The local councils deserve adequate attention and protection

The scope and intensity of the violence is worrying. Of all the 774 local government areas in the country, only 176 have not experienced serious security breaches, according to a leading indigenous intelligence outfit, Beacon Consulting. Between January and 7th December 2022, some 598 local governments were breached by non-state actors. A total of 5111 security incidents were recorded leading to the death of about 10,870 persons across the country, while 5,669 were kidnapped. These statistics are more troubling because the violence and breaches are being held up as major obstacles to the forthcoming election. 

Not surprisingly, local governments in Borno State, home to the more than a decade-long Boko Haram insurgency, are the most afflicted. Virtually all the 27 councils recorded serious security breaches with no fewer than 3,100 deaths and about 531 abductions during the period. In Zamfara State, where insecurity is a daily existential threat, security has been breached 215 times within 18 local councils leading to the death of 1,387 persons and the abduction of 685. Kaduna State which has been under siege recorded 317 breaches in 23 councils with at least 1,058 killed and another 1,402 kidnapped. Niger State which is bleeding due to violence has chalked a total of 209 incidents in 23 councils with 1,104 killed and 625 kidnapped. 

Even the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) with all its paraphernalia of power is not immune from the ravages of insecurity. Some 194 security breaches have been witnessed in all the six area councils, leading to the death of at least 69 persons. Indeed, the Abuja Municipal Area Council had 132 incidents with 26 individuals killed and 44 kidnapped during the period. States with relatively fewer violations are Ekiti State which recorded 57 incidents in 15 local councils with 23 abductions and eight deaths and Oyo, where 89 incidents were recorded with 43 killed. But why have local governments become centres of violence and carnage? Why is life in the countryside becoming increasingly dangerous, short, and brutish?  

Nigeria’s lowest tier of administration is the most deprived financially and in terms of administrative liberty. The councils act as mere appendages of the state governments, unable to perform their role of sustaining the rural-economy, human capital development, participatory governance, provision of infrastructure and empowerment of the rural people. Even though close to the people, they are prostrate, unable to provide amenities that will make the citizens enjoy the so-called dividends of democracy. A good majority of workers and qualified professionals at the local government levels have been made redundant. The rate of unemployment is astronomical. The few who are employed hardly get their emoluments on time, resulting in mass poverty. And poverty and unemployment contribute to frustration and anger which can result in many taking to crimes.  

The local government system is crucial in the development of rural areas. It can tackle the growing level of insecurity if allowed to function properly. With helpless and hopeless rural dwellers submitting to payment of taxes and levies just for their lives to be spared by non-state actors, the line between governance and anarchy becomes blurry. And as sundry criminal cartels mastermind destructions of lives and property in the rural parts of the country, the hope of victims in the government wanes.  

The way forward, therefore, is the prioritisation of the need for a wholesome review of the national security architecture to pave the way for the enlistment of competent hands in command positions. Above all, there is need to upgrade our security surveillance system to one that is more technology-enabled, capturing expansive territories 24/7, and initiating necessary action. Mobilisation to own communal security will be helped if the material benefits of citizenship become more obvious and demonstrable.  

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