After a period of respite
from militancy-induced violent crime and cult wars that plagued Rivers State some years back, men of the underworld appear to be up in arms again against residents of the state.
A few weeks ago, gun men reportedly attacked and killed an army major posted to the state and attached to the 2 Amphibious Brigade, Nigerian army, Bori camp, at the Waterlines area of Port Harcourt.
This came on the heels of three kidnap incidents in different parts of the state in which some prominent politicians from the state were said to have fallen victims.
Just recently, a popular comedian and radio broadcaster Akas Baba was also abducted from his residence at Rumuekini in Obio/Akpor local Government Area of the state after being shot on the leg.
Akas Baba passed through a week of ordeal in the hands of his abductors before he was rescued by the police.
Not too long ago, the police in Rivers State led by its State Commissioner, Johnson Tunde Ogunsakin paraded 15 persons arrested for kidnapping and 13 others for armed robbery. The police command also paraded five other suspects who disguised in army and naval uniforms to rob a truck loaded with 900 bags of cement.
A Niger Delta activist and President of Agape Birthrights Organization, Mrs Ann-Kio Briggs was among those that have continued to raise their voices against kidnapping and other social crime. She said: “I am totally against kidnapping. It is a criminal act. Nothing justifies the kidnapping of anybody, by a group of people, no matter the reasons. I am sure that it is a very distressing situation to be in. The closest I came personally to kidnapping was when my uncle’s wife Sienye Lulu-Brigss was kidnapped and I know how terrible that was for the family and for the people it affected directly, you know. So, I am opposed to kidnapping for any reason whatsoever, but definitely the rate of kidnapping in Nigeria today, the latest one being the young school girls, female children that were kidnapped a couple of days ago”.
These only go to show that violent crime is on the increase in the state but not just in Rivers State but even at the national level where the picture appears even grimmer.
In 2005, the Central intelligence Agency (CIA) of the United States of America was reported to have predicted that Nigeria as a country would likely disintegrate by 2015. Though the report attracted sharp criticisms and condemnation from Nigerians especially the ruling class who viewed it as one of those prophesies of doom, it was later denied by the US authorities. Today the rising level of insecurity in the land raises much fear for the worst. At that time, it was the Niger Delta militants threatening the peace and sabotaging the economy. The successful launch of the amnesty programme by the then President Musa Yar Adua administration largely restored peace in the area. But this was not to be sustained. Sooner than later kidnapping became the order of the day, especially in the South-East and South-South, kidnappers went on the prowl and spared no one that came their way including school children and their teachers.
Then followed the bloody convulsion between the Birom and the Hausa/Fulani in Jos, the Fulani herdsmen and the Benue state indigenes, political and post election violence recorded across the nation and the pivotal acts of bombings and killings by the extremist Islamic sect, Boko Haram interpreted to mean ‘No to Western Education’. Attack by the dreaded Boko Haram insurgents have come in torrents and appear to defy both dialogue and force. It has also left on its trail rivers of the blood of the innocent. The protracted state of insecurity has not only left Nigerians scampering for refuge even at the slightest unusual blare of the horn of a truck. Many now wonder whether the nation can still continue to weather the storm and come out in the end in one piece. The ever increasing problem of insecurity in the country has become a monster threatening to consume or swallow up the country faster than any one would have predicted. The federal government has also responded with the declaration of a State of Emergency in the three most affected states of Borno, Yobe and Adamawa.
Many have suggested that terrorism or general insecurity is an ill wind that is blowing across several nations. The world powers, like the US, the UK and many others, have also battled with the oddity for several decades. The difference bothers mainly on the cause, the nation’s unity of purpose and the management of the threats of insecurity in those countries.
Since the first successful attack in the nation’s capital, Abuja in 2010, it has been a string of somewhat unrestricted strikes at various locations especially in the northern states of Borno, Yobe, Adamawa, Bauchi, Kano, Kaduna, Niger, Kogi, Taraba and Nasarawa which have claimed thousands of lives
Since then, the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja has also been attacked four times , starting with the October 1st, 2010 Independence Day Twin Bombing to the latest bomb blast at Nyanya Bus Park which killed not less than 75 people and injured over a hundred others.
The Boko Haram insurgents, in the last two years have also successfully launched their attacks on various police stations including the Abuja Force Headquaters, and other military locations and barracks with attendant killings of security personnel saddled with the work of providing security for the ordinary Nigerian. It is a situation that had apparently kept operatives of the security outfits at the receiving end.
