DEALING WITH THE GROWING INSECURITY IN NIGERIA
In present day Nigeria, life has become brutish and short. No day passes without the terrorist group- Boko Haram murdering innocent Nigerians in market places, worship centres and even in educational institutions. That is after they have been firstly, technically degraded and then flushed out of the Sambisa Forest with the recovery of shekau's Koran! There is a daily decimation of the People of the North East Nigeria, especially the people of Borno State. Though, Government understates the casualty figures for obvious reasons, other sources indicate frightening casualty figures including military, Civilian JTF and just plain and ordinary citizens of a country that is proving apparently incapable of protecting the lives of its citizens.
Elsewhere in the Country, armed robbers and kidnappers are running a mock. They have taken over many highways, especially at the damaged portions, which are too many on almost all the roads in the Country-Federal and State. While we are making a song and dance of arresting one kidnapper-Evans, the kidnapping business is proliferating all over the Country. Most often, the only help the police offers is to advise the relations of the captive to cooperate with the kidnappers and sometimes also help with negotiating the ransom. Less than 1% of kidnappers are ever arrested by the police, not to talk of those who have been successfully prosecuted. Often, I wonder if the government is really aware of how widespread the problem has become. In cities where the kidnapping crime had come under control a few years ago, there is a frightening resurgence.
Then there is a growing tribe of ritualists and cultists who are possessed of the devil and are just causing mayhem all over the Country. They invade communities and perpetrate murders. The ‘Badoo’ group in the South West and such other similar groups have seized, tortured and killed innocent citizens for no known causes as they neither take away money nor other physical possessions of their victims- young and old. The Criminality of the Fulani Herdsmen remains largely unchecked and every once in a while they will invade communities especially in the Middle belt and Southern Nigeria and destroy lives and property and then disappear into thin air. Despite the loud protests raised by the victim-communities, only few arrests have been made and virtually no convictions.
We have the violent agitators for resource control in the Niger Delta, who seem to be fairly calm now but with potential to erupt anytime as the fragile peace can be disrupted easily. These ones disrupt the free flow of crude oil in the Country. Among them are some criminal elements who kidnap for ransom, undertake illegal bunkering and run illegal refineries, daily destroying the environment. The current cessation in hostilities is a major achievement of the Vice-President Yemi Osibanjo when he acted as President. But those who live and do business in the Niger Delta live in fear every day and private security companies are making brisk business.
Then we have the Non-Violent agitators for self-determination, which today is exemplified by the IPOB led by Nnamdi Kanu. Though non-violent, their rhetoric and demand for a sovereign State of Biafra is regarded as a security threat. To counterbalance and checkmate the threat of IPOB, the Coalition of Arewa Youths emerged with their quit notice and threats to confiscate the property of the Igbo living in Northern Nigeria and actually strongly demanded that the Igbo should no longer be part of Nigeria. Though it is reported that they have suspended the quit notice, the suspension was conditional and even if it was not conditional it was only a suspension, not a recant or a total withdrawal of the Quit notice. In which case even if their conditions were met, they could still re-activate the quit notice sometime in the future. To me this portends one of the greatest and subsisting security threats in Nigeria. Nobody is certain of what will happen after October 1. Who knows who is lurking in the shadows to take advantage of this persisting threat? We need to pray!
Reading official pronouncements by the Nigerian establishment, the greatest security risk today seems to be the non-violent IPOB struggle for self-determination. And every attempt is now being made to either "crush" Nnamdi Kanu or to revoke his bail which from the onset was granted on impossible conditions. The game plan was clear. Grant him bail on impossible conditions to relieve the great pressure on the Government and then unleash the Arewa Youths and if that did not break Nnamdi Kanu or the Igbo, they would finally re-arrest and jail him for life for treasonable felony.
It is surprising that Nigeria's establishment is playing hide and seek with Boko-Haram, looking for the authentic leaders to negotiate with, including paying heavy ransoms for the CHIBOK girls and yet think it is infradig to even invite the very well-known leader of IPOB to dialogue with the the government . I am befuddled that the government has not raised the national threat level in response to the threat of the Arewa Youths nor arrested them nor gotten them to recant or withdraw the threat. I am stultified that the growing menace of armed robbers, kidnappers and ritualists is not giving the government cause for much concern. Nobody talks about them, outside the police half-hearted efforts, including phantom arrests and arrangee-confessions. I am in pain that Nigerians in many cities are being violated and killed like chicken or kidnapped with great ease, that many can no longer sleep with both eyes closed as armed bandits become more daring. I cannot see what extraordinary effort that is being made by the Government to arrest the ongoing proliferation of military-type ammunition all over the Country. Someone said that none-state actors seem to have more sophisticated weapons than the State. This is a frightening development that puts the lives of ordinary citizens at very high risk and yet all seems well from the official perspective!
Is there a way out of this growing insecurity in the Country? I believe there are. First ,is that it is very clear that the current Nigeria Police does not have the capacity, the capability and the resources to deal with the myriads of Security challenges confronting the large country. The simple answer is to allow State Police. We need to decentralize Policing and Security services in this Nation. The State Governors need to take full charge of the security in their domains. To call them state chief security officers and yet they have no security outfits under their command is a misnomer and contributes largely to the growing insecurity in the Country.
Second is that we need to reduce the feeling of economic marginalization, social injustice and political alienation being felt by some Nigerians who then take it out on the Nation by adopting deviant Behaviour. The growing militancy, armed robbery and kidnapping derive a lot of impetus from these. To do this, will require a rearranging of the way Nigeria is organized and governed to allow the creation of more opportunities for communities and individuals to express and actualize themselves politically, socially and economically. The current central control from Abuja rewards only a few and leaves many alienated all over the Country (East, West, North and South). Third is that we need to allow space for those peacefully agitating for self-determination to come to the table to place their matter. And then through a process of negotiation work out an acceptable format that will be acceptable to all. I believe that whatever security threat posed by such agitators can be easily contained if their inalienable rights to self-determination is recognized while taking actions to deal with their grouses in a friendly and peaceful manner.
When all of the above is considered, the emerging conclusion is that none of what I have suggested would happen without a constitutional restructuring of the Country to devolve more power, responsibility and resources to the federating units. It is important to conclude by saying that the growing insecurity in the Country is troubling and it looks to me that the fastest and surest way to deal with this problem is to heed the call of many well-meaning Nigerians and lovers of Nigeria to restructure the Country politically, economically and socially. Further delay may be injurious to the continuing safety of many citizens. A stitch in time saves nine.
Mazi Sam Ohuabunwa OFR