Troubling Questions on Nigeria’s Insecurity Crisis

The Advocate By Onikepo Braithwaite

The Advocate By Onikepo Braithwaite

The Advocate

By Onikepo Braithwaite

When bad things happen in a suspicious manner, Yorubas usually use the idiom, “Ejo lòwò ninu”, which literally means, “The snake has hands inside” – metaphorically – Someone is behind it (that is, someone is behind the suspicious incident). And, when fingers are pointed at a particular suspect, Yorubas say, “Ajè ke lana; Òmò ku leni; tani o mò pe ajè ana lo pa òmò jè!” – “A witch cried yesterday; a child died today; who doesn’t know that it was the witch of yesterday that killed the child and ate!”. 


And, while I do not have a particular name for the suspects who are behind the rising insecurity, killing and kidnapping in the country, apart from those suspects who have been arrested, we know that there are miscreants amongst the Politicians, traditional rulers too (like an Igwe in Enugu State who was arrested alongside his wife, son and some others for kidnapping), and members of society whom the public imagines are assisting the Government in the fight against terrorism, but may be doing quite the opposite, like the aide of Dr Ahmad Gumi, Mr Tukur Mamu, who assisted in negotiating the release of abductees in the Abuja/Kaduna train kidnapping in 2022, but was subsequently arrested and arraigned in March 2023, on a 10 count charge bordering on terrorism. 

Some members of the law enforcement agencies, particularly the Police and the Army, are also part of criminal groups/gangs. Nigerians will never forget Chief Superintendent of Police, George Iyamu, who was executed by firing squad on March 29, 1987, alongside the famous Lawrence Anini armed robbery gang that terrorised the old Bendel State in the 1980s. Iyamu supplied the gang with weapons, and protected them. 

How were two foreign abductees, British Chris McManus and Italian Franco Lamolinara killed in Sokoto during a botched rescue attempt in March 2012, after spending 10 months in captivity? It appears that some moles in the Nigerian security agencies, compromised the rescue operation by leaking its details to the terrorists. By the time the UK and Nigeria joint rescue team got to the location where the captives were being held, the terrorists opened fire on them, the captives were murdered and the rescue operation failed. 

It is particularly frightening, that some members of the agencies who have the constitutional mandate to protect Nigerians – see Sections 14(2)(b), 214 & 217 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended in 2023)(the Constitution), Section 4 of the Police Act 2020 & Section 1 of the Armed Forces Act 2004, are part of criminal gangs responsible for the dastardly acts being perpetrated against Nigerians and foreigners alike.  

Escalation of Insecurity 

Even the non-discerning and blind in Nigeria can see that violence and insecurity which seemed to have quietened down running up to the last general elections and to the end of 2023, have flared up once again, since the beginning of the year. The ‘wahala’ (Hausa and Yoruba word rooted in the Arabic word, ‘Wahla’, which means fright, terror) of banditry and terrorists in the North, appears to have escalated once again. 

Considering the fact that the primary purpose of government is the security and welfare of the people (see Section 14(2)(b) of the Constitution), Nigerians are wondering whether the Tinubu administration will continue to treat these vicious criminals like the Herdsmen with the kid gloves that the Buhari administration used, or whether they will take decisive action to vanquish them once and for all. In the interest of the majority of Nigerians, the response from any responsible, right-thinking government, must necessarily be the latter option. 

The Jonathan administration had called in foreign military contractors to assist in the fight against terrorism and insurgency. However, a few months after assuming office, President Buhari dismissed the military contractors, and it is no surprise that his administration recorded minimum success in this fight, seeing as all his administration had left to do the difficult job of fighting insecurity, was a somewhat compromised and overstretched Armed Forces and Police Force, the latter also pretty much showing a lack of concern. We recall how President Buhari conscripted the former IG, Ibrahim Kpotun Idris to Benue State after a series of Herdsmen attacks, and how the latter popped in there on a flying day trip, suffering no consequences whatsoever for his insubordination and nonchalance. On the contrary, he was rewarded for his failures with the enjoyment of official trips, as part as President Buhari’s entourage, while the country was on fire. 

