- Experts call for self-defence force or services by states
By ADEBAYO OBAJEMU
Gradually the country is not only slipping into Mephistophelean grip, but much more, declining into state of nature described by British philosopher, Thomas Hobbes, as ‘’where everyone is against everyone, where life is nasty, brutish and short’.
Many Nigerians across broad spectrum spoken to by BusinessHallmark agree that the country is already exhibiting features of a failed state, that the road to ‘Somalia’ (gripping example of a failed state, where warlords, criminal gangs and extremists have carved out fiefdoms for themselves at the cost of thousands of lives) is very much closer under President Muhammadu Buhari than at any other time in history of this country, given the heightened level of insecurity across the land.
A month ago, it should be every other day that we witnessed criminal activities ranging from kidnappings, car-jacking to armed robbery, banditry and ritual killings, but in the last three weeks, the allurements and enticements attached to these have emboldened the perpetrators to morph their nefarious activities to daily occurrence.
In angry reaction to the spate of killings – arising from inability to pay ransom to kidnappers, armed robbery and sheer banditry, especially in the North—and mostly affected states of Zamfara, Kaduna, Adamawa and now Katsina, Buhari’s home state, the Chairman of the Northern Elders Forum, Prof. Ango Abdullahi, lamented the growing security challenges facing the country, saying President Muhammadu Buhari is not doing enough to salvage the situation.
The former Vice-Chancellor of Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, was reacting to the Presidency’s assertion that the kidnap of the district head of Daura, Buhari’s hometown in Katsina State, had shown the security agencies were not giving any town preferential treatment.
Reacting to the abduction of Buhari’s brother- in-law, Alhaji Musa Uba, Garba Shehu, Senior Special Assistant to President on Media and Publicity, said on Kakaaki, a breakfast television programme on AIT that ‘’because the President comes from Daura, that is not to say there cannot be crime in Daura or Daura will be specially treated’’. Abdullahi said current insecurity in the North was worse than when former president Goodluck Jonathan was in the saddle.
These developments prompted the Senate to invite the acting Inspector General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, to brief it on the risinf criminality in the country. After the closed door meeting, Adamu told said that the police is ill-equipped and incapable of dealing with the situation. Senate President Bukola Saraki assured the him, that the Police Trust Fund Bill would be passed before the end of the eighth Senate to ensure adequate funding for the police. Adamu was said that there recruitment of another batch of 10,000 policemen this ear to strengthen the force..
In a statement issued by Saraki’s Special Assistant on New Media, Olu Onemola, the Senate President reiterated the National Assembly’s commitment to strengthen the nation’s security architecture, while emphasising that both the Police Trust Fund Bill and the Police Reform Bill, which are at various stages in both chambers of the eighth National Assembly, would help to bequeath a more effective and efficient Police Force to the country.
As if to douse tension, last Thursday, President Buhari met with his security chiefs on the matter, he ordered them to redouble their efforts to secure the lives of Nigerians. This charge came on a day Acting Inspector General of Police,Adamu Mohammed rolled out new counter –terrorism measures in furtherance of the ongoing efforts of the police to bring an end to the growing internal security challenges facing the country.
The President gave the directive after meeting behind closed doors with heads of security agencies in the country at the Presidential Villa, Abuja. Briefing State House correspondents after the meeting, the Chief of Naval Staff, Admiral Ibok Ekwe-Ibas, said the number of kidnapping across the country has dropped. Admiral Ibas said he and other security chiefs at the meeting briefed the President on the proliferation of small arms and what the various agencies were doing to curtail the consequences of the development.
He said the President directed them to ensure that security agencies “do much more to ensure that Nigerians go to bed and wake up feeling healthy and confident that their security is guaranteed.”
The Acting IG promised to improved security, even as the police Thursday rescued 27 kidnapped victims, including five Chinese nationals, from kidnappers den. The new strategies, according to Force Public Relations Officer, Deputy Commissioner of Police, Frank Mba, are purposeful and intelligence-driven and are targeted at identifying, locating and dismantling kidnapping gangs across the nation and bringing the kidnappers and their collaborators to justice.
