By Daniel Uchechukwu Lawrence
Insecurity is a global phenomenon and not peculiar to any state of the world. It manifests in violent and non-violent forms. For this reason, tackling insecurity internally and globally has remained one of the primary focus of many independent nations and international organizations in the modern world. Krahmann, E. in an article titled “Conceptualizing Security Governance” published in Journal of the Nordic International Studies Association in 2003 defined insecurity as activities that do not ensure the protection of a country, persons, and properties of the community against future threats, danger, mishaps and all other forms of perils. Though Krahmann view of insecurity may sound futuristic, however, it painted a clear picture of what the concept is all about. In summary, insecurity may be seen as the absence of security for humans, animals, and other valuable properties.
Based on the above said, the primary responsibility of any state government, be it democratic or socialist, is to ensure the security and welfare of its citizens. Sovereign states of the world in recognition of the importance of security to its national survival and existence, have made legal provisions that will give top priority to their national security. At the same time, many nations have committed and continued to commit enormous resources to ensure the strengthening of their national security. This is because the welfare of citizens cannot be guaranteed when both the internal and external security of a state is under serious threat. It is because of this that the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (amended) in section 14(2)(b) stated that “the security and welfare of the people shall be the primary purpose of government”.
It is one thing to make a promise and another thing to keep such a promise. Unfortunately, the government of Nigeria over the years has continued to find it difficult to uphold the legal oath it took to protect the lives of her citizens and their properties.
Since the return to democratic rule in 1999, Nigeria has been battling series of security challenges across the federation. The country has been over-run by various criminal and violent activities such as terrorism, militancy, kidnapping, armed robbery, fraud, sexual abuse, assassination, ritual killings, thuggery, cultism, drug and human trafficking, political and religious conflicts, communal clashes, the brutality of state security forces, among others in different parts of the federation. These security challenges have resulted in the loss of lives and displacement of persons, economic hardship, and retarded national development. Also, the unabated security challenges of Nigeria have created a negative perception and assumption in the mind of the global community.
In 2017, Nigeria ranked 5th out of 20 most dangerous countries in the world according to the World Economic Forum ranking of safest and least safe countries of the world (Independent UK, Thursday 7 September 2017). Two years later, Forbes Media in its online publication of September 5, 2019, titled “Ranked: The 20 Most Dangerous Places to Live”, Nigeria came 3rd behind Brazil and South Africa, as one of the 20 most dangerous places to live on earth in 2019 (forbes.com). Though there may be objections from some quarters concerning these rankings, however, that does not change the fact that the security problem of Nigeria is now hydra-headed. Given these horrific rankings, some nations of the world have advised their citizens against making Nigeria their travel destination considering the constant volatile security situation of the country.
Northern Nigeria is one region of the country that is presently under serious security threat. For more than a decade now, the region has been a war theatre. In most cases, the situation seems to have overwhelmed the powers of the Federal Government of Nigeria to restore law and order despite the military and security campaigns launched in the region. The news of violent attacks and killings of both civilians and security personnel have become a daily and weekly trend in the region. With Boko-Haram insurgents unleashing unending terror in the north-east, farmers and herdsmen conflict ravaging the north-central and armed banditry gaining prominence in the north-west, the serenity and beautiful economic potentials of a great region is fast declining. Despite years of cry for help by the people of the region, there seems to be no possible end in sight concerning the security plight of northern Nigeria.
Insecurity in northern Nigeria became one of the unending nightmares of Nigeria’s Fourth Republic with the emergence of Boko-Haram. The goal of the sect is to declare northern Nigeria a caliphate under its control, establish a Sharia government, and abolish western civilisation which they consider an abomination. The group which came into existence in 2002 under the leadership of Muhammad Yusuf was initially envisioned to be an opposing force to the poverty, inept political and traditional leadership and underdevelopment ravaging northern Nigeria. With the arrest and death of the founder, Muhammad Yusuf in 2009, the group ended up becoming a terror to the people it once claimed to save from servitude. The group’s violent attacks have remained prevalent in the three north-eastern states of Adamawa, Borno, and Yobe.
