Insecurity everywhere, Nowhere to run! This appears to be the plight of most Nigerians in the past few months, and there doesn’t seem to be any respite. The once serene Plateau State is now under siege, because of bandits and terrorists. Most worrisome is the fact that the nation’s Capital, Abuja, is not spared from the grip of kidnappers and bandits, and the situation appears to be getting worse. Reports reveal that, there are now daily kidnappings in Abuja and its environs. What is President Bola Tinubu’s plan, to safeguard the lives of Nigerians? Chief Aikhunegbe Anthony Malik, SAN; Jide Ojo; Emmanuel Onwubiko, Dr Sam Amadi and Adedapo Tunde-Olowu, SAN with available statistics, scrutinise Nigeria’s precarious security situation and proffer possible solutions
Plateau Killings: Metaphor of a Failed Nation
Chief Aikhunegbe Anthony Malik, SAN
Plateau State, a North Central State in Nigeria, a once serene, holiday destination of choice on the country’s plateau, has fast morphed into a sad metaphor of the most portent and significant indicator of the nation’s failure in the last two decades of its existence. Since the advent of the country’s present democracy in 1999, beginning from the year 2001, the generation of children born within the last two decades, and counting in Plateau State, can be excused if they define democracy in terms of periodic gory spectacles of widespread massacre and wanton destruction of property; sacking of entire communities in one fell swoop attack and forceful accommodation of army of occupation on their ancestral land. For all they care, the above are the dividends that democracy has offered them. And so, it has been for the people of Plateau State for a while now, save for the first two years of respite in 1999 and 2000. No subsequent years thereafter, went by without an annual, or sometimes, bi-annual, baptism of kiss of death from the marauding perpetrators comprising of ethnic militia drawn mainly from outside the State but accommodated by their co-travelers within, whose main motive, from the pattern of the attacks, has been to sack the communities and take over their lands.
Consistent with this gory pattern of periodic attacks, Plateau State again returned to the global news on the eve of the last Christmas celebration [in 2023], when over 150 persons were massacred across the many communities dotting the hilly and rocky terrain of the State, in such gruesome glee as to give an impression that the killing was a Christmas gift to the nation and people of Plateau State. In following the usual pattern of such killings in the past, it is intriguing that the presence of the nation’s security organisations comprising the Military, Police and men of the Civil Defence, did nothing to repel or prevent subsequent attacks.
Viewed from a distance, it does appear that these conflicts have their origin in religious differences, tensions between blocs of Muslim and Christian inhabitants. However, on a deeper reflection, one finds that politics—more precisely, political leadership, and ultimately, control of government patronage and resources—is the primary cause of many of these conflicts. When violence erupts in these circumstances, the genesis is usually the proclivity of one group to assert control of the apparatus of government over another group or groups, in a very heterogeneous and ethnically diverse part of Nigeria.
Regrettably, the etiology of the ineffective control system, aimed at reining in the perpetrators of the orgy of violence, is itself traceable to corruption and disloyalty to the institutional ideals of existing political and security structures, intended to provide effective solution to conflicts that may arise from competing demands for the nation’s resources. The result, therefore, is that such threats to stability are not dealt with until violence becomes a certainty. With every sense of responsibility, one can safely posit that we have on our hands a situation where the political class, nay the members of the security and intelligence community, have become the Fifth Columnists in the prosecution of their respective individual interests in virtually all the armed conflicts in Nigeria, including the Plateau State massacre.
Origin of Insecurity in Plateau State & Boko Haram
Uncannily, a calm reflection of the temporal origin of the state of insecurity in Plateau State reveals a coincidence with the emergence of the Islamic sectarian demagoguery in the North East as championed by Mohammed Yusuf, who christened the group at its inception in 2002, “Jama’atu Ahlus-Sunnah Lidda’Awati Wal Jihad” more popularly called “Boko Haram” translating loosely as “westernisation is a sacrilege’’. Upon the death of its founder, and subsequent succession to the leadership saddle by his deputy, Abubakar Shekau, Boko Haram transmuted from a mere Islamic advocacy group to a militant organisation, in fulfilling its avowal by the new leader to avenge the death of its founder in the hands of the Nigerian security organisations. According to “Counter-Terriosm Guide’’, a publication of the US National Counter-Terrorism Centre (NCTC), the rate of carnage from Boko Haram operation in Nigeria stands at over 50,000 victims.
‘The Premium Times’, a Nigerian online publication in its edition of 2nd of February, 2022, quoted the Governor of Borno State as assessing the value of properties destroyed in the Boko Haram saga at the time, at about $6.9 Billion Dollars! The Governor offered in specific details the following facts:
“The insurgents have destroyed about 5000 classrooms in Borno State and about 800 municipal buildings, including local government secretariats, prisons and traditional rulers’ buildings, among others. Furthermore, they destroyed about 713 energy distribution lines, and 1600 water sources”.
The above figures represent, only but the scale of destruction in Borno State. One can only but imagine the totality of the assessments in the values of destruction in all of the Northern States in Nigeria put together, where Boko Haram and its subsidiary criminal enterprises in banditry, armed robbery and kidnap for ransom, would sum up to!
