The directive given by President Muhammadu Buhari to the armed forces to put an end to the security challenges in the country by December is unrealistic, security experts have said.
Rauf Aregbesola, minister of interior, was quoted as saying at a Joint World Press Conference in Abuja on Monday that Buhari gave marching orders to the security chiefs to move against bandits and terrorists, stressing that they must be smoked out, while the security challenges facing the country must end by the end of the year.
Experts, however, said the government had yet to do what is required to address the multi-pronged security challenges still confronting the country at the moment.
The security experts and analysts who spoke to BusinessDay expressed worry that violent attacks and killings had increased in recent years in the country.
For more than a decade, Nigeria has been battling diverse and high-level security threats, including Boko Haram terrorism, kidnappings and crude oil theft, despite efforts by the security forces and stakeholders to tame the situation.
The problem was later compounded by the emergence of other security threats, including the Islamic State in West Africa Province (ISWAP), farmer-herder clashes, banditry, separatist activities, and other violent attacks.
When contacted, Major General Musa Danmadami, director of Defence Media Operations, said the military had put in place strategies to tackle insecurity.
“I cannot give you any assurance that insecurity will end by December. However, the federal government has assured Nigerians that insecurity will end,” he added.
Kabiru Adamu, CEO of Beacon Consulting, a security risk management and intelligence consulting company, said the drivers of insecurity are still largely addressed and cannot be tackled in four months.
According to him, the government may only manage to tame insecurity but the challenges will remain until the government takes deliberate steps to address the root causes.
“I work with data; that statement by the government is not as accurate. There are certain things that need to be corrected, and if not, we would still remain with the insecurity that we have,” he said.
Adamu, disclosed that while the number of fatalities dropped from 1,400 in January to 500 in July but rose to 800 in August, according to data polled by his organisation.
He stressed that if Nigeria must tackle insecurity, it must decentralise the security architecture.
He said, “Most of these security challenges occur at the sub-national level, either at the state level or community level, and we have still not agreed to the decentralisation of security.
“We need to agree to that so that the gaps being exploited by the criminal elements to perpetrate the attacks will be blocked. When states and communities are embedded into the national security sector, these elements will not have space to perpetrate.”
Adamu pointed out that the country is yet to find an answer to the issue of ungoverned spaces where terrorists hibernate to carry out their attacks. He revealed that even though security forces successfully decimate the hideouts, the criminals will eventually return.
He said the government should deemphasise military solution and address other drivers of insecurity such as poverty, unemployment, climate change, the proliferation of small arms and light weapons still remain largely unresolved.
At the Monday’s press conference, the federal government reeled out successes recorded by the security forces which include the decimation of bandits and terrorists and the mass surrender of Boko Haram terrorists, stressing that security has improved.
Lai Mohammed, minister of information and culture, also assured Nigerians of adequate return of peace in the country, maintaining that the worst period of insecurity threats across all zones was already in the past.
“As far as the daunting security challenges we face are concerned, we can tell you that the worst is over. Never again will terrorists and bandits and their cohorts hold sway in our country,” he had said.
Mike Ejiofor, a former director at the Department of State Services, said even though the government has recorded some success, the December target is uncertain. He said while the government may be seeing some appreciable successes in the northern region, insecurity is worsening in the southern region of the country.
For Okechukwu Odeh, an Abuja-based security analyst, the assurances by the federal government must be treated with cautious optimism.
He said: “I don’t know on which premise the government is making such an assertion. Nigerians are experiencing insecurity in various dimensions, every part of Nigeria is being threatened by bandits and terrorists and it appears that we don’t have a government. The minister’s statement that security has improved is distasteful and unacceptable, and Nigerians have rejected it
“Nigerians face the threats of insecurity every day. It is just a mere statement driven by propaganda. Lai Mohammed has built a culture of making statements that don’t conform to reality. This is not the first time the minister has spoken, but ending up having the worst insecurity. Remember when he said the military has been downgraded, yet they acquired missiles to shoot down military aircraft.”
According to him, the government must stabilise the economy if Nigeria must enjoy sustainable peace.
While experts dispute claims by the government, available records also show that Nigeria’s security deteriorated in the first half of 2022. For instance, a recent report, titled ‘The Nigeria Security Situation’, released by Beacon Consulting, shows that at least 6,698 persons were killed in violent attacks across the country from January to June 2022. The number of fatalities increased by 35.9 percent compared to the 4,927 fatalities recorded in the first half of 2021.
The report also showed that more citizens were kidnapped in 2022 compared to 2021. At least 3357 persons were abducted compared to 2540 persons abducted within the same period last year, representing a 24.3 percent increase.
Also, there were 2357 cases of violent attacks; this represents a 47.5 percent increase from the 1235 attacks witnessed last year.
Also, Jihad Analytics, an international terrorism research/analysis group, which specialises in collating data on terrorist’s activities worldwide, recently described Nigeria as the second most attacked and terrorised country in the world after Iraq.
It said while Iraq recorded 337 terrorist attacks in the first half of 2022, Nigeria recorded 305 attacks, with Syria coming third following 142 terrorist attacks.
Jihad Analytics said the Boko Haram/ISWAP terrorist group was mostly responsible for the attacks.
The organisation in March 2022 warned that Nigeria is now the most active hub for attacks by the Islamic State. It revealed that the total number of claimed ISIS attacks in Nigeria increased sharply from 47 in February to 56 in March alone. And on the global stage, attacks in Nigeria account for 45 percent of all ISIS attacks.