Military operations are not matters for open forum discussion – Olonisakin tells lawmakers

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The Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), Gen. Gabriel Olonisakin, on Monday told members of the House of Representatives that it is not the habit of the military to discuss its operations in public so as not to compromise its strategy.

Olonisakin stated this when he and the other heads of security agencies, except the chief of army staff, Lt-Gen Tukur Buratai and the inspector general of police, Mr. Mohammed Adamu, appeared before the legislators to discuss the spate of insecurity in Nigeria.

It would be recalled that the speaker, Mr. Femi Gbajabiamila, had flayed the service chiefs for failing to attend, personally, a security meeting called by the House last Friday.

He berated them for sending their second-eleven representatives including accountants, to a meeting called by the parliament to address security crises across the country.

He threatened to report the security chief to the president, Muhammadu Buhari saying the action of their action tantamount to disrespect.

But addressing the lawmakers, Olonisakin stated that military strategies are closely guarded.

“It is understandable that there must be some concerns about the security situation in the country. We are here to listen to those concerns that you have, that you need to express to us and address, of course with your support.

“However, I need to state that military and operational strategies are not usually discussed in open forums such as this, because we may inadvertently be giving valuable information to the adversary through such discussions. This could compromise our ongoing operations, put the lives of our troops at greater risk and jeopardise future plans.

“I will therefore crave the indulgence of the House leadership to allow us to listen to your concerns, observations and suggestions, and get back to you in a more appropriate forum. I thank you for your time and your support.”

On the issues of sending representatives to the meeting earlier slated for last Friday, September 20, Olonisakin said the officers who represented the service chiefs were adequately qualified to brief the national assembly on military operations in Nigeria.

He also said the inability of the security chiefs to attend the meeting on Friday was not borne out of deliberate respect for the parliamentarians.

He attributed the reason for the failure to attend to “an equally urgent interaction at the presidency

“As the representatives of the Nigerian people, we recognise the concerns of the House and indeed the entire National Assembly on this issue.

“I need to add that as the chief of defence staff, my inability to be here in person last week Friday was due to an equally urgent interaction at the presidency, while the chief of army staff was out of the country at that time. That notwithstanding, our various chiefs of operations were here to represent us.

“These are senior officers who coordinate all operational matters at the various service headquarters and are adequately qualified to respond to your questions.

“I wish to put on record that contrary to insinuations, our inability to be here on Friday was not a deliberate act to disrespect the institutions of the national assembly but due to the reasons I have earlier stated. We hold the national assembly in the highest regard and wish to express our appreciation for your support and encouragement,” he said,

Shedding some light of the super camp concept, Olonisakin said: “The Super Camp concept was borne out of our need to re-strategise to meet changing operational conditions in the North-east. I want to assure the leadership of the House that we will continue to do all we can to ensure peace and security in our country, in line with our constitutional mandate despite the challenges.”

Responding, Gbajabiamila said he and some lawmakers had been to the troubled spots in the north including Borno, Katsina and Zamfara “all in the last couple of months because of the level of concern of the House and, if we have gone that far, then I believe it is important.

“I did go to Borno and other places, it is important that you have made giant strides over time and that is why we are concerned that these giant strides, all of a sudden seem to be retrogressing and that is why we called for this meeting.

“I believe when you said ‘open forum such as this,’ I believe you must have been talking about the cameras, the journalists and those who are not part of the leadership of the House, because I would not call the meeting of the leadership (we are in one government), an open forum.

“So, I hope I didn’t misunderstand you when you said this will be more or less a monologue as opposed to dialogue. ‘You will listen to our concern and get back to us.’ I don’t think that is what the purpose of this meeting is,” he said.

He assured the chief of defence staff that the House would be cleared for a closed-door meeting to pave the way for the lawmakers and the security chiefs to have a dialogue as opposed to a monologue.

“We will have a dialogue and you will tell us what your concerns are, where we can help and we will give you our own, of course. You are the experts. It’s the reason why we have called this meeting.

“It’s not supposed to be for public consumption. So, on that note, you can clear the house, so that we can go into the meeting,” he added.

Present at the meeting along with Olonisakin were the chief of naval staff, Vice Admiral Ibok-Ete Ekwe Ibas; the chief of air staff, Air Marshall Sadiq Abubakar; the comptroller general of the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS), Mr. Muhammed Babandede; the director general, Directorate of State Service (DSS), Mr. Yusuf Bichi; representatives of the chief of army staff, Lieutenant-General Tukur Buratai; and the Inspector-General of Police (IG), Mr. Mohammed Abubakar Adamu. Also present were the chairmen and deputy chairmen of all the relevant committees of the House.

With ThisDay report

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