The Ensuing Entrepreneurial Criminalities: Rise in Kidnap for Ransom in the FCT and Nationwide
It is not difficult to come to a conclusion, even if by logical parity, that weakness in the fight against corruption and disloyalty to the nation’s collective interest by leaders within the entire governance architecture in Nigeria does not only result in the inability to arrest and stem the tide of conflict situations. It also encourages the emergence of subsidiary criminalities in consequence. The activities of Boko Haram and its sister criminality of marauding banditry, being left without effective tackle from the government, have left crippling effects on its trail on the economic and social activities in many States in the North, particularly, agricultural enterprises, reputed to be the highest employer of labour in the region.
Effectively, therefore, surviving victims of these carnage and destructions readily fall back on survival instinct to escape the concomitant hardship from the activities of the principal terror agents, particularly as government appears to even reward, in the guise of rehabilitations and other ineffective incentivisation policies, the very criminal elements of insurgencies. Hence, the escalation in kidnap for ransom, in the FCT ,and the rise of similar ethnic militia and criminal groups in virtually every ethnic group in Nigeria, tapping from the pulse of the Government.
In the face of the existential threats to the corporate existence of Nigeria posed by our current security dilemma, niceties of rules of engagement in such asymmetrical warfare strategies adopted by the criminal elements and their sponsors hell-bent to either end the country or have the country exist on their own terms, is a luxury we can only ill-afford. Section 14(2) (b) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended) declares that, the security and welfare of the people shall be the primary purpose of government. In this declaration, the security and welfare of the people are conjunctively presented as a sole purpose. The Government fails, and ultimately, the nation, if this primary constitutional duty to the citizenry is allowed to slide.
Chief Aikhunegbe Anthony Malik, SAN, Constitutional Lawyer, Abuja
Insecurity: Nigerians as an Endangered Species
Section 14(2)(b) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria provides that, the security and welfare of the citizens shall be the primary purpose of government. In 2024, neither of these two are being enjoyed by Nigerians. Compatriots feel unsafe in their own country, and as for welfare, it’s a case of what legendary Afrobeat musician, Fela Anikulapo-Kuti call “Suffering and Smiling”. Once upon a time, armed robbery, kidnapping and other crimes were largely restricted to the urban centres, with many promising to run and hide in their villages from night marauders and criminals. Sadly, nowhere is safe any longer. The grassroots, I mean people in the communities, are facing so much unrest from criminal elements that they are now leaving their ancestral land in droves to seek refuge in towns and cities that have no succour for them.
Truth be told, Nigeria is fast sliding to what the great political philosopher, Thomas Hobbes described in his 1651 famous book titled ‘Leviathan’ where he said that in the state of nature, life is solitary, poor, nasty brutish and short. Most Nigerians feel endangered. We all live day-by-day. Just as ordinary citizens are not safe from the rampaging bloodsuckers, even the high and mighty are vulnerable. On Monday, January 29, 2024 dare-devil gunmen killed two traditional rulers in Ekiti State like chickens. The bandits killed the Onimojo of Imojo in the Oye Local Government Area, Oba Olatunde Olusola, and the Elesun of Esun Ekiti in the Ikole Local Government Area, Oba Babatunde Ogunsakin, while the Alara of Ara Ekiti, Oba Adebayo Fatoba in the Ikole Local Government Area, escaped.
Sources said the traditional rulers were returning from a function in Kogi State when their vehicles ran into the suspected kidnappers, who had laid an ambush on the road. On the same day, five pupils and four staff of Apostolic Faith Group of Schools, Emure Ekiti were kidnapped on their way from the school in another community – Eporo Ekiti.
Last week, civil society groups, under the aegis of the Civil Society Joint Action Group, said 17,469 Nigerians were abducted under the Muhammadu Buhari and Bola Tinubu administrations from 2019 to date. Speaking on behalfkk of the group, the Executive Director of the Civil Society Legislative and Advocacy Centre, Auwal Musa Rafsanjani, said insecurity had persisted over the last three administrations, with 24,816 Nigerians killed and 15,597 persons abducted in the last administration of President Buhari, between 2019 and 2023. Out of the total number of 17, 469 kidnapped from 2019 and to date, 90% of the cases were recorded under Buhari, while 10% have been recorded under Tinubu.
Recall that unknown gunmen on 2023 Christmas Eve attacked 25 communities in three local government areas of Plateau State, killing over 150 people and razing about 221 houses. The attacks, which affected Barkin Ladi, Bokkos and Mangu LGAs, led to the displacement of over 10,000 residents of the attacked communities. There have been several other attacks on the Plateau thereafter, with the most recent one being in some communities in Mangu Local Government. Similar attacks have been recorded, in Agatu Local Government of Benue State.
The Global Terrorism Index (GTI) is a comprehensive study analysing the impact of terrorism for 163 countries covering 99.7% of the world’s population. The GTI report is produced by the Institute for Economics & Peace (IEP) using data from Terrorism Tracker and other sources. The GTI report of 2022 ranked Nigeria eight with a score of 8.065. GTI is a composite measure made up of four indicators: incidents, fatalities, injuries and hostages. Nigeria’s position is very depressing!
Triggers of Insecurity
Research has shown that there are many triggers of insecurity ranging from Ungoverned spaces; Porous borders; Poverty; Unemployment; Ostentatious lifestyle and corrupt practices on the part of our leaders. There are swaths of land and communities, without any semblance of governance and security. Bandits have take over such spaces. There are over 1,400 illegal entry and exit routes from Nigeria, according to the Nigerian Immigration Services. Nothing has been done, with the much touted e-border surveillance project of the Federal Government. The porosity of our borders makes it possible for unhindered smuggling of small arms and light weapons, hard drugs and human trafficking. Unemployment in Nigeria is above 30%, while the poverty rate, even by official figures, is very high. Corruption and embezzlement of public funds, including that of resources meant to buy arms and ammunition have further compounded insecurity in Nigeria. News report has it that the $2.1 billion meant for procurement of weapons to fight insurgency under the administration of Dr Goodluck Jonathan, was mismanaged in what has become ‘Dasukigate’.
