As more evidence of incompetence emerges, the security agencies must work harder to secure the nation

In an apparent move to mitigate the deteriorating security situation across the country, the National Economic Council (NEC) last Thursday banned the movement of herdsmen in five “battle-scarred” states after a meeting in Abuja. The states are Taraba, Adamawa, Kaduna, Plateau and Benue. These are states that have witnessed and still experiencing wanton killings allegedly by herdsmen, mostly over grazing rights.

However, Benue evokes more dread than any other state as it encapsulates the country’s increasing recent violent history. Last January, the state buried in a public ceremony some 73 innocent men, women and children, all victims of suspected vicious herdsmen. Since then, peace in Benue is short-lived. In the last few weeks, some herdsmen have peppered the state with a series of offensives, many of them in rural communities, leaving in their wake massive deaths and displacements.

Particularly worrying was the attack last week on St. Ignatius Catholic Mission in Gwer East Local Government Area where two priests and 15 parishioners were murdered in cold blood, thus bringing a sectarian dimension to the violence. While the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) has called for a nationwide protest in all churches in the country today the Gwer killings has prompted the Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria to ask: “When will this barbarism end?” while urging President Muhammadu Buhari to stop presiding “over the killing fields and mass graveyard.”

Equally angered by the steady decline into anarchy, the two chambers of the National Assembly last week passed a vote of no confidence on the security agencies and summoned President Buhari to explain the incessant killings and the spate of insecurity across the country. The House also suspended sitting in plenary for three days in protest. “How did we get here and how do we get to 2019 if this situation continues?’ asked Onyemaechi Joan Mrakpor, a member of the House.

Across the country, life has become rather cheap. From Benue and Taraba to Zamfara and Edo, Borno and Ekiti, Nigeria has become a country on fire. Never has this country degenerated to this level of insecurity, except perhaps during the civil war. From the nearly decade-long Islamic insurgency that has crippled Borno and many of the states in the Northeast, the herdsmen-farmers’ debacle in the Middle Belt to kidnappings, armed robbery and general banditry in the south, the country is a degenerating combustible mix of danger and fear.

Unfortunately, the federal government is underperforming, especially on securing the people. Perhaps for want of anything to say, it has laid the blame, particularly the killings in Benue, on the opposition, a knee-jerk defensiveness that does not help the situation. The security agencies have also failed to rise to the occasion. They claimed to have tamed the brutal Islamic Boko Haram insurgency, but the reality is much grimmer, judging by the capacity of the damage the insurgents have constantly been hurling on society, the military inclusive.

In many of the Middle Belt states where the herdsmen-farmers’ clashes are most virulent, the security agencies, many of whom are viewed with mistrust, have failed to make any impact. A military exercise code-named Ayem A’ Kpatuma, deployed there since January could not curb the killings either due to their indifference, numbers or they are simply overwhelmed. The police, whose men and officers are being killed almost on a daily basis by sundry criminals, have more or less abandoned the people to their fate while their incompetent Inspector General, Mr Ibrahim Idris, continues to chase shadows.

Given the foregoing, we welcome the banning of herdsmen from grazing the cattle in some states. But the ban will only be meaningful if the federal government is bold enough to enforce it. There is little doubt criminals are becoming more audacious in the country. That is because President Muhammadu Buhari, who rode to power on the back of a general discontent with how his predecessor was handling the national security challenge, has not shown sufficient capacity for tackling this growing menace. But certainly, we cannot continue with this situation of mindless killings of innocent men and women whose perpetrators roam our streets, fully confident that the long arm of the law has no chance of apprehending them.

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From the nearly decade-long Islamic insurgency that has crippled Borno and many of the states in the Northeast, the herdsmen-farmers’ debacle in the Middle Belt to kidnappings, armed robbery and general banditry in the south, the country is a degenerating combustible mix of danger and fear