Growing Concerns As Insecurity Escalates Nationwide

Just like yesterday, another transition is here. The 2015 – 2019 ‘Change’ era of President Muhammadu Buhari, which took over from the 2011 – 2015 ‘Transformation Agenda’ of former president Goodluck Jonathan with so much hope and optimism expired in a deflated anti-climax on May 29, and the baton was swiped to the 2019 – 2023 ‘Next Level’ era of President Buhari.

The first term of Buhari’s administration came on board based strictly on his chosen three campaign pillars of security, economy and anti-corruption, but the verdict on the president’s first term is a mixed bag weighing heavily on the negative side.

Nigeria’s leading survey and polling firm, NOIPolls Ltd, on Wednesday in its latest weekly poll, said the average approval rating of President Buhari in his first term in office (June 2015 to May 2019) stands at 49.3 per cent with his latest rating of 36 per cent recorded in May 2019.

According to the results released, President Buhari’s scorecard was highest in his first year in office with an average of 63.9 per cent. Barely a few months into his first term, the president’s approval rating had soared to 78 and 80 per cent respectively in September and October 2015, before slumping to its lowest in the last month of his first term at 36 per cent.

Similarly, Nigerians also appraised the performance of President Buhari on specific indicators using a Likert scale of 1 to 5, where 1 represents ‘Very Poor’ and 5 represents ‘Excellent’. Starting off with his three cardinal policy thrusts: the president was rated 36 per cent on Security; 27 per cent on Corruption; and 16 per cent on the Economy. Averagely, the president was rated poorly in the report on all indicators analysed in his first term in office.

On the security front, the country Buhari inherited four years ago is today more insecure than it has ever been since after the civil war. The Boko Haram insurgency has metamorphosed into a full terrorist menace with occasional daring exploits by the two factions on hard targets like security forces in their fortified locations and bases.

Indiscriminate killings by sundry cartels of gunmen, kidnapping for ransom, armed robbery and assorted other violent crimes are rampant in many parts of the country. The value of human life has become gravely so degraded that news of deaths often on an industrial scale hardly shocks the citizenry anymore.

Depression-induced suicide deaths are almost going out of fashion as an average of five incidents are recorded across the country, especially from students. The free access of criminal gangs to military grade weapons has elevated the insecurity to a veritable challenge to the supremacy of the state.

Nigerians have lost count of incessant attacks and galloping death toll across the country, owing majorly to herdsmen/farmers’ conflict, kidnapping, bandits invasion, and police/army/custom brutality.

Another report that emerged on Wednesday revealed that violent activities in Nigeria have resulted in the death of 7,253 Nigerians between June 2018 and May 2019. These figures, released by Nigeria Security Tracker (NST), a project of the Council on Foreign Relations’ Africa program, consist of those killed by insurgent groups like Boko Haram and Islamic State West African Province (ISWAP) in the northern part of the country, herdsmen and extra-judicial activities by the military.

During the timeframe, Borno and Zamfara states recorded the highest number of killings contributing to 49 per cent of the total deaths within the last one year. Borno recorded 2,384 killings while 1,157 people were killed by different violent activities in Zamfara.

Other states that made up the top 10 states of death from violent activities are Kaduna, 540; Benue, 330; Adamawa, 303; Yobe, 264; Taraba, 176; Plateau, 166; Rivers, 160 and Katsina with 127 deaths. The least affected states are Kebbi, three; Kwara and Jigawa, four; Osun, eight; Kano and Bauchi, 10; Gombe, Oyo and Enugu, 11 and Abia, 12.

The data also showed that extrajudicial activities by state actors led to the most killings in the country with 1,545 deaths, while 1,042 Nigerians were killed by Boko Haram sects. Also, communal crisis and clash between herdsmen and farmers resulted in killings of 1,178 Nigerians while 1,230 deaths resulted from other factors.

The Nigeria Security Tracker (NST) said it tracks violence that is both causal and symptomatic of Nigeria’s political instability and citizen alienation.