Impact of Terrorism and General Insecurity on Nigeria
The economy of Nigeria, has been most impacted negatively. Many highly skilled people have either died or suffered permanent disability, as a result of the widespread insecurity. Many have been displaced, and now depend on friends, family members and Government for their daily survival. These are people who previously had means of livelihood, and could cater for themselves. Many micro, small and medium enterprises have shut down. Indeed, many big companies are divesting from Nigeria and relocating elsewhere, where they could do business in relative peace and safety. The major business booming in Nigeria now is for those who sell security gadgets of all sorts, including bullet proof vehicles, doors and other accessories. These are things that, ordinary Nigerians cannot afford.
Hundreds of thousands of Nigerians are resigning from their plum jobs and voting with their feet, in what is called ‘Japa’ phenomenon. Socially, many Nigerians are now under self-imposed curfew. No more night life. Churches and even Mosques have had to cancel vigils, while many congregants are also afraid to attend worship services and programmes even during the day. Night life is almost gone, while those who organise social events or parties no longer do till-day-break, preferring to end their parties around 6pm so guests can be safely back to the comfort of their homes before nightfall.
Medically speaking, many Nigerians have a feeling of being under siege and are suffering panic attacks. Many are hypertensive and have developed stroke and heart attacks, due to too much fear. Medical facilities have also been target of attacks, and health and medical workers have been kidnapped either for ransom, or to serve as medical personnel for bandits in their dens or enclaves.
Federal Government and indeed, many State governments, have exponentially increased their security and defence budgets. In fact, Governors across board are collecting huge security votes, that leave many to wonder why this hasn’t translated to better security for the citizens. Many States are establishing vigilante groups, with the latest being Zamfara State. Last Wednesday, January 31, 2024, Governor Dauda Lawal of Zamfara State, inaugurated a 2,969-man State Community Protection Guard, to tackle the insecurity challenges affecting the State. Recall that in 2020, the six South West States, Lagos, Osun, Ogun, Ondo, Oyo and Ekiti States Houses of Assembly passed the South West Security Network (Amotekun) Bill into law. The Corps has been in operation since then, with modest success recorded in the fight against crimes and criminality.
The Inspector-General of Police (IGP), Kayode Egbetokun, on Wednesday, January 17, 2024 inaugurated a Special Intervention Squad (SIS) in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) to address the increasing rate of crime in the territory. Speaking at the inauguration ceremony in Abuja, Mr Egbetokun said the squad was made up of trained, well-equipped and highly mobile Police officers. According to him, the Squad possesses the capacity for rapid intervention and effective containment of significant security breaches, like those currently threatening the suburb of the FCT.
The Special Adviser to the President on Information and Strategy, Bayo Onanuga, on Saturday, January 13, 2024 revealed a plan by President Bola Tinubu towards the establishment of the Marine Police, Solid Mineral Police and better-trained forest guards. In a message he posted on X (formerly Twitter), Onanuga said Tinubu, at a meeting in Abuja on Friday, January 12 with APC Governors, revealed his plans to rejig Nigeria’s security architecture. Onanuga wrote, “He (Tinubu) mentioned three brand new Police formations, to augment the regular Police. He said the deployment of forest guards was being considered, with better training, modern technological gadgets and weapons to strengthen security”.
PDP Governors’ Request for State Police
Governors elected on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party, on Thursday, February 1, 2024 lamented the security challenges facing the country. They insisted that, for the nation to overcome the challenge, the present Police structure must be decentralised, to give way to the establishment of State Police across the country. The PDP Governors spoke in Jos, the Plateau State capital, when they visited the Plateau State Governor, Caleb Mutfwang at the Rayfield Government House. The visit follows the series of attacks and killings by gunmen in the State, which had reportedly claimed over 200 lives in the past month with properties worth millions of Naira destroyed in various communities of the State.
I am of the considered opinion that State Police is an idea whose time has come, and President Tinubu should not waste more time before sponsoring an Executive Bill for constitutional amendment to Sections 214 and 215 of the Constitution, in order to pave way for State Police. There is already State High Court, State Prison, State Road Traffic Management Agency. Much as the fear of abuse of State Police is genuine, the courts will be there for people to seek redress. Already, even the Federal Police is being abused. Security and Defence should therefore, be moved from the Exclusive Legislative list to Concurrent Legislative List, with each State to determine when to establish their own State Police.
The current insecurity challenge should also be fought with technological gadgets such as CCTV, drones, scanners, jammers, etc. Intelligence gathering should be prioritised with more security personnel recruited, properly trained and motivated. With the establishment of Police Equipment Trust Fund, Nigeria Police should be better resourced for optimum performance.
Jide Ojo, Development Consultant, Author and Public Affairs Analyst
As Terrorists Keep Striking Plateau and Other States
As I contemplated on the most laudable steps to take to do justice to this topic which is on the unprecedented scale of lawlessness and disregard for human lives in Nigeria by serial mass murderers made up essentially of armed non-State actors, a friend came visiting and our focus of debate was on the ongoing terrorist attacks targeting the Christian State of Plateau in the North Central region of Nigeria.
