PORTRAIT OF A NATION BESIEGED

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The epidemic of violence calls for a review of the nation’s security system and legitimisation of state police

In the past week, bandits have killed many dozens in Zamfara, raiding several villages in a state that is now almost in the hands of criminal gangs. But more disturbing is that at about the same time that these hoodlums are bombarding the Northwest with series of audacious attacks, the Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) insurgents are upping the ante in the Northeast where they raided during the week a research institute of the Nigerian Army University named after and located in the village of the former Army Chief, Yusuf Tukur Buratai in Borno State. They ransacked the campus, killed some security men, recorded their atrocities, and posted it on social media. Meanwhile, Nasarawa and Niger States in the Northcentral are also increasingly coming under the grips of bandits who kill and maim innocent villagers at will.

Sadly, at a period most Nigerians are losing faith in the capacity of the state to restore law and order, President Muhammadu Buhari seems to have surrendered to fatalism. He told the visiting head of the Tijjaniyya Islamic Movement World-Wide, Ali Bin Arabi, on Friday that what the situation required is prayers. “We have done our best and we will continue to do more by pursuing coherent and consistent policies to deal with terrorism. I hope God will listen to our prayers.” Yet, the unrelenting assaults by sundry cartels of criminals that have awakened the primordial consciousness of several people in different regions of the country requires more than prayers. We need concrete action from the president.

We have stated on this page on several occasions that the policy put in place to defeat both the insurgency that has lasted more than a decade and the growing capacity of bandits has become ineffective. In the past year, these criminal groups have executed successful attacks, and in the process killed hundreds of civilians as well as military and security personnel. It is disturbing that 50 years after the civil war ended, our national political order has reverted to the pre-1966 atmosphere of geo-ethnic solidarity at the expense of a sense of pan-Nigerian unity.

However, the new trend also underlines the limitation of federally controlled police in securing a large and complex national space. The long-standing clamour for state police is finding indirect expression in the outbreak and grassroots popularity of some zonal security formations. Although the president has dismissed the clamour for state police, but his premise is tenuous. That governors lord themselves over local government is not enough justification even when there is merit in his submission that “You cannot just give someone guns and ammunition, train him and refuse to pay him, you know what will eventually happen.”

While the Nigeria Police Force is constitutionally charged with the responsibility for internal security, the country has had to resort to the deployment of soldiers to restore law and order in majority of the states. Therefore, it ought to concern the authorities that confidence in the security agencies is declining at a time when public confidence is rapidly shifting to sectional and regional security arrangements.

The immediate impulse that informed the birth of these outfits was the spate of killings, kidnappings, robberies and brigandage waged in the states by roving criminals. These unrelenting assaults had awakened the collective consciousness of the people of the region to a primordial sense of group self-preservation.

The urgent imperative is for the president to realise that a government that cannot guarantee the security of life and property for citizens and residents in a country has failed.

The spate of violence across the country has prompted several critical stakeholders to call for an urgent review of the national security architecture. In the challenging times that we are in, all options should be on the table, especially as the nation quivers under threats of unknown colouration, with sundry mischief makers prancing forward to contribute whatever they can for reasons of their own. When a government cannot guarantee the security of life and property for citizens and residents in a country, anarchy beckons.