By Abiola Daisy
While in the past, the point at issue was the problem of hunger and general poverty being experienced by the Nigerian people, in recent times the provocation has been escalated to the inability of the Nigerian state to provide security of life and property for the citizenry. If an essential aspect of government is the security of lives and property, we all agree that the Nigerian government has failed woefully in that respect. We inform that where the provision for economic wellbeing and the safety of lives has eluded a country or a people, the basis for sovereignty and patriotism are helplessly eroded.
Primary among the security challenges of the Nigerian people is the high decimal of kidnapping occurrences. In Edo State, the only people that are safe presently are the political rulers who move about with sirens and carefully selected and effectively armed policemen. We have all become walking corpses. Beyond the continuing wave of kidnapping in our high ways and community roads, the recent attack on the National Institute of Construction Technology, Uromi signifies a new dimension to insecurity and kidnapping in Edo State. As a fallout of that attack, two students and a lecturer were kidnapped. We inform that the dimension of criminality in our social space currently, stems from the inability of the Nigerian state to enforce deterrence. Whether in the states of Zamfara, Katsina, Kaduna, Gombe, Bornu and of late Niger, the Nigerian security operatives, have failed to counter or contend with the massive strength of criminal gangs. It is pathetic that we are negotiating with Boko Haram, Bandits and Herdsmen not from a point of strength but from a point of weakness laced in apparent defeat.
It has become recurrent for criminal gangs under various identity to work into our schools and kidnap children without any resistance from our police or armed forces. In the streets, the miasma of kidnapping has become a daily occurrence. Apart from the economic, psychological and mental burden that kidnapping has visited on our people, the trauma of having our children kidnapped at school is unimaginable, unacceptable and intolerable. While the poor funding of our security apparatus has depressed the psychological will of our soldiers and policemen, the lack of the political will on the part of government, to tackle the problem of criminality has placed the social order in appalling danger.
Central to our present experiences, is the worsening crises of unemployment in Nigeria. In a society where youths graduate for over ten years and remain unemployed, it takes the intervention of the divine will to foster order in that social system. Secondly is the collapse of our educational system. A social order in which examination malpractices becomes the norm produces youths with a constricted mindset. When these youths are confronted with poverty arising from the incapacity of the state, their indulgence in criminal activities for the purpose of survival becomes predictive.
We note that the crisis of insecurity has taken various dimensions. In the Southern part of Nigeria, the crime of kidnapping has been branded as a fallout of the incursion of Fulani herders and criminal gangs. We appreciate the herders-farmers’ crises. We hold that there are likely Fulani indigenes with criminal mind that are culpable of various criminal activities in our communities. However, we advise that we should refrain from a blame game that blinds us to the fact of the matter. We submit that the security operatives must evolve thorough investigation that unfold the level of collaboration between these Fulani criminals and internal forces in our communities. We consider it a fallacious argument to always link the present spate of robberies, kidnapping and killings in our country to the 2015 election. While the militarization of our youths for election thuggery largely elevate the dimension of arms proliferation in Nigeria, we inform that criminality and gang wars among others have been part of our experiences before 2015. To use such premises in isolation brings an obscurantist dimension that emasculate the real cause of our problem. We inform that excepting we have a proper understanding of the problem, we cannot effectively identify the appropriate path to its resolution.
We note the dimension of corruption in the country and its devastating impact on the proper functioning of our institutions. We aver that the poor funding of our military architecture derives from the profligacy that corruption delivers. We cannot continue to deny the status of Nigeria as a failed state. Drawing from the apparent dearth of the various integrals that define statehood, Nigeria lack the capacity to effectively address the issues that underpin the security collapse of the country.