During the course of this enriching debate, my friend who is an agricultural expert introduced a dimension in the interpretation of why Plateau and Benue State and their rich agricultural communities, have consistently been bombarded by armed Fulani extremists and terrorists.
He said that a lot of these attacks which are geared towards uprooting the native communities and emptying the inhabitants of these many communities attacked into the internally displaced peoples camps, are sponsored by European businesses engaged in the production of genetically modified crops (GMO) who are carrying out a carefully choreographed war against Farmers to ensure that the scope of insecurity is such that wouldn’t let any kind of farming activities to take place, so the traders in GMO crops will seize the opportunity of the attendant food crises that will ensue from these massive attacks by armed non-State actors, to import into Nigeria cheap GMOs.
Well, I think this connection of terrorism and the attempt to flood Nigeria with GMOs ought to be thoroughly investigated, because Plateau and a few other States in the North are the major food producers that feed millions of Nigerians.
The Plateau State Governor, Caleb Mutfwang, recently reiterated his administration’s commitment to revamping the agricultural sector toward boosting the economy of the State. Mutfwang said this at the 37th Reunion Service of the Gindiri Old Students Association (GOSA), in Gindiri.
The Governor, a member of GOSA, acknowledged the critical role of the agricultural sector in revamping the State’s economy, and promised to adopt a multi-sectoral approach to resuscitate key agricultural programmes in the State. He promised to achieve the feat, through stronger and sustained partnerships with relevant institutions in the State.
The question that is on the lips of Nigerians is how the President, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, GCFR, has set out to confront and liquidate the thousands of well armed terrorists that have dominated the public spaces killing, maiming and destroying lives and property of Nigerians, without the military achieving any form of success in combating these notorious threats to national security.
This point adduced above is done with the correct mindset, and the historically accurate fact that our fatherland Nigeria is currently facing a severe surge in insecurity, marked by distinct forms of violence across various regions. Security conditions have deteriorated, with each region grappling with specific insecurities. In the South-East, alleged members of the Biafra agitation are implicated in attacks, killings, and an increase in kidnappings.
The South-South region is experiencing a rise in militant activities, and suspected kidnappings targeting oil workers. The North-Central region is marred by a Herder/Farmer crisis, leading to numerous casualties and displacements. Boko Haram persists in the North-East, while the North-West faces terrorist attacks by groups referred to as bandits, resulting in significant loss of life and displacement. The South-West has also not been spared, with the recent killings and kidnapping in Ekiti State.
This discourse aims to shed light on the senseless killings in Plateau State, the unprecedented kidnappings in Abuja, and the overall growing insecurity nationwide. The recurring patterns of attacks and the Government’s response, or lack thereof, demand urgent attention and a comprehensive strategy to address the multifaceted challenges facing the nation.
Plateau State: A Continuous Tragedy
Plateau State, situated in the Middle Belt, has been plagued by inter-communal violence, particularly between nomadic herders and indigenous farmers. The situation is exacerbated by climate change, and a rising population. Local reports indicate farmers organising self-defence vigilante groups, to counter attacks by herders.
The complexity of the issue is compounded by reprisal attacks, and a broader web of criminal activities. Armed gangs, known as bandits, raid villages, involving looting and kidnapping for ransom. Recent tensions escalated significantly with the killing of nearly 200 people, during Christmas raids on predominantly Christian villages.
The Christmas Eve attacks in Plateau State, where gunmen targeted over 20 villages, resulted in a death toll surpassing 190, highlighting inexcusable security lapses. Reports reveal a harrowing account of the gunmen’s rampage of killing and destruction lasting over 48 hours, traversing from one village to another. Beyond the initial onslaught in Bokkos local government area, the assailants infiltrated Barkin Ladi, claiming numerous lives in Hurum, Daruwat, Maiyanga, and NTV villages.
The recurring patterns of deadly attacks on Plateau State’s rural areas, underscore a stark reality that the Nigerian authorities have seemingly abandoned these communities to the mercy of marauding gunmen. The Nigerian authorities must thoroughly investigate these security lapses, that allowed the prolonged attacks. The failure to curb this tide of violence exacts a heavy toll on both lives and livelihoods, with the imminent risk of more lives being lost without immediate intervention.
President Bola Tinubu’s assurance to implement new measures addressing the escalating insecurity in the country faces scrutiny in the aftermath of the Plateau State attacks, as well as recent incidents in Benue, Zamfara, Sokoto, and Katsina State.
These events emphasise a concerning truth that, safeguarding lives and property does not appear to be a top priority for the Government. Mere condemnation through statements is insufficient; a genuine commitment to protecting the people must be demonstrated through the pursuit of justice.
The Nigerian authorities, bound by international human rights law, regional human rights treaties, and the country’s Constitution, are obligated to protect the human rights of all citizens without discrimination, encompassing the fundamental right to life. Hence, the authorities must prioritise justice, implement robust security measures, and fulfil their obligation to safeguard the fundamental human rights of every Nigerian, restoring faith in the nation’s governance and ensuring a secure future for its people.
Abuja: The Kidnap Epidemic
The Federal Capital Territory (FCT), once considered safe, is now grappling with an increasing wave of criminal activities, especially kidnappings. Since May 2023, over 87 residents have been killed, and 176 have been kidnapped, marking a concerning surge in insecurity. Beacon Consulting, a local security monitoring firm, and media reports, have provided these figures.
