Leadership in a time of insecurity – Thisday

Government must do more to contain the volume and severity of crime

The widespread violence and worsening insecurity across the country have prompted several critical stakeholders to call for an urgent review of the national security architecture. From north to south, there is a consensus that the Nigerian state has lost the capacity to safeguard the lives and property of citizens. No state better exemplifies the sanguinary descent into anarchy than Zamfara where banditry has long become a way of life. On a daily basis innocent men, women and children are maimed or killed. At the last count, the dead numbered more than 400 while many communities had been laid waste. Even when the crisis was on a relatively smaller scale, the state governor, Abdullaziz Yari, abdicated responsibility as the chief security officer of the state. “This is Nigeria’s forgotten conflict”, Osai Ojigho of Amnesty International, Nigeria once said, “the authorities’ failure to act has left villagers in Zamfara at the mercy of armed bandits who have killed hundreds of people.”

Before the recent efforts to attend to the violence in Zamfara, the crisis has spread and sucked in many relatively calmed states like Sokoto, where no fewer than 50 villagers were gruesomely murdered recently in Rabah local government to Katsina, and even Kaduna, where communal conflicts and the road connecting it and the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja has become a nightmare for travellers. General banditry and kidnappings are the deadly trend. The Northeast states of Borno, Yobe and Adamawa are still under the vice-grip of the decade-long brutal Islamic insurgency, Boko Haram while Benue, Plateau and Taraba still experience killings occasioned by kidnappings and farmers-herdsmen clashes over grazing land after a brief spell of calm during the 2019 general election. Across many states in the south and southeast, kidnappers and hoodlums have also stepped up their game, seizing people for ransom and killing at whims.

In perhaps underlining the urgency to contain the spiral of violence and daunting security challenges, a bewildered House of Representatives last week summoned President Muhammadu Buhari to appear before it and address the nation within 48 hours. In an adopted motion at plenary titled “Resurgence of incessant and annual massacre of innocent Nigerians across the country by alleged bandits and killer herdsmen…,” the lawmakers wanted the president to explain the country’s gradual descent into chaos and administration’s inability to protect lives and property.

In response to the challenges President Buhari held a security council meeting at the Presidential Villa where he ordered the service chiefs to deal ruthless with the armed bandits that are holding the country by the jugular. That was not the first. The president had in the past held many of such meetings with little or no impact. The Acting Inspector-General of Police Mohammed Adamu had earlier in the week also launched “Operation Puff Adder” in the Northwest to, among other things, arrest the menace of kidnapping on Abuja-Kaduna expressway and reclaim communities seized by criminals in Zamfara. “Our commitment at protecting the sanctity of life and property is irrevocable, and we will not scale down the pressure on the armed bandits until they are totally flushed out,” said Adamu.

While we wish the IG and indeed the armed forces well in the new task, we are persuaded to believe that the failure of intelligence gathering and sharing of vital information among security chiefs all have conspired to worsen the security situation in the country. It has also become increasing evident that many of the service chiefs are tired and in dire need of replacement. But above all, government at all levels must work hard to prop their vulnerable economies. For now, the nation’s economy offers little comfort, at least for the millions of the restless and the jobless. It was Gunnar Heinsohn, a German social scientist that warned that countries with “youth bulge” often gravitate towards violence. Ours is worse: more than half the youth are unemployed.

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