“Relying on press reports of violence presents methodological limitations. There is a dearth of accurate reporting across certain regions, death tolls are imprecise, and accounts of incidents vary. There is the potential for political manipulation of media. Given these limitations, the NST makes every effort to collect information from multiple sources,” the NST noted.

The insecurity flag is not only signposted in the north. There have been overwhelming incursions into the south. Rivers State for a long period was renamed the ‘Rivers of Blood’ owing to the activities armed militants and cultists. Ordinarily, it is expected that with the conclusion of the gubernatorial election, which put to rest the political struggle over governance of Rivers, peace would return to the state. The expectation is based on the premise that the political gladiators would automatically sheathe their swords.

But the oil rich state has since after the general elections been thrown into a cauldron of bloodletting among the various cult groups in the state with a renewed bloody clash that has led to the death of many citizens. A day hardly passes by without a report of cult-related death in some parts of the state.

Investigation shows that the causal effect of this renewed senseless bloodletting is three-prone: supremacy of the cult groups, political leanings and economic survival.

Areas that are worst hit by these cult-related crises include Ogoni, Emohua, Ikwerre and Obio/Akpor local government areas among others. In Ogoni area for instance, the crisis is hinged on who becomes superior amongst the various deadly groups involving Degbam, Dewell, Iceland and Green lslanders.

These groups and a lot others have created their splinters to gain more influence in the society. They include Blood hunters, K5, Italians, Bermudas and more. Some members of these groups choose to live in the forests and only come to town when they want to unleash mayhem on their victims and retreat immediately.

It got to a head last month when the Rivers State governor, Nyesom Wike, sacked the traditional ruler of Baabe Kingdom, Monday Noryaa, for his alleged involvement in cultism. “The withdrawal of Certificate of Recognition from the Gbenemene of Baabe Kingdom in Khana LGA of Rivers State takes immediate effect. The withdrawal of Government Recognition from HRM Chief Monday Frank Noryaa followed his indictment on cult-related activities within his kingdom. The traditional ruler was also indicted for harbouring cultists, leading to insecurity in the area,” Simeon Nwakaudu, the governor’s Special Assistant on Electronic Media, said.

To prevent incursions into their domain and safeguard themselves, traditional worshippers and priests in Benin, Edo State have taken to offering animal sacrifices to cleanse the community against cases of kidnapping and cultism. The traditional worshippers were seen last month parading the streets to invoke the traditional practice of cleansing the land.

They were disturbed by the upsurge in cases of violent killings occasioned by armed robbery, cultism, kidnapping, sacrilegious acts and the seeming inability of security agencies to stem the tide. The native doctors and priests heaped curses on those they said were committing sacrilegious acts against the land.

Shortly after the slaughtering of animals and offering of sacrificial materials to ancestors, the various groups took turns to pray and lay curses on those violating the law of the land. The exercise was presided by the Ewaise group headed by Chief Eguezigbon and Chief Ohen-Egie of Ogbeson.

Reports across the South-West states have shown that the insecurity level occasioned by the activities of herdsmen has reached a threatening point. Villages are being attacked at will by herdsmen without response from security agencies. No one is safe as the herdsmen not only murder people in remote villages but also kidnap travellers in the region. The traditional institution in some villages seems threatened, as the herdsmen have become audacious to the extent of threatening monarchs in their palaces.

Two weeks ago, the height of criminality in the state played out as the life of a monarch, Onigedegede of Gedegede in Akoko North-West local council of Ondo State, Oba Walidu Sanni, was threatened by nine herdsmen who walked into his palace unhindered. Oba Sanni raised the alarm at a stakeholders parley initiated by the state government to douse tension and apprehension in the area over the activities of the herdsmen.

The ‘sin’ of the traditional ruler was that he reported the continued destruction of his subjects’ farm produce and farmlands to the police. The timely intervention of Governor Rotimi Akeredolu, who deployed security operatives to the town, doused tension and prevented a bloody clash between the herdsmen and the people of the community after they invaded the monarch’s palace and threatened him.