Recent violent attacks have alarmed both residents and authorities in the FCT, which was ranked 11th for frequent abductions in a 2020 SB Morgen report. The apparent unchallenged nature of these incidents by security agencies, allows criminal elements to operate with impunity.
These incidents are widespread across various areas in Abuja, including Gwagwalada, Kuje, Lugbe, Pegi, Abaji, Keti, and Kwali. The apparent unchallenged nature of these incidents by security agencies, allows criminal elements to operate with impunity.
Recent notable incidents include the January 5, 2024, abduction of seven persons, including six girls, in the Bwari Area Council. On January 18, the wife and in-law of Lawyer Cyril Adikwu, were abducted in the Kurudu area. Another abduction occurred on January 7, 2024, where armed men kidnapped 12 individuals from an estate in the Bwari area.
The once vibrant nightlife in Abuja has also witnessed a downturn, as residents fear engaging in late-night activities. The rise in security expenses further strains personal and corporate budgets, demanding urgent intervention from the Government.
The deteriorating security in Abuja has economic implications, with a reported 33% fall in revenues for businesses. SBM Intelligence highlighted a concerning economic impact, including a rise in rent, declining property values, and increased transportation fares. Abuja’s once-vibrant nightlife has also witnessed a downturn. The SBM report further showed that, about 283 individuals were abducted between 15 January 2023 and 15 January 2024.
As kidnappers and criminal cartels increasingly invade Abuja, the capital is becoming unsafe. The security situation within the FCT, is a reflection of broader security challenges in Nigeria. Securing Abuja necessitates a proactive approach, to confronting bandits and terrorists in other parts of the country.
The responsibility falls on the FCT Minister, Nyesom Wike, but, the problem extends beyond his jurisdiction. Ensuring the safety of Abuja residents, is contingent on achieving overall safety and security across Nigeria. A collaborative effort between the Federal Government and States, is imperative to address the escalating challenge of insecurity nationwide.
Amnesty International concluded its report last year: “The Nigerian authorities have left rural communities, at the mercy of rampaging gunmen”. In the North-East, Boko Haram insurgents continue their attacks, leading to hundreds of thousands of casualties and displacements. Despite counterterrorism efforts, the group remains a persistent threat.
The North-West is grappling with terrorist attacks by bandits, resulting in the death of hundreds and the displacement of millions. The Government’s response to these challenges must go beyond issuing statements and condemnations. Concrete actions are imperative to address the root causes, and ensure the safety of citizens.
International Response and Recommendations
The international community, including organisations like Amnesty International, and nations like the United States and France, have expressed concern over the deteriorating security situation in Nigeria. Calls for accountability, justice, and urgent intervention, highlight the global awareness of the gravity of the situation.
To address the ongoing insecurity, the Nigerian Government must take immediate and decisive actions. Proactive measures should include:
1. Comprehensive Security Reforms: The Government must initiate and implement comprehensive security reforms to address the root causes of insecurity, and strengthen law enforcement agencies.
2. Community Engagement: Establishing an ongoing dialogue with affected communities, is crucial for understanding their needs and concerns. Community involvement can contribute to effective solutions, and foster a sense of security.
3. International Collaboration: Collaborating with the international community for intelligence sharing, training, and resource mobilisation is essential in combating transnational threats like terrorism and kidnapping.
4. Accountability and Justice: Ensuring accountability for perpetrators of violence, is paramount. The Government must demonstrate its commitment to justice, bringing attackers to trial and dismantling the culture of impunity.
5. Economic Revitalisation: Implementing measures to revive the local economies affected by insecurity, especially in rural areas, is vital. This includes providing support for displaced individuals, farmers, and businesses.
6. Education and Awareness: Promoting education and awareness programmes to address the root causes of violence, dispel extremist ideologies, and foster unity among diverse communities.
The escalating insecurity in Nigeria demands urgent and resolute action from the Government. The senseless killings in Plateau State, the unprecedented kidnappings in Abuja, and the overall growing insecurity nationwide call for a collective effort from the Government, communities, and the international community. The time to address the root causes and implement effective solutions is now, to ensure the safety and well-being of all Nigerian citizens.
In conclusion, the severity of the security challenges facing Nigeria, requires a holistic approach that addresses the root causes, involves communities, and seeks international collaboration. The Government’s commitment to implementing reforms, ensuring accountability, and revitalising the economy is crucial for creating a secure and stable nation. It is a collective responsibility to act decisively, and prevent further loss of lives and livelihoods.
The current state of insecurity demands a national conversation on security priorities, resource allocation, and effective implementation of measures to protect the lives and future of the Nigerian people. As the nation stands at a critical juncture, decisive steps must be taken to restore security, rebuild trust in institutions, and foster a prosperous and stable Nigeria for generations to come.
Comrade Emmanuel Onwubiko, National Coordinator, Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria; Past National Commissioner, National Human Rights Commission of Nigeria
Insecurity, the State, and the Rule of Law
Dr Sam Amadi
Mr Peter Obi, Presidential candidate of the Labour Party at the 2023 Presidential election once drew flakes when he argued that rule of law affects economic development. Some people on twitter felt that the relationship between the rule of law and economic development was far-fetched. They are wrong. The rule of law or lack of it has significance for economic development. One channel of this implication is security. Absence of insecurity undermines the hard and soft infrastructure to grow the economy and sustain it.
