Insecurity: Why Nigeria must look beyond state of emergency

In the last few days, there have been calls on the Presidency to declare a state of emergency on security in the country.

The members of the nation’s upper legislative chamber had urged the Executive arm led by President Muhammadu Buhari to urgently consider state of emergency on security.

The distraught 109-member Senate made the call on the crest of the invasion, by armed men, of Government Science College, Kagara in Rafi Local Government Area of Niger State at about 2am that Wednesday, where some staff, their family members and students were abducted.

The incident came three days after passengers on board a Niger State Transport Authority bus were kidnapped in Kundu Village, near Zungeru in Yakila District of Rafi Local Government Area of the state.

There had been reported attacks, abduction and killing of Nigerians in Kaduna few days before the Niger incident.

On the night of April 14, 2014, about 276 girls were kidnapped from a secondary school in Chibok, Borno State by members of Boko Haram. Nearly, seven years after, many of the young women are still languishing in their abductors’ den.

On February 19, 2018, about 110 school girls were again abducted at the Government Girls’ Science and Technical College (GGSTC), Dapchi, Yobe State, by members of the same Islamist sect.

December 13, 2020, a group of bandits invaded a Government Boys Science Secondary School in Kankara Local Government Area of Katsina State and went away with hundreds of students.

Apart from targeted attacks, there have been increasing cases of clashes between herdsmen and farmers, kidnapping, banditry, among other criminal activities going on across the country.

Recall that in February 2020, members of the House of Representatives got so worried with the security situation in the country that they made case for a state of emergency.

The calls for state of emergency, however, do not resonate with some Nigerians who believe that the war against insurgency may have been compromised by vested interests.

They pointed out that the presence of moles, information hoarding by communities, corruption and vested interests may fueled insurgency and capable of frustrating every government’s efforts at reining in the monster.

Aliyu Umar Babangida, a retired Army Captain, said no state of emergency will work in a situation where there are entrenched interests in the prosecution of the low-grade war against insurgents.

Aliyu, who also is chief executive officer, Goldwater & Riversand Consulting Limited, said: “When people are talking about state of emergency on security; we do not need that now. The one declared sometime ago on the North East, what did it achieve?”

“For state of emergency to work, it must naturally come with a timeline; it cannot be indefinite, and there must be deliverables. You calculate what it will cost you; how many personnel you need; the deliverable and expectations. In the jungle where the insurgents operate, law has no meaning. The language they understand is brute force,” he emphasised.

“For me, it is not about state of emergency; we cannot afford that luxury. We don’t want a situation where people will continue to collect money but the results are not shown and the activities are not tracked. Those collecting the money may even want the crisis to continue. There must be direction; there must be roadmap,” he said.

Babangida believes that a lot of effort and unnecessary resources had been wasted on the fight against the insurgents, pointing out that what the Nigerian government needed to do was to make an example of some of the arrested terrorists to pass a strong message to others.

“When you publicly execute about 10 of them, others would be afraid. The terrorists are a band of fearful people and the only language they understand is brute force.

“If I were the Chief of Army Staff, I would have flushed out the rebels. I would need not more than fifteen thousand soldiers to rout them out. It is insulting to allow them to be negotiating with our government on position of strength, calling $100million and $500million ransom. Government should have an upper hand, and talk to them from a position of strength,” Babangida further said.

Some analysts have also deplored the call by some Senators for the Federal Government to grant amnesty to “repentant” terrorists.

They wonder the rationale for such call and advocacy for a cozy life for terrorists who had killed and inflicted permanent injuries on innocent citizens.

They also said that such call was unnecessary, as children of soldiers, whose fathers were killed by these bandits or those at the various internally displaced persons (IDPs) camps are not been catered for or compensated in any way.

For the security expert, those of them proposing amnesty for the terrorists are the criminals and must be investigated.

“As a matter of fact, government should treat such people as enemies of the state,” he said.

The thinking in some quarters in Nigeria is that the insurgents have been wronged and were entitled to forgiveness and some form of restitution and amnesty.