He said also that it was designed to complement and strengthen ‘Operation Puff Adder’ currently going on in several states of the federation. “The operation will involve the deployment of undercover operatives, decoy operations and high-level tactical missions with active participation of operatives drawn from the conventional police units, the Force Intelligence Unit, the Special Anti-Robbery Squads (SARS), the Special Anti-kidnapping Squads and the Police Tactical Units comprising the Police Mobile Force (PMF), the Counter Terrorism Unit (CTU) and the Special Forces,” he stated.
Mba told newsmen last week that the Police operatives from ‘Operation Puff Adder’ have rescued unhurt 27 kidnap victims, including five Chinese nationals. He said the Chinese citizens, who were earlier kidnapped on April 15, 2019, in Bobi, Niger State were successfully rescued on May 5, 2019, from a forest in Birnin Gwari, Kaduna State, following painstaking investigative efforts, including both air and ground surveillance.
Mba stated: “Two of the kidnappers died from injuries sustained during exchange of gun fire with the Police in the course of the rescue mission. 22 other kidnap victims were rescued in Zamfara State and other parts of the country.
“In addition, between January 2019 and the first week of May, 2019, a total of 270 suspected kidnappers were arrested, 275 suspected armed robbers were arrested and 105 assorted weapons and a large cache of ammunition were also recovered. “The IGP, while commending the general public for their understanding and supports so far, reassures the nation that the end to violent crimes and other sundry criminal activities was in sight. He promised that the Force under his leadership will continue to work with other relevant stakeholders to make Nigeria safer and better.”
Few weeks ago the House of Representatives, troubled by the worsening insecurity in the country, summoned President Muhammadu Buhari to come and explain what is happening. The legislative chamber wanted Buhari to explain the measures he has put in place to restore peace. The incident followed last Monday kidnap of the board chairman of the Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC), Muhammed Mahmood, and his daughter along the Kaduna-Abuja highway.
In a spiral of kidnappings, last week, the Police Command in Zamfara confirmed the kidnap of five persons at the Government Girls Secondary School, Moriki, in Zurmi Local Government Area of the state. The Police Public Relations Officer, Muhammad Shehu, however, clarified that no student was abducted.
Adopting a motion moved by Mr. Ali Madaki during the plenary session of the House presided over by Speaker Yakubu Dogara, the lawmakers also urged the authorities to declare a state of emergency in Safana/ Batsari/ Dan-Musa Federal Constituency to contain the deadly activities of the heavily armed bandits in the area.
Urging the security agencies to flush out criminal elements in the area, the House also urged the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) to urgently provide relief materials to those who fall victim of the attacks. In his motion, Safana (Katsina: APC) lamented that the recent attacks on his constituents had reached an alarming stage as the perpetrators continuously kill innocent persons and set their homes ablaze while defenceless men and women are abducted.
He lamented the ordeals of residents of four villages in his constituency, including Kasai in Batsari Local Government Area where no fewer than five persons have been killed; Alhazawa in Safana Local Government Area; and Guzurawa in Safana Local Council, all in Katsina State .
“These killings have continued unabated as these bandits seem to be unstoppable. At Gobirawa village in Safana local government, the bereaved villagers were forced to abandon the bodies during the burial and scampered for safety when they sighted the bandits coming back to launch another offensive.
“ These bandits who operate both at night and in broad daylight on motorbikes, parade sophisticated weapons, including AK 47 assault rifles, which they use in committing heinous crime against my constituents.”
According to Gabriel Onyerire (Anambra: APGA), the worsening insecurity underlines the fact that Nigeria is fast becoming a failed state, adding that the executive and not the legislative arm should be held responsible for the problem.