Home Truths

At this point, it is imperative that some home truths are told, the first one being that, rather disappointingly, the Tinubu administration is partly a ‘Kakistocracy’, that is, a government that is populated with “the least suitable or competent people”, which is surprising for President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, GCFR (PBAT), since one of his trademarks is his supposed knack for sourcing the best talents available. If he is to succeed, decisions must be based on sound premises, not politics. Why can’t these official appointments be made the same way footballers are selected – only the best players are hand-picked, irrespective of their zones of origin, politics, religion and other irrelevancies, because the object is to win the games and be the reigning champions. This will also be a winning formula, for the game of governance!

For one, as far as the female Ministers are concerned they are mostly uninspiring,  except for a couple  of them. While the Humanitarian Minister is on suspension as a result of allegations of financial impropriety, the Minister of Women Affairs appears to be more concerned about celebrating her ‘darling husband’s’ birthday, instead of being preoccupied with the kidnapping of women, and recent killing of young University student, Nabeeha Al-Kadriyar; 13 year old Folashade Ariyo; Christiana Igba, nursing mother of a one month old baby, who had remained childless for 10 years until she had the baby; and her mother, Maria Agbo, who had come to rejoice with and look after her daughter and grandchild.  

In the Tinubu administration, how many members have the characteristics of  Dr Michael Okpara, 2nd Premier of Eastern Region (1959 – 1966), who commissioned 28 industries between 1961 and 1963, and never built a house for himself? Or late Sardauna of Sokoto, Sir Ahmadu Bello, KBE, Premier of the Northern Region (1954 -1966), remembered for his commitment to improving the standard of living of the people, establishment of secondary schools throughout the Northern Provinces, and the development of infrastructure and agriculture? Or Chief Obafemi Awolowo, GCFR, SAN, 1st Premier of Western Region (1952 – 1959), known for his integrity, also among the Founding Fathers of Independent Nigeria, committed to the development of infrastructure, agriculture  and industrialisation, the father of free education? 

Leadership of Key Security Agencies

Agreed, that PBAT was handed a poor deck of cards by the Buhari administration in most  things, including security. However, the scourge of kidnapping in Nigeria predated the Buhari administration, starting during the last half of President Obasanjo’s second term around 2006, while the Boko Haram terror group started their violence in earnest in 2009, after the Police’s extra-judicial killing of the leader of their sect, Mohammed Yusuf. The Herdsmen/Farmer clashes, also revved up in the early 2000s.

Since security is the topic for today, it is apposite for me to start by looking at the history of the leadership of the key agencies that are in charge of maintaining security in the country, also vis-à-vis the allegation of some Politicians that the North is being marginalised in favour of ‘Lagos Boys’. Normally, I shy away from this kind of pedestrian conversation, because I am detribalised; but, from time to time, it’s good to set record straight. 

Unfortunately, because what Nigeria has built over the years are strong men instead of strong institutions, the leadership of agencies cannot be ignored. If institutions were strong, it wouldn’t matter too much who was leading, as there would be laid down procedures and processes that must be followed therein. For instance, I would not be able to co-opt people from my town or Church or Mosque into the agency that I head, even if they do not qualify – in Nigeria this is the norm – if not, we wouldn’t have the head of one of our agencies barely literate!  Nor would we have members of security agencies, like some in the DSS, whom I understand were unable to speak English, let alone being literate when they were recruited; orders from above said they should be trained in their language, and  could learn English later, on the job! Pray tell, how do you fight a war using non-kinetic tools that involve technology, if your agents are illiterate? Yet, we wonder why Nigeria is as far away as possible, from the achievement of the majority of the goals set out in Chapter II of the Constitution, the Fundamental Objectives and Directive Principles of State Policy!

Lt Colonel Yakubu Gowon was the first Chief of Army Staff (COAS). Lt General Alani Akinrinade has been the only South West COAS out of 26, and he occupied the position for only six months. Lt General Taoreed Lagbaja who is presently the COAS, is only the second  South Westerner to hold this position, in almost 60 years of Nigerian COASs. Out of a total of 27 COASs, 20 have hailed from different Northern zones. 

Out of 22 IGs (Inspector General of Police), 12 have been from the different Northern zones, 4 from the South South, only 1 from the South East, while Kayode Egbetokun is the 5th IG from the South West. 

