Population ,security and humanitarian challenges in central Nigeria (I)

Professor Dakas C. J. Dakas graduated with a first class honours in Law, has three postgraduate law degrees including a PHD, was a former Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice Plateau State and has to his credit over sixty publications in reputable local and international journals. In forty five years, he emerged through worthy achievements and appointments to becoming a Professor and a Senior Advocate of Nigeria. Heis a research fellow at Nigerian Instutute of Advance Legal Studies (NIALS). In the weeks ahead, you will be reading deep stuffs which have the potential to addressing most of the unanswered questions in Nigeria and in particular, ‘Central Nigeria’, as he puts it. If I were you, I would seize this golden opportunity to learn from a temperate, A-rate mind; particularly because he analyzes with ease and precision what many of us find onerous. I’m glad you stopped by. Please follow Dakas’ thought. I’ll see you on the other side

“Population dynamics”, as used here, refers to the nature, configuration and transformation of populations, especially in terms of births, deaths, “Security”, as Robert McNamara aptly puts it in his famous Address before the American Society of Newspaper Editors in Montreal, Canada, on May 18, 1966, “is not military hardware – though it may include it. Security is not military force – though it may involve it. Security is not traditional military activity – though it may encompass it. Security is development. Without development, there can be no security.” Accordingly, security, as conceived in this Lecture, goes beyond the traditional notion of security and, in a paradigm shift, encapsulates human security. Central Nigeria covers the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja, and the following six states: Benue, Kogi, Kwara, Nasarawa, Niger and Plateau. The reference to “central Nigeria”, as opposed to the frequent, but incorrect, reference to “North Central” Nigeria is deliberate and instructive. From a geographical standpoint, these states are not in the centre of the North, neither are they in the north of the centre of Nigeria. In my respectful view, the reference to “central Nigeria” correctly situates these states within the Nigerian geographical landscape and, more importantly, underscores the fact that central Nigeria is the umbilical cord that connects and binds the different parts of Nigeria together. Accordingly, the Nigerian State fiddles with central Nigeria at its own peril. Indeed, without central Nigeria, there would be no contiguity between the northern and southern parts of Nigeria. However, for the purpose of this Lecture, a common thread that runs through the data is the fact that the FCT and the central Nigerian states obviously have a youth bulge. Whether this is an opportunity or a challenge or both is the subject of later exposition. The data does not disaggregate the population figures in terms of births, deaths, immigration, emigration, etc. However, it is common knowledge that voluntary and involuntary population dispersal is a recurrent feature of the population dynamics in the region. The pattern of migration takes any of the following forms: Intra-state; Inter-state,  but within the central Nigerian region; Inter-state, involving population movements from the states in central Nigeria to other parts of Nigeria and vice versa. In more specific terms, the African Union Convention for the Protection and Assistance of Internally Displaced Persons in Africa (Kampala Convention) 2009 provides an excellent framework for understanding the push factors of involuntary migration from other parts of Nigeria to, within, and
from, the FCT and the central Nigerian states. Under the Convention, “Internally Displaced Persons”: means persons or groups of persons who have been forced or obliged to flee or to leave their homes or places of habitual residence, in particular as a result of or in order to avoid the effects of armed conflict, situations of generalized violence, violations of human rights or natural or human-made disasters, and who have not crossed an internationally recognized State border.    The Boko Haram insurgency, especially in the north eastern states of Adamawa, Borno, and Yobe, has led to massive involuntary population dispersal to central Nigeria and other parts of the country. For instance, according to data obtained from the Plateau State Emergency Management Agency, in 2012 alone, Jos North Local Government Area of Plateau State hosted 3,603 Internally Displaced Persons (consisting of 512 men, 1,284 women and 1,807 children) fleeing violence (and flooding) in Yobe State. This number does not include Internally Displaced Persons who may have moved in with relations, which is typically the case in many African societies, and are, therefore, not captured in official records. Desertification is also a major driver of population dispersal from the northern part of Nigeria to central Nigeria and other parts of the country. This drives not only people but large herds of cattle in search of greener pastures. This has, regrettably, resulted in frequent violent clashes between nomadic herdsmen and local farmers in the largely agrarian states of central Nigeria.
Communal clashes have also contributed significantly to involuntary population dispersal to, within, and from, central Nigeria. To give one recent example, the Plateau State Emergency Management Agency reports that in 2013, Quan-Pan Local Government Area of Plateau State hosted 7,000 IDPs (consisting of 800 men, 2,400 women and 3,800 children) fleeing from crisis in Assakio in neighbouring Nasarawa state. Another major driver of human displacement is post-election violence. For instance, in April 2011, Nigeria conducted, among others, a presidential election which is widely acclaimed, from a comparative prism, by local and international observers as one of the most credible elections in Nigeria’s political odyssey. Regrettably, and paradoxically, the outcome of the election was blighted by an orgy of violent reactions, especially in parts of northern Nigeria. The number of people who lost their lives is staggering, with estimates ranging from several hundreds to thousands. The violence transformed thousands of spouses and children into widows, widowers, and orphans. A lot more sustained debilitating injuries, while others still grapple with the psychological trauma of the loss of loved ones and exposure to senseless bloodletting and mayhem. Thousands of people became internally displaced (IDPs). Properties estimated at billions of naira, including places of worship, were destroyed. The tourism and hospitality industry is still reeling from the negative impact of the violence; so is the challenge of attracting foreign investments.
“Free and fair elections”,  in the words of the Justice Uwais-led Electoral Reform Committee, “are the cornerstone of every democracy and the primary mechanism for exercising the principle of sovereignty of the people” and are “therefore a crucial requirement for good governance in any democracy”.
A flawed electoral process invariably produces a flawed outcome that negatively impacts on the quality of representation in governance. As the Committee rightly observes: The intrinsic relationship between the successful conduct of free, fair, credible and acceptable elections and the institutionalization and consolidation of democracy in nations is widely acknowledged… [E]lections are fundamental building blocks of democracy. Failure to conduct credible and acceptable elections in a polity often generates outcomes that stunt the growth of democracy, on the one hand, and the development of the nation, on the other.
Regrettably, with the possible exception of the 2011 elections and the June 12 1993 presidential elections, “the aspirations of Nigerians for a stable democracy have been constantly frustrated by, among other things, poor administration and the conduct of elections,”  having regard to the fact that “election administration has been profoundly inefficient, characterized by muddled processes, and lacking in the desirable attributes of ‘free and fair’ elections, a situation which often induces acrimony and even violence.” It was this realizationthat prompted former President Yar’adua’s undertaking to “raise the quality and standard of our general elections and thereby deepen our democracy”, which he fulfilled, in part, through the establishment of the Justice Uwais-led Electoral Reform Panel and the submission of some of its recommendations to the National Assembly, with a view to reforming Nigeria’s electoral system. Unfortunately, apart from the recent minimal amendments to the Nigerian Constitution which, though commendable, fall short of expectations, comprehensive electoral reform has been held hostage by the horse trading and filibustering that often characterize the legislative process. Natural disasters, such as the recent flooding that ravaged Lokoja, the capital of Kogi State, are also major drivers of population displacement; as are forced relocations to, ostensibly, make way for large-scale industrial and other commercial projects without prior environmental and socio-economic impact assessment, as exemplified by the plight of the residents of Mpape, on the outskirts of the highbrow Maitama area of Abuja.

By Professor Dakas C.J. Dakas, Ph.D, SAN

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