Worsening insecurity in the land

The nation is experiencing serious threats to peace and national stability. Renewed youth violence in the Niger Delta has led to the death of about 30 persons and the kidnap of four expatriate oil workers. Reports said most of the casualties were either policemen or soldiers. Many prominent Nigerians have expressed the fear that the recurring crisis in the Niger Delta could spark another civil strife, as the Federal Government often prefers maximum force in addressing the problem. Following the breakdown of negotiations between the government and the kidnappers, for instance, the FG had concluded plans to deploy troops to free the hostages before they were released last weekend. The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND), the militia group stoking the latest violence, has warned that the release of the foreign oil workers �does not signify a cease-fire or softening of our position to destroy the oil export capability of the Nigerian government�.

Politically-motivated violence, banditry and general insecurity are also rife. Hajiya Sa�adatu, wife of former governor of old Kano State, Alhaji Abubakar Rimi, a vocal opponent of the ruling administration, was recently murdered in their Kano home by yet unknown assassins. Likewise Venerable Elisha Yisa, the Head of St. John Anglican Archdeaconry, Bida, Niger State, was shot dead in his living room last week by suspected assassins. Former presidential candidate, Chief Olu Falae and other prominent Yoruba leaders barely escaped being lynched by a faceless mob in Osogbo, the Osun State capital, a few days ago, while unknown gunmen reportedly attacked Pa Simon Soludo, father of the Central Bank of Nigeria Governor, Prof. Charles Soludo. Prof Soludo�s step mother was also battered by the assailants. There had been claims and counter claims by many politicians across the country of plots by their opponents to eliminate them.

In Gombe metropolis, a militia group called the Yan�Kalare is said to be making life miserable for residents. A similar militia outfit, according to reports, attacked an oil service company in Port Harcourt last week, and carted away N40 million from the firm�s vaults. One report also said that a gang of 15 robbers laid siege to the Ota-Efun community in the outskirts of Osogbo for two days, maiming, looting and raping women, unchecked. The United States, in a recent travel advice, drew the attention of her nationals in Nigeria to the scary lawlessness.

The FG itself has not helped matters, as its actions portray it as insensitive and having no regard for law and due process. Examples include its acquiescence to the unlawful removal of Governor Rashidi Ladoja of Oyo State and the gang-up by the Police and thugs to crush popular protests against the charade; President Olusegun Obasanjo�s rumoured third term plot, which is heating up the polity; intimidation of political opponents with anti-graft charges; neglect of junior Police officers� welfare; and reforms that have failed to significantly generate jobs and reduce poverty.

It is the bounden duty of the FG and other tiers of government to address the economic, social and political contradictions which are at the root of the festering insecurity in the country. The government must find ways to permanently resolve the Niger Delta problem through dialogue. So far, government�s reliance on force in suppressing the restive Delta region has yielded no positive results. Rampant violence is fed by poverty, injustice and unemployment. Except economic succour is allowed to trickle down to the grassroots, and a level political playing field is ensured, tackling the problem of insecurity in the country will remain a mirage. A growing and more inclusive economy helps to bring peace and stability. Not even the best Police can tame a frustrated and disgruntled citizenry.

The PUNCH, Wednesday, February 01, 2006

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