From when the SSS/DSS started as the NSO, there have been 12 Director Generals. Matthew Seiyefa from the South South, who was passed over for Lawal Daura was only in the position for a month, while 7 DGs hailed from the various Northern zones. Colonel Kayode Are is the only DG SSS from the South West. Every Nigerian National Security Adviser (NSA) apart from Colonel Kayode Are who held the position in an acting capacity for two weeks (September 18, 2010 – October 4, 2010) and General Andrew Azazi, the 8 others have all hailed from the various Northern zones. 

The Chief of Naval Staff (CNS) has been skewed to the Southern zones, since out of 20 Nigerians, 16 have been Southerners (7 South West) and only 4 Northerners. It could however be that, since the North is mostly landlocked, Northerners are not too attracted to the Navy. Presently, the CNS is from the South East. 

As for the Chief of Air Staff (CAS) – the leadership appears to have been more balanced in terms of North and South, in that, out of 20 Nigerians, there have been 9 from the North, 11 from the South, including 6 South Westerners. Presently, the CAS is from the North West. 

Today, the Chief of Defence Staff, Minister of Defence and Minister of State of Defence, NSA, DG SSS (DSS), DG, NIA, Minister of Police Affairs and Minister of State of Police Affairs are all from Northern zones. So, pray tell, where is the marginalisation of the North, when, to date, it appears that contrary to Section 1(2) of the Constitution, the security agencies that are responsible for ensuring that Government achieves its primary purpose, have always been and remain in the hands of the Northern zones? Under President Buhari, the IG, COAS, & CAS were also from the North. See Section 14(3) of the Constitution, on Federal Character. 

If this kind of breach has continued on such a protracted basis, what is the moral justification for those who are the key beneficiaries of these breaches, to denounce the movement of a couple of departments that had no business being moved to Abuja in the first place, back to Lagos to achieve maximum efficiency and save costs? 

While undoubtedly, the state of insecurity has its roots in bad governance, corruption, high rate of unemployment, lack of education, lack of infrastructure, poverty, and other societal ills, the underperformance of those responsible for providing security for the people, cannot be ignored. Nigerians hope to see a change for the better, seeing as we are closer to anarchy than peace.

Appropriate Answers to these Questions? 

If we love our country, what should be uppermost in the minds of all Nigerians, is how to solve the pervasive and persistent insecurity issues that are plaguing the country – the failure in the area of security is glaring. Which  international investors will want to come to a country that is unsafe, to sink their money? 

Where are the $500 million Tucano Jets that Nigeria purchased during the Buhari administration to fight insecurity, and what have they been doing? If they say that the Fulani Herdsmen that are attacking Nigerians are foreigners from neighbouring countries, why are the porous borders from where they gain access into Nigeria, still unsecured? Why are Nigerian Farmers still unable to go to their farms freely? Why can’t technology be deployed to aid raids into the forests that these criminals occupy, so they are annihilated? 

I have always maintained that the lack of progress in the fight against insecurity in Nigeria is not because our security agencies are incapable – far from it; but, it’s more about the fact that they lack equipment and their ranks have been infiltrated and compromised by moles, which will always be a hindrance to any progress. This is a serious issue, that requires addressing by security chiefs, and it is why I believe that some secret, foreign assistance is required. It is bizarre that Nasiru El Rufai, former Governor of Kaduna State, publicly stated that the Buhari administration was well aware of where these terrorists and bandits are, but have refused to take decisive action. Instead of doing the needful, Government denounced Mallam El Rufai as a talkative.

If some of these pertinent questions I have asked are answered with the appropriate actions, we will start to make some progress in the fight against insecurity. Of course, there are still so many other issues that need to be tackled – reforms in the process of recruitment of law enforcement agents, periodic training of even the higher ranks of officers, building of trust between the citizenry and law enforcement agencies, particularly the Police which the first point of contact of citizens with law enforcement. This will help with much-needed intelligence gathering. It’s unlikely that people will take information to law enforcement agents that they do not trust, or are not even sure that they are not criminals themselves! Perpetrators of these violent acts, must be held accountable for their criminality, and prosecuted to the fullest extent of law as a deterrent, instead of sewing ‘asò-èbi’ for them under the false pretext that they are repentant. 

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