Insurgency, Kidnapping And Banditry – Of Governance and Economic Opportunities


Sola Akinyede

North West and North East Nigeria are currently in the throes and stranglehold of unprecedented violent insurgency, banditry, terrorism and kidnapping. It is so bad that the Global Terrorism Index, a comprehensive study by the Institute for Economics and Peace analysing the impact of terrorism on 163 countries covering 99.7% of the world’s population ranks Nigeria as No 3 only after Iraq and Afghanistan with Syria, Pakistan and Somalia performing better than Nigeria. Although kidnapping started and still persists in the southern part of the country, it has together with banditry become an industry in the North, with villages having to pay communal ransoms. No one is immune. The ring of security around many high profile public office holders is so tight that they cannot be kidnapped. But their friends and relatives can be. The kidnappers know that they cannot kidnap the President, but they can kidnap his in-law and District Head of his home town with the hope of a large ransom. On the Abuja-Kaduna expressway, the fear of kidnappers is the beginning of wisdom.

As is typical of the Nigerian elite, rather than solving the problem, we try to escape from it. The mentality that makes us think that the answer to our power problem is a generator rather than investing in renewable energy such as solar energy, is the same mentality that makes top military men and top politicians to jump on the Abuja- Kaduna trains. If everyone abandons the Abuja- Kaduna expressway, the bandits and kidnappers will form armed gangs, stop or derail trains, raid the travellers and kidnap those whom they identify as, or look like good catches. Impossible? In August 1963, in what was then known as the Great Train Robbery in the UK, a gang of unarmed 15 men which included a retired train driver whose duty was to move the train to a designated location, and a specialist who knew how to rig trackside train signals, stopped a train by interfering with the signals and stole 2.6 million pounds about 55 million pounds (N25 billion ) at today’s value.

In April 2019, the Northern Elders’ Forum, complaining about Boko Haram, banditry, kidnapping and marauding youth gangs, accused President Buhari of not doing enough. In May 2019, the House of Representatives for the second time in less than one month summoned the President to explain the steps the administration was taking to contain the escalating insecurity. It is not possible to proffer a solution to a problem without knowing its cause. What is the cause ? Is it religion or ethnicity ? The answer is an obvious no, as the areas of operation have ethnic and religious homogeneity being predominantly Muslim Hausa- Fulani. Our ECOWAS brother Gambia, a tourist destination for many Europeans has a 95% Muslim population and is No 138 on the Global Terrorism Index .It has zero terrorism and they do not kidnap their tourists. We should therefore look at the socio-economic angle. Looking at other parts of the world with this kind of problem, Yemen, Afghanistan, one would see a common factor-poor education, extreme poverty, and lack of opportunities.

Consider the following facts and figures: The United Nations says that people are multidimensionally poor when they are poor in many respects- Education, health, access to potable water, nutrition, electricity, their assets, among ten indices. The United Nations Global Multidimensional Poverty Index published in 2015 has these figures for Nigeria on poverty rates:

South-West-19.3%,South-East-25.2%, South-South-27.3%,North-Central-45.7%,North-East-76.8%, North-West-80.9%. A sample from some States, Plateau- 51.6%, Katsina -82.2% ,Zamfara -91.1% . Ekiti- 12.9% Yobe-90.2%, Lagos- 8.5% ,Anambra-11.2%. Edo-19.2%.The 2017 Oxford University Human Development Initiative Multidimensional Poverty Index is basically the same as the United Nation’s. Zamfara is 92%.

Now take a look at samples of literacy levels. Lagos, Imo, and Ekiti are 96% , Zamfara-19%, Sokoto-15%, Katsina-10% and Yobe-7%. According to the 2006 national population figures, Ekiti State’s population was 2,398,957, while Yobe was 2,321,399. Ekiti State’s average monthly 2017 FAAC allocation-N3.7 billion. Yobe State’s average monthly FAAC allocation-N4 billion. 2017 net annual allocation to Yobe N39.5 billion, while the net annual allocation to Ekiti was N25.6 billion . Annual internally generated revenue- Ekiti-N4.97 billion, Yobe-N3.5 billion. When you consider the fact that the 2017 FAAC allocation to Akwa Ibom State was N143 billion, Rivers State N119 billion, both Ekiti and Yobe are essentially poor rural agrarian States with the same population. However, take a look at the following 2015 figures. Number of primary school classrooms- Yobe-533, Ekiti – 7086. Percentage of teachers qualified to teach Yobe-22% , Ekiti- 90%. Multidimensional Poverty Index- Ekiti-12.9%, Yobe-90.2%. Literacy rate-Ekiti 96%, Yobe-7%. You can then see that the parts of Nigeria that have the worst incidents of insurgency, banditry, terrorism and kidnapping are also the parts that have the worst and pervasive extreme poverty and low literacy levels.

