Addressing Nigeria’s lingering security challenge
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These are very dangerous times to live in Nigeria and to be a Nigerian. The most basic things citizens from other jurisdictions take for granted are no longer assured in Nigeria. A person has to be alive to claim all their rights but the right to life is daily under assault and those paid, and who are under obligation and oath to protect lives and property seem not up to speed. It has been one excuse on top of another, one presidential order after another and one story from ministers and presidential assistants after another. But the situation gets from bad to worse; governmental action is all circling in a barber’s chair and no movement in terms of new distances covered.
The biggest challenge is that there is no accountability for security. No one seems to be in charge, even though there are men with titles, and outlandish uniforms, paid at the public expense and who drive convoys of vehicles and are in charge of hundreds of thousands of officers and men, armouries and ammunition. Every year, the country provides sums of money for different security operatives and the treasury releases these sums for different agencies and operations but the situation keeps deteriorating. Accountability in this sense is a process for officials and individuals who have a public mandate to perform an assignment, fulfil a role, meet expectations or targets, objectives and goals laid down in law and policy instruments to be able to fulfil these basic expectations. It is also about reporting to one’s employer about how an individual or organization has discharged the duty assigned to him.
The President is elected as the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Nigeria and he has a basic duty to secure the country. He appoints most of the leaders of the security agencies either alone or with the confirmation of the Senate of the National Assembly. These leaders are beholden to him as he has the power to terminate their appointment without the concurrence of even the Senate that screened many of them in the first place. Thus, all the authorities and powers related to security stops at his table. Other arms of government such as the legislature can only contribute to security operations by appropriating funds to finance the security architecture and exercise of legislative oversight. It is on record that the National Assembly has always approved all the President’s security funding requests and even glossed over calls to caution him when he spent money without appropriation for security equipment. On the part of judiciary, it can adjudicate cases where suspects are brought before the courts to determine their guilt or participation in crimes especially on terrorism, kidnapping, arson, rape, murder.
At the height of the Boko Haram insurgency, one of Candidate Muhammadu Buhari’s unique selling points in 2015 was his security experience and his background in the armed forces. But since the election, the theatres of conflict have not remained the same, but have also expanded. Despite being reportedly “technically defeated”, Boko Haram still launches vicious attacks that take life and property; the herdsmen crises became escalated resulting in destruction of life and property especially in the Middle Belt region; banditry in the North-West took a new dimension as states like Zamfara, Katsina, Kaduna became ungoverned parts of Nigeria where reports of daily killing of human beings became the norm. The herdsmen crisis also extends to the southern part of the country where there have been so many violent clashes leading to loss of lives and property. Thus, the country has become one big theatre of the absurd where no one is sure of anything again and the figures of casualties and deaths no longer shock the average Nigerian because our spirits have become numb and the abnormal has been accepted as normal.
In all the foregoing unacceptable scenarios, what our President done or how has he reacted to the crisis? Certainly, he has failed to take the necessary steps for the respect, protection and fulfilment of the right to all Nigerians to life. First, the President appointed men to lead the security agencies and most of the appointees have failed woefully to perform in accordance with their mandate. Instead,they have either inadvertently or deliberately, exchanged propaganda for performance. They politicise any attempt to call them to order or ask them to account for their stewardship.Rather than remove dead woods from office or those who have outlived their usefulness, the President retains them and solidly endorses them.
It should be clear to all that the President’s continued retention of non-performing officials whose poor performance costs the nation lives and property is tantamount to accepting responsibility for the loss of those lives. In other climes, service chiefs resign after huge security blips that cause a nation a great number of lives. When they fail to resign, they are relieved of their appointment. Not here in Nigeria, rather they stay glued to their posts and continue to dish out propaganda. They never accept responsibility, no apologies to the Nigerian people and their intermediate boss (the President) approves of their performance.
The security situation deteriorates because no one who has committed heinous crimes has been held to account, tried and made to suffer the appropriate legal penalty to the knowledge of majority of Nigerians. Can the authorities give an account of what has happened to all the killers in the crisis in Benue, Plateau, Kogi Taraba, etc.? How many have been arrested? How many are facing prosecution? And at what stage are their cases? How many have been sentenced and convicted? How many have been arrested and prosecuted in the North West killings and kidnappings? What about the persons mining gold without licenses in Zamfara who were given 48 hours to quit without any attempt being made to arrest them and bring them to justice? Nigerian demand to know these details from officials paid at the public expense with a responsibility to carry out these assignments. This will not only be in accordance with constitutional principles but master – servant expectations that the servant reports and gives account of his stewardship to the master – the Nigerian people. Yes, the service chiefs, the men in uniform and those who we pay to operate secretly are the servants of the people. They cannot continue arrogating to themselves the positions of masters. A gateman or security man can never be bigger than the owner of the house.
Nigerians can no longer continue to keep quiet in the face of this insanity in the name of security governance. All the ministers, presidential advisers charged with security and the serving service chiefs except the acting Inspector General of Police have outlived their usefulness and should be sent packing on or before May 29, 2019. Also, we need to tell the security chiefs that they can no longer continue to be chasing rats when the house is on fire, in the name of constituting themselves into a moral police, harassing and brutalising innocent women and girls at a time their services are most needed in the frontlines to save lives. Nigerians must speak up before we are all dead. Punch