- Is the presidency living in denial of Nigeria’s dire security situation?
That Nigeria is a severely troubled state is a bare fact that cannot be controverted. The 2018 Global Terrorism Index measuring the impact of terror worldwide rates Nigeria ‘Very High’. In fact, it is third in a list of 84 countries, with only Iran and Afghanistan ahead of Nigeria. This means that Nigeria is among the three most insecure countries; ravaged by the effects of violence, senseless killings and wilful destruction of property.
It is particularly telling that countries like Syria, South Sudan, Libya and Democratic Republic of Congo; which are in the throes of war are deemed safer and less dangerous places to be than Nigeria.
A report by journalist Kadaria Ahmed, who is from Zamfara State, indicated that killings in the northwest state had become very alarming and were in the region of between 30, 40 and 50 per day. She claimed that these deaths have outstripped the killings even in the northeast states besieged by Boko Haram terrorists.
However, another report, the Nigerian Security Tracker, reportedly produced by Washington-based Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), notes that there is a significant upsurge in killings in Nigeria over the past few months. Deploying a graphic illustration to show the trends between 2011 to 2019, shows a wide, if not wild, disparity.
According to CFR, in the first 100 days of 2019, there have been about 262 civilian deaths while in the entire 2018, there were 288 deaths. The figure for 2017 is 52. The report further shows that deaths in Zamfara State between 2011 and 2016 were almost insignificant.
It is in this light that we are worried by a statement emanating from the presidency to the effect that killings under the Muhammadu Buhari administration have been lower than in the previous ones. Presidential spokesman, Mallam Garba Shehu, answering questions in a television programme had made the assertion.
Responding to the acting Inspector-General of Police’s statement that 1,071 persons lost their lives in crime-related cases across the country in the first quarter of 2019, Shehu insisted that regardless the seeming high number, the figure was still ‘better’ than that of the previous administrations.
Shehu: “Yes, there has been recent rise (in attacks) but this is not to suggest that this has never happened in the country and they are beginning just now because President Buhari is out of the country.
“You mentioned the numbers but I want to say from our own point of view in the presidency, we have avoided comparing numbers because it will lead to the same criticism that some people have made of being insensitive because even if it is one life of a Nigerian that is lost, it is important, it cannot be justified, it cannot be defended.
“But anybody who takes the trouble to check the presidential website… the staggering numbers put on display, coming from the past are nothing comparable to these numbers…”
This newspaper thinks it is unconscionable and callous to attempt to make any comparison in the number of innocent Nigerians felled either now or in the past as a result of sheer official lapses in securing parts of the country. It is nothing short of morbid politics to compare casualty figures across administrations.
As Garba noted, if one Nigerian lost his life as a result of incompetence, inefficiency and sheer negligence of any government, such a regime must be held up to account. We expect the presidency to give Nigerians more reassuring words about the measures currently being taken and strategies put in place to eliminate banditry and terrorism and restore normalcy in the entire north of Nigeria.
Escalation of violence and killings can only suggest that government is losing her sovereignty to bandits and miscreants. Nigerians have made various suggestions, including the rejigging of the country’s security architecture. But no significant action seems to have been taken apart from repeated meetings with security chiefs.
Nigerians demand smart responses and results and not rhetoric and statistics.