Nigerians in deep despondency as bloodletting, violent crimes escalate
Ten months before the curtain falls on President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration, that burgeoning clan of millions of Nigerians that believed the government’s ability to protect their lives and property, as well as keep them away from harm must have petered out by now.
No thanks to the massive depletion of the goodwill, that the administration enjoyed from Nigerians, as it took the reins in the wake of the departure of the President Goodluck Jonathan-led administration, in 2015.
Daily, the spectre of poor governance as reflected by hopelessness, unbridled poverty, rising unemployment, cries of marginalisation, apparent nepotism, mounting agitation, and sustained inflation that is hovering over the country continues to loom larger.
All of these are happening amid worsening insecurity, and as the Buhari-led government continues to observe in the breach, Section 14(2)(b) of the 1999 constitution (as amended), states that “the security and welfare of the people shall be the primary purpose of government, and the participation by the people in their government shall be ensured in accordance with the provisions of this constitution.”
Not only has the administration been described by many as a disappointment as far as national security is concerned, but banditry-weary Nigerians are of the view that scampering for safety and protection against insurgents, killer herdsmen, bandits, and sundry outlaws in what is supposed to be a sovereign nation was never part of what they bargained.
Between July 3 and 9, matters took a turn for the worse with insurgents launching audacious attacks on an advance convoy of President Buhari, which was ambushed and attacked in his home state of Katsina. The attack happened in Dutsinma, about 152 kilometres from Buhari’s hometown of Daura.
The attack on one of the country’s most protected prisons, the Kuje Custodial Centre, by the Islamic State In West Africa Province (ISWAP), in Abuja, followed shortly after and led to the death of five persons, and the release of 879 inmates, including Boko Haram brass hats and other hardened criminals.
With both attacks highly successful, many Nigerians say the development has left not only a bitter taste in the mouth but has also confirmed the weak underbelly of the country’s security architecture, which has been suspect all these years.
Other than these two daring attacks by the non-state actors, no fewer than 27 people were reportedly killed in other attacks across the country, including attacks on a Chinese national, and some officers of the Nigeria Police Force among others.
Some of the 27 that made the casualty list include 22 civilians, four police officers, and an officer of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC).
The number of deaths recorded between July 3 and 9, was nearly double what was recorded in the preceding week, as at least 50 persons were killed, most of them being security officials in the nine incidents that took place in five of the six geopolitical zones. Only the North East was spared a deadly incident.
A deadly clash between bandits and vigilante groups in Plateau State ensured that the North Central produced the highest number of casualties in the round of bloodletting that took place between June 29 and July 2.
At least 12 people died in the clashes that ensued after the bandits stormed Zak Community in Wase Local Council with the intent of sacking the community.
While gunmen in Katsina State killed Aminu Umar, an assistant police commissioner, and the Area Commander of the Dutsin Ma Police Area Command, alongside another officer, another policeman was shot dead in Rivers State, while the All Progressives Congress deputy governorship candidate in the state, Innocent Barikor, escaped death by the whiskers in the Government Residential Area (GRA) axis of Port Harcourt.
In Akure-North Local Council, gunmen shot dead Sunday, a security guard while he was on duty at a petrol station in Igoba community of Ondo State.
The gunmen reportedly set the filling station on fire after killing the security guard, while in neighbouring Kwara State, the State Police Command confirmed the killing of Inspector Adebayo Adeforiti, and the abduction of a Chinese national by some gunmen at the CGC Construction Company, along the Shao/Oloru Expressway.
Aside from the reputational damage suffered by the Presidency on account of the successful attack on Buhari’s convoy, the scenario, many say, simply reflects the fact that the insurgents have grown in strength, confidence, and composure to lock horns with the president and Commander-in-chief.
A bewildered nation was further riled that Buhari only expressed disappointment in the country’s intelligence gathering and security architecture after the prison attack, even as he questioned the competence of security operatives, and thereafter asked for a comprehensive report of the incident.
A statement signed by the president’s spokesperson, Garba Shehu, quoted him as asking a cocktail of questions thus: “How did the defences at the prison fail to prevent the attack? How many inmates were in the facility? How many of them can you account for? How many personnel did you have on duty? How many of them were armed?
Were there guards on the watchtower? What did they do? Does the CCTV work?
I am disappointed with the intelligence system. How can terrorists organise, have weapons, attack a security installation and get away with it?”
