BusinessDay

Nigeria’s unending lamentation over insecurity

…Helpless government engages in broken promises …Hapless citizens look up to God for protection …As there’s no hiding place for travellers

On April 27, 2021, Smart Adeyemi, a member of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and senator representing Kogi West constituency at the Senate, wept on the floor of the Senate while speaking on the worsening security situation in the country.

Adeyemi had said that it was no longer time to keep quiet. He urged his colleagues to take drastic action by calling President Muhammadu Buhari’s attention to a menace that he noted was threatening the lives of every citizen.

If the observation made by the senator was taken seriously, Nigeria would have been saved from the killing field the country has converted into by terrorists that operate as though there were no government.

Since the senator made the lamentation, many more Nigerians have lost their lives to the activities of herdsmen, bandits, Boko Haram insurgents and kidnappers that have effectively taken over the country.

Within the period that the senator raised the alarm, the House of Representatives of the National Assembly had held a security summit that was attended by the high and mighty in Nigeria. It ended up as a talk show. Nothing, as usual, was achieved.

The same last year, Buhari pleaded with the United States of America to move Africom headquarters from Germany to Africa.

The House of Representatives told the President to declare a state of emergency on the security sector. A number of National Assembly members lamented the worsening security situation in Nigeria.

Senator Ike Ekweremadu said the government has lost legitimacy

On a daily basis, Nigerians are being killed like chicken under the watch of an elected government; the only reaction is endless meetings and rehash of promises. The citizens have since lost hope and faith in government. They have since put their security in the Supreme Being.

The terrorists’ attacks on Kaduna International Airport, killing one Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA) official, and the blowing up of the rail line resulting in the derailment of the Abuja-Kaduna bound train last Monday are indications that Nigeria is indeed in an unconventional war without end in sight.

Up till now, it has become a gaze work, how many people that died, injured or kidnapped as a result of the attack. The manifest that is making the rounds on social media does not add up.

Whereas reports had it that about 970 persons were on board the train, the manifest shows that less than 400 passengers boarded the ill-fated train. Was it a case of deliberate less documentation of actual passengers to dupe the government or outright oversight? That has also opened a new chapter of fraud or corruption that may be going on in that sector.

In October 2019, the United Nations reopened its building in Abuja, eight years after the property was destroyed in an attack by a Boko Haram suicide bomber.

Though the Nigerian government undertook the rebuilding of the property and handed it over to UN officials, sadly the government has never kept to its promise of forestalling further bombings and violent attacks across the country.

Today, the situation is getting worse on an alarming rate as dreaded bandits and other criminal elements have joined forces with Boko Haram in the ceaseless assault on Nigeria’s sovereignty.

While 23 UN staff were killed in the August 21, 2011 suicide bombing, 73 others injured, Nigeria has witnessed more gruesome killings since then, with at least over 5,000 deaths annually in the past 10 years, according to a UN report.

Moreover, at least 35,000 people have been killed in northern Nigeria with at least 2.2 million internally displaced persons in Adamawa, Borno and Yobe states, since 2009 when Boko Haram launched its insurgency aimed at overthrowing Nigeria’s secular government and establishing an Islamic state, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs and Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect.

Sadly, the lamentation seems endless for the citizens as the Nigerian government has proven incompetent at handling the situation.

The most worrisome for many is that at every attack by bandits or Boko Haram, and no matter the number of casualties, government’s response has always been same; exhibition of weakness, living in self-denial and reeling of unfulfilled promises of fighting terrorism.

The latest attack on the train has further exposed the weakness of government over terrorists, and most importantly, queried the huge amount being budgeted and spent daily on security.

In a tweet following the Kaduna train attack, Senator Shehu Sani, said: “When I told them that about Abuja-Kaduna road, they antagonised and fought us. Now, N4.27trillion was spent on Defence in 7 years, yet terrorists with AK-47 on bikes have become invincible.”

Lamenting from a victim’s corner, Sarah Bulus, a civil servant who lost her husband to bandit attack in Kaduna in January this year, decried that Nigeria can salvage the situation, but because of sectional interest, the government is looking the other way while terrorists are having a field day; unleashing mayhem unchallenged.

