By Muiz Banire
If in recent times, there has been any issue of interest to an average Nigerian, or a topic much interrogated in the media, it is the insecurity of lives and properties in Nigeria. The situation appears so bad that most missions in Nigeria issue travel advisories from time to time warning their citizens against any unnecessary sojourn into Nigeria, and for those inevitably within to be vigilant at all times and watch their backs. Nigerians across the nation are equally not at peace within and outside their homes. Not only during the day must your eyes be kept open, the night is under the same command now. Is it banditry that is reigning heavily in the Northern part of the country that one wants to think about; kidnapping that is ravaging the whole nation; terrorism in a greater part of the North, herdsmen/farmers conflict consuming several lives daily, insurgency, cattle rustling, armed robbery or the nefarious activities of the street urchins and miscreants in the society?
I will gloss over substantially the problem of financial insecurity in the country as a result of various frauds perpetrated on innocent citizens, as that on its own, can be a subject of a whole book. The real stories are too gory or gloomy to be regurgitated, hence my decision to skip as much as possible. I will, therefore, preoccupy myself mainly with my thoughts on the various ways I think a person not that versed in security issues but possesses a certain degree of reasoning faculty, can address the seemingly perennial challenge of insecurity in the country. My prognosis might not necessarily be novel but at least will add to the clamour by others on the issue. The discourse is more compelling to me as we approach the end of the year 2020 which can be dubbed the year of multifarious adversities in Nigeria; from pandemics to recession, to deadly protests and general insecurity. My thesis will be premised on the dishonesty of the populace deceiving one another. By this, I mean both the government and the citizens not being truthful to each other, particularly in terms of speaking truth to power so that things can improve.
On the other hand, is the imperviousness of the government to the voice of reasoning and sounds of truth. Except for the Presidency, the agitation across board for the replacement of the security chiefs is deafening. I align myself with the position of the vast majority who are not hiding behind a finger in finding lasting solutions to the perennial problem of insecurity in the country. I am aware that the two Houses of the National Assembly, amongst other institutions, groups and individuals have demanded the removal of the service chiefs from the pretence of addressing the challenges of insecurity that has remained unabated since these service chiefs were appointed. In the views of most Nigerians, not much has been achieved by the handlers of our collective safety. This is not to say that they are incompetent per se, but there is need to permit fresh breath in terms of energy and ideas in the fight against the various security challenges bedevilling the country. There comes a time that a man must appreciate the bare fact that he has done his best and needs to excuse himself, even if only to allow the growth of the subordinates to demonstrate the skills learnt under him.
The truth is that several subordinates of the current chiefs are retiring under them without the opportunity of proving their worth or giving their best. This has given birth to the concept of malicious obedience to lawful order. This means that most orders given by the service chiefs will end up being executed in a malicious manner far from accomplishing the desired goals. Frustration has set in on the part of the subordinates who are always expected to carry out the orders of their superior. The truth is that the service chiefs are never the people to implement the instructions given. The further sad news is that because the service is regimented, most times the field officers are unable to voice their dissent. The recent story of General Olusegun Adeniyi who was demoted for voicing out his frustration is a case in point. As such, the evil directive is that you must remain mute whilst things are going wrong. The price of all the foregoing is what the country is paying for today as a result of the seemingly perennial destruction of lives and properties. So, on this issue, I believe that the Presidency must have a second thought and review the service chiefs’ continuous stay in office; or alternatively, the service chiefs must recognize that it is best to leave the scene when the ovation is poorest. Their stars, in terms of performance, are dimming rapidly and must not be allowed to set disastrously. Living examples abound in the lives of their predecessors to learn from.
