Nigeria’s security muddle at 60

Service Chiefs

The worsening security situation in Nigeria has never been so bad in its 60 years as an independent nation.  But what is disturbing to many Nigerians is the failure of the federal government to listen to the cries of the people to retool the security architecture and sack the service chiefs, who have over the last five years failed to make the desired difference in the war against insurgency and rescue the traumatised nation

By Anayo Ezugwu

ON Thursday, October 1, Nigeria will celebrate 60 years of her independence from the British Government. The country will celebrate the Diamond Jubilee amidst disturbing insecurity across the land.  Many Nigerians believe that the country has become more insecure than at any other time in its history. For instance, the country is battling Boko Haram insurgency in the North East, while in the North Central, herdsmen are killing and maiming communities and local settlers with impunity.

In the North West, the bandits hold sway. And in Southern Nigeria, kidnappers, ritualists and armed robbers haunt for bounty.  But history has shown that insecurity has always been a concern for the country since independence, with each phase of the last 60 years having a unique security challenge.

For instance, in the 1960s, military coups were the fears at the time, culminating into the civil war. That war of secession by Biafra, which lasted between 1967 and 1970, ended in one Nigeria, but with divided loyalties to ethnic and religious groups.

In the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s, highway robberies were the sort of crime that often plagued the country. The firing squad was the fate of those convicted of the crime. The idea was that violence should march violence. But that never stamped out the menace of armed robberies. It, however, increased the attacks and the tenacity of the robbers to escape arrest.

The Fourth Republic came with more complex security challenges than have ever been experienced in the history of the country. Beside the robberies and kidnappings, a new set of crime emerged in the form of religious and political agitations.

In the north, for instance, religious agitation is the order of the day. The main trigger is always a perceived blasphemy or demand for a Sharia state or a feeling of political and economic marginalisation against members of the region. These have led to bloody riots and confrontations. And in many of the cases, the perpetrators escape without justice. These pockets of insecurity incidences have now mutated to jihadist movements like Boko Haram and Islamic State in West Africa.

In the South West, the O’odua People’s Congress, OPC, gave the government of former President Olusegun Obasanjo its baptism of fire in early 2000. Even with a brutal force, an outright ban, the agitations of the group, one of which is fiscal federalism, have refused to go away.

In the South-South, the demand for resource control and environmental neglect of the area gave rise to organised militant groups with all the paraphernalia of a regular army. These groups, known as the Niger Delta militants were only halted when the government resorted to a two-pronged approach in dealing with the problem – amnesty and money.

For the southeast, the region is crying for political marginalization, which reflects the anger and agitations of the Independent People of Biafra, IPOB. The youths in the region are persuaded by the argument of Nnamdi Kanu, leader of IPOB, calling for an independent state of Biafra.

As Nigerians celebrate independence amid growing killings not just by terrorists, bandits and kidnappers only, but always by security agencies in the country, Olusegun Obasanjo, former president of Nigeria, has warned that the nation is becoming a failed state. He raised alarm that the country was fast-moving to the precipice.

Speaking at a consultative dialogue in Abuja on the topic “Moving Nigeria away from tipping over,” Obasanjo said economically the country is becoming a basket case and poverty capital of the world, and socially, it is firming up as an unwholesome and insecure country. He charged the federal government to deal with issues of terrorism, organised crimes, banditry, kidnapping, human trafficking, drug, money laundering and corruption.

On his part, Iba Gani Adams, Aare Onakakanfo of Yorubaland, also raised alarm that the southwest is gradually becoming a haven for bandits and terrorists masquerading as herdsmen. He warned that the situation must be nipped in the bud to prevent the Southwest taking the ignoble part of the Northeast and the North-west areas of Nigeria where violence has taken a firm root.

He added that what appears like the gathering of armed groups in the area would affect the stability of the entire South-west region. The Yoruba leader said Oyo State has the largest land mass in Yorubaland with an area of 28,454 square kilometers and listed as the 14th by size among the 36 states of the federation, warning that the occupation of the state by terrorists will strengthen their infiltration of the entire South-west region.

Adams in a statement signed by Kehinde Aderemi, his special assistant on media, said the recent development posed a great danger to the security of the entire South-west region. He disclosed that in the past few days, the armed groups engaged in kidnapping of locals apart from threatening their means of livelihood and access to forest resources, stating that children, the aged and women are the most targeted by the violent activities of the armed groups.

“I have received numerous reports from Kishi, North-west of Oyo State. The reports range from ceaseless kidnapping, rape and threat to lives of the Yoruba people in the Oke Ogun area, with Kishi as the present hub of terrorist attacks. It’s my responsibility to alert the public and also the relevant authorities,” he said.

But the federal government has insisted that the country is not becoming a failed state. Lai Mohammed, minister of information and culture, said Buhari’s assumption of office in 2015 prevented Nigeria from becoming a failed state, after a long stretch of rapacious and rudderless leadership.

He said Buhari came into office at a time that a swathe of the country’s territory was under occupation, a period when many Nigerian towns and cities, including the capital city of Abuja, were a playground for insurgents and a moment that the nation’s wealth had been looted dry, with little or nothing to show for the nation’s huge earnings, especially in the area of infrastructure.

He said it was therefore a cruel irony that those who frittered away a great opportunity to put Nigeria on a sound socio-economic footing, at a time of financial buoyancy, and those who planted the seed of insecurity in some parts of the country today, are the same ones pointing accusing finger at a reformist government.

”Nigeria today faces a lot of challenges. But whatever situation the country has found itself in, things would have been much worse, but for the deft management of resources, unprecedented fight against corruption, determined battle against insurgency and banditry as well as the abiding courage of Mr. President in piloting the ship of state.

”Nigeria today is not a failed state, but a nation that is courageously tackling its challenges and building a solid infrastructure that will serve as the basis for socio-economic development, a nation that is unrelenting in battling insecurity and working hard to ensure the greatest prosperity for the greatest number of people,” he said.

With the level the terrorists, bandits, kidnappers and herdsmen have infiltrated every part of the country, insecurity may be out of control in the next few years unless the federal government takes a drastic measure to avert impending security crisis in the country.

– Sept. 35, 2020 @ 10:15 GMT |

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