Some of those who hug this idea go about begging the insurgents to lay down their arms and subject themselves to the rule of law.

Analysts believe that this may have fueled the insurgency as the insurgents now negotiate from the point of “entitlement” mentality.

Whereas declaration of a state of emergency on security would be tantamount to declaring a full-scale war against the insurgents, there are some political leaders and chief executive officers of states that are actively talking to the same bandits and cutting deals with them.

Moles, information hoarding, corruption fuelling insurgency

Statistics show that activities of Boko Haram have led to the displacement of over 3 million people, and have equally pushed many of the youth running to safe cities where they engage in other jobs such as security, commercial motorcycle riding and scavenging.

Statistics show that activities of Boko Haram and other uprising around the country led to 8,279 deaths in 2020 alone, with Borno State accounting for 3,005; Kaduna, 1,026; Katsina 879; Zamfara, 845 and Niger 236 deaths.

A young man who identified himself as Adamu, from Adamawa State, is worried that the Nigerian government and their armed forces have not been able to end the insurgents’ attacks after 11 years of Boko Haram existence.

Nigerian armed forces are respected internationally and across Africa due to their exhibited intelligence and performance in keeping missions abroad. For over 11 years, Boko Haram has continued to make the nation’s economy and citizens’ lives miserable. The North East is worst hit.

Analysing why Boko Haram insurgency has lasted for so long, some analysts link the protracted insurgence to a number of factors other than simply military poor strategy.

In his view, a retired military officer who does not doubt the capacity and intelligence of Nigerian military force described the war against Boko Haram as complex web of problems.

The retired officer who prefers anonymity identified six reasons prolonging the fight against the insurgents.

According to him, non-cooperation of the citizens and Northern communities in information sharing and intelligence has made the military and security operatives handicapped in dealing with the issue. He believed that there are people within and outside the society with same agenda as Boko Haram and they are sympathetic to the insurgents.

He also identified those he called hands of moles in the system. “Some people see the insurgents’ activities more as religious, than national crises, and feel that government is prosecuting those with same faith with them,” he said. This, according to him, has made it difficult to identify sponsors and prosecute them.

The retired military officer also listed corruption in the system, which has assisted to oil the crisis, claiming over 30,000 lives. “Some people may be benefiting in one way or the other as long as Boko Haram war continues,” he said.

Lack of adequate diplomacy in prosecuting the war is another factor that is prolonging the crisis. He believed that many of the insurgents come from outside the North East and across the borders and therefore, Nigeria should be able to bring its influence to gain more support across borders in prosecuting the war. He agreed that the international community is assisting but Nigeria needs more of this support to win the fight.

To give credence to the capability of the Nigerian armed forces in prosecuting such wars, the retired army officer cited the Biafra war which ended after three years, the ECOMOG intervention which Nigeria spear-headed and brought the crisis to the end after three years.

In his view, Charles Igbinidu, a public commentator, said Boko Haram war is asymmetric in nature, which is different from other wars that were conventional. “Such hit and run’ by enemies is sometimes difficult for certain armies all over the world who are not trained for it”.

He supported the view of the retired military officer who said there is probability that some citizens may have sympathy for the insurgents due to some cultural and religious affiliation, hence they may be sabotaging efforts to crush the insurgents.

Since 2009, Boko Haram insurgency, a deadly group that advocates revivalism of Islamic cultural practices (sharia) and, which literally means “Western education forbidden” has become a nightmare in the Nigerian society, frustrating lives and businesses.

Sources said Boko Haram activities have resulted in over 30,000 fatalities and over 2.3 million population displaced from their homes. There are reports daily of the machinations, killing of soldiers and civilians either in their farmlands or at home by the insurgents in the North East.

Some of such gruesome murders were the killing of over 76 rice farmers in northern Nigeria late last year and several ambush and killing of soldiers. The terror group said the attacks on farmers were carried out in retribution for farmers cooperating with the Nigerian military.

The growing insecurity has unsettled many businesses, especially farming, considering the number of farmers that were killed last year across the country by bandits and terrorists, BusinessDay reported recently.