Nigeria is trapped in a battle against criminals and terrorists who are bolstered by the country’s open lack of capacity to protect itself. Since January, conventional and social media JCAs been awash with reports of dare-devil killings and kidnaps of low and high-profile Nigerians by terrorists and bandits. It used to be that these attacks take place outside the fortress that is Abuja, the capital city and the President’s home. But, no more so. A few weeks ago, terrorists multitasking as kidnappers attacked estates in Abuja suburbs, and kidnapped scores of family members. At a particular estate, they took away six daughters of a family and demanded N500m ransom. When the family delayed in paying, they killed the eldest to signal their seriousness. The same gang attacked other estates, and took families as captives in forests. Some of these attacks occurred in military barracks a few metres from the Presidential villa.
For more than two weeks, there was no coherent and effective response from State security agencies. The President was holidaying in Paris in what was called ‘private visit’, when the attacks occurred. The Minister in charge of the Federal Capital Territory was dancing away at a campaign rally in Port Harcourt, where he is locked in a political battle over who controls the affairs of the State he recently stepped down as Governor after eight years in power.
Before the attack on Abuja, the seat of power, there has been high-level terrorist attacks against communities in Jos, the capital of Plateau State. in one of these attacks more than a hundred people, mostly children and women, were killed in the goriest manner. Some of the victims were beheaded, in the signature of Islamic terrorist groups like ISIL and Boko Haram. The killings were rightly tagged ‘genocide’, considering the intent and scale of murdering of innocent Christian children and women by invading Muslim groups. The President of Hungary called the attacks genocidal attacks, and asked the international community to take interest in the killing Christian communities in Plateau State. So far, there has been no high-profile arrest of the masterminds of these terrorists attacks on Nigerians communities.
It is important to note that, we have seen similar high-profile terror attacks in communities outside Plateau, in some State in the Benue Valley, and even down the grasslands of southern Nigeria. They raise concern about the effective guarantee of life and property in Nigeria and the validity of the constitutional proclamation of democratic citizenship as the highest norm of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. If lives of the citizens can be taken away in such wanton manner without the State working hard to arrest and prosecute culprits and to make sure it never happens again, what is the value of any constitutional guarantee of right to life of Nigerian citizens? Can Nigeria be a true republic if it allows some other citizens, or worst still, non-citizens, to wake up and take the life of other citizens?
Constitutional Structure of Security Management in Nigeria
Before we get to the structure for managing insecurity as laid in the Constitution, it is important to dimension the nature of insecurity in Nigeria. Insecurity in Nigeria, comes in four principal forms.
First, we have insecurity in the form of terrorism and other forms of subversion of State order, like we have in the Boko Haram and IPOB. Typically this sort of insecurity could be violent and criminal An example is the Boko Haram attacks Nigeria, in a bid to turn it into an Islamic caliphate. Another form of insecurity, is what now passes as banditry mostly in Northern Nigeria. This evidences the collapse of law and order. Bandits take over ungoverned or under-governed spaces. Such spaces are multiplying across Nigeria, due to increasing bad governance. The third form of insecurity, is basic criminality. Some types of kidnapping is opportunistic, especially as the socioeconomic realities are very bad for citizens we expect more criminality.
A different kind of insecurity relates to community conflicts, where communities are attacked on the basis of ethnic or religious disputes. Communal and ethnic violence, have been part of the history of Nigeria. In a sense, it is one of the features of the Nigerian State. As early as 1806, some territories of what later become Nigeria have been victims of the jihad, which in essence was an organised violence by Muslim jihadists against indigenous ethnic groups. Later, colonialism exerted another form of community violence. At the end, different communities were brought together in a violent form.
But, initial founding violence is not as troubling today, as the continued resort to violence to assert some primal right of ownership of any piece of the Nigerian real estate.
This essay is more concerned, with the fourth category of criminal violence in Nigeria. The attacks on a communities in Plateau State on the eve of Christmas, is typical of this sort of attacks. It is usually planned and executed with sophistication and effectiveness, that suggest that it is either enabled or abetted by State authority. The attacks happened repeatedly, even after due notification to Nigerian security agencies. Surviving members of the Bokkos community, accuse the Government of failure to protect them. They spoke of how Fulani Muslim gunmen continue to attack them unprovoked, and razing down communities. The leaders of the Middle Belt geopolitical group, put the intent as ethnic cleansing and a determination to wipe them off and take over their land. A Director with Amnesty International accused the Federal Government of doing nothing after each attack, apart from condoling the bereaved.
The spate of ethnically motivated violence against Nigerian communities and the inability of the government to protect, deter and prosecute the attacks go against Nigerian Government obligation under the Constitution and international law. It also dramatises the growing state incapacity, that ridicules Nigeria’s claim to leadership in Africa and the international community.
First, the constitutional premise of any constitutional order is the State’s control of violence in its territory. As Max Weber rightly points us, the defining mark of statehood is ‘monopoly of violence’. This monopoly has been constitutionalised in the form of the executive power of the Federation. Section 5 of the Constitution vests the ‘executive power of the Federation’ on the President, who shall exercise it to “the execution and maintenance of this Constitution”. In relation to security, the executive power confers the President with the office of the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces. This squarely puts the monopoly of force, on the shoulders of the President of the Republic.
