Sunday Ehigiator examines the numerous security challenges that occurred in 2019, and highlights the successes and failures
It promised to be a good year. It always does until plans start to unfold and make a mincemeat of all carefully laid out plans. Year 2019 was not so different. Security wise, Nigeria went through ups and down. From kidnappings to murders, suicide bombings, armed robbery, car snatching, terrorism to the continued disappearance of the remaining 112 Chibok girls and Leah Sharibu, arrests and flouting of court orders, amongst others, 2019 was a potpourri of events.
Decade of Combating Boko Haram
A decade later, one of the world’s most dangerous armed groups is still wreaking havoc. At the end of July 2009, founder of the Boko Haram terror group, Mohammed Yusuf, was killed in police custody in Maiduguri, Nigeria. His successor, Abubakar Shekau, vowed to exact revenge on the Nigerian government and a merciless campaign was launched.
In the ensuing Boko Haram killing spree, nearly 30,000 people have been killed and more than two million displaced, according to the Council on Foreign Relations’ Nigeria Security Tracker.
Hundreds of young women have been abducted by the group to become brides to their fighters, and in some cases suicide bombers.
One of the greatest tragedy that befell Nigeria in 2014 was the abduction of 276 school girls from Government College, Chibok in Borno State. The girls were abducted on April 14. As of now, about 164 of the missing Chibok girls have regained their freedom while 112 of them remains missing.
Also, all the 111 Dapchi school girls and a boy, abducted by Boko Haram have been released except Leah Sharibu, who is still captive for her refusal to denounce Christianity for Islam, had regained their freedom. Several groups continue to clamour for the government to do all in its capacity to ensure her release.
Though in a video which emerged on social media, an aid worker, Grace Taku kidnapped by Boko Haram terrorists on July 18, had claimed that Sharibu alongside one Alice, another aid worker, has been killed by the insurgents because of FG’s inability to “do something”, however, no further evidence to back up Taku’s claim yet about Sharibu, who turned 16 in captivity.
Armed Banditry in North-west Nigeria and Resultant Peace Talks
Much like the North-east where Boko Haram terrorists have wreaked havoc, Nigeria’s North-west became another major regional theatre of violence in 2019. A problem, which initially appeared as localised disputes between herders and farmers over access to land, morphed into an intractable crisis that now poses a threat to national security.
The level of rural banditry escalated between 2014 and 2019, attracting a lot of attention, while assuming increased political undertones in the run-up to the 2019 Nigeria elections. In Zamfara and parts of neighboring Katsina State in the North-west, rampaging gangs of armed bandits have engaged in violent acts, while attacking, abducting, killing, and robbing villagers and travelers, and engaging in the rustling of cattles.
Although sometimes exaggerated or underestimated, the casualty figures include the destruction of nearly 500 villages and 13,000 hectares of land, 2,835 people killed between 2011 and 2018 and number of children orphaned since 2010 as a result of such attacks was put at 44,000.
In October 2019, the Zamfara State government and bandits engaged in a peace talk process, which led to the exchange of arrested bandits for kidnapped victims in the bandit’s hold.
Flouting of Court Orders
The federal government under President Muhammadu Buhari continues to come under heavy criticism for flouting court orders since it came into power in 2015. These acts did not only lead to apprehension among Nigerians, but unrest in the country.
After much pressure from Nigerians, human rights organisations and the United State of America, Omoyele Sowore was finally released on bail a day to Christmas. The Department of State Security Service (DSS) had twice disregarded court orders to release him.
Sowore, a former presidential candidate and publisher of online news platform, Sahara Reporters, was on August 3, 2019 arrested by the DSS in Lagos and transferred to Abuja. The DSS obtained an ex-parte order to keep Sowore for 45 days.
Barely 24 hours to the expiration of the 45 days detention order, the Attorney-General of the Federation’s office filed charges of treasonable felony, cybercrime offences and money laundering against him before the Federal High Court in Abuja. Sowore’s lawyer, Femi Falana applied for his bail pending his arraignment. Justice Taiwo Taiwo of the federal high court, Abuja granted the prayer, however, the DSS refused to obey the court order.
Sowore had filed a case of contempt against the DSS boss, Yusuf Bichi, for failing to comply with the court order granting him bail, and on December 5, after been fined by the court, the court ordered DSS to release Sowore on bail within 24 hours or face stiffer sanctions.
Like the literary Oliver Twist, the DSS released Sowore on the same day, only to rearrest him the next day in the court premise, when the case was recalled for continuous hearing. This caused a lot of apprehension, gaining Sowore public sympathy from Nigerians.
The immediate-past National Security Adviser (NSA), Col. Sambo Dasuki (rtd) had been in detention since December 29, 2015, for alleged embezzlement of over $2 billion meant for arms procurement to fight the Boko Haram insurgency. The alleged illegal deal was revealed following an interim report of the presidential investigations committee on arms procurement under the Goodluck Jonathan administration.
Dasuki was arrested on December 1, 2015 by the DSS, and transferred to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) for further interrogation. He remained in the custody of EFCC since that time, in violation of a series of court orders directing his release, until he was eventually released alongside Sowore.
