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Published On: Sun, Jan 7th, 2018

2018: Nigerians under siege

The spate of insecurity in Nigeria has reached all-time high, and the popular perception is that never in the history of Nigeria had the citizens lived under fear, as hoodlums, outlaws, criminals, kidnappers, terrorists, Fulani herdsmen and armed robbers have seized the country, while law enforcement remains hapless. Adebayo Obajemu investigates the siege of a nation

Indeed, these are difficult times for Nigerians as the atmosphere of insecurity, fear and a sense of foreboding for many Nigerians pervades everywhere. The country is fast turning into Kafkasque world where horrible dream is fast turning into reality, and life is becoming ‘’nasty, brutish and short’’, as a result of the upsurge in crimes of murder, kidnapping, armed robbery, terrorism and banditry unleashed by Boko Haram, Fulani herdsmen, kidnappers and armed robbers.

Travels in some part of the country has become expensive joke that can turn awry, especially on many routes, the most notorious being Kaduna-Abuja route, and Bauchi-Maiduguri road. On a daily basis, an average of five people lose their lives to banditry, yet we have a panoply of different security outfits , including the military, police, DSS and other para-military organisations.

The country has become heavily militarised as the military has found itself in security operations throughout the country. At present the military is in one form of deployment or the other in 26 states, which has overstretched its resources and hampered the effective prosecution of the war against insurgency in the north east.

‘’The day I encountered these bandits was the saddest in my life. I had to say my last prayer to Allah, because I believed I could not survive it. They just emerged from the bush in military fatigue, wielding AK 47 guns. It was when they told us that they would kill no one if we cooperated, and we did, we parted with everything we had’’, was Danladi Umar’s experience on the stretch of road between Kaduna-Abuja.

He said the saddest thing was that the police were just a mile away, and when hinted of the robbery, they excused themselves on the ground that there was no fuel in their vehicle. Umar’s experience is a daily occurrence on that road and other dangerous roads across the country.

On the average, with the resurgence of Boko Haram, an average of 10 people die weekly from the terror unleashed by the insurgent group.

In some parts of South south, criminal gangs, cultists and militias have taken over, making social life difficult. In Rivers, Akwa Ibom and Cross Rivers States, life is becoming cheaper than water, as cultists on a daily basis inflict maximum terror on the people, the latest was the gruesome killings in Rivers state.

Edwin Tamuno, a professor of Sociology says ‘’What happened in Rivers, Kaduna and Kwara states was enough to bring down a government in Western world, it was sheer evidence of a failed state, the government has lost the moral right to govern.’’

For people around the Middle Belt region, life is cheaper than water since the advent of the Buhari government. Fulani herdsmen have killed more than 7,000 people between November 2015 and January 4, 2018.

Many Nigerians – high and low, corporate organisations, and civil society – have all expressed concern, but the government and the security forces have not given adequate response.

Only recently, Evangelical Church of Wining All (ECWA) condemned the spate of insecurity in Nigeria, saying the growing insecurity and criminality is a glaring evidence of government failure.

ECWA President, Reverend Jeremiah Gado and Secretary General Reverend Yunusa S. Madu have severally voiced concerns, even eminent senior citizens have said the activities of Fulani herdsmen against the Middle Belt and other parts of the country have not been condemned, and terror against Nigerians by these herdsmen has gone unpunished, thus raising concern about impunity. Reverend Jeremiah said the responsibility of every government of a country was the protection of the lives and property of its citizens, adding that inability of government to meet this very significant obligation to its people was an indication of its total failure.

The church said, based on the prevailing security situation, the security challenges  appeared to have overwhelmed the government and its security agencies as nowhere, either home, market places, work places, worship places or highways was safe.

“Like many other Nigerians, members of the ECWA are suffering the brunt of insecurity on our highways which have been taken over by armed robbers and kidnappers who kill, maim, torture, rape, steal and extort outrageous ransoms from their helpless poor victims while security agents look away.

“The situation is now very alarming as cases of kidnapping and armed robbery continues to re-vibrate from all regions of the country on an hourly basis against already impoverished citizens on the highways and in their homes.

“Within the last few days, ECWA pastors and members, including heavily pregnant women and children have been kidnapped by very young men along Abuja-Kaduna road and subjected to various degrees of traumatic experiences before being released after payment of ransoms.”

