Security: Still an Elusive Search

Azubuike Ihejirika, Chief of Army Staff

|  By Anayo Ezugwu  |

WHEN President Goodluck Jonathan was sworn into office on May 29, 2011, he made a specific promise that in line with his administration’s transformation agenda, he would endeavour to address the challenges of security, law and order confronting the country. He also promised to create an enabling environment to promote investments in the Nigerian economy.

Boko Haram members
Boko Haram members

“The critical policy thrust of governance will be to maximise the benefits the citizenry derive from governance through a more effective and efficient use of public resources, proper financial management and fiscal prudence. This entails adequate emphasis on the attainment of law and order, protection of lives and property and the provision of an environment in which people find happiness and fulfilment,” Jonathan said.

However, after two years in office as the nation’s number one citizen, his administration has been finding it increasingly difficult to guarantee the security of lives and property of Nigerians due to the insurgency of Boko Haram, an Islamic fundamentalist sect, which has become a virulent thorn in the flesh of the nation. The insurgency by the sect has led to the senseless killings of thousands of innocent people. The sect’s suicide bombers have unleashed mayhem on citizens in Borno, Yobe, Bauchi, Gombe, Adamawa, Kaduna, Plateau, Niger, Kano states and Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory, FCT.

At first, the president adopted a stick approach to deal with the insurgency but recently he has added carrot to it by constituting a committee led by Kabiru Tanimu Turaki, minister of special duties, to work out modalities for granting amnesty to the members of the Boko Haram sect, after the Northern Elders Forum, called on the federal government to consider granting the sect amnesty. But the sect has promptly rejected the amnesty and intensified its insurgency by killing more than 185 people in Baga and Bama in Borno State in May.

These prompted the president to declare a state of emergency in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa states, the strongholds of the sect, on May 14. The president said in a national broadcast that the move became necessary considering the breakdown of law and order in the affected states, parts of which the insurgents had taken over.

Jaji bombing
Jaji bombing

“Following recent developments in the affected states, it has become necessary for government to take extraordinary measures to restore normalcy. After wide consultations, and in exercise of the powers conferred on me by the provisions of Section 305, sub-section 1 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 as amended, I hereby declare a state of emergency in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa states,” Jonathan said. According to the president, the incessant killings by the sect “amount to a declaration of war and a deliberate attempt to undermine the authority of the Nigerian state and threaten her territorial integrity… As a responsible government, we will not tolerate this,” he said.

Since the deployment of troops on the affected states, some Boko Haram camps have already been taken over and many deadly weapons were also recovered in those camps. Also the troops have regained communities controlled by the sect and have arrested more than 150 members of the group. Chris Olukolade, spokesman of the defence headquarters, confirmed that the troops had overrun some Boko Haram camps and arrested some of them.

“Within a few hours of operation, our troops have overrun terrorist camps in northern and central Borno. We have also discovered dangerous weapons in the possession of Boko Haram in these camps or terrorist bases. Some of the weapons recovered are anti-aircraft guns and anti-tank guns. We have also arrested many of them,” he said.

 The uncontrolled activities of the sect which started as a post-election violence have impacted negatively on governance and the economy, especially that of former northern Nigeria. The sect had reportedly attacked religious centres, military bases, police stations, telecom facilities, motor parks, schools and government facilities. The senseless violence has intensified in 2013 with attacks on government buildings and facilities, resulting in the murder of innocent citizens and state officials, while women and children were taken as hostages.

On March 18 2013, the sect killed at least 30 persons and destroyed five inter-state luxury buses in Sabon Gari Motor Park in Kano. Hours before the blasts, the Islamic militant group laid siege on some schools in Maiduguri, Borno State, killing four teachers and injuring several others, including pupils.

Motor park bombing in Kano
Motor park bombing in Kano

Again on April 27, 2013, Boko Haram killed 185 people in Baga area of Borno State. The number which is still controversial remains the highest since the insurgency started. One week later, on May 7, the sect carried out another coordinated attack in Bama area of Borno State, killing about 50 people. According to Ibrahim Attahiru, director of army public relations, who gave the breakdown of those who were killed to include 21 Boko Haram members, six policemen, 14 prison officials, two soldiers, and four civilians comprising three children and a woman.

The Boko Haram phenomenon has become even more complex as the sect has shifted attention to other states like Katsina. On May 17, the sect attacked two police stations and four banks in Daura town, killing three soldiers and two policemen. The violence of the sect has made residents of Borno, Yobe and other parts of the north to live in perpetual fear. People are afraid of leaving their homes, while many were killed in the comfort of their homes by the dreaded group.

Although the security agencies have recorded a major breakthrough in the clampdown of the sect, its activities have continued and even increased in intensity. This compelled many Nigerians to lament that the insurgency has affected the economy of the country negatively. Former President Olusegun Obasanjo, said the current spate of bombings in the country has driven away investors from Nigeria.  He believes that it has been difficult to crush Boko Haram in the past two years because Nigerians have placed the need for personal security beyond the desire for general security.

“Nigerians are more concerned and agitated by the need for personal security, for many people, the greatest source of anxiety is violent crime, but now bombing of public places where people worship has become the source of anxiety in the country for Nigerians. This is already giving us a very bad image. It is adversely affecting investment in Nigeria,” Obasanjo said.

Stressing that governance and security go hand in hand, he advised: “The welfare and wellbeing of the people, starting with their personal security is the direct responsibility of the government. Performance of government is measured by the level of security enjoyed by the people,”

Baga killings
Baga killings

Apart from the Boko Haram insurgency in the northern part of the country, the southern region of the country is also engulfed in kidnapping, armed robbery, assassination, militancy and pipeline vandalism. The southeast geopolitical zone has become a safe haven for kidnappers and armed robbers. Consequently, prominent citizens from the region have abandoned their homes for the fear of the kidnappers. Besides the activities of kidnappers, pipeline vandals and armed robbers, militancy has gradually returned to the Niger Delta area. On April 7, the Movement for Emancipation of Niger Delta, MEND, resumed hostilities in the region by killing 12 policemen in Bayelsa State. Few days later, the group kidnapped nine oil workers attached to two oil servicing companies along the Kebiri creek, Southern Ijaw local government area of the state.

In the southwest, kidnapping, assassination and pipeline vandalism are on the increase. The oil pipelines in Arepo community in Ogun State, had been attacked several times this year, with many people losing their lives including three engineers of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC. Also the crisis between the indigenes and Fulani herdsmen in some states in the north central part of the country are still ranging. In states like Plateau, Benue and Adamawa, innocent people are being killed and maimed on a daily basis. This general state of insecurity in the nation has prompted millions of Nigerians to call on President Jonathan to take extra-ordinary measures to tackle the monster as 2015 general elections are just around the corner.

— Jun. 3, 2013 @ 01:00 GMT

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