Security In Nigeria: How Safe Are We ?

Security has been defined as freedom from or resilience against potential harm caused by others. In its political connotation, security means stability and continually of livelihood, predictability of relationships, feeling safe and belonging to a social group. Internal security, or IS, which is related to security can be seen as the act of keeping peace within the borders of a sovereign state or other self-governing territories. Insecurity on the other hand has been ascribed as state of uncertainty or anxiety about oneself; lack of confidence or the state of being open to danger or threat or lack of protection. From the aforementioned one can posit that Nigeria has witnessed an unprecedented level of insecurity. Since the turn of the new millennium, terrorism has taken a rather frightening dimension in the country. Following the introduction of Sharia Law in Kaduna State, between 1,000 and 5,000 people were killed in sectarian rioting between Christians and Muslims. In September 2001, nearly 1,000 people were killed following sectarian rioting between Christians and Muslims in Jos.

Boko Haram:
The 16th of June, 2011 bomb attack the on Police Headquarters in Abuja by the Boko Haram sect, no doubt stunned the nation and the international world. The Force Headquarters, Louis Edet House is where the office of the country’s Inspector General of Police is located. It is Nigeria’s first instance of a suicide bombing. The blast resulted in the death of about 80 people wounding several and destroying many vehicles. If such institutions, believed to be one of the most fortified in the country could be attacked then how safe are other public places not to talk of private homes? In the past twenty years or so, Nigeria has become theatre of violence: inter-ethnic clashes, religion crisis, bombings, kidnaping, assassination, murder, robbery, ritual killing, rape, cultism, child trafficking etc. In the wake of Boko Haram insurgency in 2009, nearly 1,000 soldiers were killed in clashes between Boko Haram militants and Nigerian soldiers throughout northern. This was followed by the summary execution of the spiritual leader of Boko Haram, Mohammed Yusuf. Abubakar Shekau then took control of the movement unleashing terror in an unprecedented manner all over the country.

In September, 2010, was the Bauchi prison break, five people were killed and 721 inmates were freed from prison in Bauchi by suspected Boko Haram gunmen followed by December 2010 Abuja attack, a bomb attack outside a barracks in Abuja kills four civilians. In June, 2011 then there was the Abuja police headquarters bombing, at least two people, the perpetrator and a traffic policeman, were killed in a failed bombing of Abuja’s police headquarters. In August same year, 21 people were killed in a bombing attack on a United Nations compound in Abuja. In April 2014 , over 88 people were killed in a twin bombing attack in Abuja. And soon after that was the most celebrated case of abduction in the country when on April 15, 2014, 276 female students of Chibok High school were kidnapped in Borno State by Boko Haram. Then the Baga massacre of 2015 when Boko Haram militants razed the entire town of Baga in north-east Nigeria killing as many as 2,000 people. It was reported by the Nigerian military authorities that Abubakar Shekau, leader of Boko Haram was fatally wounded and about 300 militants including three senior Boko Haram commanders (Abubakar Mubi, Malam Nuhu and Malam Hamman) in an air raid on the village of Taye in Borno State only for him to ‘resurrect’ barely a few weeks after. Although Boko Haram’s territorial control shrank to small pockets of villages around Lake Chad as a result of sustained government military action, factions of the insurgency group continued to carry out attacks against civilians in the region. The insurgents abducted 110 schoolgirls from Dapchi, Yobe State, in a style reminiscent of the 2014 abduction of 276 Chibok school girls. One hundred and four of the Dapchi girls were released two weeks later after negotiations with the government. Five of the remaining girls reportedly died in captivity and one girl, Leah Sharibu, continues to be held hostage allegedly for refusing to deny her Christian faith while about 100 of the Chibok schoolgirls still remain unaccounted for. In September and October, Boko Haram insurgents executed Saifura Ahmed and Hauwa Liman, both aid workers with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). The group kidnapped them in March.

Farmer-herder Clashes:
The Middle Belt region of Nigeria has faced prolonged violent clashes between the predominantly Christian farmers and the mostly Muslim cattle herders. At the core of the conflicts are disputes over access and rights to land and water resources and rapid desertification which has changed the grazing patterns of cattle. These clashes are not necessarily new, but since 2015, the disputes have become more frequent and violent. In 2018 alone, more than 2,000 people were killed in such clashes – more than the number killed in the past two years combined.

The Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN):
The Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN) is an Iranian backed Shia group in Nigeria. The leader of the group Ibraheem El-Zakzaky is opposed to the federal system of Nigeria, Israel, the US and also opposes secular governments. Correspondingly, Zakzaky has called for an Iranian-style revolution in Nigeria. The group’s strong position on these issues and their regular protesting has resulted in clashes with security forces. However, recently these clashes have become more frequent and more violent. In 2015, the leader of the sect was arrested, and in 2016 a judicial inquiry revealed that the army had unlawfully killed 347 members of the group in Zaria state.

Niger-Delta Unrest:
The Niger Delta, the oil-producing core of Nigeria has for decades suffered from oil pollution which has led to the loss of livelihoods and sources of food for locals. The area has also been neglected by the federal government even though the bulk of the country’s fund comes from the region. In the last decade, clashes between armed groups in the area and the security forces reached an all-time high; kidnappings were rife, and oil infrastructure destroyed at a phenomenal rate. Although the amnesty introduced by the administration of late President Sheu Musa Yar’Adua yielded fruits, there are still pockets of disturbances in the area. Perhaps, to compliment the efforts of the militants, the Movement for the Actualization of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB), a secessionist movement in Nigeria, associated with Igbo nationalism and supports the recreation of an independent state of Biafra reared its head.

The Way Forward:
At the opening ceremony of a two-day conference organised by the National Institute for Cultural Orientation (NICO) in Abuja, titled “Culture, Peace and National Security: the Role of Traditional Rulers and Local Government Chairmen”, the chairman of the event and former President Olusegun Obasanjo attributed the current security challenges confronting the country largely to ignorance, which causes mistrust among the people. He also fingered unemployment, religious intolerance, ethnic rivalry as well as agitations for resource control as some of the monsters breeding hatred and conflict in the country. According to him, “Studies have shown that a number of factors are responsible for violent conflicts in Nigeria. These include poverty, unemployment, religious intolerance, ethnic rivalry, growing acculturation, resource control agitations and ignorance. “Most critical of these factors however is ignorance, which leads to suspicion and mistrust,” the former President said. Another critical factor which he mentioned was the breakdown of cultural values. Unfortunately, evasion of these values due to increasing acculturation and negative external influences, have also contributed largely to the spate of violent crises and general insecurity we have today.

Perturbed by the varied security challenges bedeviling Nigeria, experts converged in Lagos to proffer short and long-term solutions to the problem. At a seminar organised by the Association of Industrial Security and Safety Operators of Nigeria (AISSON), the stakeholders identified lack of political will, policy inconsistency and poor implementation as some of the obstacles to winning the insecurity war in the country. One of the guest speakers, Major General Ohifeme Ejemai (rtd), said security is all about prevention and not waiting for a crime to happen before reacting to it. Also it has been established that the influx of foreign elements to Nigeria is gradually fuelling insecurity in all parts of the country, particularly Lagos. To this end, our security landscape needed to be to forestall vulnerability to various risks generated by our peculiarities as a nation, in which Lagos is an integral and critical part. Insecurity is a problem that is very conspicuous in Nigeria. It manifests in diverse ways. The Nigerian police have been highly criticized for its inability to stem the rising tide of crimes in Nigeria because of series of endemic problems in recruitment, training and discipline and lack expertise in specialized fields.

In his first term, Muhammadu Buhari claimed that his government would bring an end to the national suffering inflicted by Boko Haram. The government made significant military gains, reducing the number of Boko Haram attributed deaths from more than 5,000 in 2015 to less than 1,000 in the past couple of years. President Muhammadu recently outlined some of the steps his administration is taking to address Nigeria’s security challenges. Some of the steps the president outlined include increasing the number of security personnel and installing “CCTVs on highways and other strategic locations so that activities in some of those hidden places can be exposed.”

Nevertheless, the crisis is not yet over, and it would be a grave mistake for the president to disregard the continued importance of the conflict. Suicide attacks and kidnappings have been carried out by the group this year. At this time, the government should not just focus on security but invest in peace-building, reconstruction and rehabilitation and socio-economic development. The unparalleled spate of terrorism, kidnappings and other violent crimes is to say the least, alarming. There is no gainsaying the fact that Nigeria is at a cross-road and gradually drifting towards a failed state if this insecurity trend continues.

– Editor

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