Nigerians at various levels of government have made statements on the situation condemning the acts and advising on the way forward even though Nigerians are yet to see better days or a seeming effect of the numerous condemnations of the dastardly acts.
In the wake of the Nyanya bombing, the Senate President, David Mark in a statement called on all the Security agencies to synergize further in their fight against terrorism and Nigerians to give them the necessary support through supply of useful information.
Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon Aminu Waziri Tambuwal has pointed out that political sentiments may be part of the driving forces behind the terrorist acts and on arrival from the National Hospital where he had earlier gone to commiserate with victims of the blast and donated blood for their survival cautioned the perpetrators to stop playing politics with the lives of Nigerians.
”From what I have seen among the victims, I doubt if they are members of any political party. We should stop playing politics. We should address the issue and it is not about any religion.
”It is unfortunate. We must come together. We must rise up to the challenge together and address it collectively” Tambuwal said.
Also, the Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, last week Tuesday called on all Nigerians to rally round the government and the security agencies in the fight against terrorism.
He said: “This is a very somber moment for the nation and my heart goes out to the entire nation, especially the dead, the injured, their friends and family members”.
He regretted the rising disregard for human life and insisted that only a multi-level policing could secure the country adequately.
He said: “I was out of the country for an official visit at the time of the incident and I feel completely dehumanized that a country that values human life more than anything else is going through this kind of bestiality; so, it is completely unacceptable and we must come together as a nation and borrow from our past and relevant examples in the world to fight this evil and put it behind us”.
However, still hopeful on the existence of one united Nigeria Ekweremmadu expresses hope of victory in the war against terrorism.
“However, one thing is sure – Nigeria is winning and will certainly come out victorious as the forces of divisiveness, extremism, darkness, blood-letting, and insurgency would never triumph over the forces of light and national unity, peace, and prosperity.
”The nation must stand together against these blood guzzlers and enemies of state, nature, and sound reasoning. Our collective will, to completely snatch our nation and destiny from the jaws of this insanity and barbarism must never waver, just as our socio-cultural orientations that uphold the sanctity of life and the intrinsic dignity in the human person must never be surrendered to the ungodly.”
He insisted in the statement that the collective will of the nation would never be broken and urged Nigerians to stand against the forces of darkness, adding that the Senate had made additional budgetary allocations in the 2014 Appropriation Act to beef up the numerical strength and efficiency of the Nigeria police. He urged Nigerians to rally round the security agencies to bring the perpetrators of the heinous crime to book and put a final stop to acts of terrorism in the country.
In a statement of similar tone on the same day from the Senate Leader, Victor Ndoma Egba, Nigerians according to him, should rise up to the challenge at hand by joining in securing the nation from the grip of terrorists by acting as security agents wherever they are.
”Violence is the argument of one who has run out of logic. It’s mindless, senseless, and barbaric and it’s a call for every Nigerian to be a stakeholder in the security of this country. We have gone past the point of leaving our security just to security agencies. We must all now be conscious of our environment…every Nigerian must now be a security agent because these godless people are not spirits; they operate amongst us”, he said.
Obviously, the situation at hand in the country as regards the prevailing problem of insecurity seriously calls for vigilance from all Nigerians in their respective neighborhoods at all time for the needed intelligence gathering for the security operatives in their bid to nip in the bud, devilish plots of the terrorists in our midst and not just indulging in bomb scare rumouring with attendant needless pandemonium as it happened in NASS last week,
Just as Nigerians slumped deep in grief over those who lost their lives to the Nyanya bomb blast, the bandits like a giant hawk lowered their wings clutched and flew away with 234 students of Government Girl’s Secondary School, Chibok, Borno State. Yet, sounding bold and unrepentant Boko haram spokes person then bluntly informed Nigerians that Abuja and its environs should expect more from them.
Chairman, Senate Committee on FCT, Smart Adeyemi last week visited some of the victims of the blast in Hospital. He vowed to see that NASS, through its appropriation mandate, helps security agencies in their fights against terrorism by providing for functional security devices and gadgets like Close Circuit Cameras at needed points in public places in the country especially in Abuja
According to Adeyemi, the situation on ground now in the country as regards incessant terror attacks by mindless terrorists in our midst, urgently requires government at all levels and in particular, the Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA), to make provisions for Close Circuit Television (CCTV) at various strategic points in the territory for prompt detection of crimes.
He said: “It is unfortunate that this has happened. On our part, we would look at the possibility of ensuring that now that we are still working on the FCT Statutory budget, that we make enough funding for security.
“We are going to ensure that virtually in all parks and commercial centres of the city would have cameras that can capture movement of people. Cameras that would be far above what people can tamper with.