Concerned by this, various Yoruba groups, elders and leaders have severally lampooned the lackadaisical attitude of the Federal Government towards the invasion and unprovoked attacks by herdsmen across the country especially in the South-West. The Yoruba Council of Elders (YCE), Afenifere, Agbekoya Farmers’ Association, Soludero Hunters Association, and the South-West Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), were among those who expressed misgivings about the nefarious activities of herdsmen particularly in the South-West, submitting that the region is under siege.

On its part, the Agbekoya Farmers’ Society said it will not fold its arms while killings, rape and kidnappings go on unabated by herdsmen. President-General of Agbeokya, Aare Okikiola Kamorudeen Aremu, said: “Agbekoya Farmers’ Society is ready to join hands with Nigeria Police Force and other security agencies in order to stop the killings, rape, abductions and kidnappings in the South-West.”

Not wanting to be caught unawares, Afenifere has asked Yoruba in the South-West to activate their traditional and communal self-defense system in the face of existential threats and killings by the herdsmen militia. The group said: “The killings across the country by the herdsmen/militia are willful and deliberate in pursuit of their expansionist and conquest agenda.”

The hunters in the region were also not left behind as they vowed not to sit by and watch the unprovoked attacks by the herders on travellers and other people in the zone. Coordinator of hunters in the South-West, who also doubles as the President, Soludero Hunters Association, Dr. Nureni Ajijola Anabi, said he and thousands of his members would liaise with the Agbekoya Association and other conventional security agencies to ensure that criminals have no hiding place in the state.

Symbolically, on the eve of May 29, when the president was inaugurated for a fresh term of four years, a group of civil society organizations on Tuesday in Abuja mourned and honoured many Nigerians who have lost their lives in different violent attacks across the country.

The procession, which was tagged ‘National Day of Mourning’, saw protesters troop out donning black T-Shirts with inscriptions such as ‘Not Just Number Nigeria Mourns, End The Killings’. Jaiye Gaskiya, convener of the procession, said that the ‘National Day of Mourning and Remembrance’ is a citizen-led initiative to express solidarity and demand accountability for the security and welfare of all Nigerians.

Gaskiya noted that Nigerians are dying on a daily basis but no name can be placed on those who have lost their lives. He added that the procession is to rekindle the hope of the families of the victims that they are not alone. “We are always saying people are dying. Whenever you read newspapers you will see 27 people were killed in a community. These 27 people are human beings and they have names, they have families,” he lamented.

A list containing names of all the victims was read in an emotion-laden voice by the former chairman of the National Human Rights Commission, Chidi Odinkalu. The list includes victims of mass killing in Zamfara and Kaduna, killings in Numan Adamawa, herdsmen massacre at Nkiedonwro in Plateau, victims of electoral violence, Shiites massacre in Zaria and herdsmen killing in Benue, among others.

The groups are Global Right, Amnesty International, YIAGA Africa, Enough Is Enough Nigeria, Concerned Nigerians Center for Democracy and Development, Budgit, BringBackOurGirls, Nigerian Intervention Movement, among others.

Meanwhile, 15,000 Nigerians, mainly comprising women and children displaced by activities of insurgent groups, are currently taking refuge in Niger Republic. Dr. Kofoworola Soleye, Head of National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), Sokoto Operations Office, revealed this at the stakeholders’ meeting on disaster management organised by the agency in Gusau, Zamfara State at the weekend.

He noted that data collected showed that the Nigerians were those who fled from Isa and Sabon-Birni Local Government Areas of Sokoto State as well as Shinkafi and Zurmi Local Government Areas in Zamfara, while adding that they are residing in nine host communities in Niger republic.

He said: “The assessment team discovered that following the bandits’ attacks, no fewer than 15,000 Nigerians mostly women and children are presently taking refuge in neighbouring communities of Niger Republic. They are living in nine host communities and are willing to come back to their homes. They need humanitarian assistance as facilities there are overstretched,” he said, adding that NEMA headquarters would visit the refugees with relief materials.

