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– Nigeria: A Nation Troubled by Insecurity @61THISDAYLIVE – THISDAY Newspapers

Kingsley Nwezeh writes on the convulsive violence gripping the nation as it celebrates its 61st independence anniversary
A nation at 61 is expected to have gone through teething problems, initial challenges and undergone a test of nationhood, (civil war in the case of Nigeria) and overcome such challenges.
Having gone through major national crises, devastating riots, civil war, coups, long years of military rule, and electoral upheavals, it is expected that at 61, Nigeria should be approaching stability or would have stabilised on many fronts, notably, the economy, security, equitable distribution of resources and social justice, among other indices of nationhood. But reverse is the case.
Insecure Times
The state of insecurity in the nation has triggered questions about the independence status of the nation. With the mass murders, rampant kidnapping for ransom, terrorism, armed banditry, rape and other crimes taking place simultaneously on a daily basis and secessionist agitations, it is appropriate to pose the question: Is Nigerian truly independent?
At this age, Nigeria would have met the expectations of the citizenry and the international community, moving at the same pace with nations that attained nationhood the same time.
If national security entails the security and defence of a nation state, including its citizens, economy, and institutions, which is regarded as a duty of government, shall we say that with the onslaught by terrorists, armed bandits, kidnappers on the citizenry, the nation still enjoys protection of government as enshrined in the constitution?
If the dimensions of national security includes economic security, energy security, physical security, environmental security, food security, border security, and cyber security, would it be appropriate to say that Nigeria has achieved stability in these areas?
Reign of Non-State Actors and Arms Proliferation
The growing statistics of small arms and light weapons in the hands of non-state actors following years of insurgency, armed banditry and other raging criminalities across the country have become alarmingly scandalous.
In 2019, the National Security Adviser, Maj. Gen. Mohammed Monguno (rtd), raised the alarm that of the 10 billion small arms and light weapons circulating in the world, 10 million were located in Africa while one million circulated in Nigeria.
But in March 2021, former Head of State, Gen Abdulsalami Abubakar (rtd), revealed a more disturbing figure. He said 6.5 million small arms and light weapons were circulation in Nigeria.
Also, Vice President, Region 11, ASIS International, the largest association of security management professionals across the world and
Managing Director Beacon Consulting Ltd, Dr Kabiru Umar, said his consultancy group conducted a research which showed that non-state actors were in possession of six million light arms and small weapons while law enforcement agencies were left with 586,000!
“Just in March, we did a survey on the circulation of small arms and light weapons in Nigeria now and I don’t mean to be a harbinger of bad news or to raise the alarm, but I think it’s important that we know how bad these things are. We came to the conclusion based on verifiable information that there are 6.5 million small arms and light weapons in circulation.
“So we now did the next step, which is to break down in terms of who has what and we came up with a figure 586,000 in the hands of our law enforcement agents”, he said.
“Now, that means there are over 5 million in the hands of these non-state actors. Now, we also tried to establish how many of those five million weapons are licensed by the police under the existing laws and unfortunately, there are no verifiable record or evidence to suggest that this is the number. So we came up with, let’s say, a million. And that means for instance, there are about four million of these weapons are in the hands of those that shouldn’t have them”, he said.
He said the situation was the rationale behind the audacity of insurgents, armed bandits and other criminal elements to confront security agents.
“So we can now understand why these bandits, these criminals have the effrontery, the guts to confront our security agents because they have more weapons at their disposal.
“There is no support by local community in terms of the sharing of intelligence to our security agencies and of course even the the capacity and capability of our security agencies to respond when this incident happens is almost next to nothing”, he added.
Grim Statistics
It could be taken for granted that at 61 Nigeria would have had a grip of the security situation in the country which so far appears intractable.
But the nation is fighting wars on all fronts. It is fighting terrorist groups, Boko Haram and the Islamic State for West African Province (ISWAP) in the North-east. Also, some security analysts have said the same insurgents disguised as bandits operate in the North-west, while secessionists have a field day in the South-east and South-west.
Borno State government said recently that from its official records, over 100,000 people, civilians and members of the security forces died since the beginning of hostilities in 2009.
In classifying the casualty figures, a research group, the International Society for Civil Liberties and the Rule of Law (Intersociety) said 43,000 Christians were killed by jihadists while 29,000 moderate Muslims were killed in the 12 years of insurgency while 18,500 people disappeared without trace.
It said 10 million people were displaced, six million forced to flee, 17, 500 churches attacked and 2000 Christian schools destroyed. Over 1000 school children were also kidnapped from their schools in the last one year in Zamfara, Katsina and Kaduna States. Many deaths have also been recorded.
