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Banditry, et al and homeland insecurity

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The worsening insecurity in the country took an alarming turn recently, when Nigerians woke up to hear the news of murderous bandits inflicting terror wantonly on communities in Zamfara State.

The horrendous banditry which has been going on for some time with devastating consequences for indigenes of the state, got to a head with the killing of over 50 people and the sacking of villages.

While the Federal Government was responding to embattled Zamfara citizens, unknown gunmen invaded the Kaduna suburb of Birnin Gwari and killed five people.

This was about the same time activities of bandits and kidnappers in terrorised communities in Katsina State seized eight local governments and left about 40 people dead. All these do not include the ongoing rampage of kidnappers, herdsmen, and armed robbers in Anambra, Ebonyi, Lagos, Ondo, Rivers, Edo, Osun and other states in the country.

Given the frequency of these fatal events, the westward movement from religious terrorism to greed-driven banditry, the casual reaction of the security operatives, the seeming desensitisation of the populace to violent deaths, and the ominous silence of the presidency, one can assume that tragedy has become so routinised that the country is under siege.

So ominously tragic has the spate of insecurity become that Professor Ango Abdullahi, the convener of the Northern Elders Forum, in a press conference recently described the situation as a “cataclysmic collapse of security” and “sanguinary” … “collosal threat to life and property.”

According to news reports, the incidences of armed banditry and kidnapping in Zamfara specifically, were attributed to a thriving business of illegal gold-mining, which, until now, had eluded public knowledge.

Foreign miners scavenging for gold and other precious stones, in collusion with some unscrupulous Nigerian elite, including politicians, business tycoons, retired army officers and traditional rulers, were suspected to be at the heart of this exploitative and nefarious activities.

Just as conflict between resource hunters and the natives in other parts of the world, so also has gold prospecting in Zamfara led to conflicts between natives and the gold miners. All these are rooted in the collusion between bandits and law enforcement/security officials on the watch and patronage of unscrupulous politicians.

Yet, the symbolic gesture of the central government does not relay any urgency, or commitment, not even pretensions of doing anything emanating from sound thinking to address this homeland insecurity. There exists a manifest and deliberate lack of political will, a moral deficit observed in leadership insincerity; a nauseating silence and lethargy bordering on obvious incapacitation.

Correspondingly, the people, awfully accustomed to abject poverty and penury, are so disenchanted by the lopsided geopolitical structure, suffused systemic indolence and incurably unjust distribution of national dessert, that they feel very hopeless and helpless. It is a combination of all these, and the systemic failure of the economy, social system, education, health that are symbolised by the current insecurity. This is a sad commentary on Nigeria and a low vote of confidence on the leadership of this administration.

From the foregoing, two salient issues, crucial for national development, are tabled before the Nigerian public. One is the issue of managing the disgraceful security situation in the country that is making a mockery of our national security system.

The other is the issue of justice and transparency in managing the common wealth of this country given the apparent tension in subnational governance and what is operative in a true federalism.

Concerning national security, does anybody need to be convinced that the sporadic crises erupting in many states of the country have to be tackled from some localised manageable level? Is it not evident that the omnibus management of the police from an inefficient centre may be implicated in this appalling security situation? The police whose statutory responsibility is the provision of internal security has been terribly weakened in this country to a point of gross inefficiency that the armed forces have taken its place. All over the world, especially in established democracies that respect the federal system of government, police administration is often consistent with the tenets of subsidiarity inherent in federalism.

The wisdom in this thinking lies in the common sense position that proper governance should be as close to the people as possible, and only as high as necessary. It was the Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo, who captured the profundity of this position when he argued early last year: “We cannot realistically police a country the size of Nigeria centrally from Abuja. State police and other community policing methods are clearly the way to go… For a country of our size, meeting the one policeman to 400 persons ratio prescribed by the UN would require triple our current police force, far more funding of the police force and far more funding of our military and other security agencies.”

What this means is that effective policing demands that the local people be involved in the decision-making process. Thus, for there to be security in a given locality, the people from that locality must be involved in the security of that place. This is the principle of subsidiarity that typifies any true federal structure.

Moreover, this call for subsidiarity is all the more necessary in the management of resources. What was revealed by the violent fracas from illegal gold mining in Zamfara is the natural aftermath of a broken federal system; a fragmented system fueled by greed, injustice and willful ignorance about the running of state.

This government needs to be told that security is not merely the ubiquitous presence of gun-wielding operatives in crises-ridden areas, or the imprudent disbursement and monetization of terror and banditry. Beyond that, it is the satisfaction and feeling of safety by the people, of the Nigerian collective being thought about and being cared-for by those who represent and serve them.

National security is not success in killing a handful of insurgents and bandits, but the result and centre-point of other sectoral forms of security: food security, health security, economic security and even security in the family; with the result that people would not be wolves onto themselves.

To curb the indiscriminate pillaging of natural resources and the recurrence of violent exploitation of the Nigerian masses, the issue of restructuring has to be sincerely addressed.

The dubious, fragmented relationship between the national government and federating units (the states) has to be constitutionally re-evaluated in terms of managing resources domiciled in the states.

The idea of reposing the prerogative of prospecting certain resources, such as petroleum or solid minerals in the exclusive legislative list runs contrary to fairness and justice, even as it is preposterous.

It is for this reason that we restate our avowed adherence to the principle of resource-control and resource-sharing as a veritable economic philosophy consistent with federalism.

“By this principle of resource control and resource sharing, the federal government would command sufficient control of resources to carry out its superintending role of inter-governmental co-ordination, while the federating units would control sufficient resources to secure group determination to develop, to prevent fear of domination, to impede imperialism and promote patriotism. In the long run, it would be a win-win situation for both the central government and the states or federating units.”

Apart from the above, tackling insecurity of this specific nature requires a reformation that would exorcise our political culture of its present barbarism to one that has value for human dignity.

Community leaders, rights groups and faith-based organisations should speak out against the recruitment and use of thugs by politicians. Politicians, on their part, should resolve not to recruit thugs and idle youths to become their personal militia during elections. A political culture that builds its success around the monopoly of industrialised thuggery and harvest of violence and deaths is the greatest threat to national security.

Tackling insecurity also demands a focused, united, vibrant and confidence-building military: one that collectively takes ownership of the war against terror without recourse to partisanship that could imperil the security of the country. Such military establishment should be mindful of the fact that the old military methodology of solving problem of insecurity is being challenged by the advance in modern technologised warfare.

New thinking that flouts the ethics of conventional warfare is gradually catching up with today’s war mongers. As military experts claim, this unconventional martial strategy necessitates a re-orientation of the psychology of leadership in the army. It calls for the establishment of pockets of junior leadership and piecemeal mobilisation of forces, both in the military and the police.

Above all, the people must know that they are the surest safeguards of their own security; hence they must take the initiative in securing themselves.

As for leaders, addressing the problem of insecurity requires them to respect the dignity of persons, be true and sincere in dealing with them and endeavour to solve problems.

In short, it demands that the leader should engage in governance, lest we celebrate mere politicking with serious security challenges, which is a preface to a national disaster.


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