Kidnapping for ransom has become one of the major security challenges facing Nigeria. Many Nigerians have questioned the performance of the Buhari administration regarding security, especially as section 14(2)(b) of the Nigerian constitution provides that the security and welfare of the citizens shall be the primary purpose of government.

The assurances that things may pan out differently in the second term was dashed on Monday night, barely 36 hours before his inauguration when President Buhari continued in his blame trade mantra by blaming the Nigeria Police Force (NPF) and Nigerians themselves for the spate of insecurity in the country. He also tacitly admitted he has failed in the last four years on the score of security.

Speaking during a special interview on NTA, the president said the government couldn’t be blamed if regular Nigerians and community leaders fail to cooperate with law enforcement agencies to fish out criminals in their communities.

Nigeria has experienced a rise in insecurity over the past few months. Banditry has taken a life of its own and created a huge insecurity headache for the country with countless cases of killings and kidnappings recorded, while several highways have become a death trap and no-go area. The Inspector-General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, revealed earlier this month that a total of 1,071 people were killed in crime-related cases across the country in the first quarter of 2019.

During his interview, President Buhari said Nigeria’s economy will continue to suffer as long as insecurity persists and called on Nigerians to fish out the criminals among them before blaming the government for failing to attract investment. He further noted that the police itself has failed Nigeria, to some extent, and promised to make the force more efficient as he prepares to be sworn in for a second term.

He said: “We are making noise that we want people to come and invest their money. Who will bring his money when his general manager will be abducted?

So, all those screaming for local jobs and so on because we are not attracting capital investment, they should blame themselves for not cooperating with law enforcement agencies to get the criminals among us – the abductors and the 419ners.

“They live with them, they know them. They can’t accommodate them and then blame government for not rebuilding factories. The government cannot build all the factories required, and employ all the people and produce all the goods and services. What the government should do is to provide security and convince entrepreneurs to invest, to employ people to produce goods and services.

“And what ordinary Nigerians should do is expose the kidnappers and the thieves. My message to Nigerians is that they should please expose the criminals in their neighbourhoods to help the government clear the country and attract foreign entrepreneurs to come and invest into the country. This is what will move Nigeria forward. You cannot accommodate criminals in your neighbourhood and start blaming government that nothing is being done. People are differently stopping government from doing anything,” he said.

However, 19 governors from the northern part of the country on Monday met with President Buhari in Abuja and appealed to him to take more decisive and swifter action on the violence ravaging the region. The region has come under massive pillage by Boko Haram insurgents in the North-east, armed bandits and kidnappers in the North-west, and killer herdsmen in the North-central.

Faced with prospects of economic and social degradation due to the virtually unchecked violence of these non-state actors, the governors demanded and got audience with the president, asking him to save the region from the devastation of the criminals.

At the end of the meeting, Governor Aminu Masari of Katsina State told State House Correspondents that Buhari listened attentively to them and pledged to take more concrete actions to end the reign of the hoodlums who had made life uncomfortable for the citizens of the region.

Masari said the governors briefed the president on the escalating security concerns in the region and called on him to stop the banditry, kidnappings and cattle rustling that had combined to foist a security siege on the northern part of the county. According to him, the decision to meet the president over security crisis confronting the north was taken at a meeting of northern governors 12 days ago in Kaduna.

He said whereas insecurity used to be prevalent in the North-east because of the activities of Boko Haram, the trend has changed in recent times with escalating cases of banditry and cattle rustling in the North-west and North-central.

Also, the pan-Yoruba socio-political organisation, Afenifere, has lamented the spate of insecurity in the country, particularly in the South-West. The group, which alleged that Fulani herdsmen were carrying out various attacks on the people of the South-West without any check from the government, called on the Federal Government to be proactive on the matter in order not to drag the country to another civil war.

The call was contained in a communique issued at the end of the meeting of the group, held at the residence of its leader, Pa Reuben Fasoranti, on Monday. The communique was read by the group’s Publicity Secretary, Mr. Yinka Odumakin.

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