By AYOOLA OLAOLUWA

The growing spate of insecurity in the country, especially in the northeast, northwest, and some parts of southern Nigeria has wreaked havoc on the nation’s economy, upending critical economic sectors and leaving millions of Nigerians accross the country without work and enough food on their tables.

Apart from further thrusting the nation’s vulnerable economy into a precarious situation and pushing many states, businesses and families towards insolvency, the worsening security situation has exposed the incompetence and unpreparedness of the incumbent administration for governance.

According to Business Hallmark findings, the rate of attacks, which has become a daily affair, by Boko Haram terrorists, Fulani herdsmen, kidnappers, bandits, armed robbers, cultists, militants and other undesirable elements has become alarming despite the government’s claims of spending billions of naira and several measures put in place to stem the tide.

Hardly will a day pass without chilling reports of killing, maiming and kidnapping of innocent Nigerians by hoodlums. From the common man  to the rich and mighty, no one is longer safe or unreachable.

On Thursday, November 26, 2020, the people of Ondo State was thrown into mourning when the king of Ifon, the headquarters of Ose Local Government area of Ondo State, a first class traditional ruler, Oba Israel Adewusi, was by suspected kidnappers.

The gunmen were said to have attacked the monarch around Elegbeka on Ifon-Owo Highway while returning from the monthly meeting of the Ondo State Council of Obas. Several sources said the attackers were herdsmen who had been terrorising the area for some time.

While the government and security agencies have condemned the act and vowed to fish out the perpetrators, Nigerians who spoke with BH said they are not taking government’s assurances seriously, describing the monarch’s murder as one too many.

A breakdown of a report released by NigeriaMourns, a civil society organisation, revealed that in the first half of 2020, the country lost at least 2,503 persons to violent killings, as against 3,188 lives in the whole of 2019.

“Insecurity and killings continued to worsen despite claims by Nigeria’s security agencies of successfully routing organised criminal groups, killing over 166 terrorists in June. These number of killings in a single month is also higher than the total number of deaths from COVID-19 in the country”.

Meanwhile, BH findings revealed that the worsening insecurity is having collateral damage on all development index. For example, incessant herdsmen and farmers clashes, as well as bandits attacks and killings have disrupted  economic activities, particularly in theaters of war such as Borno, Benue, Kaduna, Bauchi, Plateau Zamfara, Adamawa, Gombe and Sokoto.

Sources in the states disclosed that apart from internal displacement of people, economic activities, particularly farming is almost crippled in the states. They blamed the current food scarcity and inflation in the country on the destruction of farmlands by rampaging militias and bandits.

“Foodstuffs prices should be coming down at this  period as we are in harvest season. But most farmers could not cultivate idle lands at the start of planting due to insecurity. Several had fled with their families to safety. I am supposed to be in Sokoto now farming. But have been in Lagos since the beginning of this year because I did not want to die.

“Some of those that have the courage to still go to farms have been killed or injured in the process, with their produce destroyed or looted. While some produce are rotting away in abandoned farms with no one to harvest them.

“Even with the few that are harvested, a large chunk rot away in sheds as trailer drivers have abandoned treacherous roads due to incessant kidnappings and killings of their members. The few daredevils that agree to do business charge exorbitant fees.

“For example, we used to hire a trailer from Kano to Lagos for between N150,000 and N200,000. But today, you can’t get one for less than N500,000. That is why farm products are very expensive in the south. Apart from cattles, I doubt if agricultural goods that filled up a trailer amount to N500,000. So what Nigerians are paying for is haulage cost and not the actual value of the products”, declared Suleiman, a securityman cum farmer based in Lagos.

An agriculture expert, Dr. Gbenga Alabi, said the nation has lost over N1trillion in 2020 alone to the disruption in farming activities.

“The current high cost of poultry products, particularly eggs, is due to the scarcity of maize, an essential feedstock in poultry food production. At the beginning of this year, a ton of maize sold for between N75,000 and N80,000. Today, it is over N200,000 per ton. And it is not getting better”, Alabi said.

Corroborating Alabi, the Chairman, Poultry Association of Nigeria (PAN), Ogun State chapter, Mrs Blessing Alawode, informed BH  that millions of jobs have been lost in the industry and appealed for the quick intervention of the Federal Government.

“Poultry industry, estimated at ten trillion naira is the most capitalised in the agric sector. Such an industry employing about 20 millions directly and indirectly through its wide value chain must not be allowed to completely collapse.

“With the current astronomical prices of soya beans and maize, more poultry farmers with thousands of their workers across the country may soon be out of business as majority of Nigerians cannot afford the inevitable but exorbitant cost of poultry products.

“Over two millions of direct and indirect poultry farm jobs have been lost and many firms  have closed down in the last five months as a result of acute shortage of maize and rising price of soya beans,” Alawode said.