Again recently, it was reported that for the 2019 Unity Schools applications, of the 75,000 children that applied to sit for the Common Entrance examination, 25,000 applied from Lagos State, while just 59 applied from Zamfara State. According to the 2006 population figures, Lagos was 9,113,604 while Zamfara was 3,278,873 thus Zamfara is more than one-third the population of Lagos. If only 59 children applied out of a population of 3.2 million people, obviously there is a problem. Among the thousands of those unfortunate children who did not or were not able to apply are those with the brains of professors, doctors, multi-billionaire industrialists, computer scientists and IT professionals. But when they are uneducated, unskilled, and poor, they have no opportunities and cannot create opportunities, they are the potential bandits, kidnappers and terrorists. It is not rocket science. When you compare Ekiti and Yobe, two States having the same population and virtually the same revenue profile, Yobe having some advantage, it tells you a clear story with regards to investment in education and poverty alleviation.

Having regard to the fact that Nigeria has had twenty years of unbroken democratic rule during which governance of States was by their governors and at least twenty five years of military rule with Heads of State mostly from the northern States, how can anyone blame President Buhari for the result of 40 years of governance in those States? Having regard to these facts and figures, does anyone need to summon the President to tell us what steps need to be taken ?

Causes of Poor Governance
The principal causes of poor governance are corruption, diversion of resources meant for social services by politicians and public service elite (by means of institutional or structural kleptocracy) waste and mismanagement. The elite using their offices award themselves perquisites and allowances that they are not statutorily entitled to. The most popular example by many Nigerians are the allowances and funds for constituency projects allocated to members of the National Assembly. However, structural or institutional kleptocracy abounds in all the three arms and three levels of government. Recently, a very senior judicial officer was said to have been given N24 million for the purpose of undertaking just one foreign trip. A departing governor in one of the South-West States was said to have given himself an SUV costing his State N75 million. The so-called unaudited and opaque Security Vote which is not less than N100 million a month and reputed to be as much as N1 billion a month in some States is another example. All over the country, governors have been known to buy super luxury limousines many costing as much as N100 million for traditional rulers who are already entitled to 5% of their States’ local governments’ revenues. Recently 30 Local Government Chairmen in Osun State were reported to have planned a trip to Dubai for a 10-day workshop to “be exposed and groomed on international best practices in Local Government Administration”. Thus we the elites are simply using the funds for potable water, education and health to buy vehicles, pay for foreign trips and allowances etc.

According to a UNDP report, the lowest scoring countries on the Transparency International Corruption Perception Index (CPI) Somalia, Afghanistan, South Sudan, Yemen and Libya are all facing intense conflicts characterized by violent extremism, insurgency and terrorism arising from the sense of helplessness, hopelessness, injustice and inequity that pervasive corruption promotes.

To understand waste in Nigeria, go to the Federal budget (2018). You will see the proliferation of parastatals or MDAs some of which are moribund e.g Public Complaints Commission- Budget- N4.2 billion mostly on salaries. Others are either unnecessary or performing the same functions with expensive bureaucratic paraphernalia of office-SUVs etc. Examples -Nigeria Atomic Energy Commission-Budget N4.7b. Apart from the fact that we have the Nigeria Nuclear Regulatory Authority Budget–N7.3b and the Energy Commission of Nigeria Budget N4.2b,while nuclear powers like Japan, France are shutting down their nuclear plants in favour of renewable energy,(Germany total shut-down by 2022)we are still budgeting to build a nuclear plant when we have not been able to contain terrorism. Other examples-National Institute of Hospitality and Tourism Development Studies and National Tourism Development Corporation. National Institute for Culture Orientation and National Council for Arts and Culture. National Film Corporation and National Film and Video Censor Board. National Office for Technology Acquisition and Promotion Abuja –Budget N 1.39 b. National Agency for Science and Engineering Infrastructure Abuja-Budget N4.8b .Hydraulic Equipment Research Institute, Kano. National Space Research and Development Agency Abuja, Budget-N5.1b ,Centre for Geodesy and Geodynamics, Toro Bauchi State, Centre for Atmospheric Research Ayingba, Kogi State. Centre for Space Transport Propulsion, Epe, Lagos State, Centre for Basic Space Science Nsuka, Advanced Space Technology Application Laboratory, Uyo.

