The legal authority of an independent state to govern and regulate its political affairs without foreign interference, comes with a responsibility to secure the life and property of its people, defend its territorial integrity and create certainty of equal opportunities for everyone to strive and thrive in their pursuit of happiness. This creates the concept of sovereignty, but the idea of a sovereign state in international law cannot be operationalized without three critical elements of permanent population (people), a defined territory that is not under the control of non-state actors, and a government. In 1960, Nigeria became a sovereign state, with the government entrusted with the mandate to provide “the security and welfare of the people” as its primary purpose. If Nigeria is a public company, how do we measure the progress of the company in achieving its corporate goal of providing “security and welfare of the people?”
Any honest review of contemporary security situations, value for human life and dignity of human person in Nigeria, would reveal the reality that life in Nigeria is brutally solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short, reflecting the human condition that social contract philosophers referred to as “living in a state of nature.” As was the case in Hobbes’s state of nature, Nigerians live and suffer from constant fear of violent death, helplessness. Might has become right, even with Nigerians surrendering their full freedom to the government in exchange for protection and security, which in most cases never happens, it is simply the case of “woe to the conquered.” According to the Beacon Report, 4,067 persons were abducted and 9,734 killed by gun men in 2023. In some communities, bandits now invade villages in broad daylight, demanding levies, kidnapping, killing, destroying homes, properties and farms.
To the lucky victims of our security crisis, who are alive to tell their terrifying stories in the cold hands of the criminal elements, they simply “do not pray that Nigeria happens to you”, as there is usually no indemnity to those shattered by our broken social and physical security systems.
The problem is not just about the failure of the state to secure the life and property of the people, it is the sustained culture of lack of responsibility and impactful results from those we entrust with the mandate to provide public services for public good. Hence, from the nights of 14-15 April 2014, when 276 Chibok girls were kidnapped in Chibok community, to the horrific killing of Nabeeha Al-Kadriyar on Friday, January 12, 2024, amongst other millions of Nigerians that have lost their lives to various forms of violence and insecurity in Nigeria, the government for over a decade has failed to secure any serious conviction against any serious suspect connected to the lingering security crisis. No government official has ever resigned for the failure of the state on security, no official of the government has ever been sacked as a result of inability to secure the lives of the people, nor has the devastating spate of insecurity abated.
Perhaps, our predication is worsened by the fact that governments at all levels have failed in their approach and commitment to solving the root causes of insecurity in Nigeria. Insecurity enablers such as unemployment which is currently at 4.2% as at the Q2 of 2023, with 133 Nigerians that are multidimensionally poor, inflation expected to peak at 29% in the Q1 of 2024, lack of basic infrastructure and enabling environment for small and medium enterprises to thrive, have only further deepened our security crisis. To summarise our situation is to understand that Nigeria currently faces two epidemics – corruption and insecurity. These two factors are intertwined, as corruption undermines the capability of public officials and public institutions to discharge their duties in securing the life and property of the people.
Unfortunately, the Nigerian Police Force with the primary responsibility to provide internal security has become “politicised, poorly led, underfunded and undermanned.” Policing in Nigeria has become an institution in need, as the police force itself is in need of security in some cases, while some divisional stations close every evening. Officers of the Nigerian Police Force seems to be a police service institution for the elite alone – out of 400,000 police officers in Nigeria, more than 150,000 of them are attached to VIPs and unauthorised persons in Nigeria. Thereby, defeating the general purpose of establishing a Nigerian Police Force for the “prevention and detection of crime, the apprehension of offenders, the preservation of law and order, the protection of life and property and the due enforcement of all laws and regulation with which they are directly charged”, as Section 4 of the Nigeria Police Act Provides.
For the avoidance of doubt, Nigeria is not isolated from the current global landscape of complex crises and conflicts, the difference, however, is the grace and dignity in government response, responsibility and sincere commitment to public safety. In our climate, it is almost like Nigerians are existing without an overseeing authority. If you measure how many kilometres that have functional presence of government in Nigeria, you will be disturbed by the fact that nearly 60% of the Nigerian territory is ungoverned and only witnesses the presence of government during elections.
Whereas at the grand strategic level, the President as the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces must give definitive order to the Service Chiefs, with timeline on when to end this widening level of insecurity, State Governors as members of the Nigeria Police Council, must understand their role in ensuring that the federation’s police force works for all Nigerians. Subnational governments must ensure that security votes are productively utilised for non-kinetic measures of social security, as a system for empowering citizens against insecurity. We must further empower and strengthen our local government system for efficient public service delivery at the grassroots.
God bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
Ekpa, Stanley Ekpa, lawyer and leadership consultant, writes from Kaduna via [email protected]