Confronting the security challenge – Thisday

Security agencies could do more to contain the worrying situation

All over, the country now seems like a strange place to live in. Never in the history of Nigeria have we seen these many sundry cartels of criminals waging a sophisticated war on the people. In North-East, the general security situation remains largely volatile. Since taking out Boko Haram leader, Abubakar Shekau, insurgents from the Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) have engaged the military in serious confrontations. Recently, they ambushed and killed the commander of the 28 Task Force in Chibok, Brigadier General Dzarma Zirkusu in Bulguma, Askira Uba Local Government Area of Borno State.

In the Northwest, banditry has been raised to an art. The deteriorating security situation in the states of Sokoto, Zamfara and Katsina has led to the displacement of tens of thousands of people. On Monday, bandits invaded Goronyo and Illela communities in Sokoto State, killing 43 people, according to Governor Aminu Tambuwal. Same day, Manga, a community in Takum local government area of Taraba State, was attacked by suspected members of Ambazonia rebels, a Cameroonian separatist group, killing about a dozen people, including a traditional ruler. But Katsina perhaps provides a better picture of horror unleashed on innocent targets. Last Thursday, the Katsina State government said that within a period of four months this year (July to October) bandits had killed no fewer than 213 persons and kidnapped 676 others.

So badly compromised and tarnished is the security situation in most of the northern states that governors have practically been reduced to undertakers. Yet, the violence that defines this season in Nigeria speaks to a national psychology that has devalued human life to the lowest level. From North to South and East, hundreds of people are being killed almost daily either by criminal cartels or lone wolves who seem to have overpowered the capacity of the state. As we had cause to point out recently, perhaps aside the 30-month civil war, Nigeria has never been so threatened by security challenges as it is today.

That these criminal gangs now target schools from where they abduct students and teachers has compounded the problem. The challenge of insecurity becomes more perplexing when parents can no longer send their children or wards to school without the fear that they could be abducted. Repeated attacks on schools in recent years have created fear in many vulnerable students and their parents, especially in some sections of the country and is affecting the attitude to education. The pertinent questions to ask therefore are: What have the security agencies done to understand the nature of the sundry forms of criminality that now engulf the country? What are the strategies for countering them?

With a growing pattern of roving genocidal gangs, we must challenge the federal government and the authorities in many of the states concerned to do a little more than the usual blame game that has deepened our insecurity. But it is also important that we isolate recourse to negotiations with bandits as a separate outrage which has its own complexity and multiple implications. Suspending telecommunications services in some states because of bandits has also proved to be counterproductive since these criminals now resort to using walkie-talkies while their victims have no means to communicate.

While asking the federal government for a special intervention fund to enable states contain the myriad of security crises that have now rendered our country unsafe, the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF) has lately been strident in their call for state police. Their position now seems unassailable. As things stand, the huge responsibilities for the upkeep and maintenance of the police in form of equipment, logistics, allowances, and other forms of assistance may be better handled at subnational levels. That of course will necessitate tinkering with the current structure to devolve more powers and resources from the centre to the states.

It is perhaps the only solution to the current crisis of insecurity that puts Nigeria at the risk of becoming a failed state.

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