Another sector insecurity has impacted negatively is the real estate sector. According to available data, over 3.3 million Nigerians have been displaced by insecurity, including over 2.5 million internally displaced persons (IDPs) in northeastern Nigeria alone.

BH  findings revealed that while many Nigerians who are already housed, had their houses razed down,  those displaced from their communities are left without homes thereby worsening the overall housing deficit.

Some housing experts who spoke on the development said the destruction of many properties by rampaging bandits and hoodlums has denied property owners, agents and government the much needed income from rents, commissions  and levies.

A property developer, Architect Segun Oladapo, disclosed that estate surveyors, agents, developers, and even investors are no longer willing to travel to some parts of Nigeria because of the rising waves of kidnapping and banditry in the country.

“In November 2019, two of our workers were kidnapped in Lokoja, Kogi State, while on their way to Abuja to supervise an ongoing project. Unfortunately, one of them died in the process, despite the company paying N100million ransom for the two.

“In March 2020, after we recovered a bit from the tragedy, we mobilised two workers to move to Abuja to see to the completion of the project. Do you know what they did? They took to their heels without even doing proper resignation. Mind you, they were not even going to travel by road but by air. Some of their colleagues said they told them that they did not want to ever cross the ‘Niger’ to the North.

“As I speak with you, the project is abandoned after gulping over N4billion”, Oladapo said.

BH learnt that the situation is not peculiar to Oladapo’s firm, as many projects scattered across the country, particularly in states and cities prone to violence, are now abandoned as real estate professionals reluctant to move to site for fear of being killed or kidnapped.

Another real estate practitioner, Mr. Lanre Ninalowo, said most of the properties his firm manage in Rivers, Federal Ccapital Territory (particularly in Abuja suburbs), Kaduna, Kano, Delta, Ondo, Adamawa and other states prone to violence are now vacant as people flee with their businesses to safer states like Lagos, Anambra.

Worried by the development, stakeholders in the industry who had earlier predicted the recovery of the real estate sectorare now of the view  that worsening insecurity is becoming a disincentive to investors.

They noted that wary investors are no longer eager to embark on new projects or complete ongoing ones, preferring instead to observe developments in the country. The security threat, they argued, could affect the $2.5billion Family Homes Fund with the objective of achieving 500,000 homes by 2023 in different states.

Speaking on the development, the President of the  Nigerian Institution of Estate Surveyors and Valuers (NIESV), Mr. Roland Abonta, stated that both local and foreign investors are scared of the high level of insecurity in some parts of thecountry and are unwilling to deploy human and material resources which could all end up in flames.

“Insecurity is a bad one for everybody because real estate is a high profile investment that is cost-intensive and requires a lot of financial commitment. So, every investor is looking for a secure environment for his investment.

“The other day, we heard of some houses being burnt in Kwara and other places. The terrorists go to places and destroy every building that is in that place, and so no investor will go near where there has been doing such in the past for fear of the same thing befalling his investment.

“The foreign direct investment in real estate is the worst hit with warnings coming from the United States and other nations saying their indigenes should not be around some places in Nigeria.

“Definitely, those are the price the economy is paying for the unending insecurity in our nation. With insecurity, it is a lose-lose situation. There are losses, such as loss of lives, investments, and assets.

“Property market in some of these areas is down and goes down every day each time there is an attack between Abuja- Kaduna road or attack within Kaduna metropolis. it goes down.

“Since the method of attack is no longer predictable, it is beyond the military, it is beyond everybody such that with escort people run from them when they start operations.

“We are in a situation that is very precarious, a situation of crisis in our security system and until some thing is done about it, no sector will survive much more so the real estate sector.

“It is worsening because investors are scared and even the existing houses are being burnt down, definitely, it has a worsening effect on the housing industry and other sectors including the real estate. In fact, very soon the entire economy will come down, that is when you will know the import of what we are dealing with,” he stated.

Our correspondent reliably gathered that worsening insecurity is also leading to massive exodus of people from cities, towns and villages to safer places, thereby putting pressure on available houses.

Another area the worsening insecurity is having negative impact is on Foreign Direct Investment (FDI). Checks revealed that there has been considerable decline in the flow of FDI into the country as foreign investors confidence in the nation evaporates due to massive security challenges.

According to the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), FDI flows to Nigeria averaged $5.3 billion annually from 2005-2007. However, UNCTAD data shows FDI to Nigeria averaged $3.3 billion from 2015-2019, a period that has been marked by heightened and widespread insecurity in the country.

According to an economist and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Prodel Global Services, Charles Omole, investor confidence can worsen, particularly where there is weak and ineffective government response to the security challenges.

“Insecurity is one of the major reasons for Nigeria’s unattractiveness for inward foreign investment in the last five years, amongst other factors. Security, in my opinion, is an essential prerequisite for true and lasting economic growth to take place. Therefore, the economic security of Nigeria is intricately linked to its national security. The epidemic proportion of criminality and violence in the country has ramifications for the economy”, he said.

