Aside from the death toll and further threat to lives and property, the security challenges may worsen the already fragile economy, which is heading to its second recession in four years
By Goddy Ikeh
APART from the country’s fragile economy which has been further traumatized by the devastating effects of Covid-19, the next headache of the federal government is the worsening security situation in the country. The newspapers are daily awash with the criminal activities of the Boko Haram insurgents in the North East, while the North West and North Central are theatres of war for bandits, kidnappers, herders and farmers’ clashes and rapists. Most southern states are not spared of some of these heinous crimes.
This state of insecurity has compelled some prominent Nigerians to call for a change of strategy in the government’s approach in tackling the security challenges in the country. In addition, the geopolitical zones in the south of the country have established their security outfits to protect the lives and property of their people since the federal government security agencies have failed to protect them. Although many of these security outfits are yet to take off fully, Nigerians still expect the federal government to make necessary changes in the nation’s security architecture as well as the removal of the service chiefs.
But President Muhammadu Buhari’s speech on Friday, June 12 to mark the Democracy Day, failed to inspire most Nigerians nor raise their hope that the government would soon defeat the insurgents and tackle the numerous security challenges of the country.
In his speech, Buhari said: “We remain unshaken in our resolve to protect our national infrastructure, including on-shore and off-shore oil installations, secure our territorial waters and end piracy in the Gulf of Guinea.
“Ending insurgency, banditry and other forms of criminality across the nation is being accorded appropriate priorities and the men and women of the Armed Forces of Nigeria have considerably downgraded such threats across all geo-political zones.
“All the Local Governments that were taken over by the Boko Haram insurgents in Borno, Yobe, and Adamawa have long been recovered and are now occupied by indigenes of these areas who were hitherto forced to seek a living in areas far from their ancestral homes.”
According to him, the total collapse of the economies of these areas, which constituted a threat to our food security, has also been reversed with the gradual recovery of farming and other economic activities. He implored states and local governments to revamp their intelligence assets so that the security agencies can nip in the bud any planned attacks in remote rural areas.
“As part of the strengthening of our internal security architecture, the Ministry of Police Affairs was created. Amongst others, the government has expanded the National Command and Control Centre to nineteen states of the federation, resuscitated the National Public Security Communication System, and commenced the implementation of the Community Policing Strategy.
“Government has similarly established a Nigerian Police Trust Fund as a public-private sector vehicle for alternative sources of funding security activities.
“To reduce security challenges through our external borders especially smuggling of oil products out of the country, the inflow of small arms and drugs into the country and equally protect our local manufacturers we introduced operation “Ex-Swift Response” closing our borders from August 20th, 2019, and have considerably succeeded in meeting its objectives as well as improving our national revenue,” he said.
Unfortunately, the speech failed to meet the expectations of the people and the opposition Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, and some eminent Nigerians criticized the speech, saying that it lacked depth and failed to address the security issues squarely.
The PDP described the Democracy Day address as a huge and unpardonable slap on the face of our nation’s democratic process. “Nigerians have been at shock that while bandits were busy killing our compatriots in Katsina, Kaduna, Zamfara, Borno, Kogi and various parts of our nation, even on the eve of his broadcast, President Buhari was claiming that his government had secured the nation. It is even more distressing that Mr. President opted to use the COVID-19 pandemic to make excuses for the attack by the bandits even as he had no soothing words or decisive assurances for the victims beyond a cold passing comment lacking in expected human empathy.
“Our party stresses that President Buhari’s silence on the values of democracy, as well as the myriads of violations under his watch, has further vindicated its stance and that of the majority of Nigerians that the Buhari administration has no regard for democracy and is not prepared to uphold its tenets in our country. The PDP notes that on the day Mr. President himself set aside to celebrate democracy, he had no democratic scorecard to present; thereby directly confirming that he had taken no step to uphold democratic practice in the last five years. Our party invites Nigerians to note that Mr. President’s speech had no space for Chief MKO Abiola. This only goes to show that the Buhari Presidency and the All Progressives Congress, APC, have no regard for Chief Abiola and the essence of June 12, but only used their nomenclature to gain selfish political capital. It is scandalous that on a day like this, President Buhari had no assurances on electoral reforms and credible election; which is the hallmark of democracy. President Buhari’s failure to express any commitments to electoral reform in his 38-minute pre-recorded address shows that his administration has no plans to guarantee credible elections in our country.
The PDP, however, urged Nigerians not to resign to despondency or allow the failures and violations of the APC administration to erode their faith in our democracy but remain united in their commitment to the stability of our nation.
Some organisations and friendly nations have joined in condemning the killings in Nigeria, For instance, the US Secretary of State, Michael Pompeo in a statement on the twitter handle of the U.S Mission, Nigeria @USEmbassyAbuja, also condemned the recent killings of a pastor and his pregnant wife in Taraba State. “We condemn the recent/senseless and/brazen killings of civilians in northern Nigeria. In recent weeks, suspected/ISIS West Africa/militants launched multiple attacks in Borno State, killing more than 120 civilians, including women, children, and the elderly.
“On June 9, unidentified armed bandits attacked a village in Katsina State, killing dozens. These horrific crimes follow the shooting of a pastor and his pregnant wife on June 1 and the killing of an imam, local village head, and several civilians on June 5 in the course of inter-communal violence in Taraba State.
“Tens of thousands of civilians have lost their lives in Nigeria in recent years to violent attacks by terrorist groups or criminal gangs, in inter-communal violence, or due to their religious beliefs. “The United States calls on the government of Nigeria to do more to strengthen ongoing efforts to address this violence, hold those responsible accountable and protect civilians.” the Vanguard newspaper said in its report.
