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Nigeria: Security and the Southeast – AllAfrica.com

I breezed in and out of Lagos yesterday to deliver the lecture at the ‘press Week’ of the Nigeria Union of Journalist (NUJ) Lagos Chapter, with the theme, ‘Nigeria and Nation Building: Overcoming the Challenges of Restructuring and Self Determination for Progressive Development’. Since the event held at Ikeja, I was oblivious to all the drama on the Island where some EndSARS protesters were marking the first anniversary of the Lekki shooting which last October ushered in a train of events that eventually shattered the peace of the country. It was only when I was being taken back to the airport and calls came in about some arrested journalists that I became aware of what was going on.
Last night I watched some disturbing videos. They confirm the late Professor Claude Ake’s thesis in his book, ‘Democracy and Development in Africa’. The penchant by officers of the law to use unrestrained force when dealing with innocent civilians, Ake had argued, can be understood from the character of the Nigerian state which, perhaps because of its colonial heritage, has “continued to be totalistic in scope” while relying on police and other security agencies “for compliance on coercion rather than authority.”
Sadly, such recourse to brutality is prevalent everywhere and has become a threat to national security. During the question-and-answer session that followed my presentation in Lagos yesterday, one of the participants, Dr Chinyere Amaechi, asked, ‘How many countries do we have in Nigeria?’. She shared the experience that necessitated the question.
According to Amaechi, she travelled to her home state of Imo on 27th August but on getting to Asaba, Delta State capital, at about 6.30PM, the driver declared that he could not continue the journey. “We were compelled to spend an unscheduled night in Asaba. Many other vehicles soon joined us,” said Amaechi who explained how the security situation had generated such that vehicles no longer ply Southeast roads after nightfall. “But it was on my return journey on 30th September that we experienced real humiliation. As we got close to Nnewi in Anambra state, we were ordered to disembark from the vehicle to do about five minutes’ walk ahead of our vehicle which had to cross empty for security inspection. It reminded me of my trip to Ghana when we had to alight to cross the borders while our travel documents were checked. I could not help but think aloud: how many countries do we have in Nigeria if different states are guided by different security policies?”
The federal government may argue, and quite correctly, that the security crackdown in the Southeast is a response to series of attacks on private and public assets including prison facilities, Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) offices and police stations. I understand why such lawlessness cannot be allowed to continue. But ignoring the outcry over the excesses of the police/military and other security outfits in their violations of basic human rights is counterproductive. Besides, despite their massive presence, the wave of violence and general insecurity does not seem to have abated in any significant sense.
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The federal government must understand that the variant of insecurity that we are dealing with in the Southeast requires more than muscles. To get the vital information that would assist in tracking down the criminal elements who threaten lives and livelihoods, the authorities need to secure the confidence of the people. That would not happen in a milieu in which they feel victimized by those brought in to restore order. The time has therefore come to examine the wisdom of the current security structure in the Southeast.
Meanwhile, below is my presentation at the NUJ, Lagos Chapter, event: https://www.thisdaylive.com/index.php/2021/10/20/rebuilding-nigeria-for-peace-and-progress/
Read the original article on This Day.
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