As President Buhari starts his second term, he should take another look at the Oransaye report, scrap and merge many of these agencies, retrain productive staff so that the savings from these obvious wastes can be re-directed at investing in infrastructures, education and poverty alleviation all over the country. Developed and rich economies continue to reform .The UK abolished 130 and merged 18 of such institutions and agencies in 2010.

I believe that the first steps the North should take is to organize a Regional Conference (not a national conference) on Governance and Security. A national conference will dilute and detract from the fact that this is essentially a serious regional issue although with potentially serious national consequences. The main aim of the regional conference will be a Marshall Plan to address these issues and proffer solutions. The following should be considered by the Conference:

A) Setting up a steering committee composed of people like Mallam Nasir El-Rufai (NW)he has a deep understanding of issues, and the guts to do what needs to be done. Emir of Kano HRH Alhaji Muhammadu Sanusi II (NW)- A traditional ruler with a deep understanding of issues and the traditional authority to persuade the conservatives. Ambassador Baba Kingibe (NE)- cerebral,long experience in the civil service and governance issues and wide network. Alhaji Aliko Dangote(NW) , Alhaji Abdulsalam Rabiu(NW) Billionaire, General Theophilus Danjuma(NE)- Multi Billionaire, Alhaji Mohammed Ndimi(NE) Multi Billionaire, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar (NE) Former Vice President and Multi Billionaire . Senator Ahmed Lawan (NE) Senate President. The idea is that Governor El- Rufai will represent the Executive, Senator Lawan represents the Legislature, while the multi-billionaires who have mastered the art of identifying and creating business opportunities will contribute their ideas and resources to create opportunities for youths.

B) Create the Northern Region Wealth Fund. Although there is now a North East Development Commission (NEDC), are we going to create a North West Development Commission if things get worse in the North West ?And a North Central Development Commission if the bandits and kidnappers flushed out of the North West move to the North Central ? Is the purpose of governance not development? Since States have governments, why are they not developing? Is the problem development or governance? The reason why many parts of Nigeria are not developed is simply the result of bad governance. So when the problem is bad governance, creating a Development Commission as a solution is treating the symptom of the disease (poor development) rather than its root cause(bad governance) with a contaminated medicine a “Development Commission” e.g the Niger Delta Development Commission(NDDC)that itself had governance issues. As with most government agencies, sooner or later the NEDC may be bugged down by expensive bureaucracy and the usual ills as was the NDDC.

The aim of the Fund will be to i) Develop infrastructures that will promote and accelerate agriculture and industrialisation, e.g solar energy , promote education and health facilities in the affected parts of Northern Nigeria. Ii) Promote and accelerate industrial and agricultural development . iii) Identify and create opportunities for citizens especially youths. Iv) Supplement the funding of security in the affected areas. v) Offer advice to State governments on socio-economic and development matters.
Funding will be sourced from i) Returns on investments made by the Fund i) Contributions by State governments ii) Savings from anti-corruption measures, structural kleptocracy and wastes etc Iii) Donations from well-meaning citizens in the region and outside the region iv) Donations from development partners.
a)Access to the Fund by the affected States will be determined by need as well as by counterpart contributions by them. b)Projects will be approved and executed by the Fund and not State governments and in order to ensure insulation from domestic ,social and political pressures, approval and execution will be by a three-man committee composed by a Nigerian, a foreign development expert and a representative of the development partners.

