Nigeria further descended into the abyss of lawlessness at the weekend with the gruesome murder of Olufunke Olakunri, 58, daughter of the Afenifere leader, Reuben Fasoranti, at Kajola, Odigbo Local Government Area of Ondo State. Several reports claim that the callous killing, which provoked enormous tension in the polity, was carried out by suspected Fulani herdsmen on the Benin-Sagamu Expressway. But government officials affirm that it was an armed robbery attack. Regardless of who the bandits are, however, it is fair to ask whether the Muhammadu Buhari government has, in any way, demonstrated the political will to tame violent crime.
Life in Nigeria has been difficult, but, on Buhari’s watch, insecurity has assumed an explosive dimension. In 2015, the Global Terrorism Index rated the Fulani herdsmen as the fourth deadliest terror group in the world. The invaders have visibly spread their dragnet further southward. Fasoranti, lamenting, said people could no longer go to their farms or travel as the entire region was under siege. Already, most of the North-Central has become killing zones where entire villages, farms, and homesteads have been razed and hundreds of thousands of people displaced.
What is sorely missing in the upsurge of violent crime is predictive and pre-emptive policing. The police authorities failed to plan for displacement effect of crime. Experts say crime can be moved from one location to another (geographical displacement); crime can be moved from one time to another (temporal displacement); crime can be directed away from one target to another (target displacement); one method of committing crime can be substituted for another (tactical displacement), and one type of crime can be substituted for another (crime type displacement).
Under the pretext of cattle grazing, herdsmen are executing daring crimes, killing and kidnapping for ransom in the South-West. Among notable victims was a former Minister of Finance, Olu Falae, who was abducted on his farm in Akure, Ondo State, four years ago. Three months ago, a professor of medicine at the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Olayinka Adegbeingbe, suffered the same fate on the Ibadan-Ife Expressway.
On a daily basis, multiple lives are wasted and ruined. Several other less known people are being kidnapped regularly, especially on inter-state highways, which are mostly not policed. It has rendered movement within the South-West states a deadly gamble. The greater disquiet is that the Buhari government appears clueless about designing or implementing radical solutions to the insecurity question. Instead, amid the outcry against its incompetence, the government thoughtlessly introduced the Ruga settlement scheme to acquire land for the herdsmen in all parts of the country.
With the obvious reluctance of the Federal Government to do its duty, calls for alternative actions have arisen. A former president, Olusegun Obasanjo, warning that the country was “tipping towards a dangerous cliff,” and was “consumed by violence and ethnic divisions…in a manner not seen for ages since Buhari assumed office four years ago,” said the President should stop “fanning the embers of hatred, disaffection and violence.”
The Ooni of Ife, Adeyeye Ogunwusi, bluntly called on all Yoruba to unite and stop the Fulani herdsmen rampage as the South-West had had enough of the provocations. His call followed an earlier communiqué he jointly issued with a Nobel laureate, Wole Soyinka, where they warned that the “colonial contraption known as Nigeria” could not survive another civil war. They urged Nigerians to resist the “internal colonisation project” of Ruga “promoted by backward, primitive, undeveloped minds.” Soyinka categorically declared Buhari a failure. Tunde Bakare, the cleric who was Buhari’s running mate in the 2011 presidential election, said, “If someone desires a thing so seriously and does not know the purpose for such a thing, when he gets it, he won’t achieve anything.” He spoke in reference to Buhari’s four bids for the presidency.
A chilling threat to curb the killer herders’ brazenness has also come from the Oodua People’s Congress, whose leader, Gani Adams, said the Yoruba had been pushed to the wall and would react accordingly. From the South-East, self-determination groups and others have also vowed to resist the continued assault of gun-wielding Fulani herdsmen. The President of Ohanaeze, Nina Nwodo, said, though “technically, they (herdsmen) enjoy immunity from arrest and prosecution,” the zone would resist any policy to “turn them into an army of occupation.” Similarly, the Middle Belt Youth Council, through its president, Emmanuel Zopmal, warned that no group possessed the monopoly of violence; just as the Governor of Benue State, Samuel Ortom, has said the state would continue to implement its anti-grazing laws, which he credits with reducing carnage in Benue.
Perhaps emboldened by the pro-herdsmen statements and policies of the Buhari government, Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association, the pastoralists’ umbrella group, continues to insist on free ranging of cattle anywhere in Nigeria. To further inflame passions, the Northern Youths Coalition issued a 30-day ultimatum to southern state governors to accept the government’s Ruga proposal, failing which southerners residing in the North would face reprisals. This is a complete descent into an anarchical and provocative situation.
Clearly, a dark cloud hangs over the country. It is time for action. The governors cannot afford to stand idly by and watch insecurity consume their various domains with the excuse that they have no police of their own to deploy. They cannot be helpless with the gargantuan amount they collect as security votes. Vigilance groups, already in existence in some states, should be formed and empowered where they are not in existence at present. The Civilian Joint Task Force, for instance, has contributed immensely to taming the Boko Haram rampage in the North-East, which the military and the Federal Government have duly acknowledged. As a result, its members have since been integrated into the larger security template for the region. This underscores the complementary role of well organised and funded vigilance organisations in policing any environment with a security challenge. Besides, such groups could play critical role in intelligence gathering.
It is argued that saturating high crime areas with police can help reduce crime. The Inspector-General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, should withdraw the 80 per cent of its personnel reportedly protecting very important persons and redeploy them in normal policing to cover the nooks and crannies of the country. He should ensure that those not authorised to carry arms are quickly disarmed. A similar strategy is currently going on in Kenya and people, including VIPs, are willingly turning in their guns. Crime should be punished and Fulani militia disarmed.
The IG should recover illicit guns and punish those who wield them illegally. With the admission of some northern governors and the federal authorities that the killer-Fulani herders are foreigners, it behoves the government to take a hard look at our border control, especially in the northern states. Otherwise, the porous borders will continue to neuter every solution envisioned for our security challenges. With technology and improved border controls, the influx of unwanted bandits can be put under check.
However, the ultimate solution is the introduction of true federalism and decentralisation of policing accordingly. The efficiency of policing in the United Kingdom is as a result of a raft of 43 police units. The Vice-President, Yemi Osinbajo, has repeatedly observed that “…policing is a local function; you simply cannot effectively police Nigeria from Abuja.” The time to do so is now.