At the height of the Niger Delta militancy crisis, Nigeria was always on global news for the wrong reasons. Then, kidnapping was the order of the day, though targeted at expatriate oil workers in the region whose employers were always willing to negotiate ransom with the particular militant group that kidnapped their staff.
Of course, efforts were made to dislodge the groups who often claimed that their ruthless activities were legitimate as long as the region, which holds Nigeria’s wealth, keeps wallowing in poverty and environmental degradation.
While the amnesty programme helped in checking them, it shifted the target to influential locals, whose relations paid huge sums to free them from the hands of the militants.
Today, kidnapping for ransom has become a huge business venture, with many cases reported every day across the country and victims, including some top security officers such as soldiers and police being held in the dens of the kidnappers until ransom was paid.
As well, banditry especially is some parts of the north, has added another dimension to attacks on innocent Nigerians. The combined impacts of kidnapping and banditry have led to loss of many lives, and property, leaving many homeless, and poorer.
The incessant herdsmen attacks have also rendered many homeless.
The Boko Haram sect in the north east of Nigeria has been the worst of the ruthless groups with impact of their attacks resulting in the loss of thousands of lives, properties, sacking of many from their homes, many of who seek refuge at the various internally displaced people’s (IDPs) camps, among others.
The Nigerian Army is also at the receiving end as many soldiers have died battling to upstage the sect from the region within the dreaded Sambisa Forest, their base, which has remained impregnable.
However, the intrigue of the imbroglio is that billions of naira have been budgeted and expended over many years now to tackle the situation, yet no peace insight.
Recall that in 2015 when President Muhammadu Buhari was seeking election for his first term in office and in 2019 for re-election for a second term, a focus among his key campaign promises to Nigerians, apart from focus on the economy and the fight against corruption, was to tackle insecurity and win the war against insurgency, which has ravaged the country for almost a decade.
However, several Nigerians feared if the President would be able to fulfill such promise and find a solution to the spate of insecurity across the country before the expiration of his second term in 2023.
Part of the fears was largely because of Buhari’s reluctant to change his service chiefs since he assumed and adopt a new strategy towards the insurgency fight.
Though, there has been significant progress since he assumed office in 2015, it appears that the progress made have been short-lived.
Within the last months, there has been an increased wave of kidnapping for ransom and banditry across the country, especially in the Northeast.
Last week, Boko Haram insurgents killed LawanAndimi, chairman, Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Adamawa State, in Michika local government area of the state.
The worsening security situation in the Southwest region has necessitated the Southwest states to launch ‘Operation Amotekun’, a security outfit to complement the effort of the police.
Speaking during the launch, the six state governors of the region, said the security outfit was a solution to tackling the challenges of insecurity, including kidnapping and banditry in the region.
Reacting to the worsening security situation in the country, a former Minister of Works, Ebenezer Babatope, urged Nigerians to give the needed support to the Muhammadu Buhari administration to succeed in the insurgency fight and to stem the spate of insecurity plaguing the country.
Babatope condemned the killing of the CAN chairman in Adamawa State, while calling for more proactive action by the government.
“The general situation is bad, but we should give support to Buhari. Things are terrible; the issue of security should not be brought into partisan politics either you are PDP, Labour or APGA, we should come together and find a solution to the security challenges and support this administration.
“The killing of the CAN chairman is frightening and needs urgent solution; it is a very bad thing for Nigeria. Buhari must act and do more,” Babatope said.
ChekwasOkorie, national chairman of the Unity Party of Nigeria (UPP), urged Buhari to seek external help from countries that are experienced in insurgency fight.
Okorie canvassed for the creation of state police to complement the effort of the Nigeria Police, stressing that it was obvious that the situation had overwhelmed the security agencies.
“As well-meaning Nigerians, we have to come together to find a way out, it is worrisome. The situation has gotten to the Northwest now, it is no more a Northeast thing, and it has worsened. What is happening is an indictment on our security agencies,” he said.
According to him, “If this kind of thing happens in advanced societies, there would have been a shakeup by now. This new trend by Boko Haram, bringing Christian leaders into collusion with their Muslim counterpart is not healthy.
“The government must be more proactive; the government must put in extra effort. Buhari should seek help from countries that are more experienced in fighting insurgency. We should not be saying that we are a sovereign nation and allow our people to be killed like this.
“Even at the community level, you cannot get to the farm people are afraid that is why Amotekun is relevant. So, we need state police and vigilantes like the Amotekun, and we need enabling laws that support and back them.
“It is beginning to overwhelm us and it appears they don’t have a clue to a way out,” Okorie said.
SanniYabagi, national chairman of the Action Democratic Party (ADP), said the President Buhari must urgently sack the current set of service chiefs because they have run out of ideas.
Yabagi said without the needed change in the security agencies, there would not be any appreciable success in the fight against the insurgency and effort to combat security in the country.
“The President should be expert in tackling security challenges. But it is obvious that he needs to change the security chiefs; he does not need to be told that this system has failed us and he needs to adopt another approach in dealing with it.
“If President Buhari fails, people would say Buhari failed; it is simple. If they cannot resign, the President should get rid of them. When you appoint people who know the enormity of the problem they will deliver.
“It is clear this set of service chiefs does not have any clue in dealing with the security challenges. He has to change them because it appears they have nothing at stake again.And I can tell you, things would continue like this if Buhari still keeps these people,” Yabagi said.
Speaking on the issue, Luis Egbemode, retired security chief and owner of a security outfit, noted that Nigeria can adequately address her security challenges and defeat Boko Haram, but that such expectation is not realistic when government is not firm on its stand on the fight, monitoring of security efforts, collaborating with countries that have competence in fighting terrorism, among others.
“There have been cases where some soldiers were accused of sabotaging efforts at fighting Boko Haram and those elements are still in the Army. So, why will a soldier risk his life when he knows that others are going to benefit from their imminent death”, he said.
“No matter how much the funders of Boko Haram are spending, the Federal Government can outspend them, get more sophisticated equipment, collaborate in deployment of the arms and personnel, raise the morale of soldiers, sack or even kill whoever is the found to be a saboteur and with this insecurity will be a thing of the past in the country”.
In the same vein, AlachenuOmale, a lawyer, thinks that insecurity will be a thing of the past whenever the Nigerian government rises with firm hands, decisions and coordinated actions against ruthless groups in the country.
“Nigeria always raises her flag anywhere there is problem in West Africa and even Africa at large. We have a retired army general as president, he knows what to do; it is all about giving the right orders, be firm about it, taking actions when they are not carried out and sustaining any success achieved in the fight against insecurity”, he said.
Omale disclosed that when all service chiefs are retired, police bosses changed or retired, the incoming ones would be forced to change tactics and work to save their positions, securing the country by doing so.
Omale warned those campaigning for Nigeria as an investment haven to first ensure security as no investor would invest in a country where security of lives, property and people’s investments are not guaranteed.
OBINNA EMELIKE and INIOBONG IWOK