For several months unabated, Nigeria has come under horrible attacks and the end seems to be far from sight. With the crippling level of insecurity in the country, BIYI ADEGOROYE looks at the various threats to national security and gauges the views of security experts on causes, effects and possible solution
The numbers are frightening even as the frequency is foreboding. But they illustrate the same thing- the entire Nigerian nation state, the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) inclusive, is enveloped in menacing security. In Kaduna State alone, an annual security report by the state government showed that at least 937 people died in violent attacks and mass atrocities last year.
Governor Nasir El-Rufai is currently sticking to his gun that no further ransom would be paid to kidnappers, who have made a huge enterprise out of the crime. In the last six months, scores of students have been abducted in systematic kidnap which ravaged Katsina, Kaduna and Niger states- reminiscent of the Chibok and Dapchi mass abductions of 2014 and 2018 respectively.
Since then, hundreds of others have followed; while many are still in captivity, others are dead. Last week, reports had it that Boko Haram elements had taken over Kaure, in Niger State, a few kilometres from the Abuja.
A helpless Governor Sani Bello lamented that the insurgents have hoisted their flags there and forcefully taken over the women and attached them to Boko Haram members as sex slaves. Benue State, which has been a hotbed of hostility in the last few years with thousands in internally displaced persons’ camps and hundreds dead, has now morphed into a graveyard, with the Governor Samuel Ortom as one of the targets.
While the nation grapples almost despondently with this, the South-East geo-political zone, comprising Abia, Anambra, Ebonyi, Enugu, and Imo states, have become a fresh theatre of war, with governor’s house, police headquarters, correctional centres incinerated.
The South-South (Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa, Cross River, Delta, Edo, and Rivers States); South-West (Ekiti, Lagos, Ogun, Ondo, Osun, Oyo states); North Central (Benue, Kogi, Kwara, Nasarawa, Niger, and Plateau states); North-East (Adamawa, Bauchi, Borno, Gombe, Taraba, as well as Yobe States), and North-West (Jigawa, Kaduna, Kano, Katsina, Kebbi, Sokoto, and Zamfara states are not left out. In the North-West, the police are yet to come to terms with the gruesome murder of a Divisional Police Officer (DPO) and eight of his men in Kebbi, while an attack in Dange Local Government of Sokoto State, culminated in the loss many lives.
Though, governors in the zone have been working together and collaborating even across party lines, there seems to be no end to the killings. Governor Nasir El-Rufa’i said: “As governors, we’ve been meeting, putting our heads together to do the best we can.
The last meeting we had was penultimate Thursday with Mr. President. We expressed our concerns and came up with a critical road map to end this banditry in our region once and for all.” He said: “From Sokoto to Zamfara to Katsina to Kaduna, parts of Kebbi State and across Niger state…our people have been going through trials and tribulations arising from the activities of bandits.”
Sunday Telegraph reports that the North-East has continued to contend with the ravaging effects of the 12 yearold insurgency/terrorism, while the North -West and North Central are plagued with such violent crimes as banditry, kidnapping, and cattle rustling. Last weekend, the insurgents defied the Ramadan and invaded Geidam Local Government, in Yobe State, the homestead of the new Inspector-General of Police, with several gun trucks.
A sequel to this was last Sunday, the terror groups disguised in military convoy and gained access to 156 TF Battalion position in Mainok, Borno State. The insurgents headed straight to the arms store and started inflicting heavy firepower on the troops and dislodged them. In the same vein, the South-East, South-South, as well as South-West, are grappling with separatist agitations, piracy, farmers/herders’ clashes, ritual killings among other crimes.
The FCT is not insulated from the worsening insecurity besetting the country, as regular reports of kidnappings in some satellite towns, armed robbery, one-chance and the like occur in the area often. It would be recalled that the Chairman, Senate Committee on Army, Ali Ndume, had disclosed that the Army was involved in internal security (IS) operations in no fewer than 33 states of the federation.
“From our findings, the Nigerian army is engaged in 33 states across the country”, Ndume said. The current mayhem, according to Ortom, would have been averted if the Federal Government had taken proactive steps. While visiting an IDP camp where seven persons were killed by gunmen in the state, he said that “with the current level of insecurity, it means that we don’t have a government in place at federal level.” Senator Smart Adeyemi at the floor of the Senate captured the feelings of all Nigerians, remonstrating: “We are at a critical point in our history. We cannot keep quiet any longer. It has gotten to a point when we cannot sleep with our eyes closed any longer.