These attacks include planting and detonation of bombs in public places, destruction of public infrastructure such as schools and hospitals, the kidnapping of young boys and girls who they end up initiating into fighters and suicide bombers, abduction of school children and aid workers for ransom, forcing of kidnapped young girls into early marriage, and looting of cash, foodstuffs, toiletries, medical supplies during raids in communities. The group also carry out surprise attacks on military troops and military bases in attempt to steal military weapons.
Boko-Haram has become a dreaded terrorist group alleged to have links with several terrorist networks such as Al-Qaeda, Hezbollah, Taliban, etc. Despite the declaration of a state of emergency in north-eastern Nigeria by former President Goodluck Jonathan in May 2013, the insecurity problems caused by Boko-Haram in the region remained unabated. It was for this reason, that ending Boko-Haram insurgency in the north-east was among the major campaign promise of the incumbent president, Muhammadu Buhari prior to the 2015 general election. Since his victory at the 2015 presidential polls and being re-elected for a second term in office in 2019, the government of President Muhammadu Buhari has no doubt made some progress in the war against insurgency in the north-east region more than his predecessor. However, the government has not defeated or decimated the insurgents as claimed and promised prior to 2015 polls. Thankfully, the group has been prevented from its regular bomb attacks in urban areas of the north-east. And their complete control of the geo-political zones has been ceded to the Nigerian military thereby forcing them to retreat to the Sambisa forest. Unfortunately, the government allowed itself to be carried away by the little progress it made in the war initially, and that gave the Boko-Haram insurgents the momentum to reinforce and now carryout constant attacks in remote communities in the northeast geo-political zone. They have also on countless occasions ambushed soldiers and attack military bases. These attacks have continued in the present time, with some progress made by the Nigerian military but not enough to end the situation. Given this, many public commentators have argued that the insurgency war is an ideology war, which requires the concerted effort of government at all levels to be won.
Thousands of human deaths and destructions of infrastructure worth billions of dollars have been attributed to the Boko-Haram group. Washington Post in a publication dated June 10, 2020, reported that group have killed not less than 30,000 people both civilians and soldiers from 2009 to 2020, and have displaced over 1.8million people (www.washingtonpost.com). Some reliable publications and reports put the death toll above 32,000 and human displacement above 2million. Many people of the of the north-east geo-political zone have deserted their ancestral homes and have become refugees in neighbouring countries like Cameroon, Chad, and Niger. This situation has created a serious humanitarian crisis for Nigeria that demands an international assistance. In 2016, the Nigerian Federal Government in a joint assessment with the United Nations, World Bank, and the European Union stated that damage suffered in north-east is put at $9billion and $6billion would be needed for immediate and near-term stabilisation and recovery of the geo-political zone (The Guardian Nigeria, April 5, 2016). However, with the renewed and regular attacks by the group, there is possibility of an increase in the initially projected economic cost.
Daniel Uchechukwu Lawrence is a Public Affairs Analyst.
Furthermore, farmers and herdsmen conflict remain another major security challenge threatening the peace and stability of northern Nigeria and by extension other parts of the federation. Though the conflict between herders and farmers over land has been an aged long issue, but the truth is that, the country has not seen before, the present intensity of such conflict. The farmers and cattle herders conflict in Nigeria is born out of the need for economic survival, as climate change has made both parties compete over scarce resources. Herdsmen in search of pasture for their animals encroach into farmlands, destroying crops and vegetables planted by farmers. On the other hand, farmers in the search for arable land have in some cases encroached into grazing routes and attack herders grazing their cattle in their farmlands. The retaliations on both sides result to economic and human loss.
