It is given that the security of lives and property is one of the primary responsibilities of government. CHIZOBA OGBECHE examines efforts of the Muhammadu Buhari-led administration to fulfil this responsibility in the last one year.
Insecurity remains a major challenge to Nigeria and other developing countries. The situation was made even more challenging with the advent of the Boko Haram. Within the past one year, the security architecture was put to the test in various ways, chiefly which were insurgency, kidnappings, rampaging herdsmen, IPOB/MASSOB agitation, resurgence of militancy as well as insurgency.
The Boko Haram insurgency could be described as an ill-wind that has blown Nigeria a lot of ill-wind; bombings, deaths in thousands, livelihoods destroyed, girls kidnapped, school boys massacred and whole communities ransacked. A challenge which the Goodluck Jonathan led administration acknowledged but could not effectively address.
It therefore was not surprising that the then main opposition party in the 2015 general elections, the All Progressives Congress (APC), made it an electoral issue as well as the fight against corruption.
It is in this regard that President Muhammadu Buhari in his inaugural speech pledged his administration’s commitment to fight terror, rescue the over 200 secondary school students kidnapped from Girls Secondary School, Chibok, Borno state.
He said: “At home we face enormous challenges. Insecurity, pervasive corruption, the hitherto unending and seemingly impossible fuel and power shortages are the immediate concerns.
“We are going to tackle them head on. Nigerians will not regret that they have entrusted national responsibility to us. We must not succumb to hopelessness and defeatism. We can fix our problems.”
The speech further read in part: “Progress has been made in recent weeks by our security forces but victory cannot be achieved by basing the Command and Control Centre in Abuja. The command centre will be relocated to Maiduguri and remain until Boko Haram is completely subdued.
“We cannot claim to have defeated Boko Haram without rescuing the Chibok girls and all other innocent persons held hostage by insurgents…Boko Haram is a typical example of small fires causing large fires.
“…For now the Armed Forces will be fully charged with prosecuting the fight against Boko Haram. We shall overhaul the rules of engagement to avoid human rights violations in operations.”
Boko Haram vanquished?
One year on, the question remains, has Buhari fulfilled his vow of crushing the terrorists? It is to the credit of the administration that Boko Haram has been ‘technically defeated’ as the no longer hold territories and have been confined to an area in the dreaded Samibsa forest.
While it is widely agreed that much has been gained, it remains that Boko Haram is still a lethal force as it continues with the bombing of motor parks, mosques and ‘soft targets mostly in the troubled North East.
Speaking on the insurgency war, former President Olusegun Obasanjo also rated the government high on the fight against insurgency stating: “President Muhammadu Buhari has evolved the right strategies in fighting the Boko Haram insurgency and the insecurity that has ravaged the nation for some time now.
“I think we are not out of the woods yet, but it would appear that we can see the light at the end of the tunnel.
“There is no doubt that with combined effort at the local level, at the state level and at the federal level and even at the community level, our security forces are on the ascendancy over the forces of destruction, the menace and danger of insurgency that we have experienced for almost six years now.”
However, Critics of the government argue that it has exaggerated the scale of its success against the sect insisting that the war against Boko Haram is not over until the Chibok girls and all other innocent persons held hostage by insurgents are rescued.
Rescued Chibok Girl
The rescue of one of the Chibok girls, Amina Ali, on May 18, rekindled hope that some, if not all the girls, would be rescued, however, this was dampened by the controversy that trailed claims of the rescue of a second Chibok girl, Sarah Luka, whose name is said to be missing on the list of the school girls who were registered to write SSCE before they were abducted.
This has also raised questions about the authenticity of the first girl, given the timing of her rescue/release which coincided with agitation over 60% hike in fuel price by the federal government.
Buhari, who was criticised by human rights campaigners for making “political capital” so soon after the 19-year-old was discovered with her four-month-old baby girl, Safiya; said her return gave a “unique opportunity” to find the remaining hostages.
The Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) and the Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB) could be described as different sides of the same coin.
IPOB, one of the self-determination groups seeking the actualisation of the sovereign state of Biafra is led by Nnamdi Kanu. Kanu’s agitation put to the test the country’s security ability to promptly track unregistered broadcast sources, which unfortunately they failed at.
Before he was arrested in October, 2015, Kanu operated Radio Biafra which allegedly broadcasted inciting and treasonable materials against the Nigerian State. For months, the Nigerian intelligence community failed to find the transmitter rigged to an MTN mast in Enugu. However, after several futile attempts, the transmitter was found and dismantled.
Despite Buhari’s promise of not abusing human rights, Kanu who was arraigned on November 23, 2015, on charges of criminal conspiracy, intimidation and membership of an illegal organization and got bail, remains in detention a situation that provoked protests by his supporters and members of MASSOB with some mowed down by federal troops.
One major security worry in the past one year is the clash between Fulani herdsmen and farmers in different parts of the country. The war attrition between the herders and farmers have seen communities ransacked, eminent Nigerians like Chief Olu Falae and a traditional ruler in Delta kidnapped by suspected herders for ransom.
To stem the tide, the government has proposed a Grazing Reserve Bill a development that has dawn angst amongst farming communities especially in the North Central and across the south.
