Our expectations are high for the year 2022 and this is expectedly so, for many reasons. The year gone by was a very difficult one for many, especially in the area of dwindling economic capacities, given all the variables of inflation, the climbing exchange rate, unemployment and the consequences of the global pandemic. Ordinarily, many are on the fringes, barely managing to survive the biting effects of recession and the economic downturn, even though constant promises from the leadership reverberated to cushion the effect, with little or no tangible results. The major challenge as it were, is the crippling effect of insecurity, which has more or less put the nation at a standstill. The reason why the Constitution in section 14 (2) (b) gives priority attention to security as the yardstick to measure governance is because of its strategic importance to human existence. A society where life is not secure, where living has no guarantee and where the fear of death grips the larger populace would necessarily experience slow development. So, we cannot exhaust discussions on security since it is the primary purpose of the government.
Without any doubt, one of the reasons that led to the ouster of the previous administration was the growing insecurity in the land at the time and the seeming inability of that government to contain it. The emergence of an infantry expert, a war hero and an experienced soldier gave hope to many, but things have not changed much. Even though serious acts of terrorism have been contained and limited to the base of the insurgents, we do not seem to be getting out of the woods, going by spate of attacks in recent times. The nation at large has wondered why the President has not been able to tackle the security challenges facing the nation headlong, given his experience and knowhow, on the subject. On March 24, 2018 during the convocation ceremony of Taraba State University, another war veteran, General Theophilus Danjuma (Rtd), shocked the nation when he stated pointedly that the Nigerian armed forces were colluding with insurgents and killer herdsmen, saying that Somalia would become child’s play, should the President fail to act promptly. He called on the people to rise up to defend themselves.
“The Armed Forces are not neutral. They are conniving with armed bandits that kill people. They facilitate their movement. They cover them. You must rise to defend yourselves from these people. If you are depending on the armed forces to protect you, you will all die one by one. I ask every one of you to be alert and defend your country. Defend your territory, defend your States, because you have nowhere else to go.”
As usual, government propaganda went agog, vilifying the retired general, until reason prevailed and the President had an audience with him, after which everything returned to business as usual. We have heard stories (though not verified) of helicopters with military men said to be aiding terrorists and bandits with supplies of weapons and foodstuffs, in line with General Danjuma’s assertions. In answer to this malady, military intelligence can be deployed effectively to combat the connivance, if indeed it is true, or else we may just be going round in circles. Long after the dust gathered on General Danjuma’s explosive revelation, a former Naval officer, Commodore Kunle Olawunmi (Rtd) on August 26, 2021 on national television, stated that terrorists named current governors, senators and Aso Rock officials as their sponsors during interrogation by the military authorities. He said the government had not been able to prosecute the sponsors because it was partisan. You then wonder how low things can go. Let’s hear him.
“I told them that the centre of gravity of Boko Haram in Nigeria is the sponsors of the programme. It was beyond us because the job we needed to do was kinetic but we cannot resolve issues of sponsors of Boko Haram that were in Buhari’s government that we know them. That was why we couldn’t pursue that aspect that could have resolved the issue because we need to arrest people.”
The late former Deputy Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Obadiah Mailafia, said in August 2020 that repentant terrorists revealed that a serving northern governor is a Boko Haram leader. So, why is the government pretending not to know what to do? This matter is not peculiar to terrorists though but also extends to armed robbers, kidnappers, fraudsters and other criminal elements, who all make society ungovernable. What is needed to tackle them is the will power from those who are in authority. This is why the solution of state police or community policing as the case may be, should be embraced by the government holistically. The Neighbourhood Watch in Lagos State has proved to be an excellent idea, just as the Amotekun Corps in Ondo and Osun States have proved effective in combating the festering crisis of kidnapping. This should be replicated in other parts of the country, with necessary modifications.
