Prophetic as it may seem, one wonders what Karl Maier, the author of This House Has Fallen: Nigeria in Crisis, would have written about Nigeria today. That book was published July 13, 2000. Twenty-two years after, the book is hitting us real, with oracular certitude. Yes, out of sheer patriotic spirit, we had rejected that our house (country) had not fallen and cursed Maier as a prophet of doom. Looking back today, who was right?
It is pretty hard believing that Nigeria is at this sorry point in her history. Ten or twenty years ago, nobody would have envisaged that what we are seeing in Nigeria today will happen. But those who are far more discerning will not be exactly surprised. The signs that we shall get to this point and even get to a worse low as a nation, have been there. From every direction, it is clear that Things are falling apart, the centre is failing to hold.
The battles we ignored today are the wars that will plague us tomorrow. And that is where we are today.
In this piece, I shall look at some of the issues that have knocked us down as a nation. The list is by no means exhaustive.
This is probably the most lethal fear that has gripped everybody in Nigeria. Nobody feels sufficiently ensconced and shielded from the blight of insecurity that has befallen us as a nation. Truly, right now, as Asa, the iconic artiste sang, “there is fire on the mountain, and no one seems to be on the run”, essentially because no direction is free and safe.
One of the major reasons President Muhammadu Buhari won the election in 2015 was in the great belief that he has the answer to the issue of security which was at its infant age at the time. Many Nigerians, including this writer, believed that former President Goodluck Jonathan, was nibbling with the issue and did not know what to do. Buhari came forth as a no-nonsense army general who would deploy special military tactics and strategy to crush the baby monster called Boko Haram, at the time. Over seven years after, we can give the verdict that he came, he saw, and he was overwhelmed. Today, we have simply found ourselves in a deeper mess in matters of security. President Buhari inherited just the menace of Boko Haram. on his watch, there has been a fertile mutation and today, we have not just Boko Haram, but also Islamic State of West African Province (ISWAP), Bandits, Ansaru etc., all unleashing raw terror on Nigerians.
Perhaps, what is even more troubling is that our President and his crew do not know what else to do to secure Nigeria and Nigerians. The more the security council meets, the deadlier the next attack gets. And we are forced to ask what they really discuss in those security council meetings. Each time they claim that they cannot disclose the strategies discussed or to be deployed to combat the scourge. Yes, they may keep their strategies secret and coded, but hey, what has been the result of their coded strategies so far? Nearly a month after the Kuje jailbreak, none of the attackers has been arrested. The latest revelation that the DSS filed 44 security intelligence reports before the attack on the Kuje Prison and nothing was done seems to confirm that there are high-placed saboteurs in government who are thwarting efforts to curb the security menace. So, who received those intelligence and refused to act on them? How can it be explained that Kuje prison, of all prisons, does not have CCTV cameras?
Early this week, the chickens started coming home to roost, with the attack, in Bwari Abuja, of the elite corps– Brigade of Guards, who were ambushed by terrorists. Three soldiers of the corps were killed. Already, all federal Government colleges and most schools in Abuja yet taking the NECO exam have hurriedly shut down and the examination season disrupted.
But ironically, Mr President, on the same day, flew out to Liberia to go deliver a lecture on “Security and Prosperity”, while the seat of his government is being assailed by ragtag terrorists.
That was the same way he flew to Senegal on the day the Kuje correctional facility was attacked and over 800 inmates freed. Such mindless trips in the face of great danger and threat suggest that Mr President is indifferent to the imminent collapse of his administration.
Few days before that attack, the terrorists while flogging and torturing the Kaduna rail abductees, had threatened to Kidnap President Buhari and Kaduna State governor, Nasir el-Rufai. How daring they can be, even if it is not a likely possibility.
Earlier in the month, the advance team of Mr President’s convoy was attacked in Katsina State, with two soldiers killed.
That same day, (July 5,2022) the Kuje correctional centre was attacked and over 800 inmates including Boko Haram terrorists in custody, were freed.
Ironically, the knaves could attack a government facility and free their colleagues, take them back to the forest to unleash more terror on Nigerians, but the government cannot attack the hideout of the train abductees to free innocent passengers held hostage for four full months now.
Are they more organised than the national security apparatchik?
Nobody who watches the recently-released BBC documentary on “The Bandit Warlords of Zamfara”, will not believe Nigeria is heading to what Afghanistan is.
By last Monday, another set of three abductees were freed, and another on Wednesday. Like the ones freed earlier, each abductee had to pay N100 million to get released. Yes, N100 million per person! Thirty-nine more persons are being held hostage and tortured on a daily basis.
A certain Sheikh Abubakar Gumi, has been the go-between for the bandits. He knows where they are. He negotiates with them. He brings feedback from them. Yet, the Nigerian government is not able to use the Gumi to crack into the hideout of these criminals. I barely can understand this. How come Gumi is able to reach the bandits all the time, but no security operative is able to use Gumi to get to the bandits? What else is called accessory to crime? Few days ago, Gumi’s media aide, Tukur Mamu was on television, giving finite details of the operational modus of the bandits, while ruling out the use of military force to free the train passengers held captive.
Beside the fog around why Gumi is spared, I also worry about how the bandits are able to communicate with the families of the captives regularly, yet the Nigerian government is not able to deploy technology offered by the NIN facility to track and trace the location of the bandits. It is all so befuddling. What was the hoopla about NIN if it cannot be used to trace the owners of the phones and their location? Even before NIN became a means of tracking owners of phone lines, the various telecoms companies had devices for tracing numbers, especially with the assistance of IMEI.
