It has become obvious to most Nigerians that criminals have overwhelmed the Nigerian security architecture. A number of things happened last week to make this message stronger. Governor Aminu Masari of Katsina State met with representatives of the bandits in his state. At the meeting, Masari, who is the governor of President Muhammadu Buhari’s home state, showed his unhappiness that the commanders of the bandits did not attend the meeting. He therefore directed the secretary to the state government to fix a meeting between him and the bandits’ commanders in the forest this week.
An old picture was used to illustrate the helplessness of government in the face of insecurity in the country. In the picture, a gun-wielding bandit was flanked by Governor Masari and an army officer. The message that could be interpreted from the picture was: Overwhelmed, the government is begging criminals to drop their arms as the only way for security to return to Nigeria!
Last week too, some residents of Borno State wrote an open letter to President Muhammadu Buhari, complaining about the repeated attacks from Boko Haram and the incapacity of the military to counter the attacks.
Puncturing the oft-repeated statement that Boko Haram had been defeated, the letter, which was signed by Hassan Boguma, a traditional ruler, noted: “You are either fed with false information, or raising hopes of technical defeat of the Boko Haram which is far from the truth.” It added: “The recent systematic attacks on Gubio, a strategic battalion, and forcing them to withdraw, is not only a shame but a slap on the face of our armed forces and a smack of mockery and abuse on the strength and professionalism of our armed forces which was once a formidable force in Africa.”
The letter went further to state:
“Your Excellency, while lauding the efforts of the Nigerian Army for their gallantry in other parts of the state, much is needed to be done in areas around MMC and Jere and in recent attacks on Nganzai, Gajiganna, Gubio, Magumeri, Amurwa, Kalali Abdul, Wanori and yesterday, Dalori villages. The incessant and daring attacks by BHT are becoming a source of great concern to citizens living in the two local governments and five villages simultaneously attacked for three days without any countermeasures or even a response to distress calls from the locals.
“A country’s armed forces are supposed to be proud and patriotic defenders of both the nation’s territories and its citizens, but our today’s men of the armed forces are either overwhelmed by the desire to amass wealth by all means and, on the blood of innocent Nigerian citizens, or have been compromised by theories of conspiracy and collaboration by deserting their formations in the face of attacks by the insurgents.”
The same last week too, pictures and videos of a huge crowd trying to buy tickets at the Kaduna railway office for the journey to Abuja were shared. It was alleged that tickets were usually sold for some 20 minutes and the officials would say that tickets had been exhausted. Because of the desperation of people to buy train tickets, the officials hoarded the tickets and sold them at exorbitant prices to those who would be willing to pay. The reason for the huge crowd was because of the fear of kidnapping on the Abuja-Kaduna Expressway.
Similarly, commuters along the Benin-Sagamu Expressway, the Ibadan-Ife Expressway and other highways travel with anxiety because of the fear of highway kidnappers. Those who can afford air tickets have abandoned road trips. Many who cannot afford air travel or those who are afraid of it only travel when it is absolutely necessary.
The usual message from the Presidency whenever a prominent attack occurs that this administration would bring the criminals to book is seen as a cliché repeated for the sake of saying something. Many have reached the conclusion that the Buhari government has no solution to the insecurity in the land.
This year, the violence from the Boko Haram sect clocked 10 years. For the past 10 years, Nigerians have been bearing the brunt of the violence of this terrorist group, with over 20,000 people killed and hundreds abducted. Nobody imagined that their menace would last this long. There is also no sign that it is about to disappear from the scene. Similarly, kidnapping for ransom seems to have become a part of us. Nobody knows when it will stop or if it will stop at all. Everything about the security of Nigerians has been left in the hands of God. Ironically, Buhari is a retired major general of the Nigerian Army, who was seen as someone who would use his military expertise to curb the insecurity in the land when he came into office in 2015.
Sadly, Nigeria is being compared to countries that don’t have a stable or recognisable government like Afghanistan, Iraq, and Yemen. News of killings never surprises most Nigerians anymore. In addition to the deaths caused by criminals, there are also perennial killings caused by communal or ethnic disputes.
Some days ago, a priest was killed and burnt in his car while he was engaged in peace efforts between the warring Jukun and Tiv in Taraba State. The Rev. Fr. David Tanko was on his way to Takum from Amadu when he was attacked and killed in Southern Taraba. Similarly, two students and a member of staff of the Federal University, Wukari in Taraba State were also killed, prompting the university authorities to shut down the institution. There are several other hot spots where ethnic crises occur intermittently. Whenever they occur, most Nigerians look away because they are seen as “family affair.”
Having seen that the Federal Government is incapable of solving this insecurity problem, states are adopting different measures. Last week, in the South-West, the governors obtained an approval to float a joint task force named Western Nigeria Security Network. In the South-East, the governors reached a decision not to allow herdsmen to move around with guns and machetes. The communiqué also said: “We also agreed that we have to put measures in place to restrain movement of herdsmen and their cattle from one state to another which is a source and point of conflict with the natives and farmers.”
Insecurity in Nigeria has reached a frightening level that the people have become helpless, having seen that the Federal Government is helpless. There are three things that have become apparent. The first is that the inequality displayed by the current administration in its handling of the affairs of a diverse country like Nigeria is fuelling insecurity in the land. The second is that the administration’s poor handling of the economy, which is making the people poorer, is also fuelling insecurity. The third is that the Federal Government does not have the capacity to fully control the security challenges facing the country. Therefore, the states need to be empowered to take charge of the security within their territories, to make the work of securing the people and the country yield more results. This is a reality that Nigerians have to face.