Continued from yesterday

It will take political will and deployment of more resources to turn the tide

All over the country today, major highways have become unsafe as robbers and kidnapping gangs terrorise road travellers and take many hostages for ransom. In this regard, the Abuja-Kaduna highway in particular has recently become a nightmare for travellers. While military and police patrols and checkpoints have been mounted along this and other target routes, it is distressing to note that sometimes, the security personnel emplaced in these places are often outgunned by the marauding criminal gangs. The motivation and equipment levels of the security personnel we deploy to these dangerous assignments need to be immediately upgraded. In communication and deterrence gear, our security forces should be miles ahead of what is available to criminals and bandits.

Taken together, the diverse security challenges that face Nigeria today constitute a major obstacle to economic growth and the realisation of a truly democratic society. Most investors are becoming averse to the risk of investing in Nigeria on account of our pervasive insecurity. This has dimmed our chances of relieving the massive pressure of youth unemployment which contributes to criminality and restiveness in turn. Similarly, the fundamental freedom from danger and violence which inspires the concurrent freedom of movement of persons and the factors of production can only be guaranteed if the imminence of violent harm and even death are removed. No democracy can attain full realisation if citizens are trapped by the fear of harm and death in a Hobbesian hell.

The permanent resolution of the current epidemic of insecurity requires more than the garrisoning of the entire country through the deployment of more soldiers. While the involvement of the military in internal security operations can be excused as a stop-gap measure given the handicaps of the police, it should have an end. There needs to be a credible time- bound programme for the reduction of military presence in internal security assignments. Democracies are secured by the police as a civil force while the military’s assignment remains the heavy task of defending the nation’s space from adventurous outsiders and clearly dangerously armed enemy citizens. Whether or not we retain the present federal-controlled police structure or devolve into state and community policing cannot detract from the need to achieve a sensible police-to-population ratio.

There is of course a long-standing homeland security challenge. Most of our borders remain rather porous in some areas. Our identity management system is either non-existent or in disarray. Consequently, we hardly can make out who is a Nigerian citizen from the millions that throng our cities and villages. Beyond identity management, we need more effective border control and a more rigorous enforcement of immigration violations.

The holistic solution to the nation’s current internal security situation is first and foremost that of political will. President Muhammadu Buhari cannot take pride in the fact that under his watch, the nation has witnessed the worst insecurity in its entire history. This should not be his legacy. The situation requires the deployment of not just resources but the most modern expertise as well as the pragmatism for urgent and resolute solution. The impression that the president is either absent or indifferent as the nation writhes in the pain of insecurity is a most edifying credential for any leader.

What President Buhari must understand is that the frightening political consequences of the present insecurity are far too dire to contemplate. Loss of faith in the ability of the state to protect the lives and limbs of the citizenry is the logical harbinger of state dissolution. In a polity already riven with divisive rhetoric and ethno-religious fractiousness, pervasive insecurity can shorten the distance to anarchy and national unravelling.

The time to act is now!