Reporter : CHUKWUBUIKE MADU
According to the 1999 constitution of Nigeria as amended, the primary responsibility of government is security and welfare of citizens. However, some residents of Enugu have expressed worry with the series of security challenges faced by the country for some years now, a situation they describe as a serious threat to the peace and corporate existence of the country.
This is perhaps why some respondents, who spoke with Radio Nigeria on the country’s 60th Independence anniversary, want government at all levels to address fundamental issues that heightens insecurity in the federation.
Since 1960 that Nigeria gained independence, the country has intermittently witnessed myriads of security challenges, starting from the first republic, with the 1962/63 Census crisis, religious riots, electoral violence that resulted in various coup d’états and political instability.
Worthy to mention is the secessionist move by the then Eastern Region due to perceived unjust treatment which ended up in a bitter thirty-month-old civil war. The civil war did not only shake the foundation of the country but claimed about 3,000,000 (three million) lives.
Thousands of Nigerians have also died in sectarian and inter-communal clashes, alongside cultism in schools and ritual killings in the past two decades and still counting.
There have been the issue of militancy in the Niger Delta Region that resulted in destruction of oil installations and kidnapping of expatriates for ransom, a crime that has blossomed into a nation-wide lucrative illicit business.
Among the prevailing security threats are the Boko Haram insurgency ravaging the North East, armed banditry, cattle rustling, nomadic herder-farmer clashes as well as rising agitations for self-determination, especially in the South East.
A security analyst who retired as Deputy Sheriff in Loss Angeles Police, California, USA, Mr. john Egbo, is of the view that perceived unfair treatment and marginalization of certain ethnic groups is a major reason heightening agitations for self-determination.
“There is a bias, appointing people to man the security architecture from one tribe of the country is wrong. The superiority of tribes, the superiority of religion and preferential treatment to certain group of people and not caring for the general interest of Nigerians has made the agitation for self determination very prominent.
“The Middle-belt wants to become their own state and of course the South-East wants Biafra, the Delta Region of South-South wants their own and then the Yorubas have started demanding for Oduduwa to be a separate country,” the Security expert pointed out.
Mr. Egbo identified poor funding of the Police force as another serious factor hindering effective policing of the country.
“After the war, the military became more important than the police office and to that effect the army began to get a larger funding than the police.
“Now the Nigeria Police Force has actually been reduced to security guard for those in power and those who have money; whether you earned your money in a corrupt way, they will assign you so many police officers.
“If the police are well funded, the internal security would have been at par with the expectations of the country,” Mr. Egbo said.
A retired Army officer and former Security Adviser to Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi of Enugu State, Major General Fred Eze, shares similar view with Mr. Egbo but with emphasis on the need for state and regional security, stressing that the current security arrangement has largely failed to effectively address escalating local conflicts.
“See the ratio of security agencies to the Nigerian population. There is security situation all over the country, talk about Boko Haram, banditry, armed robbery, kidnapping, herdsmen issue, see what is happening in Southern Kaduna.
“The Federal Police lacked the capacity to handle all those issues both in manpower and equipment, I think they are overwhelmed. State policing will be necessary because people within an area who know the environment very well will be able to take care of security in their environment,” Gen. Eze noted.
General Eze (Rtd) further wants government to show commitment to stem the tide of increasing rate of unemployment, which the recent National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) report puts at 27.5%, a situation that is believed to have forced many into criminal activities.
“A lot of people have left school without jobs. I’m not saying that government should absorb everybody but anybody who wants to do anything, there should be enabling environment like infrastructure, for them to operate. The economic situation has encouraged insecurity because many people have no jobs and they have gone into various crimes,” he pointed out.
For a former Vice-President, Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Comrade Fidelis Edeh, nepotism and incompetence of security personnel need to be addressed squarely to forestall widening insecurity situation.
“What has happened is that over the years, we have lacked the skills and competences to manage conflicts that eventually result to insecurity. Why would you in course of electing one IG (Inspector General) retire all those competences you have spent so much to train?
“Why is it Nigeria can have a police that is independent, a police in which everybody finds fulfillment? Why is it that we can’t have a police that is independent? Why is it that we can’t remove the appointment of IG from the President? Why is it that you can’t have Commissioners of Police come together and among them they know who is the best, just like you elect pope?
“There was a time in this country people will just see a policeman and you would wish you would want to enter the police: police had a department of tailoring, police had fuel dump, police had beautiful police training schools, if you go around and take pictures, you will think it’s Scotland Yard. So then you seldom even see the military.
“Have you ever entered police quarters and see the level of dilapidation? So the way we have handled institutions is what has heightened the challenges we are facing. So you can’t be talking about insecurity and you leave the fundamentals” the former labour leader insisted.
Comrade Edeh says government should give serious attention to fundamental reasons that propel people to crime and self help, with specific mention of delay in the justice delivery system.
“Insecurity is an outshoot of self help in all diversity; people who believe that government has abandoned them and they want to help themselves. For so long that government is run in a way that a few benefit from the sweat of many, we can continue to patronize and manage.
“How come you have more detainees awaiting trial that those that have been jailed, how come we have congestions in courts? So the insecurity we should be looking at is first, what is the system that encourage self help as social control? Why is it that people readily resort to crime? You have a justice system that is adversarial; it is not reconciliatory, it does not rehabilitate.
“So a farmer whose farm has been encroached or a herder whose cattle have been killed, you will expect him now to submit himself to a justice system that eventually, assuming you follow the court process, will arrive at the supreme court in the next 20 years? So you see at that point there is tendency for self help; the process of processing grievance means taking matters into your hands,” Comrade Ede decried.
The former labour leader, who is now rice farmer, adds that corruption, misrule and certain government policies seem to have emboldened some people and groups into acts of terror and criminality.
“Government has also been boxed into a corner that we also rationalize criminality. So when you now hear amnesty in Nigeria, amnesty is not just about criminals, amnesty is also government acknowledging that they have failed to have provided the enabling environment that would have prevented this action.
“So when government talks about dialoguing with terrorists in north east, you find a reasoning that it is true, we believe that poverty may have been the reason government at one point failed not to have cultivated the appropriate environment.
“Look at how it has also compounded insecurity, when you justify a crime under any circumstance, you are also by implication making it somehow socially acceptable. That means that you no longer have laws serve as deterrence.
“This is what has happened whether it is in the north east, whether it is in the north west, whether it is kidnapping, whether it is militancy in the Niger Delta. You will discover that there is a narrative that subconsciously has given support to that sub culture,” Comrade Edeh remarked.
The respondents believe that the country can still fix the visible cracks in her security arrangement and remain a united entity if the principle of Federal Character and fairness in distribution of resources are upheld. They also harped on adequate protection of the country’s borders to curb influx of foreign criminal elements, small arms and light weapons.