Is Nigeria winning war on terror?
…Killings, abductions still continue …Tambuwal worries over Sokoto’s state …El-Rufai in pain, seeks proper designation for bandits
Last week, a colleague whose daughter was posted to Jigawa State, North West geo-political zone of the country, for the mandatory one year National Youth Service Corps (NYSC), was apprehensive.
He wondered how the young lady would make it to Jigawa under the climate of insecurity in Nigeria. He decided to fly her to Kano, and then got the assistance of a friend of his who works with the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC) in Kano to arrange for her movement to Jigawa.
According to him, when they got to the airport in Lagos, Friday morning, they met a number of other prospective corps members going to the same state.
Today, parents are spending their scarce resources to ensure the safety of their children, unlike many years ago when it used to be fun to travel by road.
It is unimaginable the trauma many families without resources to fly their children are going through nowadays.
Last Monday, October 18, 2021, two prospective members of the NYSC from Benue State, were reportedly kidnapped by bandits in Zamfara on their way to Kebbi State.
On a daily basis, Nigerians witness gruesome killings of their fellow citizens; unknown gunmen are on rampage, bandits have taken over some states and Boko Haram has intensified its onslaught, conquering more territories and challenging the sovereignty of Nigeria.
This persisting ugly state of affairs across the country is forcing many to ask, “Is Nigeria winning the terror war?”
It is worrisome that Nigeria, the supposedly African giant that led others and fought successful ECOMOG wars, has spent over ₦6 trillion on security without making much headway in the last decade.
With a $2.07 billion gross military spending in 2015, estimated $1.72 billion defence budget in 2016, about $1.62 billion in 2017, $2.04 billion in 2018, an estimate of $1.8 billion in 2019 and an estimate of $1.2 billion in 2020, the country cannot point to what it has achieved with the allocations as insecurity has taken a deadlier level.
Despite the huge expenditure on defence without result, the Nigerian Air Force took an allocation of N31.97 billion, the largest share of the Ministry of Defence’s total Capital Expenditure Ceiling of N120.04 billion for 2021, the Nigerian Army followed with N27.87 billion, while the Navy got N12.04 billion.
Considering the scores that are reportedly killed every day, more hostage takings by bandits, open killings by gunmen, more towns taken by Boko Haram and even attack of the army in their barracks, Sam Ajanaku Onikoyi, a Nigerian historian and Commonwealth researcher based in Brussels, lamented that Nigeria is losing the terror war and has refused to seek for collaborations with foreign partners that have successfully dealt with insecurity in their countries.
“What more evidence do we need to know that Nigeria is losing the war against terrorism when what appear on international news networks about Nigeria are killings and violence? Some of my partners here keep asking what the government is doing and why the relations of those killed are keeping quiet,” he said.
He observed that it appears there is compromise somewhere and the government and the military cannot execute the war.
“I was in Nigeria when Olusegun Obasanjo, former president, sent soldiers to Odi, Bayelsa State, in Niger Delta and they razed a whole village and nothing happened. If government is serious and engages the military properly, Nigeria will win the war against terrorism,” Onikoyi said.
Talking from experience, Ifewodor Ogala, a retired Navy officer, cleared the air on the fight against terrorism, saying it is not huge budgetary expenditure or heavy weapons that fight wars, but soldiers with the right frame of mind.
“If you spend our entire national budget on acquiring the best fighter jets, you need to make the boys happy to fly the jets or some unhappy pilots will crash it or even surrender it to the enemies. We have seen that happen in recent times,” Ogala said.
The retired Niger Delta-born naval officer further explained that the war on terrorism can be with fewer weapons if government plays its part and allows soldiers to play theirs.
“Counter orders have ruined some of the achievements made in the fight against terrorism. We need to be on the same ship, under one captain and move to the same direction in order to win the terror war,” he advised.
While also regretting that Nigeria is losing the terror war, Chijioke .J. Umelahi, a former Abia State lawmaker, blame the persisting insecurity on corruption and lack of accountability from those appointed to execute defence budget, especially the military, which seems unquestionable and untouchable.
“It is expected that having severally allocated huge funds to defence without results, the government should query the Ministry of Defence and the military or even stop the allocations. We as citizens, who die daily in the hands of these terrorists, should wake up, summon our governors, representatives in the National Assembly and demand action. We can protest if possible because the political elites are safe, their families and investments are safe too. We are the one suffering and the ones that need to make the noise,” Umelahi said.
The aggrieved former lawmaker and legal practitioner noted that the anti-graft agency is not beaming its searchlight on defence and military spending, and will not also look for the corrupt politicians who helped to influence the approval of the huge allocations for defence, which seemed to be shared, going by the ineffectiveness of the fight despite the huge budget.
“How do we know that the huge defence budgets do not end in private pockets, who monitors the military, can’t the public call for probe of the funds because government cannot keep spending tax payers’ money or foreign loans on security that is, obviously, not going to improve with the look of things,” he lamented.
However, with the facts and worries expressed by the observers, it is clear that the country is losing the war on terrorism.
But they think that the Nigerian government knows what to do to curtail insecurity and until it wakes up to its responsibility, shows political will, amid corresponding actions, the country will keep losing the fight at the risk of its sovereignty and existence.
