• Friday, April 12, 2024
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BusinessDay

Nigeria’s investigation obsession: Chasing smoke while citizens bleed

Tinubu calls for patriotism, support for government

President Bola Tinubu’s recent order for investigations into the brutal slaying of 17 Nigerian soldiers by irate youths in Bomadi Local Government Area of Delta State is a depressingly familiar refrain. While the murders themselves deserve swift and thorough investigation, this latest episode exposes a national malady: Nigeria’s obsession with inquiries that yield no answers and deliver scant justice.

The air hangs thick with the stench of unfulfilled promises. Every crisis, from the massacre at Odi in 1999 to the Kaduna bombing in 2023, is met with a predictable flurry of pronouncements: “urgent investigations,” “getting to the root of the problem,” and the ever-present (and empty) vow of “never again.” Nigerians have become accustomed to pronouncements “heavy on outrage and light on follow-through.”

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Take, for instance, the 2013 Ombatse killings in Nassarawa State, where security personnel were ambushed and slaughtered. Frank Mbah, then a Deputy Police spokesperson, promised a full investigation to find the culprits. A decade later, the killers remain unidentified, the families of the deceased mourn in silence, and the nation has “moved on” — a chilling euphemism for collective amnesia.

This pattern of pronouncements followed by silence isn’t limited to security breaches. The 2022 Abuja-Kaduna train bombing, the countless building collapses, and even the fantastical tale of a snake swallowing government cash all vanished into the vortex of unfinished investigations.

The human cost of this national obsession with inquiries is staggering. Families are left without closure, perpetrators walk free, and underlying issues fester, ready to erupt in the next crisis. It’s a vicious cycle fueled by a lack of accountability and a political class more adept at theatrics than genuine problem-solving.

 “The current obsession with investigations, while a performative response, exposes a deeper need for proactive solutions; Nigerians deserve a government that prioritises action over theatrics.”

President Tinubu’s administration seems determined to perpetuate this cycle. While investigations into the Delta killings are ongoing, Nigerians are right to be sceptical. The promised inquiries into the Central Bank’s Anchor Borrowers programme and the controversial “Ways and Means” spending under the previous administration smack more of political point-scoring than a genuine desire for transparency. It’s a case of the pot calling the kettle black, with each investigation potentially leading to another, creating a bureaucratic labyrinth with no clear exit.

What Nigeria desperately needs is not another investigation but a fundamental shift in approach. Here’s a radical proposition: genuine action. Independent investigations, of course, have their place, but they should be a means to an end, not an end in themselves.

The focus should be on dismantling the systems that enable these tragedies to occur. Is the military adequately trained for civilian interactions? Are security forces properly equipped? Are the root causes of communal violence being addressed? These are the tough questions that require not just inquiries but concrete policy changes and a commitment to long-term solutions.

Furthermore, Nigerians deserve transparency. The findings of past investigations, if any exist, should be made public. The veil of secrecy surrounding these inquiries only breeds public cynicism and fuels distrust in the government’s ability, or perhaps even willingness, to deliver justice.

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The current obsession with investigations, while a performative response, exposes a deeper need for proactive solutions; Nigerians deserve a government that prioritises action over theatrics. This means a shift towards preventative measures that address the root causes of violence, such as poverty, inequality, and ethnic tensions. Strengthening security forces through proper training and equipment is also crucial.

Perhaps most importantly, Nigerians deserve transparency. Making the findings of past investigations public, along with a commitment to implementing their recommendations, would rebuild public trust.

By prioritising prevention, strengthening institutions, and fostering transparency, Nigeria can break free from this cycle of violence, unanswered questions, and the haunting silence that follows each new investigation. Only then can the nation build a safer and more just future for its citizens.