Since the return of democracy in 1999, the security situation in Nigeria has been quite disturbing. Nigerians heaved a sigh of relief with the decisive manner the Muhammadu Buhari administration has been trying to decimate Boko Haram insurgents since it came to power 16 months ago. But, a fresh wave of insecurity from different quarters has enveloped the country, pushing Boko Haram into relative obscurity. Deputy Political Editor RAYMOND MORDI examines the challenges facing the country in this regard.
In line with the current harsh economic realities in the country, there was no fanfare when Nigeria marked her 56th independence anniversary recently. President Muhammadu Buhari marked the event at the Aso Rock Presidential Villa with the Service Chiefs, top government functionaries and other prominent Nigerians. The highpoint of the celebration was the Presidential Change of Guards at the Forecourt of the Presidential Villa, State House, Abuja. Attendance of the programmes was strictly by invitation.
For six years in a row, the independence anniversary has been restricted to the confines of the country’s seat of power. Beyond the dwindling economic fortunes, the decision to opt for a low-keyed celebration within the presidential villa is also dictated by security threats facing the country. Following the bombing that characterised the 50th anniversary celebration in 2010, the authorities moved the event to the heavily-guarded Aso Rock Villa the following year to forestall the threat posed by radical Boko Haram insurgents. Since then, Aso Rock has been hosting the annual event. Hitherto, such celebrations used to take place at the capital’s Eagle Square parade ground, a large venue that allows the public a rare opportunity to be close to the ruling elite.
It would have been a significant public relations boost for the Buhari administration to hold this year’s celebration at the Eagle Square, considering the counter-insurgency successes it has recorded since coming to power 16 months ago. After all, the administration had announced nine ago that it has “technically defeated” Boko Haram and met the December deadline it set for itself.
But, the reality, according to observers, is that Boko Haram is no longer the biggest security threat facing the country. Indications are that insecurity is spreading in different parts and this development must be giving the authorities sleepless nights. For instance, Fulani herdsmen are causing havoc across the country, killing in hundreds and destroying farmlands and houses in communities where they choose to attack.
In a related development, Niger Delta militants have been attacking oil facilities and dealing a serious blow to Nigeria’s crude oil export, since the beginning of the year. The violence has shut down several oil wells, claimed dozens of lives and forced major companies such as Shell and Chevron to evacuate staff and halt production in some areas. The renewed militancy has also had a devastating impact on production: the country’s crude oil output is at a 22-year low; falling below 1.7 million barrels per day for the first time since 1994, according to Bloomberg.
The militants, particularly the Niger Delta Avengers (NDA), claim to be fighting to bring prosperity and development to the region, which has not benefitted proportionally from its vast oil wealth. In their own words, as per a statement on their website: “The struggle of the Niger Delta Avengers is a genuine affront to ensure that the Niger Delta is developed in proportions that are only measurable with the immense wealth from our region and our environment remediated to its original state.
“Unlike the blood tasty kinsmen (a reference to Boko Haram) of Mr. President (Buhari), we take no pleasure in claiming innocent lives hence our struggle is geared toward attacking the oil installations in our region and not the people. And we shall stop at nothing until our goal is achieved.”
On the other hand, the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) has been organising regular street protests in the Southeast, to draw attention to their quest for an independent republic. The protests have placed the Biafra issue firmly back on the national agenda, with repeated calls for a Brexit-style referendum on whether to remain within Nigeria or not. Many observers have condemned the Federal Government’s attitude of trying to crush the rebellion with force.
Similarly, rather than discourage the idea of rebellion, the arrest last year of IPOB leader, Nnamdi Kanu, appears to have turned him into a martyr of sorts. This is so much so that the Niger Delta Avengers have taken up his cause, making Kanu’s release a condition for their negotiations with the government.
Incidences of kidnapping, particularly of young persons in boarding schools, are also on the increase; over two years after more than 200 girls were kidnapped from a boarding school in Chibok, Borno State. Kidnap-for-ransom incidents have been on the increase in Lagos particularly for some time, with victims usually released after days in captivity and payment of ransom to the criminals.
But, the new trend of abducting young persons from boarding schools is becoming worrisome. For instance, in February 29, three teenage school girls were abducted from Babington Macaulay Junior Seminary School, a boarding school in Ikorodu, in the outskirts of Lagos. Last week, four secondary school students, a teacher and their vice principal were abducted by at the Lagos State Model College, Igbonla in Epe, Lagos.