The President, he said must rise to the occasion.” Security experts believe that with the simultaneous attacks in virtually all parts of the country, the nation’s security agents are over-stretched, especially since they lack sufficient manpower and equipment to repel the attacks. Nigeria is in trouble -Okowa Reflecting on the widespread insecurity in the country, Delta State Governor, Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa, said it has plunged Nigeria into serious quagmire from which only God can save the country.
“Nigeria needs prayers because we are in troubled times. The country is insecure and our state is not left out because whatever affects the country, affects the states.
We are in troubled times because many people are hungry and can’t feed themselves but we have hope that God will take control and change things for the better. “Our economy has dwindled and insecurity is further worsening it. We can no longer farm as we used to but we are hopeful that God is able to turn things around for the nation. “We have had a very challenging time
because of the COVID-19, but the appointments of new security chiefs will improve the security situation, as new strategies will be injected. I must say that they (security chiefs) have started because I had the opportunity of being at the stakeholders meeting in Abuja and I must commend them for that.
“I also believe that there is no problem that is insurmountable and with the cooperation of all security agencies, we can combat the insecurity in our land. “Here in Delta, we have our own security outfit – Operation Delta Hawk – and we are able to work together in terms of our information gathering. We will need more support, especially in the Warri area where we have oil installations because when the place is more peaceful and secure more industries will come.”
‘Ethnicity, religion killing Nigeria’
Respondents who spoke with in Yola, Adamawa State did not mince words in describing Nigeria as having the traits of a failed state.
They said that Nigeria under the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari has failed to provide security for its citizens, which is a vital duty of any responsive and responsible government. They said the security situation which was a bit mild during the administration of President Goodluck Jonathan has assumed new disturbing dimension, spreading fast across all the nooks and crannies of the country occasioned by the activities of Boko Haram insurgency, banditry, kidnapping, farmers/herders crisis and secessionist agitations..
A Yola-based political analyst, Mr. Seth Danpullo, said that a situation where the country is engulfed with persistent insecurity and the President cannot contain it but his principal government officials are urging citizens to defend themselves is laughable.
Danpullo recalled: “One of the weapons used against President Goodluck Jonathan was the issue of insecurity, believing that Jonathan had no capacity to tackle Boko Haram even as citizens were chased out of their ancestral homes. “Nigerians went into celebration and voted Buhari into office, hoping that the issue of insecurity and Boko Haram insurgents and killings would be drastically reduced or get to an end.
“But even though they tried at the initial stage to displace Boko Haram from having control of the entire North-East, subsequently, other groups like herdsmen and kidnapping became more pronounced in Buhari’s administration than that of Jonathan. “Initially, insecurity was only noticed within the North-East but in the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari, I don’t think there’s any state that has not witnessed this disturbing insecurity, “he added.
On the way forward, Danpullo believes that there’s hope if the present administration can sincerely take care and equip the military at the war fronts, but regretted that some Nigerians benefiting from this insecurity never want the problem to end. He called on the sincerity of purpose on the part of the government. Also speaking on the issue, a legal practitioner, who preferred anonymity, said “to say that Nigeria is a failed state is understatement.
The country is at the peak of collapsing”. He said Nigerians never looked at the antecedent of President Buhari when he wanted to contest for the exalted office both academically and intellectually when he was sacked as a military Head of State. “President Muhammadu Buhari made several inhuman and unconstitutional utterances during his campaign tours but never came out to apologize to Nigerians until now.’
He added however, that “Buhari is not a problem, rather Nigerians. In other parts of the world, citizens would march to the streets and force him out of office but in Nigeria, we worship religion and honour tribalism to the detriment of the citizenry”.
Lack of political will
A retired Army General, Idada Ikponwen, decried the level of insecurity in the country, saying that the government’s lack of political will, bad image, lopsided Nigerian political structure, and high level of unemployment were responsible for the insecurity.
The retired general advised President Buhari to seek external assistance because the change of the Service Chiefs as advocated by Nigerians has not produced expected results. “We have been crying that the security chiefs be changed, and eventually some months ago, the Service Chiefs were changed but even then, your colleagues in the media called to ask.
