All manner of crimes are spilling across the states. Can they be contained?
Ordinarily, this should be the best of times, particularly for Christians who are preparing for the celebration of Christmas, and indeed for all Nigerians as they prepare to usher in a new year. But a chill of palpable fear is creeping across the nation. There is so much anxiety, due mainly to soaring crime and violence, the scale and brutality of which is keeping many people on edge. It is perhaps a metaphor for an ugly summary of all that is wrong within the nation.
Over the past few months, reported cases of kidnapping have risen. One of the latest was the abduction of Professor Kamene Okonjo, mother of Minister of Finance, Dr.Ngozi Okonjo- Iweala, within the palace of her husband at Ogwashi-Uku, Delta State. Few kilometres away at Gbaregolor, Ughelli South Council, also in Delta State, a vicious gang recently swooped on a construction site and killed a Setraco official and took as hostage two Lebanese expatriates. The men providing security were outgunned and hurriedly retreated into the bush. In Benin City, the Edo State capital, a renowned estate surveyor, Dan Odiete was kidnapped while Mr. Uyi Olotan, a businessman was abducted two days after in the same city. His orderly was murdered. In some of the cases in Edo as in many places within the nation, the victims are never found and the culprits seldom apprehended. Indeed, The African Insurance Organisation, a non- governmental outfit had since designated Nigeria the global capital for kidnap for ransom, having overtaken countries like Colombia and Mexico, hitherto front runners in such crimes.
But the gloom comes in many parts. There has been increase in the spate of armed robberies and which have continued to give security agencies and citizen sleepless nights. One of such cases was the recent coordinated attack on Auchi , Edo State. The robbers rode into town in a convoy of eight vehicles, crippled all the police formations and their armoured vehicles before dynamiting four banks. To keep the residents indoor, they fired indiscriminately into the air. At the end of the operation, some 15 people lay dead while millions of naira was carted away. Even Lagos that has been relatively peaceful is experiencing a resurgence of crimes. The “one-million boys”, a notorious gang in the Apapa axis of the state, is said to be once again on rampage, killing, torturing and dispossessing residents of their hard earned money and property. One of the victims of most recent robbery explained the hopelessness of the situation: “We are now protecting ourselves with prayers before we go to bed,” she said.
Nigeria is at crossroads. No one is safe, no time is safe. But this harsh and insecure environment is even made more so by the bombing acts of Boko Haram, a sect whose hands are dripping with the blood of more than a thousand people, mostly in the North. The activities of the sect have created and still creating a tense national environment . Their anger is directed selectively at churches and security outfits, with many innocent people caught in the crossfire. Their major last outing was the bombing of the St Andrew’s Church in Jaji cantonment, Kaduna State, and the freeing of prisoners at the Abuja detention centre. Many died in the process.
But since then many explosions had been rocking the northern city of Maiduguri, their operational base, a city they have turned into ruins; and Kano, the major Northern city of commerce which had now been left adrift. Last Monday, a divisional police officer and some 13 others were killed when gunmen swooped on Potiskum in an attack reportedly targeted at the Emir of Fika. Boko Haram’s horrors have been at best denounced and then glossed over. The security apparatus have largely failed to contain their activities.
The widespread violence, we believe, is a symptom of wider problems in the society. Yet all that Nigerians keep getting from the authorities are hollow assurances and empty promises. The tough questions are never adequately answered. What has emerged so far is pretty grim. We worry for our country.