We are not unmindful of the efforts of the state government in responding to the security challenges facing Edo State. Yet, we aver that as long as kidnapping, cultism and cult wars, robberies and killings maintain their current banal expression, the citizenry are likely to se the initiatives of government as window dressing. We argue that the government must take a more decisive approach to dealing with the crises of insecurity in the state. While we avoid being drawn into the ethnic narrative presented in ongoing analysis, we opine that a criminal is a criminal whether Hausa, Fulani, Bini, Urhobo, Yoruba or Igbo. Therefore, the government must be proactive in totally eliminating criminality in Edo State. We posit that our communities must be strengthened by providing the innards that help them to fight infiltration by criminal gangs. This include providing them with financial capacity to sustain community vigilante groups as well as providing them with capacity to monitor influx into the communities
We argue that the present dimension of criminality and insecurity in Edo State is antithetical to our development as a state and a people. We cannot develop in isolation. In a global world order, Edo State must have a cosmopolitan and multilateral approach to its development plan. Therefore, a social anomie that discourage investors from coming to Edo State negates all government efforts and slogans about a realizable development plan. For Edo State to be development friendly, government must decisively foster a social order that earns the confidence of investors.
Let the government know that we will not be able to live with the Zamfara situation or more explicitly, the current situation in the North where children are kidnapped and dehumanized. We urge the government to immediately optimize efforts at identifying and bringing to book those involved in the attack on the National Institute of Construction Technology, Uromi. This will enforce deterrence. The government must issue a statement assuring us that our children are safe on their way to school, in school and on their way from school. Any attempt to take the safety and wellbeing of our children for granted will provoke very decisive mass action from civil society in Edo State.
We implore the state government to strengthen the response capacity of the police. The kidnappers take their victims to our forests. It is laughable that the Nigerian police cannot locate criminals and kidnappers hiding in our community bushes. We call on government to evolve a more decisive approach in curtailing the security situation in Edo State.
We argue that the corporate existence of Nigeria is in glaring uncertainty excepting the security crises is effectively resolved. In our perspective, the resort to self-protection by individuals and communities has engendered the proliferation of ethnic militias and warheads. In a country where nationhood is still a mirage, the implication this scenario delivers is too dangerous to imagine. As a way forward, we submit as follow:
We call for a genuine solution to the unemployment crises particularly in relation to youth unemployment. To that effect, we request that government present an action plan or a working template that is convincing on minimizing unemployment.
We call for proper funding of our educational system
We call for a fundamental legal approach that deliver deterrence on examination malpractices
Beyond legalistic documentation, we call for the employment of effective monitors not susceptible to corruption, as enforcement operatives during examinations.
We call for a more realistic approach in our anticorruption crusade. An anticorruption model that focus on those holding political offices beg the question. An effective anti-corruption approach must fundamentally deal with mindset reorientation. Therefore, an effective anticorruption policy in Nigeria must draw from the impartation of the moral will on the mental psyche of all Nigerians.
Deriving therefrom, we call for the strengthening of the National Orientation Agency in resources and ensuring that personnel with the appropriate psychological requisite give direction
We call for the proper funding of the Nigerian military, police and paramilitary. This requires upgrading the arsenal of our various security institutions
We call for the retraining of our security personnel for better performance and higher delivery
We call on government to take responsibility and engender the political will to effectively curtail insecurity.
We call for an audit report from the Nigerian police to be publicly presented to the Nigerian people. The said report must provide details on the number of guns that were looted by mobs that attacked the police stations during the ENDSARS protest. How many of the police stations that were burnt have been rehabilitated? How many guns lost during the ENDSARS protest have the police recovered? How many of the criminals that were released in the ENDSARS jail breaks have been rearrested? These details will guide us on the lapses that our security network is experiencing and lead us to an effective solution based approach in certain respect.
We call for the consolidation of community policing in the immediate everywhere in Edo State and perhaps Nigeria. We demand a sincere and categorical anti grazing law in Edo State.
We warn the federal government to desist from intimidating the citizenry rather than engage in intellectual debate on issues of contention. Threatening the Nigerian people with state violence in killings and incarceration has become the norm. The maximum of that delivery was the brutal killing that concluded the ENDSARS protest in the LEKKI Toll Gate. Let our government know that to intimidate the citizenry and narrow the space for debates or totally submerge the freedom of the people to express their pains opens the door to a nihilistic option. We must preempt the deterioration of the Nigerian situation to the experiences of Liberia from Samuel Doe to Charles Taylor or Yomi Johnson.
— Abiola Daisy is president of the Conference of Non-Governmental Organisations, CONGOs, a coalition of over 150 NGOs, FBOs, CBOs, and other non-state actors working in different thematic areas of development in Edo State.