Abdullahi Adamu Muhammad is the Commandant-General of the Nigerian Security And Civil Defence Corps. In this interview with RUTH CHOJI, he makes the case for more funds to better equip security agencies.
What are your plans for the Nigerian civil defense corps?
As you are aware, Nigerian security defense corps is a security institution with a specific mandate. The agency is in charge of protection of physical infrastructure. As you are aware, when you mention physical infrastructure in Nigeria, our attention quickly go to oil pipelines because of our over dependence on oil but our function goes beyond that. We monitor the power lines, mast, the Dams roads, bridges and even some buildings that belong to the government. NSCDC is also saddled with the responsibility of administration, supervision and training of private guard companies. If you go by the UN standard of ratio of police to a citizen, it is supposed to be one policeman to four hundred citizen of Nigerians and by our last censors, we were about a hundred and seventy million and the police we have are less than three hundred thousand which is grossly inadequate. There arose the need for government to register private guard companies that will complement the police in policing the nations. So we trained them and supervised them. When we took over, it was a department under the ministry of interior but when we took over, we really developed that sector and today, we are very proud of the private guards of Nigeria. We were able to get rid of quacks who were in the industry and foreigners who were almost taking over the industry. Today, no foreigner has any private security outfit because we have given it credibility by insisting that, there must be a retired military officer on the board of directors to guide their operations. We are also saddle with the responsibility of disaster management, be it natural or manmade. In this aspect when you hear disaster, your attention goes to NEMA. We work hand in hand with them. They are a relief agency because they don’t have the power to safe guard but I am proud to say that, I have about three hundred officers in that department. We work with NEMA and now, I have deployed about half of that number to the North east to help to rehabilitee the IDPs. I am also trying to see that I move the corps to the next level,
What is that next level?
The next level is that, I was opportune to attend the meeting of civil defense in the whole world, because Civil defense is an international organization with headquarters in Geneva. Nigeria is the local chapter of civil defense and we are the number sixty-six in the charts of countries with civil defense. So when you go there, you will see lots of officers and it was the first time Nigeria was attending the event. I was there and what I saw showed me that, we have not even started. We have a long way to go. Civil defense worldwide has the same mandate and when you go Russia, you will see that they have a university of civil defense, minister of civil defense and under the ministry, you have directorate of fire service. It is a degree award institution. So my challenges have been equipment to work with. I want to thank the president, Muhammedu Buhari and my minister, Dr Abdulraman Danbazzau. He has done so much for the corps. He ensure that good amount of money was allocated to the corps for equipment and arms. We tried to see that we have enough to work with. If not that, the price of dollar has gone up, the budget meant for arms will not buy what we need.it will only buy half of what we earlier plan to because of the high cost of dollars now. So if we budgeted for about ten items, the cost has gone up, it means, we will only be able to buy about five instead items instead of the ten we planned. If I can get this equipment this year or next, I won’t look for anything again for a long time.
The civil defence seems to have conflict of functions with the police and this has brought lots of confusion to a lot of people. How do Nigerians differentiate this?
That is why I first explained to you the mandate of the civil defense. I said that, we had a key mandate of protecting government properties and installations. We also protect security of lives but all security agencies have the same mandate of saving lives and properties. Police happen to be the lead agency. We have clashes from time to time but I keep telling my boys that, there is no reason for clashes because we are all working towards the same goal of securing the country. You can see that the IG called me so that we can be part of the team that went to the North/east on assessment tour with others. We met our men there; we talked with them on the need to have a synergy.
Some Nigerians were skeptic when the civil defense started carrying weapon, was that a right decision?
If you are complaining that a para military agency that is trained to protect lives and properties and that is fighting militants to stop vandalizing pipelines and criminals from carrying guns. Then what will you say about the militants, Boko Haram and other criminals? How do they expect us to protect the pipelines and other important government properties from people who are armed to kill? Boko Haram have sophisticated arms and they are using it to kill our brothers and sisters in the North/east, so why won’t we carry arms? We are supposed to be better armed than them. That is why there is a need for more funds to better equip our security agencies.
It is common knowledge that the civil corps officers have accommodation problems, what are you doing about it?
As you are aware, the country is going through a difficult time. We want to live it to the government, but in areas of welfare, there is a soft loan that is given to officers and government has also provided mobility for the officers for housing, we have been encouraged to work with federal mortgage bank to provide mass housing scheme for the staff and we are still w working on that.
If you are asked to quantify how much it will cause Nigeria to make the civil defense meet up to world standard, what will it be?
I was with the minister of civil defense in Russia and we went on tour of their civil defense facilities all over the country and what I saw on ground was that, we have a long way to go. For instance, civil defense in Russia has a whole ministry and a minister dedicated to it. There is also a university and the equipment they have is something else. The civil defense has been there for more than 70 years while we just converted our own to para military about 12years ago.
But is there any way we can breach that gap?
The gap is too wide but our government is trying
Does the civil defense have enough manpower to fulfill its mandate?
That is a problem we have but my minister has given me a listening hear and he has written to the president on the need to get more hands. I had a meeting recently with the minister of solid minerals and he is requesting for about five thousands of my men to go and guard mining sites because government wants to diversify into mining. The minister of Agriculture also met my minister and said, they are proposing the creation of ranches all over the country and they will need my men to protect these ranches, and also farmers. We are also talking with the minister of water resources on the need to protect all our dams. Already, we have deployed our men to go and man one hundred and eighty (180) dams. The railway has just contacted us that we should go and protect their installations in twenty two states railway stations. Now I am deploying five thousand of our men with the police to go and secure liberated places in the North/east. So I need more man power.
There have been reports of loss of lives on the part of the civil defense officers since they started protecting the pipelines and other volatile places. Is it true?
We have lost lots of lives, even recently there was a minor crisis in Kaduna and one of our staff was killed.
What is being done to the families of those killed in the line of duty?
Well, the FG is really doing its best to ensure that their insurance and claims are paid
There have also been reports of cases of corruption within the corps. How are you handling such reports?
I wouldn’t say I am not aware of such issues. We recently arrested a syndicate involved in employment racketeering. We have handed them over to ICPC. There are people that we saw millions in their accounts, but we have handed them over to the appropriate agency. I want to say that, as far as corruption is concerned, there have been minimal cases compared to other places.
Is it part of civil defense mandate to have their officers protect private citizens and politician?
When we came on board, I remember in 2007, the then President Obasanjo approved five thousand of our men to be VIP orderlies because he said, that was part of our mandate. He said the police should be allowed to do their job and the military. So government officials can be protected by us but not politicians.
Where do you hope to see civil defense in the next 5 years?
In the next five years, if wishes were horses, I will like to see our civil defense be like the one I saw in Russia and other countries like Turkey where vandalisation of government property is minimal and the response of civil defense is faster. I will love to have electronic devices that will help us monitor all the vessels coming and leaving Nigerians. We need to have such commands in every state. Right now we have it in the South/south where we monitor the pipelines.