Many believe that those in government are aware of who the bandits are and are just not keen on hunting them out. Former President Jonathan had once declared that he knew the Boko Haram members in his government. Yet, he never named them before he lost power. The present Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami had also once claimed that the government has the list of the sponsors of terrorism in Nigeria. But more than three years after, he has not released the list. Even the few the soldiers could arrest and detained in prison have all been freed by bandits. These foggy cover-ups have reinforced the belief in many quarters that there are powerful forces behind the terrorism plaguing Nigeria and Nigerians. Were it not so, how can it be explained that ever since President Buhari had given the orders that any unauthorised person caught with AK47 should be shot, not one such person has been killed in the country?
The other puzzle is how is it that bandits who live in the forest, are asking and receiving cash of millions of Naira? Where do they keep such monies? Can we imagine the heap of N500 million cash, for instance? Where do they spend them? How come the bandits are never ever caught at the point of collecting such huge cash?
No doubt, many of such cash are used in procuring more and more arms. And the question is how do they get such arms? How are they able to ferry such sophisticated arms and ammunition across porously-manned borders without being caught? Is it really true that helicopters help in conveying such arms even into the forests?
There is no doubt that the quiet and acquiescence of present and past government officials like the former Minister of Defence, Brig.-Gen. Mansur Dan-Ali (rtd) who had once argued that the Fulani herdsmen had become violent because “traditional grazing routes had been blocked by Benue farmers”. Such lousy and vexatious talks have unwittingly valourised the killer herdsmen, and today, neither the rich nor the poor can sleep again with both eyes closed. If Abuja is now under siege, it means that nowhere is safe anymore in Nigeria. It is perhaps in realization of the fact that they are all helmed in, that the Senators, last Wednesday gave Mr President a six-week sit-up ultimatum or get impeached.
And lest I forget, where is the much-talked about NIGCOMSAT frequency band by which the government is able to visualize from space which the federal government launched with so much fanfare few years ago?
Simply put, the border posts are like compound gates. They check those who enter and exit the country/ compound. The men and women of the Nigerian Immigration Service (NIS) are trained to man the borders. Yes, there are several illegal routes (often bush paths) that circumvent the official borders. So while the Nigerian state spends huge sums every year servicing the manning of the borders, we yet see an inpouring of illegal immigrants into Nigeria, some officially and others unofficially. Few years ago, the Buhari administration announced a policy of visa-on-arrival from many African countries, especially Fulani-dominated countries. Right from that time, the towns and cities of Nigeria have been flooded with foreign nationals from Niger, Mali, Chad, Gambia, etc. Many of the Okada riders who have become an affliction in our towns and cities, including some of the bandits, are not from Nigeria. They barely can even understand our pidgin English. They are characteristically wild, tempestuous and violent. Many of them go around with the swag of miniature conquistadors. Not only do they seem to have come to stay, they even boast that they are Fulani, the rightful owners of the land.
The billion-dollar question is: where are the Immigration Officers? How did these strangers besiege our land with violence and death? No doubt, border posts are like cash dumps because of the heavy illicit deals they organize and execute. Little wonder Customs officers and NIS officials lobby fat to be posted there.
The same heavily-manned-but-porous borders are where the smugglers of petroleum products pass through to neighbouring countries. The reason why Nigeria is spending ungodly sums in subsidizing petroleum products consumed even in other countries. Does President Buhari not know this? What has he done about it?
· REFINERIES AND OIL SALES
Many of us must be regretting badly how we got carried away by the belief that President Buhari was packed-full of action. That he was coming with a long cane to whip those who have held Nigeria down out of the way and clear it for a new dawn. As an army General, we thought the fire of the 1983/84 verve was still burning in him. How mistaken we were! Long before now, we have realized that the fire had long gone out of him and the hearth is really cold.
Nigeria has four refineries: Kaduna, Warri, Port Harcourt, and Eleme. If fully operational, Nigeria should have no business importing refined petroleum products. But here we are, spending all our resources and more in subsidizing just petrol in Nigeria. I can’t explain the deep anger that followed the announcement by the Finance minister, Zainab Ahmed that Nigeria spends N1.243 trillion monthly on petrol subsidy. So calculate that for one year and you get N14.916 trillion to subsidise just petrol in one single year. How much is the total budget of the country for one year? And how much does building a brand new refinery cost? Dangote just completed his refinery. How much did he spend? How is it convenient for government to spend that humongous sum to support importation of petrol but lacks the wisdom to build a new refinery? What is worse? Every year, huge sums of the nation’s resources are budgeted for Turn Around Maintenance (TAM) of the refineries that produce nothing from year to year. In March of 2021, the Federal Government approved $1.5 billion (over N600 billion) for the repair of Port Harcourt refinery alone. And the completion date was cleverly put after this government would have handed over.
The Russian-Ukraine war has undoubtedly raised the price of petroleum products across the globe. Under normal clime, it is a season for Nigeria to “hammer” (as the street boys put it), but instead of hitting jackpot, we are in tears, struggling to borrow to subsidise importation of what we have in abundance at home. As the dog will say, those who have buttocks do not know how to use it to sit.
Yet, the staff who work in these moribund refineries earn the fattest salaries in Nigeria. I cannot understand the economic foolishness that drives the Nigerian state. The irony gets even more smelly knowing that Mr President himself is the substantive Petroleum minister. We doubt if he really knows what goes on there.
If the oil industry (NNPC) was owned by an individual, would it continue to exist in the face of this raw and unbridled pillaging? That is why many people are not hopeful that the recent privatisation of the NNPC would actually translate to growing the Nigerian economy.
Today, we do not know for sure how many litres of petrol we consume in the country, neither do we assuredly know how many litres we export. We are all at the mercy of the cartel that is in charge. We deal with the whimsical figures NNPC gives us. Nothing is scientific. So, over a quarter of what we hugely subsidised get smuggled to neighbouring countries. A typical case of monkey dey work, baboon dey chop.