A group within the All Progressives Congress (APC), the Salvage for Development Initiative (SDI), has described the recent abduction at Epe as one security lacuna too many. In a statement signed by its Executive Director, Mr. Peter Ajayi, the SDI said the rate at which criminals are turning Lagos which used to be very peaceful and safe into a centre of all sorts of criminal activities is becoming worrisome.
Ajayi said the group is concerned about the persistent security lacuna in the state, despite huge investment in security by the state government. He added that the country has not given kidnapping the attention it deserves, judging from the treatments given to it by both federal and state governments.
In the open letter addressed to Governor Akinwunmi Ambode of Lagos State, he said: “While we are full of appreciation for the efforts of the police to date, we are extremely perturbed that the abduction occurred in the first place, considering the humongous funds sunk in to security by your government.
“Sir, without sounding ungrateful, we strongly believe that you are yet to be there security-wise and hereby we urge you to re-strategise in this direction in order to make the state not conducive for the men of the underworld.
“From the foregoing sir, the urgency of the situation at hands demands the best of your administrative acumen in not just ensuring the prompt rescue of the abductees, in good health, but to also see to the extermination of kidnappers in the state in the shortest possible time. You may need to think out of the box, Sir!
“We suggest that you further strengthen security apparatus around schools in riverine and distant areas. More so, since the intention of the kidnappers is to kill their captives if ransom is not paid, then they should be seen and treated as murderers that should be eliminated according to the law once caught either they have killed or not.”
The open letter titled “Insecurity in Lagos State: A cause for concern: Open Letter to Governor Ambode”, is urging SDI members and well-meaning Nigerians to send Governor Ambode an email (through email addresses provided), to demand for prompt action to rescue the abducted persons. The week-long campaign is also calling for death penalty for perpetrators of kidnapping. “We are also calling on other civil society and human rights organisations across the world to join us in this campaign to put an end to kidnapping in Nigeria,” the statement added.
Observers say the growing criminality, unrests, militant activities and ethnic agitations have brought to the fore once again the undemocratic character of the Nigerian federation and the unresolved national question that has been there since the amalgamation of 1914 under Lord Lugard.
The attitude of the Buhari-led administration towards the rampaging herdsmen has been a source of concern to many Nigerians. A Minna, Niger State-based lawyer, Gavers Ihematulam, is of the view that the Federal Government has not done enough to stem the tide killings across the country. He said nobody should be treated as an alien, because President Buhari swore to protect the lives and interests of every Nigerian.
He said: “Why should Fulani men carry guns in the first instance? Were they licensed? Who gave them the guns and for what purpose? I blame all security apparatus for not doing enough because all the security agencies are expected to form a synergy to cover all tracks that could lead to shedding of innocent blood. There is no how security transits can be implemented or executed without element of intelligent report about somebody getting wind of what was in the offing before it happens.”
Ihematulam said President Buhari should work on the response time framework of the nations’ security apparatus to guarantee timely response to security issues in order to save lives. According to him, security men should be trained to be able to get to the scenes of attacks before the damages are done. He said: “Some of these killings were not done in isolation; people saw strange movements and they alerted those who should know and those who should ask questions about intruders, what did they do?
“The worst of it is the killing of some soldiers and policemen. That is to say that nobody is safe. I expect that with improved technologies, those manning the nation’s security sector should do something or even advise the President on what to do to check some of these killings. Why can’t the government evolve new strategies that will check avoidable killings by being more proactive than all these apologies when the deed has already been done? “
No doubt, Nigeria is at crossroads. But, a professor of Political Science at the Federal University, Wukari, Taraba State, Godwin Dappa, said the series of security challenges facing the country as it marks its 56th independence anniversary is a wakeup call for Nigerian leaders to get their acts together to surmount the challenges.
Dappa said he is confident that Nigeria will overcome the challenges confronting her. He said: “I do not see Nigeria breaking up for now; the country is likely to come out of it stronger and more united. I see the unity of the major ethnic nationalities becoming stronger.
“But, to achieve this, our leaders must be sincere; for now, there is no sincerity of purpose. If our leaders are sincere, we will get it right. The biggest malady facing this country is mental poverty and material poverty. These always blur our vision when looking at national issues. As a result, if we continue to politicise and tribalise national issues, we will not get there.
“We have the manpower, the technical knowhow and the international connection to get to where we should be. To forge ahead, our development must be rooted in our culture. We cannot progress unless we focus on agriculture; we must set up the machinery to make agriculture contribute meaningfully to our development.”
The consensus of observers is that youth unemployment is a contributory factor to the challenges currently facing the nation. Chances are that if youth unemployment is not tackled decisively, insecurity will continue to increase in the years to come.
Source : ThenationonlineThenationonline