The Constitution further institutionalises the monopoly of violence, in the form of the structure of law enforcement. It federalises policing power in order to centralise decision-making with regard to law enforcement, even as criminal justice is decentralised. The logic might be a recognition of the ethnic antagonisms of the Nigerian federation, and their tendency to weaken national cohesion if law enforcement is subjected to divergent social idiosyncrasies. The control of the structure of State violence makes the President responsible for constitutional use of violence anywhere in Nigeria. The Constitution further creates a normative structure, for the use of violence in Nigeria. The foremost in this regard are the fundamental human rights provisions of Chapter 4 and the Directive Principles of State Policy in Chapter II of the Constitution. These two cardinal provisions of the Constitution are reinforced by other provisions, notably the preamble and Section 1.
The guarantee of the right to life to all Nigerian citizens, is a commitment of the Nigerian State that violence would not be used to take anyone’s life without due process. This is the most fundamental of all rights, in a civil society. Without this right, as Thomas Hobbes, John Locke and several political theorists have argued, there is no State and no civil order. The reason we came together as citizens of a Republic and give ourselves a government, is that each of you will be protected in our life and property. Where this commitment is breached wantonly, the glue holding political community together unsticks and society falls apart. This is the reason the lack of effective protection of rule of law in the form of guarantee of life and property in a territory, is one sure sign of State failure.
The protector and guarantor of Chapter 4 rights, especially the right to life and the right to peaceful community life for Nigerian citizens, is the President who solely exercises executive power of policing and law enforcement. Invariably, when the President cannot fulfil this obligation because the State lacks the capacity, it means that the justification for State order has failed. State failure is not only a matter of empirical assessment of inability to control violence. It is also a legal reality, arising from the breach of fundamental norm of State order. This fundamental failure of constitutional order is a collapse order, because without a constitutional order, a State is, in the language of Saint Augustine, a band of robbers.
The normative and institutional structure of security management in Nigeria, has two important features. First and foremost, it is embedded in the constitutional norm of democratic citizenship. Nigeria is a democratic republic, for the reason that its citizens are guaranteed protection for their life and property from invasion by other citizens or foreigners. The constitutional norm is instrumentalised through the centralisation of the control of coercive force, in the Armed Forces and other paramilitary and policing agencies in Nigeria answering to the President as Commander-in-Chief and Chief Executive of the Federal Republic. As Commander-in-Chief and Chief Executive of the Federal Republic, the President has obligation to protect the life of Nigerians living in those communities.
Explanation of the Failure to Protect
Why do communities in the Middle Belt of Nigeria, continue to suffer incessant mass violence that often results in gruesome killings of hundreds of innocent citizens? Why is the constitutional guarantee of the right to life and peaceful existence of members of these communities in Plateau and other States of North Central region, often violated in a manner that suggests ethnic cleansing, and nothing is ever done to punish the authors of these genocidal attack? Is it acute lack of State capacity or deliberate State policy, that these communities would be attacked from time to time? Are the different Nigerian ruling elites, involved in a long-lasting conspiracy against these Christian communities in the North Central?
The victims of these attacks reason that they are victims of a continuing jihad, that aims at wiping them off from their communities. A form of criminality enabled the rush for unregulated exploitation of natural resources in these States has added a new dimension to a complex political economy. Nigeria’s Minister of Solid Minerals recently lamented that highly placed Nigerians, are the champions of illegal mining that leads to endemic conflicts in the north of Nigeria. A recent Al Jazeera report located the cause.
Dr Sam Amadi, Abuja
Growing Insecurity in Nigeria Amidst Kidnapping and Community Clashes
Adedapo Tunde-Olowu, SAN
Between January 1 and July 29, 2022, Nigeria saw 2,840 recorded events of insecurity, resulting in 7,222 deaths and 3,823 kidnappings. Kidnapping has emerged as a pressing and pervasive issue in Nigeria, posing a serious threat to the safety and security of its citizens. The country has witnessed a surge in kidnapping incidents in recent years, affecting both urban and rural areas. The growing level of insecurity in Nigeria has highlighted the country’s inability to safeguard its citizens as enshrined in the Constitution, and caused widespread distress. The prevalence of violence in Nigeria has shown a failure to safeguard and defend its residents, leading to the departure of young Nigerians to seek safety abroad. According to the Global Centre for Responsibility to Protect, over 8.7 million people in the country require emergency humanitarian relief.
The kidnapping statistics in Nigeria are inaccurate, and often do not capture the realities on the ground, because most kidnap incidents go unreported or, when reported, are not adequately captured by security agencies. Just recently, The Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project (“ACLED”), reported that between December 1, 2023, and January 3, 2024, over 380 persons were kidnapped under President Bola Tinubu’s administration.
Kidnapping for ransom has been a major problem in Nigeria, with criminal gangs targeting highways and apartments and even snatching pupils from schools. According to a report by SBM Intelligence titled “The Economics of Nigeria’s Kidnap Industry”, about N653.7 million was paid as ransom in Nigeria, between July 2021 and June 2022. More than 500 incidents were recorded, and 3,420 people were abducted across the country, with 564 others killed in the violence associated with kidnapping in one year. The report also detailed that N6.531 billion was demanded in ransom during the period considered, but only N653.7 million was paid.
