Last Tuesday the gunmen killed 21 innocent people in different parts of Nigeria. The previous day they killed 18 in one community in Anambra state. The situation in Rivers state is so deplorable that the governor had to declare a curfew.
In Imo, Anambra and Katsina states, police stations were raided and razed down with massive police casualties and collateral damages.
Civilians are just sitting ducks. Fulani herdsmen have turned Benue state to one sprawling slaughter slab. Last week they sauntered into an IDP camp and killed as many as they could.
Two weeks ago an isolated and defenseless community in Ebonyi state was the target of the Fulani herdsmen. They killed, raped, looted and razed down houses. The Fulani herdsmen target both the rich and poor, high and lowly. Last month Samuel Ortom’s convoy drove into their ambush and drew flaks from the murderous herdsmen. The governor of Benue state missed the herdsmen’s bullets by whiskers.
After the unsuccessful attack on the governor, the herdsmen handed him a one-month ultimatum and vowed that they would eventually cut him down. As highly placed as the governor of Benue state is, he is as defenseless as the thousands of men, women and children in IDP camps strewn across Benue state where people are taking refuge from the ubiquitous herdsmen.
Ortom is defenseless because even as a governor he has no police under his command. The herdsmen’s cache of AK-47 rifles and bullet proof charms is superior to anything the governor can muster. Besides, the graveyard silence by the men in Aso Rock gives the herdsmen tacit backing of the federal might.
Bandits have taken over a huge chunk of north-western Nigeria. They raid schools at will and abduct students in their hundreds for ransom. The business of kidnapping school children has become so lucrative that many schools have been shut to protect innocent children from the bandits.
The bandits freely raid villages in Zamfara, Katsina, Niger and Kaduna states. They kill, maim and rape without anyone lifting a finger in protest.
In the north-east, the Nigerian military is gradually losing ground in the internecine war with Islamic lunatics. Last week, Abubakar Sani Bello, the embattled governor of Niger state lamented that Boko Haram planted their flags in some villages in Niger state. They seized women from their husbands and slaughtered anyone who dared to protest their contemptible presence.
Blueprint newspaper celebrated the macabre dance of the Islamic lunatics in Niger state with a lead headline proclaiming: “Boko Haram two hours from Abuja.” That is the gruesome reality on ground.
There is something strange about the war in the north-east. In 1970, the Nigerian military with a handful of tanks and five archaic MiG-17 fighter planes crushed a rebellion led by a Sand Hurst-trained army lieutenant-colonel within 30 months.
Now a primitive group of terrorists lead by an illiterate Al-majiri has pinned down a military with scores of modern tanks, Helicopter gunships and Alpha jets for 11 years. No one in the Nigerian military can tell the world why Boko Haram is more invincible than the Biafran military which had an organized army with more than 15 colonels and dozens of majors along with a pocket-size navy and a micro air force.
Corruption and poverty are the root of Nigeria’s mounting security crisis. There are mounting fears that Nigeria’s men in uniform are not sufficiently armed and financially motivated for the worsening situation in the battle lines.
Corruption and Nigeria’s skewed income distribution system is the breeding ground for the escalating insecurity in the land. The cheats who allocate Nigeria’s enormous resources to themselves have inadvertently made Africa’s largest economy the country with the world’s highest number of people in abject poverty.
With a population of 207 million Nigeria has 122 million people below poverty line. India with a population of 1.3 billion has less than 100 million poor.
Northern Nigeria takes 90 per cent of the blame for Nigeria’s notoriety as the world’s headquarters of poverty. Northern Nigeria is actually the world’s headquarters of poverty. That is why the banditry and terror war in the north is irrepressible.
In the last 30 years, northern elites cornered the wealth of the country to themselves, built very few schools and hospitals and sent children of the poor to Al-majiri schools where they learn the Qur’an and graduate as unskilled illiterates.
The unskilled and illiterate graduates of the Al-majiri schools are behind the banditry and kidnappings that has turned Nigeria into one huge killing field.
The situation is worsened by the free flow of small arms into the country. One estimate suggests that with 320 million small arms, there are more guns in Nigeria than humans.
The Al-majiri have a choice between dying from hunger due to abject poverty and taking up arms and extorting those who impoverish them and probably dying in the process. Either way, death stares at them. However, with the second option the risk of death is lower because the country’s security system is overwhelmed by the intimidating cache of small arms in the hands of the bandits. The first option offers certain death from starvation so majority opt for the second option and turn the streets into slaughter slabs.
With unemployment at 33.3 per cent, even 600, 000 policemen cannot stem the spate of robberies, kidnappings and banditry in Nigeria.
Nigeria’s high rate of poverty is responsible for the breakdown of law and order.
The first line of defense against the breakdown of law and order can only come from the economic front.
The federal government must empower the private sector to create jobs and take millions of unskilled irate youths off the streets. Government can start the process by opening 100, 000 hectares of mechanized rice farms in each of the 19 northern states. That would not only create jobs but provide food for Nigeria’s army of 10 million people starving on the throes of malnutrition.
The federal government can safe enough money to open those rice farms if government officials abandon their obscene ostentation. Politicians and top civil servants should be the first to sacrifice for the fight against poverty.