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Path to tackling insecurity challenges plaguing Nigeria

Afolabi Cassandra Adeola, an Intern with Directorate of Research and Policy Analysis, Institute for Peace and Conflict Resolution (IPCR), Abuja writes on the state of insecurity affecting the country contending that weak institutional frameworks, weak and poorly funded military establishments, inequality and absence of fairness and justice, unemployment and ethno-religious rivalry must be addressed effectively for stability and growth.

Section 14(2) of the 1999 Nigerian Constitution provides that “The security and welfare of the people shall be the primary purpose of the Government”. The safety of citizens and the protection of their human rights is paramount. On April 21 2021, unidentified gunmen attacked a private University in Kaduna State killing a staff and kidnapped an unknown number of students, days later remains of three of the kidnapped students were found dead in a village close to the university. The gunmen haven’t been found, the other students haven’t been rescued.

The above mentioned attack is just one amongst the several crimes being orchestrated in the Northern parts of Nigeria by bandits. Over the past few years, the state of insecurity and level of safety has degenerated. Lives are lost daily, most businesses are in comatose, the population is being depleted, investments are diminishing and unemployment is soaring high.

There have been countless reports of kidnapping, armed robbery incidents on high ways, inter-communal farmers-herders conflicts, various assaults and killings on citizens regardless of class and other inter-ethnic tensions all over the nation. The insecurity paranoia is beginning to affect every inhabitant of the country and citizens are realising that the government cannot effectively guarantee the security of their lives and properties.

These security issues have significantly gotten worse and they can be traced to several fundamental issues. One, weak institutional framework ridden with corruption resulting in the inability/incapacity of the government to provide basic necessities for the Nigerian people, this has prompted a multitude of frustrated people who resort to violence at the slightest incitement or opportunity. Because of this situation, the crime rate shoots up and the security of lives and properties are no longer guaranteed.

Secondly, ethno-religious conflicts, this exist when the social relations between members of one ethnic or religious group and another of such group in a multiethnic and multi-religious society is characterised by lack of cordiality, mutual suspicion and fear, and a tendency towards violent confrontations to settle grievances. These conflicts have also revolved around who gets what and how in the state especially as it concerns the distribution of scarce resources. This particular situation forms the etiology of the conflicts between farmers and herders in the Benue valley, which has now extended to the eastern and western parts of the country.

Thirdly, military and paramilitary establishments and the Police force under federal control are weak institutionally, heavily politicised and poorly funded thereby leaving the nation’s security compromised. Funds also allocated to the states for security are siphoned for other purposes, leaving the citizens unprotected against criminals.

Fourthly, the growing awareness of inequalities, and disparities in life chances which leads to violent reactions. A general perception of marginalisation exists by a section of people in areas of government development policies, political patronage which in turn leads to resentment of the government and revolt.

All of these have attributed to the security challenges we are currently facing in the country. Consequently, they have resulted in a plethora of issues that are adversely affecting the economy and socio-economic development of the nation. The inability of the government to provide a safe and secure environment for persons to conduct business has amounted to low foreign investment rates and also difficulty in sustaining local businesses. It has occasioned a rise in unemployment rates and the shutdown of several businesses.

The agricultural sector in the country has also been affected, the herdsmen and farmers conflict in the different parts of the country have resulted in the displacement of farmers and their families, destruction of farmlands and farm produce resulting in an increase in prices of food items nationwide. Currently, agricultural and economic activities in the North-East have seized as a result of terrorist activities.

The state security agents who are saddled with the responsibility for the security of life and property which include- the police, state security service, the military, immigration and correctional services have all performed poorly in the discharge of their duties. These security problems had obviously defied the capacity and competence of the existing security apparatus and infrastructure in the country. The state security agents have been overwhelmed by the increasing nature of threats to our collective security and national well-being.

The poor performance of the Police Force has led to the lack of public confidence for the institution, Nigerians constantly live in fear and majority have resolved to form local or community vigilantes to protect themselves against attacks by criminal gangs and bandits.

During the last quarter of 2020, a movement began in the country by youths to end police brutality perpetrated by a particular unit of the Nigeria Police Force (SARS) and to necessitate the review and reform of the entireNi geria Police Force, to make them more responsive and accountable in dealing with the current security issues in the country. Little has been done by the government to effect these changes to reposition the police force to meet the security challenges.

Nigeria’s situation is a paradox where the country is over-policed and under-secured. The policing system is plagued with several operational issues. In the words of Mohammed D. Abubakar (former Inspector General of Police), he states that

“The Nigeria Police Force has fallen to its lowest level and has indeed become a subject of ridicule within the law enforcement community and among members of the enlarged public. Police duties have become commercialised…Our men are deployed to rich individuals and corporate entities such that we lack manpower to provide security for the common man. Our investigations departments cannot equitably handle matters unless those involved have money to part with. Complainants suddenly become suspects at different investigation levels following spurious petitions filed with the connivance of police officers. Our police stations, State CID and operations offices have become business centres and collection points for rendering returns from all kinds of Squads and Teams set up for the benefit of superior officers. Our Special Anti-Robbery Squads (SARS) have become killer teams, engaging in deals for land speculators and debt collection. Toll stations in the name of check-points adorn our highways with policemen shamelessly collecting money from motorists in the full glare of the public.” These issues have been overstated and reiterated countless times but actions from the government to solve these issues are still lacking.

It is possible to link the unprecedented rise in violent crimes and the alarming new dimensions of organised terrorist activities to corruption and bad governance. The government often appears indifferent about these issues and the nature of response to conflict management is often slow & misdirected. The overall stance of the government towards security issues are weak. For instance, the rehabilitation of the arrested members of the Boko Haram (the terrorist group plaguing the North-east). It is confusing what these measure seems to accomplish. It is trite law that where a crime has been perpetuated, such crime is to be punished according to law so that justice will be deemed served. This punishment often serves as a form of deterrence for others in the society. Now when a non-deterrence measure is being adopted “to stabilise the region” and it proves not effective and does not curb the prevalent crime, would it be wise to still continue with such non-deterrence measures. Putting in consideration that measures to stop the recruitment of citizens into these terrorist groups have not been adopted and measures to limit the activities of this terrorist group to the barest in this region has not also been adopted yet the government is asking the victims of these terrorist attacks to accept them into the community even as they struggle to heal and rebuild. Can this act by the government be likened to justice for the survivors of the brutal terrorist attacks?

The government has continued to trudge on in the face of this daring challenge and has continued to evolve strategies to contain or douse this conflagration rather than put an end to them infinitely. The importance of putting the citizens first in planning the development of the nation cannot be overstated.

On regional and state levels, security outfits have been launched and deployed to deal with security challenges. In as much as this is a step in the right direction, these security outfits exist only to assist the Nigeria Police Force. However, where the Police Force is plagued with fundamental issues that affect their performance, it is not expected for these steps to amount to reasonable and quantifiable results. The government needs to act strategically, taking into consideration policing systems in other developed countries and adopting other conflict resolution methods as opposed to the use of force towards putting an end to insecurity in the country.

It is important to point out that if the issue of weak institutional frameworks, weak and poorly funded military establishments, inequality and absence of fairness and justice, unemployment and ethno-religious rivalry are not addressed effectively, the state of insecurity will continue to degenerate and give rise to an unstable economy which will stifle national development and growth.

  • Adeola is an Intern, Directorate of Research and Policy Analysis Institute for Peace and Conflict Resolution (IPCR), Abuja.

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