In October 2022, during his presidential campaign, President Bola Tinubu in an interactive session organised by a joint committee of Arewa groups in Kaduna, assured the group that he would tackle insecurity if elected president and that every inch of Nigeria’s national territory would be secured and defended.
“We will deal decisively with all elements threatening our peace, security and unity. I guarantee you we will end kidnapping and banditry not only through increasing our policing capacity but also through another soft approach that would promote inclusion and boost the economy of our local communities,” Tinubu, the then APC presidential candidate, said.
“Under my leadership, every inch of our national territory will be secured and defended,” he added.
Five months after inauguration killers, kidnappers still stalk Nigerians
Five months down the line, Nigerians are still being killed, villages are still being sacked by bandits, and kidnappers are still rampaging, while terrorists are regrouping.
But President Tinubu is seeing positive results in the fight against insecurity despite the new spate of killings.
In August, at the decoration of the new service chiefs at the Council Chamber, Presidential Villa, Abuja, President Bola Tinubu said Nigeria was recording positive results in the security challenges facing her because of the team spirit among newly appointed service chiefs.
“We have seen that we are recording positive results in our security challenges because of your dedication, commitment and steadfastness,” he said.
As well, General Christopher Musa, Chief of Defence Staff, CDS, expressed unalloyed commitment to ensure the security and defence of the nation.
Despite all the assurances and claim of positive results, killings by non-state actors have continued unabated in many places in Nigeria.
Catalogue of attacks under BAT’s watch
Between May 29 and July 13, 2023, over 600 people were killed by non-state actors, including; Boko Haram insurgents, ethnic militias, bandits and armed robbers.
About 629 Nigerians were killed within the first 45 days under President Tinubu, according to data from SBM Intelligence, an analysis platform.
But investigations by the International Centre for Investigative Reporting and data from the Council on Foreign Relations’ Nigeria Security Tracker (NST) and media reports showed that non-state actors killed 587 people within the same period.
For the records, armed men killed 24 people on July 8, when at Zaki Akpuuna and Diom towns in the Mbaterem district of the Ukum Local Government Area of Benue State, bandits slaughtered 25 farmers and kidnapped several women and girls from different areas in Rafi Local Government Area, Niger State.
Sadly again, bandits killed no fewer than 50 people in Gwadabawa and Tangaza local government areas of Sokoto State in June for refusing to pay illegal levies imposed on them, while in another incident, bandits killed 31 persons and injured many in their attacks on the villages of Janbako and Sakida in Maradun local government area, Zamfara State.
Sadly, eight people were killed on Independence Day in the latest round of attacks in Plateau State. In the usual government fashion, Caleb Mutfwang, governor of the state, sent security forces to vulnerable communities, and to arrest those responsible for the attack. Despite the ‘arrests’ the attackers are waiting to strike again.
Global Rights Nigeria, a civil society organisation, in its recent report, revealed that at least 555 people had been killed and 267 others abducted six weeks after President Tinubu took office.
Amnesty International in its report also noted that more than 120 people were killed a few days after Tinubu assumed power.
Decrying the situation, Isa Sanusi, acting Nigeria director, Amnesty International, said it is a brazen failure of the authorities to protect Nigerians, and sadly, it is becoming the norm in the country.
For him, the security measures in response to insecurity have not translated into protection of lives of Nigerians.
Benjamin Okaba, president, Ijaw National Congress sees no paradigm shift yet in security architecture.
Okaba, a professor, is worried that despite the appointment of new service chiefs, and regular security meetings with the president, there has not been significant improvement in the security architecture of the country.
According to him, the security policy of the Federal Government under the current political dispensation is not yet clear to the citizens, who have continued to live and go about their daily activities in subdued fear and anxiety.
The irony for some concerned Nigerians is that despite all the assurances from the president, the appointment of new service chiefs, regular security meetings and allocation of more funds to the fight of insecurity in the country, it seems the non-state actors are now more emboldened.
“Yes, dare-devil bandits abducted some National Youth Service Corps members in Zamfara State, but going ahead to kill some soldiers in Niger State is unacceptable. It means the bandits are not scared of anything. We are in big trouble here,” Chijioke Umelahi, an Abuja-based lawyer decried.
On the factors fueling insecurity, Umelahi noted that the growing poverty level and high unemployment rate impact heavily on insecurity.
“Some organised kidnappings are being carried out by unemployed graduates. One of the kidnappers captured in River State recently said that he was lured by the money and pressure to take care of his family. Another said it was payback to the government and society that don’t care about the poor and unemployed,” he said.
Other factors that fuel insecurity in the country, according to Bertram Amuda, a security expert, include ethnic and religious tensions, inadequate security infrastructure and socio-economic factors.