The Fund should set up a Monitoring Task Force headed by Mallam Nuhu Ribadu. The function of the Task Force will be to i) Monitor State governments on governance ,corruption and wastes issues, ii) Receive reports from citizens on corruption, waste, mismanagement, and structural kleptocracy by States. iii) Assess, take action and forward its reports to the Fund and the anti-corruption agencies for necessary action.
C) The National Assembly should in collaboration with the National Council of States and the assistance of international institutions formulate guidelines for the operation of the so-called Security Vote to ensure compliance with international best practices. Compliance with the guidelines by States will be a condition precedent for access to the Fund.

D)This is a tough one. The nineteen governors from the North should in collaboration with their southern colleagues, the National Assembly and State Assemblies give a serious thought to amending section 308 of the Constitution by expunging immunity in respect of acts of corruption.

Corruption, waste and bad governance are a national and not a regional problem. However, the problem has had devastating consequences in Northern Nigeria due to extreme poverty, low literacy levels and lack of opportunities. In Southern Nigeria, States have been able to leverage themselves out of extreme poverty using education in Ekiti for example and commerce in the South-East which has the Imu-Ahia or “BOY” apprenticeship system whereby a teenager undergoes apprenticeship for some years after which his master sets him up in a trade, pays his rent and gives him free venture capital. It has been described by international economists as the biggest free venture capital system in the world. It is not only a safety net, but provides opportunities and gives hope to millions of youths in the South- East. The Fund could set up its own YARO venture capital system by giving capital to youths so that they can go into small scale farming, animal husbandry by Nigerian Fulanis; as well as capital to those who want to become artisans. Money saved from reduced military spending which will result from cessation of hostilities if economic conditions in the affected areas improve, can be budgeted for and channeled through the Fund with a view to addressing the crisis between herders and farmers.

According to the United States Counter-Insurgency Guide “Counter-insurgency is a blend of comprehensive civilian and military efforts designed to contain insurgency and address its root causes. Unlike conventional warfare, non-military means are often more effective. Key to this is to reduce the pool of frustrated unemployed young people, improve governance and create economic opportunities” Thus while military action is necessary to contain the situation, it is not the solution. Boko Haram launched its attack on the North East ten years ago. The military is still battling it. Bandits have opened up another flank in the North West. Apart from the fact that the military cannot be everywhere, using helicopter gunships to attack bandits and kidnappers though well –intentioned, will result in collateral damage and killing of innocent people, and is not likely to be very successful in the long term as the bandits who have become sophisticated in their operations, will continue to relocate as the recent attacks in Katsina have shown. The federal government should therefore begin to reduce the resources spent on military hardware and operations, redirect them at governance, infrastructures and creating economic opportunities, while the National Council of States puts in place strict measures to ensure that States reduce corruption, waste and mismanagement, and focus on poverty alleviation as well as building infrastructures that create and improve economic opportunities.

Since the recent meeting between President Buhari and the Northern State Governors, solutions such as State Police being proffered do not address the root causes. Furthermore, apart from the fact that State Police will simply escalate the level of weaponry with bandits awash with ransoms likely to source more sophisticated weapons from places such as Libya, what measures are going to be put in place to ensure that cultists and religious extremists do not populate State Police forces and that governors do not abuse their powers e.g lending arms and men to their colleagues in other States for elections? Imagine State Police under three former governors- PDP South-West, APC South-East and APC North-West. Many governors will simply arm their State Police forces to the teeth before the primaries and the general elections with the military and the federal police spread too thin all over the country unable to match State Police forces on election day. Except the Federal government is able to guarantee, ensure and police these measures, which I doubt, we will simply be substituting our fears of bandits and kidnappers with State terror and disaster that may threaten our corporate existence. I believe it is better to spend the huge resources required to fund personnel, arms, vehicles and materials for State Police on poverty alleviation and creating economic opportunities for our citizens.

The poor in the North are under siege and are becoming internally displaced persons. The Northern elites are becoming externally displaced persons as they can no longer go home. They will continue to be the main targets of these vicious attacks until the root causes are addressed. I believe that it is simply a matter of enlightened self-interest to take the bull by the horn by taking drastic measures to correct the mistakes of the past so that the region can begin to realize its full potentials, provide opportunities for the masses, so the elites themselves can begin to sleep with their two eyes closed.

––Akinyede OON, LL.M, (Lond) BL