For instance, the Campaign for Democracy (CD) has described the bill, “as an ill-wind that blows no good to anybody,” stressing “herdsmen should adopt international best practices on animal husbandry, which requires that animals be confined to a particular area and fed with foods sourced from various places.”
How the administration resolves the issue of the farmer/herders clash remains to be seen as it appears to be helpless.
Shi’ites/ Army Clash
Another worrying issue in the past 365 days is the clash between the Islamic Movement of Nigeria, otherwise known as Shi’ites with the Nigerian Army in Kaduna.
It is a clash told in tears, blood and a damning verdict by international human rights watchdog, Amnesty International.
Months after the clash with allegations of mass burials of IMN members killed by the army, the where about of the movement’s leader, Shiekh Ibrahim El-Zakzak, remains unknown despite being in court with the Nigerian government.
The major argument against the sect is the claim that they have become a government within a government, a situation the army says cannot be allowed to fester.
In a bid to resolve the issues surrounding the clash, a panel of inquiry was set up by the Kaduna state government but has progressed slowly as El-Zakzak’s lawyers insist they were yet to be granted access to their client in order to prepare his defence.
For now, as the matter remains in a stalemate, fears have been expressed that if this is not properly sorted out, it could pose a serious challenge to the Nigerian government in no distant future.
Kidnapping and Violent Crimes
Kidnapping was made popular by MEND and has spread across the other parts of the country. The crime has been made attractive by the easy money received as ransom, especially as family of victims often opt to pay ransom and have their loved one released. This is against the advice of security agents, however, they argue that it was better to than living them in the hands of security operatives and risk the victim being killed in rescue efforts.
This crime and others like armed robbery appeared to have soured in the last one year.
While some persons have argued that the rise has been fuelled by ability of the security agencies to arrest most culprits to serve as a deterrent, others insist that the agencies are not well equipped to battle some of the gangs which are armed to the teeth with more sophisticated weapons.
Some others have blamed the rise in violent crime on the economic recession and unemployment which has left a lot of youths, some graduates, without options.
Whatever the reasons are, the fact remains that the administration through the security agencies needed to do more in the area of curbing crime.
Nigeria Police Force
The Nigeria Police as the primary enforcer of security is still with teething problems of inadequate personnel, poor funding ad unprofessional conduct.
To this end, the president had promised to erect and maintain an efficient, disciplined people-friendly and well-compensated security forces within an over-all security architecture.
In line with the promise, the president directed the recruitment of 10,000 policemen which commenced in April and received nearly 900,000 applications!
One plus for President Buhari from stakeholders is allowing the Inspector General of Police (IGP), Solomon Arase; to serve out his term, a decision which has given some level of stability in the force.
Assessing the police under Buhari’s administration, the IGP stated: “We’ve done very well. The president has encouraged us. And in terms of those things we’ve set for ourselves to do; healthy respect for human right, intelligence led policing, community based policing; all these are issues that we have put on the table under his administration and I can assure you that we have achieved it but we are still not there.
“These things are an incremental thing, so I think that with time Nigeria will begin to appreciate policing as a community based activity. Will continue to see policing as an intelligence led organisation
“We cannot do it alone; we will always do it with members of the public. That is what I’ve always advocated since I became IGP.”
Department of State Security
The DSS as the secret police of the Nigerian State has found itself caught in crossfires of Nigerians. Its rather political inclination is one most Nigerians have continued to frown at. From its invasion of Akwa Government House to that of Ekiti State Assembly and arresting some of its lawmakers and the infamous corpses’ identification in the South East as being that of Fulani-Hausa and the continued detention of former NSA, Sambo Dasuki, are some of its minuses.
Also the appointment of Lawal Daura as Director General of the service in July, 2015, who hails from the president’s home town, has not been without criticisms because it was the first time a DG was appointed from outside serving DSS personnel.
Not bothered by the criticisms, his appointment was quickly followed by compulsory retirement of senior officers, perceived to have been sympathetic to the Jonathan led administration.
From the openness of the Service in the Goodluck Jonathan years, it has become more secretive without a spokesperson for almost a year, communication between the service and members of the public especially the media, has been made difficult.
Niger Delta Avengers
While there optimism that the battle against Boko Haram was yielding results, the resurgence of militancy in the Niger Delta by the group that goes by the norm guerre Niger Delta Avengers (NDA), has left the nation reeling.
The rising violence in the region by NDA has led to drastic drop in oil production to 1.65 million barrel per day as against the projected 2.2 million barrel in the 2016 budget.
In solidarity to people they identified as associates of the former President Jonathan, the group had given the federal government an ultimatum to release the founder of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) and the former National Security Adviser (NSA), Col Sambo Dasuki.
President Buhari who had directed the security forces to crush all agitators, said: “We have to be very serious with the situation in the Niger Delta because it threatens the national economy. I assure you that everything possible will be done to protect personnel and oil assets in the region.”
However, as it stands, the militants, who are more conversant with the terrain, appear to be having an upper over the military forces, a situation which has made critics of the government to call for more practical step towards bringing an end to the offensive by the militant.