States like Adamawa, Benue, Delta, Edo, Enugu, Kaduna, Kogi, Nasarawa, Niger, Ondo, Oyo, Plateau, and Taraba have been the major victims of the farmers and herdsmen conflict ravaging the country in recent time. However, states of north-central geo-political zone which include Benue, Kogi, Plateau, and Nasarawa, undoubtedly remain the worst hit by the crisis. The people of these states have continued to mourn the ruthless slaughter of their husbands, wives, brothers, sisters, and children by unknown killer herdsmen who took vengeful advantage of the conflict to unleash unimaginable terror. In pains, they have buried and continue to bury their loved ones brutally murdered daily, and they live in uncertainty of their own lives.
The Conversation, an online academic media, on June 29, 2020, published an article which claimed that the farmers and herdsmen conflict has taken the lives of 6,500 citizens, with 62,000 others displaced from their homes in 850 violent clashes between 2010 and 2015 (www.theconversation.com). On the other hand, International Crisis Group in its report dated September 19, 2017, put the estimated death toll from farmers and herdsmen conflict in 2016 to approximately 2,500 people, a toll higher than Boko-Haram casualties in the same period (www.crisisgroup.org). Amnesty International in another report published on December 17, 2018, with the title “Harvest of Deaths: Three Years of Bloody Clashes Between Farmers and Herders”, stated that between January 2016 to September 2018, at least 3,641 deaths have been recorded, with thousands displaced across the country in at least 310 attacks.
Regrettably, these ugly incidents between farmers and herdsmen have remained unabated because of the cold attitude of the government towards resolving the issue and unnecessary politicisation of the crisis by the Nigerian public. International Crisis Group in the same report dated September 19, 2017, claimed that in April 2014, former President Goodluck Jonathan’s government in a bid to end the violent clash between farmers and herders set a Committee on Grazing Reserves chaired by former governor of Benue state Gabriel Suswam, and through the Central Bank of Nigeria approved the sum of N100billion to the 36 states of the federation for the construction of ranches. The report stated the state governments failed to construct any ranches and the funds were believed to have been looted. With the emergence of President Buhari from the 2015 general election, the government through the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, on January 25, 2016, announced its plan to set up grazing reserves and stock routes across the country as a policy measure to end the farmers’ and herders’ conflict. Unfortunately, the proposal was truncated by politics, as leaders and people of southern Nigeria opposed the plan, which they viewed as favouring the Fulani herders (www.crisisgroup.org). Up till now, nothing meaningful has been heard from the government about ending the crisis between farmers and herders in the country.
In conclusion, the Federal Government of Nigeria and federating state must take certain decisive decisions, if an end must be put to insecurity not only in northern Nigeria but throughout the federation. Political leadership at all levels must show strong commitment towards good governance and the culture of corruption, ethnic and religious bigotry jettisoned for collective interest to prevail. Most importantly, public institutions of the country must be made strong beyond the manipulations of few individuals to protect the interest of the Nigerian people at all times. Also, there is a need for transparent and accountable leadership that will address effectively the problems of extreme poverty, unemployment, inequality, and poor quality of education threatening the growth and development of the country. Security agencies must be motivated to discharge their duties to the nation, through timely and proper funding in order to be ahead of security situations in any part of the country. This will also entail decentralisation of the country’s police force for effective policing.
The leadership of the nation must also rise, and ensure that its national borders, particularly, the land borders are well-guarded and monitored by security agencies at all times. This will help reduce or even stop the indiscriminate and illegal migration of persons, in and out of the country. In doing this, Nigeria’s leadership must liaise with the leadership of her neighboring African countries such as Benin, Cameroun, Chad, and Niger, who are also faced with insurgency, banditry, and other forms of insecurity in their territories through intelligence sharing and joint security operations. Finally, Nigeria must continue to play its big brother role in Africa, by staying true to her foreign policy on Africa so as to bring about lasting peace and economic prosperity in troubled nations of the continent. This is because part of the security challenges faced in Nigeria are spill-overs of crises in different conflict ridden African nations. Therefore, until we as a nation come to the understanding that the insecurity challenges facing any part of Nigeria affects us all as a people, irrespective of social class, political, ethnic and religious affiliation, it is only then that our journey towards ending insecurity in the country has started.
Daniel Uchechukwu Lawrence is a Public Affairs Analyst.