Armed herdsmen have also waged war against Nigerian citizens leaving a trail of blood and destruction in addition to fleecing them through ransom payments.
Waging War against the State with State-owned Weapons
An interesting dimension to the insurgency war was revealed recently. A research paper prepared for the European Peace Facility (EPF), a European Union project for peace support operations across the globe, said terrorist groups, Boko Haram and the ISWAP launched 500 attacks on military bases and formations of the Multi-national Joint Task Force (MNJTF) between 2015 and 2020.
The paper presented by a Researcher and Director, S4 Initiative (Safeguarding Security Sector Stockpiles) based in Borex, Switzerland, Mr Eric Berman, titled “The Management of Lethal Materiel in Conflict Settings: Existing Challenges and Opportunities for the European Peace Facility”, said lethal weapons including small and light arms seized from the military bases during attacks by terrorists sustained the 12-year insurgency in Nigeria and the Lake Chad region.
The paper said between 2015 and 2020 2,368 “uniformed personnel fatalities were recorded”.
It said the insurgents launched 500 attacks on MNJTF bases within a six-year period killing 2,368 military personnel.
A breakdown of the figure showed that Nigeria recorded 1, 952 fatalities while Chad recorded 217, Niger, 132 and Cameroon 67. A further breakdown showed that Nigeria lost 134 personnel in 2015; 157 in 2016; 171 in 2017; 425 in 2018; 642 in 2019; and 423 in 2020.
The report said Chad recorded loss of one soldier in 2015, four in 2016, nine in 2017, zero in 2018, 34 in 2019 and 169 in 2020 while Niger recorded 14, 2015; 57, 2016; zero, 2017; 19, 2019; 22, 2019 and 20, 2020. Also, Cameroon recorded the death of 36 personnel in 2015, nine, in 2016, one in 2017, zero in 2018, 21 in 2019 and zero in 2020.
Yearly totals within the period under review showed that the four troop-contributing member nations, notably, Nigeria, Chad, Niger and Cameroon, lost 185 personnel in 2015, 227 in 2016, 181, 2017; 444, 2018, 719, 2019 and 612 in 2020.
“Official data concerning attacks on security sector personnel is difficult to obtain, but reports suggest that more than 2,000 uniformed security sector personnel have died in the conflict. As alarming as these numbers are, they likely underestimate the true scale and scope of the losses incurred concerning the security personnel of the four Lake Chad Basin countries.
“A memorial to fallen comrades since 2013 at the headquarters of the Nigerian military’s operations in North-east Nigeria had in 2018 listed the names of more than 1,300 soldiers inscribed on it”, it said.
An estimated 600 soldiers lost their lives in attacks by Boko Haram and died within a six month period in 2018 alone”, it said, citing research authorities. Also, more than 100 Cameroonian soldiers lost their lives in attacks by Boko Haram in 2014 and 2015 even as three separate attacks on police targets in N’Djamena in June 2015 resulted in more than 100 casualties, including dozens of deaths, many of whom were members of the police.
The report also detailed reasons why weapons are lost to insurgents. “The loss of materiel as a direct consequence of these attacks is substantial. A gun truck, fitted with a machine gun will frequently transport several tins of linked cartridges totalling hundreds of rounds of ammunition. Sometimes substantial quantities of weaponry kept at the base as reserves can be taken from military positions the insurgents had themselves attacked.
“When a base is overrun, crew-served weaponry such as machine guns, mortars and towed artillery”, are carted away, “yet, a lot of that materiel is in good enough condition to be of use to the militants”, it said.
Contingent-owned Equipment (COE) secured through seizure from regional security forces likely dwarfs materiel check points, forward operating bases, “Super Camps” and sector headquarters”, it said.
The research paper also cites as reasons for the loss of personnel and materiel, “insufficient quality and quantity of both lethal and non-lethal materiel for the security sector” and ammunition, as well as “tanks only firing twice, armoured personnel carriers running for 10 to 15 from boots to tanks”, and has compiled a number of soldiers’ grievances about insufficient body armour minutes before overheating, machine guns jamming, and mortar shells failing to detonate.”
“These long-standing issue summarises the scope of the problem in Nigeria, “ranging
concerns are not based on anecdotal accounts. They are systemic”, it said, citing research authorities, “A similar situation affected Cameroonian security forces’ early efforts against Boko Haram”.