The insurgent activities are gradually collapsing Northern and middle belt region’s economy. Many businesses, especially tourism and hospitality in Kaduna State and in the North East region of the country, which is the epicenter of terrorists’ attacks, have collapsed due to low patronage occasioned by fear of attack and kidnapping.

A report in BusinessDay recently said there are no foreign branded hotels in the whole of North West and North East regions as international brands such as Marriott, Hilton, Radisson Group, among others shun the region because of insecurity. In February 2020, an American hotel group declined in managing a new 85-room hotel in Kano for the fear of insecurity of their partners’ investment, safety of staff and incessant attacks on potential guests.

More so, tour operators, travel agencies and airline businesses, most of which have relocated to Abuja, are the least thriving in the regions because of growing insecurity.

Also, farmers, aggregators and suppliers of about 40 percent of agro-allied produce to the hospitality sector were almost out of business in 2020 due to the growing insecurity, especially attacks on farmers.

Nigeria is said to have one of the best military and intelligent forces in Africa. It has continued to exhibit this intelligence at home and in its peace-keeping missions internationally. But all these appear to be lacking in the prosecution of Boko Haram war due to spies, hoarding of information, sympathy by some communities to the insurgents’ course corruption.

For three years, between 1967 and 1970 of civil war interregnum, the military with less than 120,000 personnel strength as it has today successfully executed the Biafra war. It effectively prevented the breaking of Nigeria by the secessionist Biafra.

The abortion of the secession move achieved through intelligence and good strategy created advantage for Nigeria as largest population in Africa that has remained a united force in economy and politics within the global space. Nigeria’s size is hard to ignore by investors.

The population, according to analysts, offers a large market size, with immense benefits for economic and commercial activities. More benefits could be derived from the high population if employment, quality education and health care are taken care of.

In 1990, Nigeria spear-headed the formation of Economic Community of West African States Monitoring Group (ECOMOG) along- side other ECOWAS member military forces to end the civil war and bloodshed in Liberia and Sierra Leone. The civil unrest in Liberia started when Samuel Doe staged a violent coup de tat in 1980 against President William R. Tolbert, Jr. who ruled between 1971 -1980.

Doe later held democratic election to return the country to civil. The election, which he won, was considered rigged and trouble started when Charles Taylor of National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL) waged war against Samuel Doe. Doe was later killed by rebel faction.

Nigeria’s team in the ECOMOG group captained mostly by Nigerian military personnel in the later days of the unrest showed intelligence and bravery and saw to the end of the war after about 4 years of conflict.

On Apartheid in South Africa, Nigeria employed its personnel, international community and resources to end the apartheid, which started in 1948 and ended in 1994. Nigerian entertainment industry, especially musicians toed the line of Nigeria’s government to devote songs against the apartheid. Today, South Africa is free from such operation.

Nigerian military force can end the Boko Haram insurgency with strategies it employed to end unrest in other countries if communities assist to identify perpetrators, assist armed forces in information sharing, government identifies sponsors and moles and prosecute them and co-operation by bordering countries are enhanced.

What does state of emergency mean?

When a state of emergency is declared on security, what it basically means is that security takes the front burner on priority list.

It means that resources and attention move to such area, and all hands are now on the deck in that regard.

According to Wikipedia, “It is a situation in which a government is empowered to be able to put through policies that it would normally not be permitted to do, for the safety and protection of their citizens. A government can declare such a state during a natural disaster, civil unrest, armed conflict, medical pandemic or epidemic or other biosecurity risk.”

The Federal Government had in 2013 under the Goodluck Jonathan administration, declared a state of emergency in North East at the height of Boko Haram insurgency in the region, but that intervention did not solve the problem.

A lot of summits and stakeholder-meetings have been held, yet, no result has come out of such engagements.

A security expert said: “It is not about summit, meeting, but about result. Our leaders must hit the ground and march the dust of the forest where the terrorists are hiding. The only language they understand is brute force. I was in Sierra Leone and Liberia; we did not do stakeholder meeting; we gave them a run for their violence.”

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