“I know that social economic conditions, like poverty, and the duo of ethnic and religious tensions can boost insecurity, but if the country has adequate security infrastructure, we will be able to tackle our security challenges to a reasonable extent. Part of it is taking good care of our security personnel because they cannot carry gun with empty stomach or families neglected when they die in the line of duty,” Amuda said.
Proffering solutions, Umelahi said that the president should give the service chiefs targets and remove whoever did not meet the target, ensure regular review of their operations and expenditure on security.
But Amuda said that stomach infrastructure will work this time.
“People are hungry, the government should bring policies that will encourage SMEs and more foreign direct investments to come in and create jobs. It should be sincere with its promises to the people and recognised every zone and people of the country equally,” Amuda said.
In his view, Emeka Okoro, a security analyst with SBM Intelligence, said that it will require a multifaceted approach to address insecurity in the country.
According to him, the country needs improved security infrastructure, effective governance, social cohesion, economic development, and peace-building efforts to truly fight insecurity.
But no matter how good the solutions may sound; it will require political will on the part of the government and concerted efforts both within Nigeria and from the international community to achieve sustainable results in the fight against insecurity in the country.
While the government claims feats in the fight against insecurity, the reality for most Nigerians is that more people die every day from the several attacks of non-state actors.
It means the government has to step up its efforts, be sincere in the fight and go for the untouchables that have been behind some of the attacks, concerned citizens demand.
Catalogue of attacks under BAT’s watch
ISWAP Attacks (July 24-25, 2023): Suspected Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) militants carried out attacks in Borno State, resulting in casualties and kidnappings. Communities are often targeted for alleged cooperation with security forces.
Boko Haram attacks in Northeast (August 13, 2023): Boko Haram terrorists killed 13 people in separate attacks on a military base and farmers in Borno state, highlighting the ongoing threat.
Vigilante killings in Edo (September 21, 2023): Gunmen killed three members of the Edo State Security Network in Ovia North-East Local Government Area, raising concerns about security personnel’s safety.
Mosque attack in Kaduna (September): Armed men attacked a mosque in Kaduna State, resulting in the deaths of at least seven worshippers.
Takanai community killings (September 26): Terrorists killed six individuals in the Takanai community of Atyap Chiefdom in Kaduna State, continuing a pattern of violence in the region.
Soro community attack (October): Suspected bandits attacked the Soro community in Sokoto State, causing casualties and destruction.
Federal University Dutsinma abductions (October): Armed men abducted five female students from the Federal University in Katsina State.
Kidnappings in Northern Nigeria (August 26, 2023): In two separate incidents, assailants kidnapped 12 individuals, including the village head of Nasarawa-Burkullu community and local farmers in northern Nigeria.
Military Operations in Zamfara (August): Troops of Operation Hadarin Daji killed 10 bandits, rescued nine kidnapped victims, and recovered firearms and cash in Zamfara State.
Also, in August this year, some members of the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) going to camp in Sokoto for orientation were abducted. On October 3, bandits reportedly killed three people and abducted eight others (mostly women) in a village in Sokoto. There have been similar cases in Katsina, Ondo, and other places across the country. Killing has continued in Benue and Plateau States. The other day, some security agents were also killed and their bodies burnt in Imo State. Up till now, many farmers in states across the country are yet to return to their farms for fear of being abducted or killed by herdsmen that have taken over the bushes for nefarious activities.
Despite President Tinubu’s promises to prioritise security, the country continues to grapple with insecurity, with data showing over 1,406 deaths between May and August 2023.
Tinubu’s approach to curbing insecurity:
Upon taking office, President Tinubu appointed new service chiefs and defense ministers, raising expectations for improved security. The President emphasized the importance of collaboration among security agencies, intelligence gathering, and the development of effective strategies.
President Tinubu also issued a one-year deadline to the defense ministers and service chiefs to address insecurity effectively. He committed to holding monthly meetings with security agencies, modernising the armed forces, and fostering regional cooperation to combat transnational threats.
Factors fueling insecurity
Despite promises of security improvements, Nigeria has grappled with insecurity for years. Non-state actors killed thousands of people during the previous administration, driven by factors like corruption, unemployment, and weak institutions. The country faces diverse security challenges, including terrorism, banditry, militancy, and secessionist movements.
Possible solutions to insecurity
Stakeholders have offered recommendations to address Nigeria’s security challenges under President Tinubu’s leadership, according to ICIR. These suggestions include increased funding for security agencies, cross-border collaboration with neighbouring countries, addressing root causes of insecurity such as poverty and unemployment, investing in community policing, strengthening intelligence gathering, tackling corruption within security agencies, engaging in dialogues with stakeholders, and improving border security using technology.
Additionally, an audit and evaluation of the security situation, restructuring the security architecture, appointing competent service chiefs, and enhancing the welfare of security personnel have been emphasized as crucial steps toward lasting security.
As President Tinubu’s administration grapples with the complex issue of insecurity, the nation watches closely, hoping for meaningful progress and lasting security improvements.