Nigeria, a victim of protection racket
On 3 May after a closed door meeting, the Acting Inspector General of Police, Adamu Mohammed, announced a deal between the FG and the Miyetti Allahh Cattle Breeders Association as part of efforts to curtail security challenges in the country. Abdulrahman Dambazau, the Minister of Interior, who led the delegation to Birnin Kebbi, said it was part of a regional action plan on security challenges. Part of the deal is a plan by the FG to give Miyetti Allah the sum of ₦100 billion. There, the FG would have us believe, would lie the peace in places like Zamfara.
There is no doubt that Nigeria’s current security situation is dire. It would appear that the government and security agencies can no longer provide adequate security in the country as various actors be they Boko Haram, ISWAP, bandits, kidnappers, herdsmen or militants, tell the same story. But is paying groups off the answer?
The FG set a horrible precedent with the Niger Delta amnesty programme. On 6 August 2009, an amnesty deal for militants in the Niger Delta aimed at reducing unrest in the oil-rich region came into effect. President Umaru Yar’Adua offered an unconditional pardon and cash payments to rebels who agreed to lay down their arms and assemble at screening centres over a period of 60 days. The government targeted up to 10,000 militants whose attacks, mainly in the Niger Delta states of Bayelsa, Delta and Rivers, cost the country a third of its oil production. Well, events in 2015/16 confirmed that the militants are still armed.
Forward almost a decade later, and the Wall Street Journal confirmed that the FG paid €3 million for the release of some of the 276 Chibok schoolgirls who were kidnapped by Boko Haram back in 2014. Of the 276 originally taken, 163 are now free: 57 fled in the days after their abduction, three escaped later, and a Swiss-backed mediation effort secured 103. 21 of the 103 were freed on 13 October 2016, while the remaining 82 were freed on 6 May 2017. In a detailed report on the incident, WSJ said while €1 million was paid for the 21 first freed, an additional €2 million accompanied the five Boko Haram commanders that were exchanged with the next batch: 82 girls. Ahmad Salkida, a journalist, and Zannah Mustapha, a lawyer, were the key mediators in both deals. The pay-off of €3 million did not stop Boko Haram in 2018 from abducting more Girls, in fact, it encouraged them. 111 schoolgirls were kidnapped on 18 February 2018 from the town of Dapchi in Yobe state, and released by ISWAP on 21 March 2018, in exchange for a handsome ransom of €5 million. This was in addition to Boko Haram fighters in the custody of the Nigerian military exchanged for the release of the girls.
Is it a stretch to imagine that, as the Islamic State gets more active in Nigeria in the near future, another set of school girls will be kidnapped by and ransom money demanded for their release?
On 3 December 3, 2016, the governor of Kaduna State, Nasir el-Rufai that said his government had traced some violent, aggrieved Fulani to their countries and paid them to stop the killings of Southern Kaduna natives and the destruction of their communities, saying that the renewed violence is carried out by bandits. This has not prevented or stopped the mass killing of the innocent people, especially in Southern Kaduna.
The common strand in all of these incidents is that none of the actors that have been paid have forsworn violence as a tool for engagement. Nigeria, it appears, has resorted to paying various perpetrators of crimes, and this has proven more harmful to the country’s security. As we have witnessed, perpetrators of these crimes rather than terminate their actions, use the newly acquired money to further fund their actions. Essentially, the state is now their cash cow, and whenever their resources run dry, they start to act up again.
It is rather disappointing that the chief law enforcement officer of the country could descend so low as to beg persons suspected to have been carrying out persistent armed banditry and attacks across Zamfara, Kaduna, Niger, and Katsina states to stop attacking Nigerians when it is the constitutional obligation of the Nigeria Police to enforce law and order and bring all criminal suspects to face the legal consequences of their crimes against humanity and against the Nigerian state.
What these actions prove to onlookers is that the Nigerian state does not have a monopoly of violence within its borders, and has to plead with those who control more violence than it within certain areas to stop. Essentially, Nigeria has been trapped by a protection racket of thugs, “pay us, or have no peace.”
The day the money taps run dry, these brigands will open the violence taps. How we think our way out of this problem, remains to be seen. For the records, it is also happening in Lagos, albeit, in a more “refined” manner.