it that the account currently stands at $2.078 billion.
The council directed the Committee on ECA to work with the accountant general’s office to resolve the gaps observed in the presentation.
At the meeting, governors from the North-east and North-west presented updates on the insurgency in the North-east and other criminal activities like cattle rustling and banditry in the North-west.
Governors of Yobe, Borno, Taraba, Kaduna, Gombe, Plateau and Bauchi States took turns to inform the council of security concerns in those states.
On cattle rustling and banditry, Kaduna State Governor Nasir el-Rufai told the council that most of the cattle rustlers were in the Kumuku National Park, adding that if not properly handled could result in another Sambisa forest.
The Osun State Governor Rauf Aregbesola suggested that socio-economic angle should be introduced in addition to the military intervention to deal with the Boko Haram problem.
Osinbajo, in his remarks, regretted that the insurgency had affected the economic life of the North-east and the country as a whole.
He called on the council to speak as a team and put pressure on the service chiefs to increase their effort in fighting the insurgency.
“There should also be increased sensitisation and education using channels like radio, television,” he added.
Meanwhile, the 36 state governors have resolved to hold discussions with Buhari to seek a lasting solution to the worsening macroeconomic challenges confronting the nation, especially on how to achieve foreign exchange stability.
In addition, the state governors, under the aegis of the Nigerian Governors’ Forum (NGF), have said that no state has received bailout funds from the federal government.
“The value of our national currency, the naira, has since the beginning of the year persistently plummeted against other international currencies, especially the US dollar, thereby causing inflation,” the governors said at the end of their meeting Wednesday night.
Addressing journalists, the Chairman of NGF and governor of Zamfara State, Alhaji Abdulaziz Yari, said the governors resolved to meet Buhari to find ways of addressing the worsening economy situation in the country and also to create a clear policy direction for the country in order to stimulate domestic production.
While clarifying the situation on the bailout for the states, the governor explained that the money shared by the states was their normal statutory allocation from the tax paid to the federation by the Nigerian Liquefied Natural Gas (NLNG) company and the Federation Account allocation through the Federation Account Allocation Committee (FAAC).
“This is to inform the media that the federal government has not given any bailout to any of the states. What was shared last time was monies from NLNG and FAAC, and as we have been saying, we have not been looking for a bailout.
“Instead, we have been looking for all monies that are in the coffers of the federation, most especially, we are talking about some of the monies that have been in the coffers of government that need to be brought together for the purpose of sharing by the states,” he said.
The NGF chairman further explained that based on concerns raised by the CBN governor that “taking the monies from the Excess Crude Account, most especially as our (foreign) reserves are going down and will affect the exchange rate, putting the naira under pressure, the government decided to make a special intervention fund available so that this can be accessed as loans by states for us to pay salaries”.
Yari said: “We are not taking any bailout from the federal government and the federal government did not give us any bailout. But we are talking about how best the intervention fund will happen within the next few days, so that we will be able to settle the issue of salaries and other operations in the states.”
The resolutions of the governors after the meeting read: “To discuss with Mr. President to seek lasting solutions to the worsening macroeconomic challenges confronting the nation, especially on foreign exchange stability.
“To work with Mr. President to ensure coherent policy actions that will create a clear policy direction for the country and stimulate domestic production.
“To collaborate with the federal government to ensure that the National Health Act is operational and the one per cent funding for primary health care is provided for in the budget.
“Sequel to the presentation made by the country representative of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the forum agreed to aggressively support the total eradication of polio in the country.”