Needed: A national security policy for Nigeria

The recent statement credited to the Governor of Ekiti state, Dr Kayode Fayemi, to the effect that Nigeria lacks a national security policy should serve as a wake up call to the nation’s security apparatchik. The governor’s postulation raises the fundamental issue of the seemingly intractable rising insecurity in the country and the dire need to formulate a national security policy as a matter of utmost national importance,

Fayemi made the statement penultimate Friday while giving a keynote address at the Yoruba Tennis Club’s 93rd anniversary lecture in Lagos with theme, ‘Perspectives on Security Challenges in Nigeria from 1999 to 2019: The Way Forward.’ The Ekiti state governor, who urged Nigerians to unite to overcome the security challenges facing the country, said that there must be a national security system that could work for all.

He said, “To understand the security challenges in the country, we have to look at the history of the nation. There is contention about what Nigeria is, what it means and what the constitution says about the control of security forces. Nigeria has yet to develop a national security policy and because of this, there is an increase in societal violence.”

Fayemi also suggested that government at all levels must tackle factors that fuel insecurity such poverty, high circulation of drugs and small arms and youth delinquency. We can’t defeat insurgency with pure power; we have to deal with the causes of insurgency and not just the outcome of it,” he added.

The Chairman, Yoruba Tennis Club, Olawunmi Agbaje, said security required special attention. Agbaje said the annual lecture had promoted discourse on national issues, with a view to engendering peace in the polity. “The topic was chosen because it is an issue of significant interest to the society. We need to find a way out of our security challenges”.

It is quite unfortunate that Nigeria has been plagued by various forms of insecurity. It ranges from the Boko Haram insurgency in the North-east, militancy in the littoral Niger Delta region, banditry in the North-west, herders/farmers conflict in the Middle-belt region, armed robbery in the South-east to kidnapping across the country. This undesirable state of affairs tends to negate the fundamental obligation of government which is mandated by the constitution to ensure the provision of adequate security of the lives and property of the citizenry.

In fact, the need for security was the basis of the social contract between the citizens and the state, in which people willingly surrendered their rights to the government who oversees the survival of all. Security is a vital prerequisite for national cohesion, peace and sustainable development.

The Boko Haram insurgency has since its wake in 2009 killed over 12,000 people and destroyed billions of naira worth of property, particularly in the North-east. About 2.5 millon people fled their homes and towns, and the direct consequence of the conflict was that the North-east was plunged into a severe humanitarian crisis – as of 2018, one of the worst in the world – which has left about 7.7 million people in need of humanitarian aid.

It is instructive that in his first term, President Muhammadu Buhari claimed that his government would bring an end to the Boko Haram nightmare. Accordingly, 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.

On its part, the Middle-belt region has faced prolonged violent clashes between farmers and 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.

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. In 2016, one of the most prominent armed groups in the region, the Niger Delta Avengers (and other smaller groups), destroyed oil production infrastructure reducing production from 2.2 million barrels per day to the two decades low of 1.4 million barrels a day. The infrastructure vandalism contributed to the onset of one of Nigeria’s worst economic recessions on record.

Consequently, we urge the Buhari administration to formulate a robust and pragmatic national security policy that would address the factors fuelling insecurity in the country. These include unemployment, social disequilibrium, among others. Although the federal government has taken measures at resolving insecurity in the country like the social investment programme, the Ruga settlement, the creation of a new ministry of humanitarian affairs, etc, more needs to be done in order to give Nigerians a sense of nationalism and inclusiveness in governance.

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