Peeved by the all too familiar pattern of heads not rolling after major security breaches that have dire consequences on the country’s safety, the Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF) noted that Buhari’s failure to sack any of its key officials in the wake of the prison attack by ISWAP terrorists indicates his unwillingness to hold his appointees accountable for negligence.
In a statement by its Secretary General, Murtala Aliyu, the group said that the prison attack in Abuja and other deadly attacks within the country by bandits and terrorists have left the nation agitated.
It further deplored the country’s swift descent into lawlessness and anarchy stressing that it cannot sugar-coat the real situation on the ground but lay it bare for the president to see.
“We noted that the response of President Muhammadu Buhari to the Kuje Prison tragedy, in particular, was to offer the familiar cocktail of platitudes, sermons, condemnations, and yet more sermons. As usual, the president asked the security services to ‘investigate’ the outbreak and find out what led to it. Presumably, in the view of the president, that was all that he was expected, or required to do in the circumstances,” the forum said, adding that “the required boost in manpower and equipment, long recognised as the missing link in the current campaign, have remained largely unimplemented to the required level needed to secure the nation.”
“In other countries, the Kuje jail attack and similar ones that have happened in parts of Nigeria would have led to massive reshuffle, resignations and possibly prosecutions of officials that are negligent, incompetent or untrustworthy,” the statement read, adding that “we simply are unable to find any courteous or less painful words to describe the feeling of utter frustration among the broad masses of Nigeria, especially in the North, arising from the ineffectual management of the security crises by the president.
“The president in his Sallah message promised to deal with the situation before the end of his tenure. However, as long as the crises remain unabating, Nigerians will justifiably conclude that the government is ineffective and needs to do more if they will ever be able to quell the crises.
“Probably because President Buhari is unable or unwilling to hold his appointees responsible for any deterioration of the security situation and some other socioeconomic sectors under their watch, the vast amount of money and other resources being pumped into the security agencies have largely been ineffective.
“No person other than the president has both the mandate and responsibility to ensure that the government of Nigeria maintains peace, security, order, and good governance. We demand that President Buhari braces up without further delay and rise to today’s occasion,” the statement stated.
As the country’s security situation continues to worsen, a retired colonel in the Nigerian Army, Hassan Stan-Labo, said the Buhari administration might have good plans to address the dire security situation that is on the ground. However, having good plans in place is one thing, but mustering the political will is another.
What this administration lacks is the political will to tackle insurgency, and several things could be responsible for all that. Definitely, the administration lacks the political will to address the security situation on the ground.
“Be that as it may, I have grouped our problems in the security sector into what I always call ‘The Big Five,’ and by this, I am referring to funding, manpower, training, motivation, and logistics. The Big Five has been addressed reasonably, but what is still holding us back seems to be a little deficit that we still have in certain aspects of the Big Five, for instance, in the area of manpower. We are highly deficient in manpower and this cuts across the entire national security structure, as well as the para-military.”
Secondly, technology is of course supposed to be part of equipment and logistics. Technology-wise, we are suffering a deficit because drones are not playing the type of roles that they should be playing in the entire North East. Technology should be allowed to play a better role in today’s warfare because this is the norm. And that is why a pregnant woman can sit in her bedroom and face a battalion of troops somewhere by merely pressing buttons.
“Thirdly, we were able to buy some Super Tucano aircraft and so on not long ago, but what are we doing with them now? Did we shop for this aircraft only for them to be acquiring dust and cobwebs in the hangers? It is the lack of political will that is responsible for our failure to deploy these weapons or equipment. This is also because those operating at the strategic political level in this country, who have control over the military are hesitating to give the right directives for the military to pull out and do what it is supposed to do, and that is why all the aircraft that we bought with billions of dollars are idling away. Just how can bandits be pursuing citizens from left to right when we have aircraft that can go out there and take care of them? We are fighting an enemy who does not have any iota of air parity, meaning that we are better off when it comes to air than the enemy. All these boil down to a clear absence of political will to engage in order to fight the enemy. Why this lack of political will exists borders on the national fault line of ethnicity, tribalism, and religion. It is quite clear to us today that the bandits who are after us are Fulanis, and we know that 80 per cent of those in executive positions in this country are Fulanis, including Mr. President. So, they are only protecting their own,” Stan-Labo stressed.
The failure to adequately gather and share intelligence amongst the armed forces and security agencies, experts say contributes to worsening the insecurity.