Abubakar Adamu Chika (Niger: APC) who broke into tears while baring his mind on the issue, lamented that he could no longer spend the night in his village out of fear for his life.
Mr. Owotunse Agunbiade, a retired assistant commissioner of police in a telephone chat with this newspaper said ‘’ what we are witnessing is much more serious than the attitude and response of government to the challenge. What it means is that there will be a halt to investment, and even the one that is already here will take flight. This insecurity has a lot of implication for the economy. ‘’ He urged government to do more, and to also inject fresh hands into top hierarchy of the security architecture.
A statement by the PDP through its National Publicity Secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan, yesterday alleged that “President Buhari’s inattention has emboldened insurgents and bandits to continue to over-run communities, unleash mayhem and bloodletting on citizens in Borno, Zamfara, Yobe, Adamawa, Gombe Taraba, Kaduna, Benue and Kogi states, including Katsina, his own state.”
According to the opposition party, “Within this period, marauders invaded communities in Adamawa and killed no fewer than 26 innocent Nigerians; many more have been killed in Borno, Taraba, Benue and Zamfara states, where bandits also reportedly attacked the Government Girls Secondary School in Moriki.”
PDP further claimed that “While the Buhari administration remains virtually nonchalant, kidnappers have taken over many of our major highways, with hundreds of compatriots held in captivity in forests along Kaduna-Abuja, Taraba-Katsina-Ala and other highways in the country.”
According to the PDP, Buhari has not demonstrated required capacity to control the security situation and so has “resorted to cheap escapism, particularly in the face of allegations in the public space that certain individuals around his administration are benefitting from the situation.
On what should be done to curb insecurity, an expert, Dr. Ferdinand Ikwang, canvassed the setting up of state defence services, saying this would prevent a conflict with the Federal Government since the 1999 Constitution, as amended, clearly designates the president as the one in charge of security and well-being of the people.
Ikwang pointed out that while the constitution says the governors shall run their states in such a way that they do not come in conflict with any activity of the Federal Government the same constitution does not say they cannot set up self-defence force or services.
“That is where the governors miss it. They go to set up vigilance teams which are non-state actors. They should set up self-defence forces until we can restructure. Every governor has a right to do that,” he said.
Also, the Yoruba socio-cultural organisation, Afenifere, said it had warned for decades that Nigeria was going under, not only as a result of insecurity but also in every other sector of the economy. The Spokesman of the group, Mr. Yinka Odumakin, in a chat with this newspaper, said the challenges of security in the country were multifaceted and not restricted to terrorism.
“We also have economic insecurity where millions of people are living in abject poverty and are dying of minor illness and even of hunger. Nigeria is bound to fail unless it is restructured to true federalism. Insecurity is not likely going to reduce as long as the current security architecture is sustained.”
He wondered how the Inspector General of Police (IGP) would move from state to state to contain insecurity. Odumakin also lambasted those in power, saying they are only comfortable in the corridor of power without necessarily wanting to face the reality of what Nigeria needs to survive or move on as a nation.
A leader of the Middle Belt Forum, Dr. Isuwa Dogo told BusinessHallmark that there ‘’is a need for the overhaul of the security system’’, saying, the defence chiefs and other heads of security agencies had no business remaining in office. To Dogo, it is wrong for Nigeria to be fighting insurgent as if it were engaging in a conventional war.
“If our country is serious about fighting terrorism, it must first cut off the network of arm and ammunition supply, food and financial supply. The Sambisa Forest, for example, is not the entire Nigeria, therefore it must not be impossible for the security agencies to apply intelligence to comb the forest and make it impossible for terrorists to operate from there.”
The President of the Arewa Youth Consultative Forum, Alhaji Yerima Shetimma indicted the security agencies and accused them of having failed in their responsibilities. According to him, “It is enough for any serious country to revamp its security apparatus if a citizen is killed, not to talk of where 30 or more are dying on a daily basis due to terrorist acts and our security chiefs are walking shoulder high.”