Securing Nigeria Still Work in Progress

Kingsley Nwezeh

Though President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration is known to have procured more military equipment, including weapons and fighter jets than any other administration since the advent of democracy in 1999, the level of insecurity witnessed under the administration is frightening.

President Buhari, who rode to power with military pedigree, lived up to expectations as a former army general by empowering the military more than any other civilian administration before him.

But eight years down the line, it is still work in progress as the unending blood-letting and mass murder of innocent men, women and children has continued unabated.

It is expected that the incoming administration should maintain the same tempo in empowering the security agencies as Buhari-led government.

Despite all the efforts on training of armed forces and procuring weapons, every data show that more deaths were recorded in the eight years of Buhari than any other government in the country, except during the Nigerian civil war. This is more painful to many Nigerians because the country is not at war.

Statistics of killings released by an American think-tank, the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), which issues weekly data collated by its subsidiary, National Security Tracker in Nigeria, showed that at least 89,920 people were killed in Nigeria due to violent acts, within seven years of Buhari’s administration from May 2015 to May 2022.

Presently, there are on-going killings of hundreds of women and children in Benue and Plateau states by herdsmen.

Just a few days ago, security personnel and staff of the United States Consulate in Nigeria were killed in Anambra State by gunmen whose murderous activities in the South-east started during Buhari’s tenure.

An organisation dedicated to the tracking of violent incidents in the country, Nigeria Mourns, recently released its first quarter report of 2023, which showed that 1,230 people were killed in the country in the first quarter of 2023.

The report also said that 79 security personnel died within the period while 658 people were abducted across the country.

The report said banditry remained the most singular cause of violent deaths across the country with 29.27 per cent or 360 deaths while an existing threat is the rise in extra-judicial killings and herdsmen-related killings, which constitute about 10.08 per cent and 13.65 per cent, respectively with at least 124 and 168 deaths.

A further breakdown of the statistics showed that Boko Haram/ISWAP-related atrocities constituted 22.11 per cent or 272 deaths. It said political killings mostly due to the recent 2023 general election accounted for at least 7.72 per cent, or 95 deaths.

The group said the trend was an indication of an alarming increase in the activities of Boko Haram/ISWAP in recent times, and extra-judicial killings mostly perpetrated by security personnel and herdsmen activities by mostly Fulani herders.

The report further said secessionists’ violent campaign mostly in the South-eastern part of the country contributed 6.75 per cent representing at least 83 deaths while cult clashes took 4.96 per cent or 61 deaths.

It said isolated attacks, mob attacks, armed robbery, and communal clashes accounted for 5.45 per cent of the incidents, translating to 67 deaths.

On personnel losses in Nigeria’s security framework, it said in the first quarter of 2023, 6.42 per cent of all lives lost to violent killings were security personnel numbering at least 79 while the remaining 93.58 per cent of lives lost violently are those of civilians numbering at least 1,151 deaths.

It said data on the brazen killings of security operatives is further divided into para-military: Police, 54 constituting 68.35 per cent, NSCDC (at least 10 deaths), representing 12.66 per cent and military (at least 15 deaths), accounting for 18.99 per cent. With at least 54 lives lost, the number of policemen lost in the first quarter of 2023 constituted the highest losses among security operatives, it said.

Commenting on the number of killings recorded, an expert in counterterrorism, intelligence, and cybersecurity, Mr. Timothy Avele, charged the incoming administration of Bola Tinubu to take decisive measures to ensure the safety of Nigerians, particularly by addressing the main causes of criminality and insecurity in the country. He said if this is done, the level of crime would reduce significantly. 

“If the new government can tackle at least three of the four main causes of criminality and insecurity in Nigeria (extreme poverty, injustice, unemployment, corruption), then the crime rates will fall below 40 per cent,” he said.

Analysing the security situation in the country, Col. Hassan Stan-Labo (rtd.), said the outgoing government had failed woefully in terms of security, noting that on a scale of 100, he would score the government less than 20 per cent out of sheer magnanimity.

“It was a government that does not understand what democracy is all about, that power belongs to the people and not the government.

 “I am from Southern Kaduna, and when we talk of people who have suffered security-wise under this government, I know how it feels. The federal and state governments have become compromised and an accomplice in the ongoing affair. When you are carrying out a reasonable task, you do not allow sentiments to blur your senses of reasoning, be it ethnicity, religion and the fault lines in our country. This government has failed to use all the instruments of coercion at its disposal as the federal might to protect its citizens, he said.

A Certified Protective Officer, Frank Oshanugor, said President Muhammadu Buhari is not finishing strong in spite of what hypocrites in the corridors of power and their supporters would want us to believe.

“Agreed that the insurgency in the North-east has been checked to a great extent, it is still worrisome that up till now in the North and other parts of Nigeria, organised killings are still taking place. An example is the Benue massacre of last week where over 30 persons were killed by suspected herdsmen.

“Kidnapping for ransom, gunmen attacks, herdsmen’s unprovoked invasion and destruction of people’s farmlands, and the like, in parts of Nigeria are all indices of failure of the outgoing Buhari administration,” he said

Oshanugor advised the incoming administration to go the extra mile in addressing the root causes of insecurity, which the Buhari government failed to do.

Security consultant, Christopher Oji, in his view stated that the Buhari administration would be unfair in its assessment by saying it would be leaving the country better than it met it, security wise.

He noted that, for instance, the number of deaths recorded under this administration was three times more than the statistics during the previous administration while the number of security men killed also outnumbers those killed during the previous administration.

“Don’t forget that during the previous administration, terrorists were confined to the North and Sambisa forest in Maiduguri. But today, terrorists and bandits are all over the country. They now operate in the four geographical regions.

“Recently, they attacked Ondo State, killing many church worshipers. What can we say about the incessant train attacks? Terrorists and bandits have virtually taken over everywhere. During the previous administration, people could travel anywhere by road, but it is not possible now. When people are travelling these days, they hold their hearts in their hands. How many military formations and police stations were successfully attacked and arms and ammunition carted away by hoodlums? For fear of herdsmen, farmers have also abandoned their farms, causing food scarcity,” he said.

It is hoped that the next administration would prioritise security and value of human lives and contain the raging killing aimed at conquering indigenous Nigerians and taking over their lands by foreign herdsmen.

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