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About killings with impunity

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United States Deputy Chief of Mission David Young


The United States of America, speaking through its Deputy Chief of Mission in Nigeria, Mr. David Young, could not be more right to lament recently, the widespread killings, insecurity, violence, in Nigeria, and even more importantly, the lack of severe and effective measures against the perpetrators.He appropriately noted the critical importance of cracking down on the criminality and ensuring that law enforcement agencies really focus on issues of impunity.

“It is very important that criminals and others are not able to get away with this kind of impunity and violence.”The American representative has said nothing really new. Countless citizens, high and low, have complained in similar terms. It is noteworthy, however, that this concern is expressed by the most powerful and most influential nation in the world. Perhaps now, the Muhammadu Buhari-led government of Nigeria will take more seriously an issue that is threatening the cohesion and even survival of the country.  But, just perhaps.

For, despite many verbal and written promises, open expressions of commitment to the security of Nigerians, and huge sums appropriated in local and foreign currencies to keep Nigeria and its people safe, this government has very little to show for so much.

Just when it appears that security forces are well engaged in containing and even putting to flight, the Boko Haram terrorists in the northeastern part of the country, herdsmen have seized the opportunity to visit mayhem and destruction upon the central and middle belt areas and even parts of southern Nigeria. Hardly a day passes without reports of villages sacked and surviving inhabitants rendered homeless and hopeless.  Indeed, the International Crisis Group (ICG) has reported that herdsmen-farmers’ clashes have taken 1,300 lives in the first six months of this year. This is more than six times Boko Haram’s killings in the same period. With elections only months away, the ICG warned ominously that “violence related to grazing rights… threaten Buhari’s popularity in swing states as herders are mainly from the Fulani ethnic group, as is the president.” And this is an important and disheartening point that, much as Nigerians would wish did not arise at all, must nevertheless be interrogated. 

Firstly, it is most strange indeed that the tenure of an administration headed by a Fulani, and one who had headed the umbrella body of herdsmen in Nigeria, would be so afflicted by his followers to the point of rendering his leadership capability questionable. Secondly, it is equally confounding that this president has not, or cannot, call the herdsmen to order with all the firmness needed. Why and how these are so, only Buhari can explain.

It cannot be stated too often that these and other failures in governance are, altogether, not the change Nigerians expected to see from the change–promising All Progressives Congress (APC) party.  Specifically, the party manifesto, under the sub-heading ‘National Security,’ committed itself on record to “urgently address capacity building of law enforcement agents in terms of quantity and quality as this is critical to safeguarding the sanctity of lives and property.” The party also promised to “establish a well-trained, adequately equipped  and goals-driven  serious crimes  squad to combat terrorism, kidnapping, armed robbery, militants, ethno-religious and communal clashes nationwide; and begin  widespread consultations to amend the Constitution  to enable states and local  governments  to employ state and community police  through  new criminal justice  legislation…”.

On his part, Buhari noted, and rightly too then, in his May 29, 2015 inaugural address that “the most immediate (threat to national security) is Boko Haram insurgency…  (But)  Boko Haram is not the only security issue bedeviling our country. The spate of kidnappings, armed robberies, herdsmen/farmers clashes, cattle rustlings, all help to add to the general air of insecurity in our land.” And he promised “to erect and maintain an efficient, disciplined, people-friendly and well compensated security forces within an overall security architecture.”

Three years down the road, the kidnappings continue, herdsmen/farmers clashes are even fiercer and some sections of the security forces in danger zone have had to resort to public protests, shooting in the air to boot, in order to press for the payment of their allowances.Above all, the 1999 Constitution (as amended), from which the ruling political party and its government derive their relevance, authority and power, categorically states that “the security and welfare of the people shall be the primary purpose of government…”  

That the issue of security is placed even before welfare is to say that there can be no higher concern to the citizenry above the safety of life and property.
It is certainly not at all edifying that a nation’s leadership would make these promises in vain so much so that foreign friends of Nigeria would feel sufficiently worried to express their views publicly. It is even less so that a Nigeria that should be an anchor of stability in the West African sub-region is be-devilled by so much insecurity. It is a crying shame.

Buhari, of course, was well aware of the high expectations the whole world had of him and had said on May 29, 2015 that “the messages I received from East and West, from powerful and small countries are indicative of international expectations on us. At home, the newly elected government is basking in a reservoir of goodwill and high expectations…”  

Now, his government has less than a year to meet these local and international expectations. In the face of the many outstanding issues crying to be resolved, the pressing question is: can it? And if so, would it? Again, only Buhari and his All Progressives Congress government can answer these questions.  But let it be said that Nigerians, the world and history are watching.


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Boko HaramDavid Young
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