“Who is going to challenge bandits or Boko Haram when government has interest or may be sponsoring them, the terrorists cannot overpower our army, it is just that the government does not want the army to flush them out because of their vested interest”, the widow said.

While joining her voice to other widows and families of victims of the ceaseless attacks by the bandits in the North East, Sarah, an aggrieved Kaduna State indigene, expressed her disappointment over the failure of the leadership of the country to stand up to its responsibility of protecting lives of the people that it swore an oath to serve and corruption across the military, which has reduced the once-feared Nigerian Army to puppet.

Trailing a more serious path, Ifewodor Ogala, a retired Navy officer, questioned the efforts of his former colleagues at fighting insecurity.

According to him, the Nigerian military has all it takes to defeat the bandits and Boko Harama within six months; hence it is disappointing that insecurity is escalating despite ample time given to the military, huge sums spent and other incentives that are not made public.

“Truly, it is sad to hear that bandits or Boko Haram are still on rampage when all the things the Nigerian military has asked for are being provided. Bulk of government’s budget now goes to security, even the Kaduna State governor was quoting billions he has spent on security, yet the terrorists seem to be winning the war. The military should look inwards and challenge itself. It can even go beyond the government to get results, which they did during the ECOMOG days. Yes we can, yes the Nigerian military can,” he said.

But the boldness of the bandits worries many.

Mitchel Onyechere, an Abuja-based businessman who uses the Abuja-Kaduna rail route, queries how over 200 bandits will enter an airport without being noticed, as well as disregarding the security architecture of the airport.

“It means our security operatives, including the Army mean nothing to bandits, probably because of their superior weapons, what happens to the huge funds spent on updating our ammunitions, what about the fighter jets acquired late last year, are they meant to kill peaceful protesters when the terrorists are having a field day here and government is not saying or doing anything different,” Onyechere noted.

Also citing the Kaduna Airport attack, Ibrahim Mansur, a foreign news agency correspondent in Abuja, said that the Nigerian Defence Academy (NDA) is just a stone throw from the airport, yet the bandits dared attack.

Mansur, a Lebanese born in Nigeria, argued that if the terrorists could attack the NDA in August 2021, it means even the Presidential Villa is not safe.

“I think the government should learn from countries that have fought terrorism to a standstill. It should collaborate and show commitment at fighting genuinely as some countries who are willing to partner in the fight may be scared the government may not give all to the fight”, he said.

Onyechere also sees more challenges for businesses in the Kano-Kaduna-Abuja corridor as movement is being hampered because of the high level of insecurity on rail, road and air in the region.

“My business partners in Kaduna are moving their operations to Abuja for now, some airlines have stopped flying into Kaduna and the rail is stopped now. But should these be happening when an ex-general is in power. I recalled the ruling party saying it will tackle insecurity in matter of months, today they are almost ending their second term in office and more terror is being unleashed, more lives lost, properties gone, and investments also. Who is deceiving who,” he lamented.

For Sam Onikoyi, a Nigerian researcher based in Belgium, the answer to the insecurity challenge in Nigeria lies with the government.

For him, countries of the world, investors and foreigners will not take the country seriously because of the less regard for the lives of her citizens and inability to defeat home-groomed terrorists.

“You cannot reinvent the wheel, all government needs to do is to be sincere in the fight against terrorism. In my opinion, the government has never been serious and the fight is not all about spending huge funds on ammunition, take care of the soldiers, raise their morale, prosecute corrupt military officers and those sabotaging the fight, and then invite foreign partners who will be willing to come, seeing your sincerity of purpose”, he admonished.

He also thinks that the failure of the government to protect the lives and properties of the citizens, which it was elected to do, should be enough ground to change the leadership for better at the 2023 general election.

“For me, Nigerians should insist on change in 2023 and it should be people who have capacity to effect change, to protect and better their lives. I have family back in Nigeria and I know the level of hardship in the country. That should be enough to say no to vote buyers and vote in credible people, which I don’t see in any of the two major parties. Nigerians should for once be stubborn at choosing their leader in 2023, a leader that can stand terrorists and cabals to restore the country’s sovereignty,” he further said.

