Task Before Panel On Election Violence

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The violence which greeted the announcement of the winner of the  April presidential polls in which Dr. Goodluck Jonathan emerged tops would remain indelible in the minds of many Nigerians.

Apart from the members of the National Youth Service Corps, NYSC, who were dispatched to their untimely graves in the North, the extent of destruction of lives and property in Kafanchan, Kaduna State, remain unprecedented as over 300 lives were lost there, while properties of non-Northers worth millions of Naira were reportedly destroyed.

In fact, incensed by the level of destruction in Kafanchan, the Christian Assocation of Nigeria CAN, called on the Federal Government to investigate the source of sophisticated weapons used by misguided youths in the operation, with a view to retrieving them and forestalling reccurrence of mayhem of such magnitude. This, CAN observed, was necessary in order to mop up automatic weapons in un- authorised hands.

No one is in doubt that the primary function of government is to ensure security of lives and property of its citizens and those of foreigners doing legimitate business in the country.

This position was underscored in Abuja last month by the former Minister of Labour, who was overseeing the ministry of Interior Mr. Chukwuemeka Wogu.

Wogu, at the licencing of 24 new private security guard companies by the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC), noted that licencing of the companies was a manifestation of the government’s resolve to safeguard lives and property in all parts of the country. He also said that government places premium on equipping, training and retraining of the personnel of the nation’s security agencies to enhance their proficiency and combat readiness.

“And to underscore the importance attached to security, government has invested enormously in the provision of adequate equipment as well as training and retraining of officers and men of the Armed Forces, the police, NSCDC, SSS, customs service, immigration Service and prison service”, the former minister said.

However, events that greeted the conclusion of the nationwide polls in April shows that a big chasm still exists in the security system in the country. Thus, to rekindle the hope of Nigerians that government is on top of the security situation, the Federal Government raised the presidential panel on the 2011 election violence and civil disturbances to unravel the causes of the pre and post election violence in some states so as to forestall future occurrences.

The panel, headed by Sheikh Ahmed Lemu, had since swung into action. Its terms of reference include unraveling the immediate and remote causes of the pre-election mayhem in Akwa Ibom and the civil unrest that occurred in Bauchi and Kaduna after the April presidential election. The panel among other terms of reference would also recommend how to prevent future occurrence of such barbaric acts and most importantly investigate the sources of weapons used during the unrest, and recommend how to stop illegal movement of weapons into the country.

It will be recalled that just before the general election, arms seizure at the nation’s ports became the order of the day. And this led to the former Inspector General of Police, Mr. Ogbonna Onovo, vowing to mop up illegal weapons in the country before the election. But that was not to be, before his ouster. Thus far, evidence abound that there are lethal weapons in the hands of unauthorised persons in all parts of the country, a situation which makes the post election panel on violence a neccessity.

As the panel continues to implore members of the public to submit memoranda on the issue to it, one question that keeps bogging the minds of Nigerians is, how and why were these illegal weapons acquired and safely lodged in our country, in the first instance?

For example, recent clashes in Ibadan, the Oyo State capital, by factions of the National Union of Road Transport Workers, NURTW, which left over 20 people dead, revealed that lethal weapons were freely used by the combatants. This is aside from the bombing spree  suspected Boko Haram faithfuls have embarked on in Maiduguri, Borno State, which has claimed so many innocent lives. How then could these illegal weapons be retrieved as Onovo planned to do, and how do we stop movement of guns and ammunition into the country.

In view of the training and retraining of security personnel which former Minister Wogu refered to, it is astonishing that we found our country in this state of affairs. That citizens take the lives of their fellow countrymen at will, under whatever guise, be it religious, political or ethnic considerations is very condemnable, especially in this new dispensation of hope whereby foreign direct investment is being targeted by the federal government to help reduce the unemployment level.

Therefore, the task before the Alhaji Lemu panel, to unearth merchants of death within us, is very crucial as it goes to the root of the survival of this country. Without unmasking the enemies of the people, and bringing them to book to serve as a deterrent to other over sized Nigerians, our march towards vision 20:20-20, would be an aberration.

Thus far, the need for our security agencies to operate in concert with one another can no longer be over-emphasised, albeit with the co-operation of the generality of the people, if the tension in the land must be reduced for development to take place. We are aware of the vast land and sea borders of our great country which has often been cited as the reason for the proliferation of illegal arms and ammunition in Nigeria.

But with some level of enhanced patriotism, our security agencies could cope with the task of policing our borders to check clandestine inflow of weapons of death. Besides, the police, saddled with internal security must be re-oriented to meet societal expectations. By this, we expect the police to be more proactive and more confident in order not to be intimidated by operations of vehicles with tinted glasses, and unauthorised use of siren, and armed “police” guards, who traverse the land unchecked even if their vehicles were laden with contraband goods and lethal weapons.

As a prelude therefore the Alhaji Lemu panel could recommend a total ban on the use of police escorts and vehicles with tinted glasses, at least, for two years, and the degree of impunity some road users display to the chagrin of members of the public.

In addition, the authorities should be ready to unmask the big wigs behind these dastardly acts which make us a laughing stock among the comity of nations; while the federal government must display political will to prosecute and bring to book all those fingered as brains behind these heinous crimes.

Nobody is bigger than the country and the moment we started checkmating this attitude of impunity by some of our countrymen, that day, Nigeria would be the destination of choice by investors from the developed countries.