Berman, citing research works, said “Corruption goes a long way to explaining why equipment is lacking. It is endemic within Nigerian society
to implicitly accusing the military of purposely prolonging the conflict for their own ends
and current President Muhammadu Buhari acknowledged this, pledging to counter it as a central part against entrenched corruption within the military, ranging from extortion at checkpoints of his first presidential campaign in 2015.
“But the challenge facing the country is enormous and progress has been slow and uneven. Malfeasance within the defence sector is by no means limited to Nigeria. It is a problem throughout much of the world, including elsewhere in the sub-region”.
The report found that the regional response to the “Boko Haram” conflict underscored both the need for EU support—for example through the provision of lethal materiel and training via EPF and the assessment of risks inherent in any kind of engagement.
“The levels of loss of uniformed personnel and lethal materiel from state stockpiles in the Lake Chad region are astonishingly high. In six years (between 2015 and 2020)several times as many uniformed personnel serving in and alongside the Multinational Joint Task Force were killed due to ‘malicious acts’ than those who have served in UN peacekeeping operations over a span of more than 70 years”, the report said.
“Reporting suggests that Boko Haram factions have seized COE that includes a wide-range of heavy weapon systems. Some of the armoured vehicles and towed artillery lost to Boko Haram originated from EU member states. “The quantity of small arms and light weapons—many
of which also were manufactured in the EU—is so great that it has sustained the insurgency for over a decade”, Berman said.
The report, therefore, recommended EU’s further engagement with the African Union (AU), ECOWAS in addressing issues raised by the report.
The State’s Response
The federal government has also responded vigorously to the threat posed by the enemies of state as the security forces have battled insurgents on all fronts and the battle is still raging in the North-east, North-west, North-Central, South-east, South-South and South-west.
Thousands of insurgents and armed bandits have also been killed over the years.
Recently, over 8,000 terrorists and their families surrendered to troops from their enclaves in the North-east, an indication that the war may soon end following the death of Boko Haram leader, Abubakar Shekau and intensified aerial and artillery bombardment of the terrorists.
This should be cheering news except that like a malignant tumour, the insurgents are regrouping in Niger State and some parts of North-Central.
But Spokesman of Defence Headquarters, Major General Olufemi Sawyerr, told THISDAY that the Armed Forces of Nigeria was winning the war against insurgency and armed banditry.
“We are winning the war in the North-east and North-west and the terrorists are surrendering in large numbers. We are winning the war and thousands of them are surrendering with their families. What else are we saying?”, he queried.
Boko Haram Takes Over 500 Communities in Niger
While the surrender in the North-east was being celebrated, the dreaded Boko Haram sect overran over 500 communities in eight wards of Shiroro Local Government of Niger State, just last Thursday.
The latest development came six months after Governor Abubakar Sani Bello raised the alarm that Boko Haram elements had hoisted their flag in Kaure Village of the same LGA.
The incident in Shiroro LGA was confirmed by the Chairman of the Council, Mr. Sulaiman Chikuba while that of Munya Council which occurred same Thursday was corroborated by the council Secretary, Mr. James Isaac Jagaba. The two officials spoke to journalists in Minna.
Chikuba named the affected wards as Manta, Gurmana, Bassa-Kokki, Allawa, Kurebe, Kushaka, Kwati, Chukumba explaining that the Boko Haram elements were already recruiting villagers and equipping them to fight against the government.
“As the Chairman of Shiroro Local Government Area of Niger State, I can tell you that Shiroro is not only dealing with the issue of banditry, Shiroro has a lot of Boko Haram, I have proof of this as the chairman. Boko Haram has proclaimed that they do not want conventional primary and secondary schools, their only preference is the Islamic school.
“They have told the people that they do not want primary or secondary schools in the communities and that they only want to see Islamic schools. They have been trying to incorporate and recruit the residents of the communities to become their members, telling them that they will give them arms and assist them in fighting the government,” Chikuba explained.
The chairman, therefore, appealed to the federal government to bring in more security personnel to help in dislodging the Boko Haram elements who have already made Shiroro their “home”.
Narrating what happened at Kachiwe community the council secretary said: “the entire community was wiped out, the bandits took their time to set all the houses and barns ablaze before leaving with some women.”
The South-east Assassinations
The killing of Dr Chike Akunyili, widower of former NAFDAC DG and Minister of Information, late Dr Dora Akunyili and eight others in Onitsha, last week and several other assassinations point to the grave insecurity in the South-east as Nigeria marks 61 years.
Others killed in the same gruesome manner include Prof SN Ndubisi, former Head of Scientific Equipment Development Institute, Enugu; a federal high court Judge, Justice Stanley Nnaji; former presidential aide, Ahmed Gulak; a traditional ruler, Chief Alexander Eduzueuno; Anglican Priest, Rev. Emeka Merenu, and a young lawyer, Darlington Prime, among many others.