Orji Kalu’s Sentencing
Currently a serving Senator, former Governor of Abia state, Orji Kalu, was on Thursday, December 5, 2019, sentenced to 12 years imprisonment on an amended 39 counts charge. Him alongside his company, Slok Nigeria Limited, and Director of Finance and Accounts at the Abia State Government House during Kalu’s tenure as governor, Udeh Udeogu, were accused by the EFCC of conspiring and diverting over N7.1 billion from the coffers of the state to the account of his personal company, Slok Nigeria Limited.
Apart from the N7.1 billion which he was accused of laundering, the ex-governor and the other defendants were also accused of receiving a total of N460 million allegedly stolen from the Abia State Government treasury between July and December 2002. While Udeogu was sentenced to three years imprisonment, Justice Mohammed Idris who delivered the sentence on the case that had lasted 12 years, further held that Kalu’s company, Slok Nigeria Limited, be wounded up and all assets forfeited to the federal government.
Execution of Aid Workers
An international Non Governmental Organisation (NGO), Action Against Hunger, had its six workers abducted and five of them executed.
The trio of Hauwa Mohammed Liman, Alice Loksha and Saifura Ahmed Khorsa, all women, were abducted by the terrorists on March 1, this year and the duo of Khorsa and Liman, have been executed.
While Liman and Khorsa worked in a hospital supported by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), Loksha, was a nurse who worked in a centre supported by UNICEF.
Allocation of Funds for Security
In 2018, President Muhammadu Buhari, presented to the federal legislators a 2019 budget of N8.83 trillion with allocations to the defence and security sector taking larger chunk of the estimated expenditure.
The 2019 budget estimate was N300 billion lower than the N9.1 billion being implemented for the current fiscal year but the combined allocation for the National Security was over a trillion naira.
The Ministry of Defence got N435.62 billion, but the combined expenditure for ministries of Interior and Defence was at N1,031.31 trillion.
The significant sectoral budgetary allocation to defence and security mirrors the fact that the country was currently plagued with diverse security challenges with an ongoing military operations in 34 of 36 states in the country.
On Saturday April 7, 2019, two female bombers detonated their explosives among a crowd in Muna Dalti on the outskirts of Borno state capital Maiduguri, the birthplace of the Boko Haram jihadist group. They killed three people and seriously injured 33 others. Two members of the Civilian Joint Task Force militia and a civilian were killed.
On August 6, 2019, two female suicide bombers killed three civilians and wounded eight in a suspected Boko Haram attack in northeast Nigeria, emergency services said Wednesday.
In June, 2019, no fewer than 30 people were reported to have been killed when three people blew themselves up on a Sunday night at a busy market in Borno.
Buoyed by their desire to inflict pain, on May 5, the Boko Haram terrorists attacked Gamburu after they had already attacked the twin towns of Gamboru and Ngala in Borno State and killed as high as 336.
Still in May, Menari, Tsangayari and Garawa villages were attacked and they killed about 60 people in Menari. Also in June 1, the sect dressed as soldiers slaughtered at least 200 civilians in three communities in Gwoza.
According to Wikipedia, the sect between May 29 and June 5 had in six attacks, killed 506 civilians, five military men, while they abducted 20 women and three men.
Again between June 6 to June 19, in six attacks, they killed 49 civilians, six military men, while between June 20 to June 26, the sect in four attacks killed 93 civilians and abducted 60.
Between June 27 to July 2, in two attacks, 112 were killed and between July 4 to July 10, the sect in four attacks killed 11 civilians, one vigilante, 33 soldiers and four policemen.
Again, between July 11 to July 17, in four attacks, 81 civilians were killed, a German teacher kidnapped and two vigilantes killed and also between July 25 to July 27, the sect in two attacks kidnapped the wife of the Vice Prime Minister, Amadou Ali, as well as Cameroun’s religious leader and mayor, Seini Boukar-Lamine.
In August, they killed 28 civilians and kidnapped 97 men in one fell swop. By October, they were yet to relent. On the 29th, they killed so many people in Mubi.
On the third of December Boko Haram abducted 20 women, mostly young girls, during an attack on Lassa in Borno State and on December 4, they raided Bajoga, in Gombe State and stole vehicles and motorbikes. Again on December 10, they raided Gajigana, north of Borno State and at least 14 people.
Incessant Prison Breaks
It was certainly a season of jailbreaks this year. It came in their numbers, with serious implication for national security.
The October 2019 General Elections which built up since 2018, was one marred by several electoral violence. According to the Nigerian Civil Society Situation Room (NCSSR), an estimated 626 persons were killed across Nigeria in the six months between the start of the election campaign in October 2018, and and the commencement of the general and last of the supplementary elections.
According to the report, the North-west region recorded the highest number of deaths with 172 killed during the elections, while the North-east followed with 146 fatalities. South-south and North-central had 120 and 111 fatalities respectively. As 63 person were killed in the South-west, and 14 were killed in the South-east respectively.
Compared to the casualty figure, it was widely reported that only a few of the perpetrators of the violence were arrested by security agencies who seemed overwhelmed. Aside from killings that occurred during the polls, there were also many incidents of ballot box snatching, assaults, abductions, and harassment. These further raised the question of the effectiveness of our security agencies especially before, during and after the electioneering.
Undoubtedly, the criminal elements have not always had the upper hand. The military recorded some laudable successes this year in the war against insecurity. Although the successes, which are too numerous to mention are no doubt laudable, given the huge sacrifices the soldiers make, the gains must be sustained if it should have any meaningful impact on the war against terror.