The European Union has also condemned the latest attacks on communities and villages in the northern part of the country. In a joint statement on Tuesday, June 16, by the High Representative/ Vice-President, Josep Borrell, and Commissioner for Crisis Management, Janez Lenarcic, it noted that the situation has worsened recently.
According to the statement, attacks, abductions, and killings of civilians by armed groups in northern Nigeria have led to the death of over 160 people, including 130 civilians since 28 May. “Such heinous acts of terrorism and violence are intolerable.“These attacks pose a serious threat to Nigeria’s security and to that of the wider region, including in the increasingly restive North-west of the country,” the statement said.
“The ongoing conflict, growing food insecurity and COVID-19 pandemic significantly increase humanitarian needs in north-east Nigeria.” The EU stressed that international humanitarian law must be safeguarded and respected by all parties to the conflict in Nigeria and elsewhere. It warned that civilian and humanitarian personnel should not be targets of kidnappers, bandits, and terrorists among other criminals. The EU also urged the Nigerian government, the states, and all parties involved to facilitate the unimpeded passage of humanitarian relief for the victims of such attacks.
“The EU stands by Nigeria and its people in this period of increased violence and instability,” the report by Channels Television quoted the statement as saying.
These killings have sparked outrage in the country, along with heated debates over the effort of the Muhammadu Buhari administration in tackling the nation’s security challenges. The residents of Katsina, especially youths took to the major streets in the state capital to protest against the renewed bandit attacks resulting in the loss of innocent lives and properties in the state.
The peaceful protest tagged ‘Stop the bloodshed’ drew members from a coalition of Northern groups in conjunction with six relevant groups, including some civil society associations in the state. The protest came barely a week after bandits numbering over 200, armed with sophisticated weapons reportedly killed over 50 villagers across eight communities in Faskari Local Government Area of the state.
Recently, the Northern Elders Forum, NEF, led by Prof. Ango Abdullahi, condemned the worsening security situation in the country, especially the killings in northern Nigeria. What the professor got was the usual attack for daring to criticize the government.
The Presidency described the professor as a general without soldiers and that he has no credible membership or hold on the North. Some eminent Nigerians, including former presidents, generals, the Clergy, and politicians had not been spared for offering advice or alternative ideas on tackling the country’s challenges.
But on June 18, the Sultan of Sokoto, Muhammed Sa’ad Abubakar 111, described the attitude of the security agencies as lackadaisical and maintained that Nigerians have the right to express their feelings over the spate of killings in the country, especially in the north.
The Sultan told the federal government that Nigerians have a right to express their feelings over the spate of killings in the country, especially in the north. The Jama’atu Nasril Islam, JNI, also condemned the action of the presidency.
In a statement signed by the Secretary-General, Dr. Khalid Abubakar Aliyu, titled ‘’Nigeria’s perilous security challenge: Enough of condemnations, the government must take decisive action, stop the rhetoric.” “The Jama’atu Nasril Islam, JNI, under the leadership of His Eminence, Alhaji Muhammad Sa’ad Abubakar, the Sultan of Sokoto and JNI’s President-General, is in utter shockwave over the unfortunate repeated incidents of loss of precious lives and wanton destruction of property arising from well-coordinated attacks of armed bandits, Boko Haram terrorist groups and rapists.
“These repeated calamitous scenarios would have been avoided had the government risen to the occasion. We, nonetheless, as always, condemn the repeated brutal acts in their entirety; especially the lackadaisical attitude of relevant security agencies that seemed to be overwhelmed, despite repeated calls by concerned and well-meaning Nigerians for decisive action. What the government should do? ‘’We implore the government to take all genuine calls, concerns so raised and recommendations proffered so far, even from perceived and/or alleged antagonists in good fate, in order to move the country on the path of glory – human security, as development in whatever guise, is utterly incomplete without security.
‘’Government should also note that citizens have a right to be listened to, over their feelings on insecurity challenge in Nigeria. The repeated massacres of people, as well as the senseless burning of houses and livestock that do ensue in Borno, Katsina, Sokoto, Zamfara, Niger states and, indeed, other states such as Adamawa, Kaduna and Taraba, should give governments and its functionaries at both federal and state levels sleepless nights,” the statement said.
Sadly, the reaction from the federal government to the series of attacks that have claimed several lives in Borno and Katsina, and some other states in the North is assurances that “Nigeria Fully Capable Of Dealing With Banditry, Terrorism”, “President Buhari Meets With Service Chiefs”, “Security: Excuses Will No Longer Be Tolerated, Buhari Tells Service Chiefs”
But Nigerians are no more interested in pledges and assurances which they had been hearing since 2015. What they want to see in action.
Despite the posture of the Presidency and their defence of the security agencies in the handling of the issue, President Buhari, through the National Security Adviser, Babagana Monguno, expressed displeasure at the state of insecurity in the country.
He warned the heads of the nation’s security agencies that excuses would no longer be tolerated and asked them to do more to secure the nation and its people, insisting that the service chiefs are not trying enough and that “their best is not good enough”.
Perhaps the latest position of the Senate President Ahmed Lawan may pave the way for an enduring solution to the security crisis in the country. Lawan said after visiting President Buhari that the Senate was ready to approve more funds needed to defeat the insurgents and tackle the spate of security challenges in the country. He, however, said that timelines should be given in tackling these challenges since the nation would no longer accept excuses from the security agencies for any form of failure in discharging their duties.
Already, Covid-19 is set to plunge the country’s economy into its second recession in four years. The security challenges are impacting negatively on the Nigerian economy. The agriculture sector has been worst hit since many farmers, especially in the North Central geo-political zone, had been displaced by bandits and herdsmen and would not be able to engage in farming this season. In addition, the security challenges in the country are in the public domain and no credible foreign investor will be attracted to invest in an economy with such challenges.
– Jun. 23, 2020 @ 16:39 GMT |