Nigerians live in two Nigerias. One guarded by steel gates and watchful cameras, where fear is a quiet murmur in opulent homes. Here, the elite live, shielded from the harsh realities that scar millions just beyond their walls.
The other Nigeria is painted in blood and terror. There, newspaper headlines scream of kidnappings, banditry, and religious clashes. Terrorists’ shadow stretches across the north, while communal violence erupts like wildfires. Security here is a luxury, a fragile hope dangling on the frayed edges of ordinary lives.
Nigeria’s ruling class seems to prioritise personal security over public safety, diverting resources and attention away from addressing the nation’s pressing security challenges.
The Nigerian context
Section 14(2)b of the constitution stipulates that the government’s primary obligation is to ensure the security and welfare of citizens. However, the stark reality suggests governmental failure to fulfil this fundamental duty.
Kidnapping for ransom has emerged as a lucrative enterprise, thriving despite government assurances to curb it. Families, faced with the distressing ordeal of loved ones’ abductions, resort to crowdfunding on social media platforms in desperate attempts to secure their release.
Recent incidents, such as the abduction of six sisters and their father in the Bwari Area Council of Abuja, underscore the gravity of the situation.
Terrorism and ethno-religious conflicts continue to plague the northern regions, with recurring attacks in areas like Plateau State.
Farmers abandon their fields, stalked by bandits waiting to pounce on them, their livelihoods sacrificed on the altar of insecurity.
Businesses shut down, investments dry up, and economic growth becomes a distant dream in a climate of constant fear.
Despite substantial allocations to defence and security in the national budget, insecurity persists unabated.
Under the 2024 $35 billion budget, authorities allocated about $4 billion, or 12% of the total budget, to defence and security — the largest single allocation to any sector.
In his first budget speech since taking office, President Bola Tinubu told lawmakers that security is important to safeguard lives, property, and investments across the country.
Tinubu said he will overhaul Nigeria’s internal security architecture to boost performance and achieve better results.
In 2022, defence and security had a budget allocation of N2.98 trillion out of the total budget of N21.83 trillion. In the military alone, N1.55 trillion was budgeted in the 2023 budget. Also, in the 2023 supplementary budget, defence and security got N605 billion out of the total amount of N2,176,791,286,033.
According to a review of budget documents of the Ministry of Defence, in the last five years, Nigeria’s defence budget has risen by 134.80 percent, from N589.955 billion in 2019 to N2.98 trillion last year.
The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) said military expenditure in Nigeria averaged from $23.4 million in 1960 to an all-time high of $4.47 billion in 2021.
According to data from the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) and National Security Tracker (NST), 4,545 people were killed by non-state actors in the country, while 4,611 others were kidnapped in 2022.
According to the NST, a total of 63,111 people were killed by non-state actors during the tenure of former President Muhammadu Buhari between 2015 and 2023.
According to a report from Nigeria Mourns, a civil society organisation, at least 2,423 Nigerians have been killed and no less than 1872 people abducted in various attacks across the country since Tinubu took over in May 2023.
The elite world
The ruling class and other influential figures have fortified themselves against the prevailing insecurity, leaving vulnerable citizens at the mercy of terrorists, kidnappers, and bandits.
The Nigerian Police Force, burdened by inadequate manpower and resources, struggles to maintain public safety.
The police lack the manpower to secure the country, Kayode Egbetokun, the inspector general, said when he appeared before the House of Representatives in November.
According to him, while the United Nations recommended a police personnel to 460 citizens, Nigeria has a police-citizen ratio of 1:1000.
The disparity in security provision is glaring, with well-equipped police officers often deployed to protect politicians and VIPs, while the general populace contends with scarce and under-equipped law enforcement personnel.
Despite sporadic directives to withdraw police protection from VIPs, enforcement remains lax, perpetuating the status quo.
Moreover, the elite flaunt their privileges through the use of bulletproof (armoured) vehicles and other security measures, further exacerbating societal disparities.
In the last quarter of 2023, the National Assembly spent N57.6 billion to buy armoured sport utility vehicles (SUVs) for federal lawmakers while Nigerians battled with insecurity and economic hardships.
This Nigerian reality is not about envy or resentment; it’s about a fundamental question of justice: a nation failing to protect its most vulnerable citizens. It’s a call for reckoning, for a system that prioritises the safety of all, not just the privileged few who have built their own fortresses against the rising tide of insecurity.
Kabiru Adamu, founder/Managing Director, Beacon Security, said the current situation indicates “a fragile state; it depletes social trust, livelihoods, and the standard and quality of life. It promotes self-help by individuals and communities.
“It discourages foreign direct investment and reduces the respect that Nigeria has in the community of nations.”
He emphasised the urgent need for security sector governance and reform, underscoring the importance of effective oversight and accountability in promoting democracy and enhancing human security.
Adamu highlights the National Assembly’s pivotal role in advancing security sector governance and urges lawmakers to prioritise the nation’s security interests over personal agendas.
“Why should a senator be complaining that Nigerian soldiers don’t have modern weapons when the same senator approved funding for the building of a school in his senatorial district?” he said.