No day ever passes without report of attacks, killings, kidnapping of Nigerians and foreign nationals by terrorist groups across the country.

There are continuous attacks and killings in Benue State, where the situation has degenerated in the last few years. Separate attacks on communities in different Local Government Areas of the state by suspected armed Fulani herdsmen, leading to death of thousands, with a large number of people displaced.

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Just last week, a Deeper Life Church Pastor, John Ajav and three others were reportedly killed in separate attacks on communities in Guma Local Government Area of Benue State by suspected armed Fulani herdsmen; it was one in a series of daily attacks on helpless people in the state.

“The Pastor was shot and killed at Waku village while on his way to a church programme in Gbajimba from the Umenge community. It is again a sad day for us in Guma. These terrorists have continued to attack and kill our people for no reason whatsoever,” Tivlumun Nyitse, Chief of Staff to the Benue State Governor, said.

Interestingly, in several of these attacks and killings, President Buhari has always said that his administration was on top of the situation and would end the killings sooner or later. However, for now, such promises appear to be a mirage.

In April 2021, suspected terrorists killed at least 83 persons and displaced hundreds of others, including women and children, in attacks on many villages in Zamfara.

The President, in a reaction to the incident via a statement by his spokesperson, Garba Shehu in Abuja, said that the persistent violence against innocent people must stop.

“These criminals should stop pushing their luck too far by believing that the government lacks the capacity to crush them.

“Let’s not give these criminals any opportunity to succeed by taking the war to their own camps and stop them in their tracks before they even have the time to respond under our massive fire power,” he said.

Buhari directed the military, security and intelligence agencies to take immediate steps to close all existing gaps in their operations being exploited by criminals to wreak havoc.

Despite several of these promises, the attacks and killings of innocent Nigerians have worsened across Nigeria.

Many Nigerians have blamed President Buhari and his administration for not doing enough to halt the spate of attacks, killings. Some wondered why the President has failed to apply the same zeal he used in crushing the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) and arrest of its leader, Nnamdi Kanu to curtail the frightening security Nigeria situation.

Christopher Imumolen, aspirant for 2023 presidential election on the platform of the Accord Party (AP), bemoaned the state of the nation and worsening spate of insecurity across Nigeria and called for drastic measures to be taken to avert further loss of lives.

He noted that road, rail and air transportation have now high risk for travelers.

“It is not new anymore that the nation is under attack. There is a need for concerned Nigerians like me to speak up. You can see that the security of Nigeria is in a mess, the state of Kaduna State is nothing to write home about.

“We are no longer safe; we can no longer travel through the road, through the rail and I’m beginning to ask myself; how do we get to this situation?” he said.

Speaking further he said: “This situation is a result of the lackadaisical attitude and incompetence of those who currently lead us and it is high time Nigerians began to speak the truth, because we need to revive this country.

“If one thousand men can be kidnapped, many killed and nobody knows where they are at this point, it means the country is not safe.

“We are in a time where the President, governors, vice president should not be sleeping, because war has been declared on this nation, we are under attack.”

Observers have suggested that the security agencies need to work on intelligence gathering and information analysis so as to be proactive rather than to be reactive in their approach.

Similarly, many stakeholders across the country have also stressed the need for community policing and the need for locals to be engaged in the security architecture of this country. They say it is high time the vigilante groups be resuscitated to enhance security across Nigeria.

Kunle Okunola, public affairs analyst, said the security agencies most especially the DSS, NIA and the Army need to extend their investigation into politics and fish out those sponsoring the insecurity.

According to him, “It is only an insane individual that would not know that the spate of insecurity in Nigeria is dangerous to our peaceful co-existence as a nation.

“The insecurity challenge facing the country can never let Nigeria reach a greater height. The fear of the unknown would never allow foreign direct investment (FDI) into the nation’s economy.

“It is obvious that the Buhari administration needs to wake up and act fast in mitigating the insecurity of lives and property in this country. Fundamentally, the security of lives and property is the major responsibility of a government but alas, the reverse is the case in Nigeria,” Okunola said.

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