Without deviating from the core of our discussion, let me warn that they need not be carried away by the praise of the recent rescue of the Kankara boys. They must remember that Nigerians are too intelligent to be insulted. The question on their lips is that if truly they encircled the kidnappers before the rescue of the boys, where are the arrested kidnappers? Were they simply left to go after securing the release of the boys so as to enable them to carry out another abduction? Let us pretend not to recall the negotiation for the release alluded to by the Governors of Katsina and Zamfara as well as the interview of one of the boys. The truth remains that for every successful battle, nine were successful on the part of the criminals. We need not pretend about this. The service chiefs must avoid being disgraced or humiliated out of office. They should just bow out honourably. Quite disheartening is the refusal of the Presidency to honour the invitation of the House of Representatives to address the people on the state of insecurity in the nation, or address the Nigerian people directly.
I am of the strong view that this is condemnable as all that Nigerians want from their leaders is information on the state of affairs on security of lives and properties which is the primary constitutional responsibility upon which they are voted into office. They are simply not satisfied with the continuing assurances given while the situation degenerates and nobody knows who is the next victim, directly or indirectly. Let me remind the leaders that they are trustees of the powers they exercise on behalf of Nigerians who are the beneficiaries. They, therefore, not only owe them the duty of accountability but that of information under the constitution they swore to uphold its tenets. Beyond even the constitutionalism, morally they are bound to disseminate material information giving assurance to the people who are in a state of collective discomfort. A critical component of democracy and good governance remains information dissemination and accountability. Failure of this simply implies bad governance. The other area of importance is intelligence gathering. I am not too sure that the men in charge of intelligence gathering and management are doing enough. Strangely, they are all over, from men of the Department of State Security, to the Directorate of Military Intelligence, Defence Intelligence Agency, the intelligence units of the police, those in the para- military outfits and men of the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps. The major drawback in the performance of the intelligence men is, therefore, not due to inadequacy in personnel capacity but essentially lack of modern platform that will enable them perform.
Most times, they are trained abroad with the use of modern platform but they return to the country into the old anachronistic platform, completely outdated. Again, most times they rely on relatively stale intelligence to act as there is hardly any real time intelligence. That explains the cases of wrong targets often witnessed in the air raid by the air force. Regardless of the various sums appropriated to the military and other agencies to combat insecurity, the situation appears unabating. Whilst not necessarily suggesting misappropriation of the sums, the fact is that timely and full releases of the otherwise inadequate appropriation is often a mirage and when done, it would have been so balkanized to be meaningless in achieving the security aspiration for the country.
With intelligence, so much can be achieved in the arrest of the various crimes/attacks. Although there is a mild attempt at introducing some sort of technology to the struggle against the attackers, the country still has a long way to go. The point must be made that adoption of technology must be wholistic with necessary handshakes at all levels. This means that all levels of government must invest in technological security architecture simultaneously by way of priority. The effort here must not be disjointed as it will fail to achieve the desired objective. The minimum intervention in this regard is the introduction of the CCTV coverage nationally.
The good news is that there exist abundantly now alternative power sources. Let me also interrogate the issue of the disorderly nature of the country’s physical development which cannot be divorced from the dismal state of security in the country. I am aware that in terms of physical development in Nigeria, there is no sacrosanct masterplan. Even where there exists some sort of master plan, it is more honoured in breaches than obedience. This substantially impairs the fight against all forms of criminality in the country as open spaces and uncompleted/abandoned structures are exploited in the execution of crimes, so also tracing and trailing of criminals is difficult in the haphazard state of our physical development. This issue has been exhaustively interrogated with the necessary antidotes in the lecture titled, Insecurity:
Taking actions against organized crime, delivered at the last United Action for Change Annual Lecture by the Honourable Minister for Works and Housing and former Governor of Lagos State, Mr Babatunde Fashola, SAN who has largely seen it all. It is a must read for every Nigerian interested in the security of the nation. I do not intend to recap this aspect here. The point, however, is that we need to re-order and plan the country’s physical development in order to tame this monster of insecurity ravaging the country. God willing, in the new year, we shall consider the impacts of the economic situation, nay poverty; the laws and enforcement of the law, the reformation centers and schemes, corruption and the country’s life styles, ethical issues etc. in the combat of crimes in Nigeria in the next column. Till then, stay blessed, remain safe and compliments of the season.
Taming insecurity in Nigeria (1)
By Muiz Banire