In order to stem the growing tide of insecurity, government has continued to pump more funds into defence projects, resulting in disproportionate defence spending compared to other economic sectors.

BH checks show that the Federal Government has been allocating hundreds of billions of naira to defence and security-related expenditure.

“These are large sums of money that should have been going elsewhere in the economy, especially in the education and health sectors.

“The domestic economic impact of this exorbitant defence expenditure is further devalued as long as it is mostly foreign procurement-based. This is not helpful to the growth of the economy”, added Charles Omole.

Owing to the worsening security situation in the country which in effect is daily shrinking economic opportunities, Nigeria is losing its best brains on a daily basis through mass emigration to foreign countries,  particularly the United States, Canada, Europe and Asian countries.

According to a recent poll conducted by NOI Polls, almost 9 in 10 respondents (88%) confirmed that are seeking work opportunities abroad. The poll found out that 83% of doctors who filled the survey and are based abroad are licensed in Nigeria, indicating that they had completed their medical education in Nigeria before departing beyond the shores of Nigeria.

While the search for a better quality of life is the main reason for the mass emigration of Nigerian doctors and other professionals, the prospect for thats good life is being jeopardised  by insecurity.

It would be recalled that the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) had on several occasions called out its members on strike over the constant kidnapping and killing of some of its members in states like Delta and Cross River.

Another sector affected by worsening insecurity is tourism and hospitality. Owing to fear of attacks by hoodlums, tourists no longer visit several cultural sites in the country, thereby denying the proprietors and state governments the much needed income. Several games reserves, national parks and historical sites like the Yankari Games Reserve, Borgu Park and Oyo National Park are now abandoned and desolate due to inactivity.

Many countries, it was observed, have continuously advised their citizens not to travel to many parts of Nigeria. For instance, the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) advised British nationals against travelling to sixteen states in the country. The American government in a travel advise to its nationals in Nigeria posted on its website advised them to be extremely careful anytime they crossed the three bridges (Eko, Carter and Third Mailand) that connect Lagos Island to the mainland. They were advised to limit their stay on the island except they have unavoidable businesses on the mainland.

With such dire warning, fewer foreigners are making Nigeria a destination of choice, a security expert told BH.

“It is clear that any effort to grow the Nigerian economy by the Buhari administration would most likely fail if insecurity is not dealt with. Insecurity is no longer just a problem that affects our security sector; the entire economy is at stake if something is not done to fix this menace.

“As we adapt to the challenges of a changing world and reposition our economy for growth and increased employment, security must be sorted as a matter of economic priority, Omole stated.

Meanwhile, prominent Nigerians and groups have deplored the current security situation in the country, calling on the government to address the drift.

The Sultan of Sokoto, Muhammadu Saad Abubakar, lamented that bandits were fast overrunning the north, carrying out their activities openly and moving from house to house unchecked.

“People think north is safe but that assumption is not true. In fact, it’s the worst place to be in this country. Because bandits go around in the villages, households and markets with their AK 47 and no body is charging them. They stop at the market, buy things, pay and collect change, with their weapons openly displayed. These are facts I know because I am at the centre of it.

“I am not only a traditional ruler, I am also a religious leader. So, I am in a better place to tell the story. I can speak for the north in this regard because I am fully aware of the security challenges there. We have to sincerely and seriously find solutions to the problem, otherwise, we will find ourselves soon, in a situation where we would loose sleep because of insecurity,” the Sultan said.

Also, the pan-Yoruba  socio-cultural organisation, Afenifere, called on President Muhammadu Buhari to get up and secure Nigeria.

Afenifere made the call in a statement by its National Publicity Secretary, Yinka Odumakin while reacting to the murder of Olufon of Ifon in Ondo State. The group said Nigeria is in a state of total insecurity.

“This gruesome murder is coming as we are still smarting from the brutal murder of the daughter of Afenifere leader, Funke Olakunrin for which some Fulani herdsmen are currently on trial.

“There have been other multiple murders across Yoruba land which the police have not been able to resolve. It has reached a point that only very prominent killings get reported in this state of total insecurity in a failed state.

“The killing of any citizen worries us, how much more a first-class monarch. We ask the police to fish out the killers of Olufon as it is one murder too many and absolute failure and lack of competence by the security system in Nigeria to secure lives and property which is the first duty of any responsible government.

“We are fed up with the daily sucking of the blood of our people across Nigeria in the apparent festering of insecurity which now has a very conducive atmosphere in Nigeria.

“To President Buhari, it’s a time to get up and secure Nigeria and allow a federal architecture that promotes homeland security. Being the commander-in-chief can’t be a title with no responsibility”, Odumakin noted.