“It is saddening to recount how our so-called government of this day has continued to sugar coat banditry, and not spill out the situation report how it is meant to be. By this time, these groups should have been declared terrorists and threats to our Nation, but the reverse is the case as we continually see them enjoying that freedom of continued threats to endanger the lives of the masses.
“By all parameters available, it is glaring that the government is losing the war against insecurity. We live in fear of the unknown every minute. Our travelling routes are no longer safe to ply as the day goes by. The most annoying part is how these bandits are addressed by our security operatives and the Government,” Kayode Kehinde, a Lagos-based political analyst, said.
Some stakeholders have equally carpeted state governors for not doing enough to tackle the situation in their respective states, despite huge budgetary allocation for security vote.
Although, the governors have always argued that it is not as huge as being perceived, they have refused to disclose the correct amount to Nigerians, which has only sustained the suspicion.
Amid the blame, the governors have maintained that the security arrangement in the country as enshrined in the Constitution had practically rendered them handicapped and incapable of solving the security challenges in their domain despite being the chief security officers of their states.
Experts say that the country requires a multi-stakeholder approach to deal with the situation; they are of the opinion that not only has the continued spate of insecurity threatened the very fabric of national integration in the country and created the ecology of fear, disquiet and anxiety, it has also meted a deadly blow to industrial development and economy growth.
“In as much as some of these governors have shown lack of capacity to solve the problems affecting our people, we can also say that there are some hindrances.
“That is why some of us are calling for restructuring of the country; right now the police commissioners are not answerable to them. I mean, the governors can give them orders and they get a call from Abuja not to obey them. I think this is a step backward in the security fight,” Femi Akinwunmi, public affairs analyst, said.
Kehinde further stated that the worsening insecurity and government’s helplessness was an indication that Nigeria was a failed state.
According to him, “A failed state is not difficult to define – it is one that is unable to provide security to its people, and this is what we are currently experiencing in Nigeria.
“The train system which was receiving some worth appraisal has now become the target of bandits, meaning no safer means of moving within Nigeria if not by air. And what happens when you cannot afford to fly or your destination has to be ply by road?
“The way out right now from this turbulence is for the government to take up its responsibilities taking out tribalism or any form of ethnic bias. Let us call a spade a spade.
“Declare bandits and kidnappers as terrorists tighten all security processes and call for a state of emergency on all prone routes to terrorist/banditry/kidnappers attacks.”
Chekwas Okorie, a founding member of the All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA), said the security situation in the North-East had degenerated into war, adding that the government should consider and give priority to community and state policing urgently.
According to him, “The security situation now comes in two different categories, what we have in North East is outright war. They should treat it as such. There should be more deployment of troops. There is a war situation in the North; you can see the attack of trains in Kaduna State last week. Ordinarily, you would have expected that the ground troop should be moved in and clear the terrorists out.
“It is important that we consider state and community policing as a matter of national emergence. People don’t have confidence in the police, most state actors have taken the police, and the ordinary man pays for their service when they need them.
“The government should act; the security vote is enough to keep our environment safe, especially with the kind of money they collect.”
Last Thursday, Governor Nasir el-Rufai of Kaduna State, called on the Federal Government to declare bandits as terrorists to allow the Nigerian military deal with them according to international law.
The governor said that between July and September, bandits killed over 343 persons in the state, while 830 others were kidnapped.
“We have written letters to the Federal Government since 2017, asking for this declaration because it is the declaration that will allow the Nigerian military to attack and kill these bandits without any major consequences in international law.
“So, we support the resolution by the National Assembly and we are going to follow up with a letter of support, for the Federal Government to declare these bandits and insurgents as terrorists, so that they will be fair game for our military.
“This is the view of the Kaduna State Government,” he said.
Governor El-Rufai’s outcry came three days after President Muhammadu Buhari had said that insecurity in the country was trending downwards, emphasising that narrative of rising insecurity is inaccurate.
According to the President, “While there is work to do, the men and women in uniform who are helping the nation to achieve this goal, desire our collective appreciation and encouragement to do even more.
“The whole country and its mass communications systems have a duty in this regard.”
While Buhari said in his message to Moslem at Id El Maulud that insecurity in the country was receding, report emerged that a woman in Nimbo, Uzo-Uwani Local Government Area of Enugu State, was butchered by AK-47 wielding herdsmen in her farm.
The report said the woman was in the farm together with her daughter when the herdsmen swooped on them. While the daughter escaped unhurt, the woman was short at as she tried to run.
The assailant reportedly used their machete and chopped off her two hands. They did not stop at that, they smashed her head with a hard object.
To those in that community, and particularly to the daughter that witnessed the horror, they would not buy into any narrative that insecurity is receding.
Reports also have it that bandits attacked GUO Luxury Bus in Edo and kidnapped many passengers.
The Sokoto State Governor, Aminu Waziri Tambuwal a few days ago, lamented the upscaling insecurity in his state. The media was awash recently that bandits attacked some villages in the state, killing over 30 people in a single swoop.
Wednesday, the Nigerian Railways Corporation (NRC) said explosion occurred on its passenger train on Abuja-Kaduna line. Passengers escaped by a whisker.
A Lagos-based businessman, who spoke with BusinessDay SUNDAY, lamented what he described as an “ugly development.”
He said: “You know, some of us are now patronising the train services, on that axis, since the roads became death traps on account of bandits’ activities. That these terrorists are now targeting the train is a dangerous development. I hope all the security architecture would be activated to ensure this is nipped in the bud.”