Now that the Service Chiefs have been changed, will it change the security situation in the country?” He said the government knows exactly what to do to end the insecurity and that the kind of democracy we practice, the lopsided structure that everybody is crying about its total restructuring is also part of the problem.
“There is no leader in this world that the President cannot reach. I heard the other day that the President was talking to the President of the United States. What we cannot do, we can get others to do it for us. Assistance should be sought from those who have the scientific and technological knowhow to do it. What you can’t do, through global co-operation, you will get it done.
But when the global community doesn’t believe you are serious, then there is a problem,” he said. Also speaking on the issue, a former DIG, Mr. Parry Osayende said the government is not serious about solving security issues. According to him, Nigeria’s former leaders deliberately destroyed the police and now they gave the Army who were trained for external aggression police duties from which they are expecting a miracle.
Besides Osayende and Ikponwen, a retired Brigadier- General, Godwin Anyalemechi, and former State Director of the DSS, Mr. Mike Ejiofor, expressed similar views.
While Anyalemechi applauded the establishment of regional security outfits such as Amotekun in the South-West, as well as vigilante groups by many states, Ejiofor called on the government to urgently address agitations for restructuring and secession by groups and individuals in some parts of the country.
Anyalemechi said: “No state is insulated (from insecurity). There is no state that is out of this menace; there is no state. If you look at the country in terms of geographical zones, you will understand what I’m saying, in terms of geographical zones.
“In the South-East, you will see some hot spots – Imo and Ebonyi now are in the picture. The South-South has been a battle theatre for some time. The South-West has been battle-theatre for some time. Are we now talking of the North-East, or the North- West? “There is no particular zone in this country that is not affected by one form of banditry, or one form of problem or the other. The whole country is affected, and that is why the Federal Government and the states should do something. We can’t leave everything to the Federal Government. What are the states doing? “I appreciate what the South-West governors are doing by bringing Amotekun. Amotekun is working in synergy with the state apparatus. So, even this Ebubeagu they are talking about, I was very happy when I heard that the governors of the East have come up with a formula called Ebubeagu”.
Also weighing in, Ejiofor stated thus: “There is none to my knowledge. Every state has a security problem. Of course, the whole country is battling with insecurity. Even if you have any state that has peace, when you have more than 80 per cent of the country on fire, what do you say?
How do you address that? We have problems, and we must acknowledge it.” On whether the security agencies are overwhelmed, he responded: “They are not overwhelmed. The government has (allegedly) failed to address the basic issues of these agitations.
Once, these issues of agitations, especially in the South-West and South-East are addressed, then, we can be contending with the issue of banditry in the North. “But now, the military is dissipating too much energy; they are facing too many fronts with their ill-equip status, understaffed status; it’s a problem.
And without security, there cannot be any development. The government must set their priorities right in putting the security of this country right – address the agitation, address the issue of social injustice, unemployment, look at all the inequalities, appointments and all what have you.
“Those are the things especially in the South-East and South-West. You see, we must restructure this country to enable us practice true federalism. If we are practicing true federalism, the situation where everybody is fighting at the end of the month to come to Abuja to take their allocation, will make everybody lazy. If you restructure, every state will look inwards and see how they can survive. But now, nobody is doing anything. So, restructuring is actually one of the problems creating this insecurity”. ‘
Seek retired security chiefs’ assistance’
As part of the solution, a retired Deputy Inspector General of Police, Ozo Celestine Okoye, wants the South-East governors to involve and tap from the wealth of experience of the region’s retired service and military chiefs.
Okoye described the region’s newly created security outfit, Ebubeagu, as a paper tiger without any bite, adding that all attempts on the part of the retired illustrious sons of the region, to contribute their quota to stemming the worsening insecurity were rebuffed. He said: “What are we talking about?
We have experienced retired police officers such as Inspector General of Police Ogbonnaya Onovo (rtd); Chief of Army Staff, Lt – Gen. Azubuike Ihejirika (rtd) and a host of retired commissioners of police who are ready to offer solutions to the insecurity in the South- East.
In addition, state governors did not take advice of those they appointed security advisers. “They claim to know security more than the experienced trained security operatives themselves. They do not care and they don’t want to listen to us. Look at the Ebubeagu Security Outfit and ask them if it has a legal framework and which of the five states’ House of Assembly has made a law to back the outfit?