The factors driving insecurity in Nigeria, in particular, include;
a. Regional Instability
Northern Nigeria’s proximity to conflict-addled regions like the Sahel has promoted cross-border movement of armed groups, some of whom engage in abductions within Nigeria to raise funds for other operations. Refugee flows into Nigeria, also provide cover for gang members to operate kidnapping schemes with low risk of detection. The limited presence of security personnel also emboldens kidnappers by reducing risks of confrontation, capture, and prosecution after collecting ransoms. Weak policing also enables kidnapping syndicates, to grow in strength.
The community clashes in the Middlebelt region of Nigeria, have also heightened insecurity in Nigeria. On Christmas Eve in 2023, at least 160 people were killed in three local governments in Plateau State, and the frequency of the killings, coupled with the fact that no person has been arrested or prosecuted for these killings, have increased the belief that there is collusion by members of the security agencies with the bandits.
These attacks, often well-coordinated and have been fuelled by ethnic and religious fires, have caused more damage to the Middlebelt region and further strained relationships between the herders and farmers.
b. Proliferation of Small Arms
The widespread availability of small arms, automatic rifles, RPGs, and other weapons left over from previous regional conflicts has enabled kidnapping militias, bandits, and gangs to become heavily armed. Their substantial firepower allows mass kidnappings and killings from vulnerable targets and makes rescue attempts extremely risky.
c. Poverty and Unemployment
A study by OPHI, Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI) in Nigeria, shows that 63% of the population, or 133 million citizens, are multi-dimensionally poor. The poverty and unemployment rate, particularly in the Northern part of Nigeria, offers terrorist cults many recruits for brainwashing and training.
d. Corruption & Collusion
Pervasive corruption has hindered counter-kidnapping efforts, as bribery enables perpetrators to evade arrest or prosecution. Low-paid security officials have also been implicated in providing intelligence to kidnappers, and enabling their activities to continue. This corruption seeps resources away from effectively combating the problem.
Overall, until these root factors of economic desperation, porous borders, abundant weaponry, compromised officials, and regional conflicts are adequately addressed, criminal groups will continue carrying out mass abductions for profit and killings with relative impunity across large areas of Nigeria.
The recent hike in insecurity should cause the Nigerian Government to explore practical solutions that can resolve insecurity, these include:
a. Increasing Security and Surveillance
Beefing up security measures and surveillance, especially around vulnerable targets, could act as an effective deterrent against potential kidnappers. Schools have been frequent targets. Implementing procedures like armed guards, security cameras, perimeter fencing, and restricted access points could make abducting students more difficult.
The idea of State policing has been floated by different States, and some regions, such as the South West region, have gone further, by creating security outfit, Amotekun, to curtail insecurity in the region.
b. Enhancing Border Control
Poor border control enables criminal groups to cross between countries to evade capture. Strengthening checkpoints and security patrols on the borders of Nigeria, particularly in the northern regions, could disrupt the movements of kidnappers. Mandating identity documentation, could also help identify and track suspect individuals.
However, with over 4,000 miles of borders, fully securing access points to and from Nigeria is likely impossible without immense resource expenditure, and the lack of identity documentation among populations in rural border towns also poses difficulties. Robust international cooperation, particularly with Nigeria’s northern neighbours, is essential to prevent porous borders from benefiting kidnappers.
c. Increasing Capabilities of Security Forces
Specialised Police and military units trained in counter-kidnapping tactics, hostage negotiations, rescue missions, and evidence collection are needed. Currently, the capabilities, availability, and response times of units specialising in kidnappings are limited and concentrated mostly in major cities. Building training programs and expanding skilled tactical teams across Nigeria’s 36 States, could greatly improve immediate response after abductions.
This strategy may face roadblocks such as upfront costs, finding recruits with basic education to train, endemic corruption destroying resources, and the constant threat of officers being co-opted by criminal interests instead of fighting them. Any increases in tactical capabilities require strong leadership, oversight, and structure to translate to meaningful improvement.
While the proposed solutions to addressing Nigeria’s insecurity crisis offer some helpful strategies, there are a few limitations worth discussing:
1. Border control is Impractical
Realistically, fully securing Nigeria’s vast land borders to clamp down on criminal group movements, is next to impossible. The costs of comprehensive border surveillance would be astronomical, and still largely ineffective. Harsh border restrictions, also hamper legitimate trade and population movement. Regional cooperation is likely more pragmatic, than attempting to unilaterally secure thousands of miles of porous borders.
2. The Root Causes have to be Addressed
While tactical capabilities are important, expanded security measures alone fail to address the root socioeconomic drivers behind kidnapping. As long as systemic poverty and unemployment afflict huge segments of the Nigerian population, some will turn to illicit activities like kidnapping out of desperation. Enhanced security policies must be coupled with economic development programmes, to provide alternative livelihoods.
3. Implementation Obstacles
Grand plans to equip elite counter-kidnapping units across 36 States to confront massive real-world obstacles like finding qualified recruits, maintaining equipment, securing reliable funding sources, and retention amidst threats of violence and bribery. Bridging the gap between ambitions on paper and the complex realities of bringing programmes to scale, presents major hurdles.
Insecurity will continue to be a significant threat to Nigeria’s security and stability, necessitating a concerted effort from all stakeholders. This can work by addressing both the underlying drivers and deterring militant groups in Nigeria, with the hope of curtailing the nationwide kidnapping crisis afflicting so many of its villages, schools, and cities. Concerted long-term efforts on economic, law enforcement, and regional fronts are indispensable, to ensure citizens’ safety and restore stability.
Adedapo Tunde-Olowu, SAN