Role of Control Centre in arms Proliferation and National Security
As part of measures to contain proliferation of small arms and light weapons in the country, the federal government recently approved the establishment of the National Centre for the Control of Small Arms and Light Weapons (NCCSALW) to replace the defunct Presidential Committee on Small Arms and Light Weapons (PRESCOM).
Government said the establishment was part of ongoing effort to restructure the overall security architecture of Nigeria towards tackling the emerging threats and strengthen regional mechanisms for the control, prevention and regulation of Small and Light Weapons (SALW).
When fully operational, the NCCSALW will have six regional offices and will work closely with security and intelligence agencies on prevention and control of proliferated arms, as well as tracking weapons in the hands of non-state actors.
Retired Maj.-Gen. AM Dikko, who was Course Director at the Kofi Annan International Peacekeeping Centre and Chief Instructor of the Nigerian Army Peacekeeping Centre, was also announced as the National Coordinator of the Centre.
National Security Adviser, Maj Gen Babagana Monguno (rtd) had announced in August 2020 that the centre would be established to work in compliance with already laid down international standards and ECOWAS moratorium on the control of SALW.
Indeed, the proliferation of arms across borders, along with human trafficking and drug trafficking especially in the Sahel region, ranks high on the chart of criminal activities constituting threats to national and regional stability in Africa.
Lopsided Appointments, Injustice, Cause of Insecurity
Many Nigerians have made reference to the unjust distribution of federal appointments as situation fueling disenchantment and resort to violence.
At an event last week in Abuja, Governor of Rivers State, Chief Nyesom Wike, identified exclusion and absence of social justice as some of the causes of insecurity in the country.
He accused the federal government of failing to provide “responsible governance” which will promote sustainable development.
He also took a swipe at those opposed to power shift, saying they promote injustice.
Governor Wike spoke in Abuja at a lecture he delivered at the National Institute for Security Studies (NISS) titled: “Governance, Security and Sustainable Development in Africa, Nexus, Challenges and Prospects: Rivers State as a Metaphor”.
The lecture was delivered to the participants of the Executive Intelligence Management Course (EIMC 14), who were rounding-off their study at the NISS, preparatory to the award of the fellow of security institute (fsi).
“What we have today cannot be said to be a responsive government that will provide all these. What we are hearing is excuse one, excuse two.
It is terrible. So, if you don’t have a responsive governance, you will not have environmental sustainability. Because, it requires good governance”, he said.
According to him: “A sense of social justice, equity is fundamental to achieving peace, security and sustainable development, which only good governance can achieve. You cannot have this, if you do not have good governance and you cannot talk about sustainable development when you don’t have good governance. It is practically impossible”.
He said: “Thus, among other structural and infrastructural variables, nothing can be more relevant to the progress of society than the practice of good governance, led by visionary, effective and transformational leadership as essential precondition for effective democracy, the rule of law, sustainable development, and enhancing the living conditions of ordinary people.
“Unfortunately, poor governance, and bad leadership model continue to characterise Africa’s political, economic, security and social landscapes”.
He said those who insist that zoning was unconstitutional promote inequity. “I am sorry, people forget, when people say zoning is unconstitutional, but you know what is called equity. Equity brings peace. Let everybody be part of it”, he said.
He further argued “But the moment you begin to think that this is your own exclusivity, that nobody else, then it becomes a crisis. When you begin to see some people, to deny them certain things, that will lead to insecurity and with insecurity, you cannot achieve sustainable development.
“Take, for example, when the Igbos are crying to say look in appointment you don’t recognise us, what is wrong in listening to them? What is wrong in sitting back and say, look, we are all one, we want this country to be together in order for us to achieve sustainable development?
“Because, if you don’t include them, some of them will begin to believe that they are not part of the system”.
He recalled President Muhammadu Buhari’s position on sections of the country that did not vote for him.
“Now, take for example, with all due respect, when Mr. President said ninety something per cent of whatever will go to only those who voted for him, that alone will create crisis.
“That is not part of good governance. I don’t expect a President of a country to say, ‘I will only remember those who voted for you. That is not democracy”, he said.
Conclusion
As the the nation celebrates 61st independence anniversary in the midst of so much bloodletting, it is pertinent to take a critical look at the factors that gave rise to the situation as the nation totters on a precipice.
It must be noted that Nigeria remains a divine arrangement that will defy promoters of its destruction. Therefore, urgent solutions must be found, a panacea laced with the fear of God or His wrath.

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