Commodore Olawunmi had stated that most military formations had been compromised by the infusion of religion into the system, which the insurgents exploit to maximum advantage. When criminals invade religious places of worship, it becomes easier for them to take advantage of the spiritual atmosphere to perpetrate their evil deeds. Recently, two ex-convicts who were absorbed into a church for rehabilitation, turned around to kill the pastor in order to rob him of money belonging to the church. Though a delicate choice to make in the prevailing circumstance of present-day Nigeria, the government must nonetheless insulate all military formations from religion, at least in profiling the civilian populace that throng these centres to perform their spiritual obligations. This concern was recently confirmed by the former Chief of Army Staff, General Tukur Buratai (Rtd) who was reported to have said that “there is a strong religious affinity between the people in the town and the bandits and terrorists in the forests.”
According to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), as at June 2021, Boko Haram terrorists killed about 350,000 people in the North-East alone, 90 per cent of whom were children. The crisis is compounded in the South-East, where officers who sacrifice themselves to protect others have become targets of brutal attacks by so-called unknown gunmen, whom we now understand are being sponsored by politicians to settle scores. In the final analysis, it all boils down to the will power of the government to tackle the issues headlong, or else there is a failure of government. The President along with the governors of the states all pride themselves as chief security officers over the people and huge sums of money go to service this nomenclature without accountability, annually, in the name of security votes. This then leads us to the issue of conspiracy of corruption by the leaders. Given all that we now know from Dasukigate, it is actually possible for leaders in power to collude with terrorists, bandits, unknown gunmen, pipeline vandals, kidnappers and armed robbers, to fuel insecurity in order to loot the common purse. That is the way it would seem to us, if this particular government cannot rein in this monster.
Unfortunately, the situation seems to be slipping out of the hands of the government, given the scenario of greed, corruption, collusion and religious affiliations that have been unveiled to us by those who should know. Nigerians did not elect bandits, terrorists and criminals as their leaders. People with known identities canvassed for votes from us upon certain promises. Let them brace up to the challenges of their offices and secure the country.
The government should be bold to adopt the concept of state police nationally as a first step towards tackling this menace. Since those who are colluding are all known to the government, they should be relieved of their positions in order to cleanse the system. Going by the declarations of the Katsina State Governor, the situation is already deteriorating. That is from the home State of the President himself, so it cannot be said that leaders are immuned from the crisis. Right Honourable Aminu Bello Masari once presided over the House of Representatives before he was elected governor in 2015 and he is currently serving his second tenure in office. If such an influential leader should confess to helplessness in begging the people to buy guns to defend themselves, then the government has failed.
“It’s Islamically allowed for one to defend himself against attack. One must rise to defend himself, his family and assets. If you die while trying to defend yourself, you’ll be considered a martyr. It’s surprising how a bandit would own a gun while a good man trying to defend himself and his family doesn’t have one.
“We’ll support those who come with the initiative to procure arms because residents need to also complement the efforts of security agencies. These people (security agencies) don’t have the number to protect the people … Count it yourself, how many policemen do we have in this country? How many soldiers do we have? Even if we say every policeman should go back to his home state, it’ll still not be enough. So, if we fold arms and decide to do nothing, we’ll be the ones to suffer the most.”
In a way, the governor is right, to the extent that the concept of a federal military might is insufficient to combat the gravity of the issues surrounding insecurity in our land. This then takes us to the issue of restructuring, in amending the Constitution to take away the exclusivity of security as a federal agenda. The National Assembly has the golden opportunity through the pending constitutional amendment to balance the forces on the side of state police. In the same vein, it is anachronistic to have the governor of a State as Chief Security Officer when he is really not in charge of security.
He has no control over the operations of the security within his state, legally speaking, since the Constitution puts the operations and command of all security agencies in federal officers. In the meantime, Nigerians will be delighted to see an active Commander-in-Chief that will rise up to tinker with the security architecture to end insecurity in the new year.
Happy new year all.
• Adegboruwa is a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN)