For over three full years, the menace of insecurity has literally seized the front pages of the nation’s newspapers, just as it has formed the fulcrum of many discourses. The more “technically defeated” we claim that the plague has been subjected to, the more we are hounded and pounded by the affliction. And for a while, it is almost appearing like an enigma. Not even the loud clamour for the eventual change in security architecture (over three months ago) has yet proved to be the elixir we need, neither does the appointment of a new Acting Inspector General of Police raise hope of a better policed Nigeria.
Indeed, the former Chief of Army Staff, Lt Gen Tukur Buratai had declared that we shall remain in the cesspool of insecurity for another 20 years. Maybe, he is right.
Those who think that the problem will go away as soon as President Buhari leaves office, in 2023, are in deep delusion. The problem will verily outlast the Buhari administration.
Yes, he inherited the problem, but it is clear that he has not been able to sufficiently and decisively deal with it. As a result, we have witnessed a mutation of the problem by way of other variants like Banditry, Kidnapping, armed robbery and other forms of violence.
It was seven clear years by last Wednesday that the Chibok Girls’ abduction took place. 112 girls have remained in captivity, even though the Buhari administration negotiated the release of a few, some years ago. But 112 girls remain unreleased, ditto Leah Shaibu of the Dapchi school abduction. Many times, we think, the Government has forgotten about the girls and simply moved on. The #BBOG campaigners have even gone wearied. They no longer talk about it.
Aside from the usual public speeches by Mr President and other top government functionaries to give us hope, there is nothing before us to reinforce our faith in the current situation.
I foresee a long night in this wilderness. I am no prophet of doom. It will be a major campaign issue when the race for 2023 begins. Yet, it will be hogwash.
It will be so because of some of the understated reasons and more.
* Small, under-equipped, ill-motivated Police Force
Perhaps, the foundation of the nation’s insecurity issue lies in the fact that Nigeria is completely under-policed. For a nation that has an estimated population of over 200 million to be policed by less than 50,000 policemen shows that we are indeed under-policed. That explains why in critical times of attack, too often, the police gets overwhelmed by the avalanche of the attackers. We saw vivid examples during the #EndSARS protests, the attack on Imo Police Command, and sundry other instances where the police, rather than being the bulwark rampart of defence, they become easy preys and vulnerable folks, leading to fatal ends, most times.
But beyond the sheer numerical insufficiency lies the poor treatment of the police force. It is a wonder they are even able to do the much they achieve. A visit to either a regular police station or a police barracks will leave anyone wondering how people who work or live in such environments are expected to function with maximum impact. They are patently dirty and unhealthy environments. Some policemen practically live and work in the small cubicles, (sometime of wooden construct), as they neither have official quarters nor can they afford to rent apartments outside the barracks. Policemen are hardly taken care of. They enjoy no motivation from anybody. No wonder the new IGP, Usman Baba, has started off with trying to see how the welfare and wellbeing of the Nigerian Police can be improved. The policemen virtually buy everything they need to do their work. Except the guns, perhaps. But even the guns and other arsenals in their armoury are mostly out-dated and weak and that is why the more sophisticated weaponry of their assailants often ram them into cowardice and acquiescence.
They buy their own uniforms, they buy their own boots and shoes, they even buy their own hand-cuffs with which they hand-cuff suspects. What’s more, they buy their own “statement sheets” with which suspects or complainants write their statements. They fuel and even repair the bedraggled patrol vans themselves. Yet, in all of these basics, nobody is even talking about regular training. Is it any wonder that policemen are often tempted to either compromise the course of justice or outrightly connive with suspects and criminals to undo the state?
But for the modus operandi of the Nigeria Police Force, policemen and women would have been going through strike actions as often as Nigerian doctors. They actually did a few years ago, and the leaders got sacked. In the prevailing circumstance, how do we expect to get the best from such depraved and disoriented police force? How can they knowingly lay down their lives in the defence of the citizenry, when they are not Jesus Christ, knowing that when they die, that is the end of the story. Not even their tiny entitlements would be given to their families without having to surrender more than half the value of the entitlement, as bribe, to even fellow policemen working in the offices! How can such policemen actually do the work?
Few years ago, when the Buhari administration talked about recruiting 10,000 policemen, it became an exercise nearly marred by politicians who recommended over 75 per cent of those who were hired, without strict adherence to cognate qualifications. It is trite to say we need far more personnel in the police force. I think one sure way of boosting this is by allowing the state police agitation to be actualized. With State Police, the various states will have more personnel, and the ratio of Policemen to the citizenry, will surely improve.
* Poor and irregular recruitment into the Security Agencies
Closely related to the above is the issue of irregular and poor recruitment of personnel into the various security organisations in Nigeria. Put together, the entire armada of the security agencies in Nigeria is less than 500,000. For a country battling insurgency, banditry, kidnapping and all kinds of violence in virtually all parts of the country, how does the paltry figure of 500,000 combat the platoons of criminals in every corner of the country?
How often are the various services recruit new personnel? How many do they recruit? Aside wages and salaries, what other major item takes the budget of the security agencies?
Imagine the controversies that have dogged the $1 billion arms deal to combat terrorists. Is it not feared to have got missing or mismanaged? How can funds provided for arms to combat crime and criminals end up in people’s bank accounts, soak-away pits or used to buy properties in Dubai? And we want insecurity to end?
Some people have argued that the state of unemployment in Nigeria has further fueled the malaise of insecurity. With the army of uneducated Alamajiri who are immediate raw materials to the Boko Haram/terrorism industry plus the array of unemployed graduates milling around the country, it is no surprise that there is a growing swathe of criminals in the land. Is it not said that the idle mind is the devil’s workshop? Those so skewed in the path of crime argue that it is better they die committing a crime that will grant them some livelihood than hunger killing them, adding, as they say in pidgin, “all die na die”!
The sophistication of the various shades of crime in society today bespeaks of an industry of educated but unemployed people. Is it not the IT knowledge, for instance, that is boosting the growth in cyber crimes? It is sad that educated youths who could put their IT skills to good and productive use are deploying the same skills in causing a ruckus in the cyber space, in what is infamously described as Yahoo-Yahoo business.
The more jobs the government helps to make available to the teeming youths, the faster there will be a drop in crime index in Nigeria.
Yes, the government may not have the capacity to employ everyone, but it has the responsibility to create the enabling environment that will provide jobs and other ancillary businesses that can engage quite a number of people. One of such basic enabling environment is stable electricity. It is a crying shame that right from the time of former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s first term, in Year 2000, Nigeria has been struggling with unstable electricity supply. Despite the unbundling of NEPA, privatisation of the industry, we are still in the woods as far as electricity supply is concerned, in spite of the humongous funds that have been expended by government on the matter. Are we jinxed?
One of the reasons why unemployment is growing and worsening is because there are no foreign investments. Many foreign companies that used to invest in Nigeria have literally turned their back on Nigeria. No thanks to the twin challenge of Insecurity and irregular electricity supply. In the President Obasanjo years, there used to be the Foreign Direct Investment Council whose duty it was to attract investors into Nigeria. I do not know what has become of the Council and what it has been able to do after Obasanjo left.
Apart from the challenge of insecurity and electricity, the trouble of doing business in Nigeria is another huge disincentive. The Federal Government had made much noise on the so-called Ease of Doing Business. It has remained mere radio slogan as the stress and aches associated with doing business in Nigeria has simply grown from bad to worse. When goods cannot be cleared from the ports for two or more weeks, there is no need for a prophet to announce that the situation is bad.
*Mortification of SMEs
The Small and Medium Scale Enterprises (SMEs) should be the nucleus of every economy, even in the developed countries. Apart from being a big boost to the GDP of the country, SMEs are major employers of labour. But when deliberately or inadvertently, government policies and their agents help to snuff life out of the SMEs through various harsh conditions like multiple taxation, harassment etc., the result is that the SMEs either perform below capacity or summarily just die. In more ways than one, the non-viability of SMEs help to populate the crime world and promote state of insecurity.
*Seeming Profitability of Crime
If engaging in the crime of kidnapping, for instance, can yield in one week, what a Director in the civil service cannot garner in ten years of service, then crime can be said to be profitable. When persons are kidnapped, huge sums are demanded as ransom. And that was how we had a Billionaire kidnapping kingpin, Evans, few years ago. They live large in the society, just as they are venerated and respected. They thus become “satanic mentors” to younger persons who see them as models, without reckoning that the end of such persons are usually bitter and dire. This is one of the reasons the governor of Kaduna State, Mallam Nasir El-Rufai has bluntly refused to negotiate with bandits who have been killing and kidnapping people in parts of the North west, including Kaduna State.
*6 million Illegal arms floating in the society
Two weeks ago, the former Head of State, Gen Abdulsalam Abubakar, shocked the nation when he announced that there are about six million illegal arms floating in the country. As a former Head of State, the claim cannot be dismissed with a wave of the hand. It is believed that he has his facts,
Six Million illegal arms in the hands of illegal arms-bearing persons. That’s great danger!
It is not surprising how the proliferation of arms have helped to raise the bar of insecurity in the country. Everywhere you turn, there are guns and guns. Matters are not helped by the fact that there are also local manufacturers of guns across the country.
But what appears a near mystery is how all these cache of arms manage to swim into the country even as security agencies like the immigration, Customs Service and Civil Defence units claim to be manning our evidently porous borders.
The Libyan crisis, plus the Sudan upheaval and the unrest in parts of DR Congo have helped to cause a free floatation of arms in the sub-region.
How will government successfully mop up these arms from the society? The fewer the illegal arms in circulation, the more secured society would be.
Lack of or Poor IT-assisted Technology
The things that trouble developing nations are a legion. The absence of modern technological gadgets or equipment that have helped to keep crime at bay in advanced countries are yet haranguing us as a nation. The absence of CCTV, for instance, have helped to mystify many crime scenarios. More than ten years after, we do not know what has happened to the Abuja CCTV project, which was meant to keep track of crime in the FCT. Even if we have videographic evidences, we do not have a single forensic laboratory in the country to process such evidences.
Not even in Lagos do we have CCTV in major public places, let alone on the streets. How will criminals not strike and eternally vanish?
Imagine how we have been struggling with basic national data from the time of late Sunday Afolabi as Internal Affairs minister, under former President Obasanjo!. Till today, we are still nibbling with our National Identification Number (NIN). Is that not why kidnappers can have over 200 SIM cards with which they call families of their captives for ransom? And nobody can trace or track them.
All said, the nation is heading to the precipice with this insecurity menace. With Shege kafasa, in the north, Amotekun in the South West, Ebube-Agu in the South East and Egbesu or MEND in the Niger Delta, all is clearly not well with the Nigerian state. That is why President Buhari should , beyond jaded rhetoric, rise up and pull back Nigeria from the brinks. The time to recover Nigeria is now.