Punch Newspapers on the 1st of May 2019 reported that the acting Inspector-General of Police, Alhaji Mohammed Adamu, said 1,071 persons lost their lives in crime-related cases across the country in the first quarter of 2019. In this same period 685 people were kidnapped. Yemi Kale, Nigeria’s statistician general in a tweet on the back of this news summed it up when he tweeted: ‘’This will be 8 people kidnapped and 12 people killed every day. If this data is correct and properly reported then it’s more serious than I thought’’.
Like Yemi Kale, many of us do not realize that the state of insecurity in Nigeria today is more serious than we think. I urge you to think about some related facts when you think about this. Firstly, all over the world security agencies always understate casualties to the public. So, if the Inspector General says 1071 deaths, pluck a number from the sky and add to that figure to get a near approximate. Secondly, note that crime in Nigeria is largely unreported, so the Inspector General’s data is based on the number of cases reported to the police.
Thirdly, we are not sure the Inspector General stats includes the Boko Haram related deaths or the 260 people reported by Reuters to have lost their lives during the 2019 elections – campaign stampedes, election violence, extra judicial killings and the like. Let us assume the figures quoted by the Inspector General of Police are near correct, the question then that I ask is whether these figures do not put Nigeria in a civil war situation? It will be interesting to compare this 1071 deaths in 3 months with death statistics for actual civil wars and see where the numbers take us.
The civil war that comes readily to our minds would be the Nigerian civil war, but I will avoid using that as an example because from all indications for whatever reasons there are no government official statistics on the total civil war casualties and this is just not a good time in Nigeria’s history to reel out any statistics from the civil war. A civil war that readily comes to mind is Syria.The Syrian Observatory of Human Rights (SOHR) reports that around 20,000 people were killed in Syria in 2018 in the eighth year of its ongoing civil war between the government of President Bashar Assad and rebel and jihadi fighters. SOHR reports that of these casualties 6,500 of them were civilians. Let us benchmark with the 6500 civilian casualties in year 2018, let us do some more comparative Arithmetic: 6500 people per year will be 1625 people in 3 months as compared to Nigeria 1071 civilians in 3 months. Are we not in a civil war?
I surely think so. Another characteristic of a civil war situation is when citizens’ ability to move freely from one place to the other is impeded. Today many interstate high ways are death traps because armed militia have taken over the highways. The Kaduna Abuja highway has been in the news recently for all the ‘’good’’ reasons. The UBEC Chairman and his daughter were kidnapped along Kaduna Abuja road and his driver was killed. As you well know for every VIP that is reported to have been kidnapped there are 20 incidences of ordinary citizens that are unreported. The train from Abuja to Kaduna has now become the preferred mode of travel even for VIP’s and since the VIP’s started travelling on the train I have read reports that the train is now escorted by helicopter for additional security. In a recent report, the Governor of Kaduna State has appealed to the Chief of Air Staff to approve the deployment of NAF Special Forces to the Abuja-Kaduna road to participate in the new Joint security operations aimed at confronting the prevalence of banditry and kidnapping that has bedeviled the road for the last two years. The East West Road linking Port Harcourt to Warri and then to Western Nigeria is another jungle of a road. I have read reports that the Civil Liberties Organisation (CLO) and the National Union of Road Transport Workers’ Union (NURTW) have recently sent a protest letter to President Muhammad Buhari over alleged killings by suspected kidnappers along the East-West road between Bayelsa and Rivers States. Recent happenings on the East West highway (in the last two weeks) reveal that two police men were allegedly killed and Shell workers they were escorting kidnapped. The National Union of Road Transport workers also claim that three of their members have been killed on this road in the month of April 2019.
My opinion is that combating crime is extremely important, but preventing crime is more efficacious. Prevention is less expensive because it avoids the trauma of the crime for the victims and requires less combat and fire power. From a resource standpoint in Nigeria how many of our 371,800 police officers can be reasonably deployed to deal with 685 kidnappings in 3 months? Note that if this number is extrapolated it could mean that by end of 2019, we could be dealing with about 2500 kidnappings. I think that kidnapping in Nigeria is not a crime of passion but a trade and means of livelihood. It has proven to be so lucrative that people from all walks of life are involved – investors, herdsmen, graduates, cults, communities, working class Nigerians and even policemen. Even armed robbers have diversified their trade – if they find nothing on you, they will take you with them for ransom. We cannot run away from the fact that kidnapping is a result of current socio-economic imbalances which should addressed as a preventative mechanism. There is a definite correlation between the rate of kidnappings and Nigeria’s rate of poverty, unemployment, underemployment, inflation, drug prevalence, youth restiveness and more. If these problems persist kidnapping will continue to be a viable trade which will overpower police weaponry and resources.