Nigeria, a ticking time bomb
Current response to insecurity setting the stage for an increase in violent crimes
Nigeria is dealing with security threats ranging from incessant petty crime to terrorism. As the level of insecurity increases especially in city outskirts where police presence is low, more Nigerians are beginning to take matters into their own hands, by arming themselves for protection.
Last week, the media reported kidnapping cases in Abuja, Ondo, Cross River, Rivers and Benue states. The Abuja and Rivers cases occurred after armed robbers attacked a home and on their way out decided to abduct a member of the family as a way of maximising their financial returns. The Calabar incident involved a domestic hand who abducted a toddler. He was caught whilst trying to sell the child. In the Ondo incident, the robbers took advantage of a situation when the vehicle conveying two nuns broke down on the road. The nuns have been released, thanks to the work of an “intelligence squad” sent from Abuja by the Inspector General of Police.
The Benue incident unfortunately, is still on-going. About four weeks ago, a Reverend Father, the Vicar General of Otukpo Catholic Diocese was kidnapped by gunmen in Okpokwu Local Government Council, Benue State. Till date, security agencies have been unable to locate him. The Benue State government has even offered a N5million as reward to anyone who can provide information on his whereabouts.
Although security officials are actively engaged in securing the safe rescue of kidnapped victims, kidnapping in the country persists. This is mostly because security agencies still do not have an effective way of preventing it. They have “sort of” figured out how to react when a kidnapping is reported; they call on the “intelligence squad from Abuja” to handle the situation.
However, the police forces in the states do not appear adept in resolving kidnap for ransom saga. States with more police resources such as Lagos do a much better job than states such as Benue, and this leads to incidents of local residents resorting to self-help.
They take laws into their own hands, as is the case in the Benue herdsmen attack.
After the highly publicised attacks in Agatu, herdsmen once again stormed Agwabi community in Buruku Local Government Council of Benue State two weeks ago, on May 13, killing five persons. The Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria, MACBAN stated that the herdsmen attacked the community because Tiv youths in the state stole 800 cows. So, instead of reporting the incident to the appropriate security authorities, the herdsmen took law into their own hands and killed Benue villagers.
Last week Friday, May 20, suspected herdsmen attacked a village in Ikole Ekiti, Ekiti State, killing two and severely injuring three others. This incident sparked an outrage across the state with the state government, banning cattle grazing and warning that the incident could lead to reprisal attacks against Fulanis in the state.
Nigeria is getting to a point where people in the North East will walk around with weapons to protect themselves against Boko Haram; farmers in the Middle Belt and South East will walk around with weapons to protect themselves against herdsmen attacks; people in the North West will walk around with weapons to protect themselves against cattle rustlers; parents and business owners in the South West will walk around with weapons in order to protect themselves against kidnappers and people in the Niger Delta will walk around with weapons in order to protect themselves against vandals that keep destroying pipelines in their communities.
The incessant attacks by herdsmen, kidnappers, vandals, cattle rustlers, insurgents and the inability of the security forces to proactively stop them has led to an increasing number of Nigerians vowing to protect themselves and their communities by arming themselves. This act will significantly increase the prevalence of illegal weapons across the country, thus exacerbating crime and insecurity in the country.
States aiding the police
Following the clashes between herdsmen and farmers in the South-East, there has been an increased sense of caution between indigenes and northerners. On a few occasions, the Police had to dispel rumours of impending attacks including a false report in that a cache of ammunition was evacuated from a Mosque in Aba.
State governments across the country are trying to step up their assistance to the Police in the prevention of crime within their domains. In Kogi State, the governor donated several vehicles and equipment to the police in the state in response to the increased kidnapping, armed robbery and cultist clashes that have been taking place within the state.
Lagos state government recently donated a large fleet of service vehicles and equipment to its police, for example, as part of its effort to improve the security standards of the state. The Lagos State government has, in addition to the fleet of vehicles, begun plans to establish a DNA forensic lab to aid in the reduction of crime and easy identification of criminals.
South Eastern states have started taking proactive steps in preventing any future herdsmen attacks within their territories. Anambra and Enugu have begun using aerial surveillance to track herdsmen camps within their states. Enugu has banned night grazing. Other states within the region have begun clamping down on herdsmen caught with firearms. Delta State recently meted out a 12 year hard labour to two herdsmen that were caught with illegal firearms.
The Ekiti state governor has taken things a step further and banned the grazing of cattle in his state. He said that a bill was in the Ekiti State House of Assembly “that will make the movement of cows from one location of the state to another a criminal offense, and any cattle seen anywhere in the state other than in a ranch created for them by their owners will be confiscated.”
However, there is a significant security threat looming, which could be devastating for the state should the bill pass. The state must have adequately manned and well-equipped security forces to ensure the safety of its citizens who are likely to face violent attacks should any cows are ‘confiscated.’ Ekiti State would have to proceed with caution when implementing such a law as Fulani herdsmen have been known to go to any lengths in order to protect their cattle.
On a national scale, however, if a strategic solution centering on ways to curtail the spread of unregistered and illegal weapons across the country is not devised, the defeat of herdsmen by vigilantes, will simply usher in a new frontier of an increase in local violent crimes.