The statement further pointed out that one of the pastors of the church who had just regained his freedom was held hostage for five days by some daredevil young kidnappers who seized him along Jere-Bwari road, just 200 metres away from a major police check point on the curve bridge on Friday August 5, 2017 at about 7pm after shooting the driver of the vehicle in which he was travelling.

“This scenario like many others as have been attested to by many residents along Abuja-Kaduna road lend credence to the possible collaboration of some bad egg police and other security personnel in the increasing crime of kidnapping and armed robbery along that highway, or how do you explain the fact that for all the period our pastor was in the hands of the kidnappers, they neither changed position nor mobile number and yet the security agents were not able to apprehend or track them”, the church said.

‘’How come the Buhari government has not tackled the killings unleashed by herdsmen, given his famed integrity’’, was the poser raised by John Adebayo, a Lagos trader at Idumota.

Many Nigerians agree that security, as an infrastructure, has completely collapsed in the country? ‘’The spate of heinous crimes (for instance, Fulani herdsmen mayhem from the North to South, unbridled kidnappings, even in Abuja, renewed Boko Haram nuisance with boldness) being perpetrated with impunity across the country do not show a government that is in charge, nor a country that is at peace with itself. What are they governing if people, even the poorest amongst us, cannot freely move around for fear of being shot dead or kidnapped?

“In a nation where almost all the infrastructures in every sector of its daily existence have completely collapsed, what remains for such a country to labelled a failed state?, was the submission of Lekwot Gyang, a university don.

He continued: ‘’The president scored himself very high in his first year of office for doing very well on addressing the spate of insecurity across the country, especially the Northeast, where we were told that Boko Haram has been defeated and downgraded. Is it not clear from what we are seeing now that the president only instilled a false sense of security and not actual security if you consider that kidnappings are now retail, herdsmen attacks are random and uncontrolled from North to South, and regular ambush of military and civilians in the Northeast have now acquired the euphemism “soft targets?”

Western powers, especially, the American and British authorities warned their nationals of possible terror attacks in Abuja, the nation’s capital, during the Yuletide. The United States’ mission in Nigeria sounded an alarm of a possible terror attack in Abuja, and warning its citizens residing or those who had businesses in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) to be watchful and exercise security caution. The mission said, in an emergency message on Monday, December 4, 2017, that the information available to it pointed in the direction of Boko Haram as the possible attackers, adding that their likely targets would be hotels frequently visited by Westerners.

Olufemi Omoyele of the Redeemer University told BusinessHallmark this is part of the tragedy of Buhari’s divided house: “Ordinarily, lack of critical intelligence is part of the problem with our security; the American and British authorities would have shared intelligence with our security apparatuses, but they don’t trust us. They would have share vital intelligence with all top echelons of our security agencies, including the National Security Adviser (NSA), the Director General of National Intelligence Agency (NIA), Director General of the DSS, or even the Police Inspector General.

‘’Pathetically, all those assigned the responsibility of managing the security infrastructure in the country are spending more time fighting and trying to pull down each other. Buhari’s Director General of the DSS and EFCC are not on the same page, and I believe unhealthy rivalry between and among agencies is responsible for intelligence failure, and upsurge in criminality and atmosphere of insecurity.’’

Chairman, Academic Staff Union of Universities, Uniben chapter, had late last year criticised the spate of insecurity in Edo state and Nigeria at large.  Prof. Julius Iyasele, said, “As it were, citizens of Edo State and Nigeria at large are under siege because within the space of one or two months, a number of our colleagues have been kidnapped or murdered in cold blood. A few days ago, a colleague from Ekiti State University, who is a council chairman in one of the polytechnics in Bayelsa, was shot at on the Benin bypass.

“The bullet pierced through the stomach of the driver and came out from the other side. The boy was just only lucky. And they said that they had just left a police checkpoint on the bypass when it happened. I don’t know whether we have security agents in the state. As it is citizens are still at the mercy of criminal elements.

Observers believe that with increasing political activities as the general elections approach, security challenges will exacerbate in the country as the fight for political power intensifies. Already experts have raised the alarm over the proliferation of small arms in the country through importations and trafficking from Libya and other war torn countries in Africa. In 2017, the Nigeria Customs Service made two major arms seizure at the sea ports confirming the security threat in the country.

 

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