The latest report on fragile states is another wake-up call

Based on information at its disposal, the United Nations Department for Safety and Security (UNDSS) recently alerted Nigeria to a looming security danger. Boko Haram insurgents, according to the UN agency, was planning a complex and coordinated attacks on the nation’s critical infrastructure, essentially to weaken government’s efforts and distract military attention from the decade-long war in the Northeast. This is a threat that must be taken seriously, especially against the background of the latest report on Fragile States Index (FSI) which ranked Nigeria as the 14th most fragile state in the world. Compiled by the Fund for Peace (FFP), a Washington D.C.–based organisation, the FSI focuses on weak and failing states.

The 2019 report showed that Nigeria was just a point above its unenviable 13th position in 2017, indicating that not much progress had been made in the effort to remedy the political and socio-economic conditions that have been dragging the country down the slope. The assessment, which started 15 years ago, is an early warning system for analysing domestic threats that have the potential to escalate to major national crises with international outcome. Subsequently, development organisations in Europe and North America saw in the US 9/11 experience, the danger extremist tendencies in weak states could pose to stronger countries and the international community.

The FSI, therefore, is a predictive model for signposting trouble spots that the international community must keep in view for quick intervention in the event of outbreak of conflict. The latest report identified Nigeria as one of the states the international community must keep in view, having scored a relatively high figure which places it in the “alert” category, trailed only by countries with long-standing political and security woes like Central African Republic, Sudan, Afghanistan and the like. Individual FSI score is usually any number from zero to 10 that depicts the intensity of the pressure exerted by each of 12 social, economic and political indicators on conditions within each of the countries on the index. The lower a country’s total score, the more stable it is. Of the 178 countries assessed this year, 164 countries were more stable than Nigeria.

Nigeria has remained firmly rooted in the top 20 of the weakest states in the world. When the assessment started in 2005, the country was ranked 54, and the best so far. She had degenerated since then, sliding to 17th in 2007, 18th in 2008, 15th in 2009 and 14th between 2010 and 2012. And there is no disputing the fact that Nigeria merits her position. With the Boko Haram devastation of the North-east, wanton kidnapping and armed robbery, the rampage of violent herdsmen in most part the Middle-Belt as well as internecine ethnic strife in several parts of the country, Nigeria has fallen so badly short of the standards set for the various political indicators. It is very clear that the Nigerian state is losing the dominance of the machinery of violence to non-state actors.

To compound the problem, the prevailing economic downturn worsened by the Coronavirus pandemic has constrained the capacity of both the state and individuals, so much so that basic necessities of life, including food, medicare and shelter have gone far beyond the reach of the majority of Nigerians. The conflicts are widening and agitations are increasing by the day. What we need to debate now is how to apply the wedge and pull her back from the brink.

We urge introspection and ask the federal government to take the lead in instituting appropriate social policies that would engender a regime of justice, a major requirement for peace and security. The government could start with the restructuring process. It will resolve a lot of the pressures.