“The Yoruba took time to put together a legal framework and put in place all apparatus in place before they launched Amotekun security outfit and they came out with a bang. But here, the Ebubeagu Security Outfit is just on paper and nothing on ground and nothing to stand on. Who did they consult before now and what are the parameters for the recruitment of operatives and who are those recruited as operatives?”
Okoye joined the call for state police, adding that those that speak the local language as Police Commissioners and Comptrollers of Immigration, Prisons, DSS and other security operatives will function more effectively if they serve in their areas.
Ishola Williams to S’East govs: Merge Ebubeagu with ESN
In his contribution, one time Commandant, Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC), Nigerian Army, Major General Ishola Williams (rtd), asked the governors of the South-Eastern states to merge the region’s security outfit Ebubeagu with Eastern Security Network (ESN), with a view to bringing an end to the safety issue currently confronting the states.
General Williams in an apparent reaction to the worsening insecurity in Imo, Abia, Ebonyi in which police stations are being set ablaze and policemen being killed by gun men, said the situation is akin to insurgency. He said: “The difficult thing is where you place what is playing out in the South-East now.
Are they bandits, insurgents or what? This is a group of people who on a daily basis are looking for policemen to kill and burn their stations.
This has gone beyond banditry. “It has now become an insurgency in itself, creating a new front for the military to deal with. I am sure that nobody is thinking about this. It appears to me that coupled with the fact that banditry in the North -West and insurgency in the North east. We also have some elements of it in the South- South apart from the issue of piracy going on there.”
Also, he said that the situation in the South-East would not have risen if the governors had emulated their South-West counterparts by creating an outfit in the mold of Amotekun. General Williams said: In the South-East, the mistake they made is that IPOB (Independent People of Biafra) saw a gap and created the Eastern Security Network. The governors made a mistake by proving that they were obeying the Constitution by not doing what the South -West did.
They are paying for it now. “All they ought to have done, if IPOB created ESN, the ESN is there with you, you should be able to negotiate with the leaders of ESN, who are your own people. You should ask them which is of paramount interest – the safety of your people or your political ambition. Decide so that we can work together for the safety of our people. ESN would have agreed.
“Now they are creating their own tiger or lion. Apart from that they had some Vigilante group before. The most interesting thing is that vigilantes still exist in all parts of Nigeria. For what?
There is no way the South-East can get out of the problem they have without some form of negotiating with how they can merge Ebubeagu with ESN. “If ESN comes out openly to say that it cannot work with the state governments, it means that they have become a political insurgent group. They claim that they are for the safety of the South East. What they are saying is that they want to take over the government of the South east.
They cannot be allowed to do that. “To certain extent too, the police have been careless. The intelligence system has been careless even though they said they told the Governor of Imo State (Hope Uzodimma) of what was going to happen weeks ahead, but did not take any action. “But the Governor of Imo State too has a problem of legitimacy. That is why Imo State is the hot spot of whatever is happening in the South-East.
They are going to Abia, going to Anambra, they are going to everywhere now. It is not only Imo State.
If that is the situation, then Ohanaeze and some Igbo cultural group have to come up and talk to the leader of IPOB in London, the leader of MASSOB (Movement for the Actualization of Sovereign State of Biafra) and all those who can talk to these people and see how they can walk together.”
We are intensifying efforts, says General Attahiru
The Chief of Army Staff (COSS), Lt General Ibrahim Attahiru however, assured Nigerians that Nigerian troops will intensify efforts to decisively deal with Boko Haram and other criminal elements across the country General Ibrahim Attahiru who gave the assurance at the Headquarters of the Operation Lafiya Dole Theater Command Maiduguri said “we will take on Boko Haram decisively and we are committed to the focus of the operation, with total annihilation of Boko Haram from Nigeria”.
The Army Chief said that constant interaction with the troops and their commanders in the field is of essence in every military operation, more especially counter insurgency operations, hence his frequent visit.
As some have argued, the time has come for the government to seek external support; even it involves the use of mercenaries to restore security in the country, as the nation’s existence has never been so threatened since after the civil war. •With additional reports from Johnson Ayantunji, Emmanuel Onani, Okey Maduforo, Francis Ogbuagu and Ahmed Miringa