Stan-Labo the Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer (MD/CEO) of Hakes & Partners Limited agrees: “Of course, the situation is bound to worsen if sister agencies cannot share credible intelligence, and this is rather unfortunate. In a situation like this where we have a common enemy to defeat, I expect a high level of synergy amongst security agencies in ensuring that the enemy is pinned down permanently. There is a need for them to share credible intelligence because what we see happening, including the Kuje prison attack boils down to the failure of intelligence.
On whether the rising calls by political leaders, including state governors for Nigerians to bear arms signify a loss of confidence in the Federal Government’s ability to protect Nigerians, the retired soldier confirmed that most Nigerians have already lost confidence in the government’s ability to protect them.
“It is indeed lack of confidence in the Federal Government’s ability to protect Nigerians that has led state governors, including that of Zamfara to canvass licenses for citizens of the state to bear arms. The Fire Arms Act of 1959 does not allow anybody outside the president to issue such directives. But the Zamfara State governor, who has a social contract with the people made that call out of frustration. The social contract rests on a bipod, and one component of the bipod has to do with the security of citizens, while the other component has to do with the welfare of the citizens.
“In terms of welfare, the Federal Government has failed because the peoples’ welfare is in shambles and cannot be addressed adequately. Given all that is happening, the government has completely failed in the social contract that it has with the citizens, and that is why even the bandits are bold enough to attack a presidential convoy. This speaks of how low our security has gone,” Stan-Labo concluded.
For the Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Beacon Consulting, Dr. Kabir Adamu, calls for Nigerians to bear arms “is essentially a clarion call for the decentralisation of the country’s security architecture.
Currently, security is on the Exclusive List in our constitution. This means that technically, only the Federal Government has responsibility for security, and this is in spite of the fact that state governors do receive and spend “security votes” and chair state-level security councils – all recognised by the constitution. This federal security arrangement has left gaps in the states, especially at the community levels, and these gaps are being exploited by non-state actors. Thus governors are forced to adopt state-level arrangements to block these gaps and protect their people.”
On the implications of the obvious loss of confidence in the Federal Government’s ability to protect Nigerians by state governments, the security risk management and intelligence specialist in Nigeria and the Sahel region said: “The truth is that state governments are as responsible for the security challenges as the Federal Government. This is because if you look at the root causes of insecurity, a significant number of them are under the purview of state governments, or are shared responsibilities between them. These include the failed value system and social order; the ineffective and inefficient administration of criminal justice that fails to arrest and punish offenders; the inability to introduce effective and efficient measures to address the consequences of climate change; poor border management and porous borders; illiteracy and high poverty levels, as well as drug addiction.
Others are weapons proliferation, low level of citizen engagement in security; huge unaddressed social, economic, and political grievances among others. Therefore, the governors are merely using insecurity to achieve political objectives, by taking advantage of their citizens’ low level of education to whip up sentiments for political gains. Rather, it would have been best if state governors play their part and then use the machinery of governance, including political party affiliations to engage the Federal Government so that they have a coordinated and effective mechanism for addressing the security challenges.”
What are the options available to the Federal Government with the onslaught against the country by a cocktail of non-state actors gaining ground daily?
Kabir, who is the Special Advisor, Security and Intelligence to the President of the Senate added: “The government has about 27 Ministries Departments and Agencies (MDAs) that are in the security sector. The challenge is that they are operating in silos with little coordination and monitoring and evaluation (M&E). Therefore impunity and lack of accountability in operational and financial dealings are quite prevalent within the security sector. The best means of addressing this is to ensure improved coordination and to introduce functional M&E in these MDAs.
“Regarding improved coordination, there is a need for the various federal security councils to meet regularly. There is also the need to delineate the functions of the Office of the National Security Officer (ONSA), the two functions within the Presidency that have responsibility for security coordination and the ministries of defence, interior, police affairs, and budget and planning to allow for synergy of functions,” he said.
Even though he admits that the government has a very good and internationally acclaimed counter-insurgency strategy and a national security strategy as well as a defence policy, the security consultant, however, said that, “due to some of the reasons explained above, these policy and strategy documents lack implementation. Therefore, the first step is to pick them up, conduct a review and see where there are gaps in the implementation. This will allow changes to help us tackle insecurity.
“Beyond that, the promise to democratise security, which the Buhari administration, made when it launched the revised National Security Strategy 2019 is yet to be fulfilled. We need to see effort towards this. Additionally, there is a need to leverage technology in security. This includes intelligence, as well as operational matters. Technology can be a huge force multiplier and is relevant to the threats that Nigeria faces.”