“In essence, we are going to ensure that good cameras are purchased. We are going purchase CCTV’s that are of international standard that can really do the job for us. We must realise now that we are faced with a very serious problem”.
We are indeed faced with very serious problem in the country presently as regards the rising wave of security challenges at hand but time will certainly tell how Nigeria as a nation represented by government at all levels and Nigerians themselves across the various divides be it, political, ethnicity or religion, would change their approach to the menace by fighting it jointly and collectively and stop viewing it as a problem of one political party, region, religion or even one particular leader.
Still on appropriation for national security, it would be recalled that DSP Ekweremadu, had also noted that the responsibility of NASS “ is essentially budgetary and we have appropriated nearly one trillion (Naira) in the budget to deal with security challenges; this year we made a specific provision for police to hire more hands”
Here the issue of the efficiency of the formation of security operatives vis-a-vis the provisions made available to them becomes topical.
The DSP Ekwerremmadu in his recent comments noted that “We are the only country that runs a federal system and run the type of police we have now.” The type of police system we are running is not suited for a federal system of government. We are about 170 million people; we cannot have 320 thousand policemen to deal with it and I don’t believe that the federal government can ever produce the number of police that will be enough for this country”.
Former Nigerian Permanent Representative at the United Nations, Prof. Ibrahim Gambari recently tasked the Federal Government to show more seriousness in combating insurgency.
Gambari, opined rather, than engaging in blame-games, every stakeholder should pool resources together to fight terrorism because it is a global menace that deserves seriousness.
“I have done some preliminary research and found that if we put all our security forces together in this country, may be they are not more than 500, 000 in a country that has a population of 160 to 170 million. If we think that the security of our country is the business of the police and the Army, then we are making a big mistake. It has to be a business of all of us,”
Whether the federal government is capable of winning this war on terrorism may depend much on one’s mindset and faith in the yet to come. Boko Haram has almost taken over Northern Nigeria. The sect and their foreign allies of al-Qaeda,have imposed their authority and reign of terror on the masses of the people in the North and had successfully carried out their heineous and deadly attacks.
President Jonathan and heads of security agencies past and current had vowed to root out Boko Haram. But here they still strike successfully from time to time.
The calibers of weapons they use, some say, are unrivalled.
Boko Haram is a law onto itself. It boasts of superior fire power, better intelligence, logistics and organization than the country’s armed forces. Where are the men of the State Security (SSS)? Why can’t they locate and subdue Boko Haram? This is the question on the lips of many Nigerians.
Where are the men of the Directorate of Military Intelligence (DMI), the Special Investigation Unit (SIU) and the other mushroom military agencies of the Nigerian Armed Forces?
The Terrorist in Abuja first shook the force headquarters in Abuja on June 24, 2011 and killed several people there with several others injured. So where is safe?
IGP Abubakar has promised Nigerians better policing and commitment to safeguard Nigerians and their concerns but has always pointed out that they can only achieve this with cooperation of the Nigerian people.
After the Nyanya bombing, the Nigeria Police Force announced the commencement of special operations nationwide.
The operations, according to a statement by the Force PRO, CSP Frank Mba, encompass extensive counter-terrorism sweeps, detailed overt and covert surveillance operations, intelligence-driven raids, arms mop-up exercise, special stop and search exercise, amongst others.
His words , “Police operatives involved in this exercise will be drawn from the Bomb Disposal Squad, Counter-Terrorism Units, Police Mobile Force and Joint Border Patrol Units, Force Intelligence Bureau, Police Dog Section and conventional Police Teams. They are expected to pay special attention to Motor Parks, Airports, Seaports, Border points, Recreation Parks, Major Markets, Shopping Malls, etc.
“In ensuring a successful execution of this special operation, the IGP has ordered all Zonal AIGs and CPs including other Commanding Officers to ensure effective deployments of men and resources throughout the period of the operation.”
Gambari in his speech recently cried out “Whether it is APC or PPP, or whatever, the security of this nation is far too important to become a political football, one accusing the other. It should be stopped immediately because they are trivializing the lives of Nigerians who were cut short as a result of these mindless killings,” Gambari said.
“Sometimes we forget that we are part of the world. Sometimes we think we are so exceptional that it cannot happen here. We think that global terrorism manifesting elsewhere in Afghanistan, Iraq, cannot happen here. At the same time, we should be able to use exceptionalism to address the challenges of terrorism and the security situation in our country,” the former envoy said.
Beyond all the speeches, condemnations and personal ideas of the way forward, the route to stemming insecurity must include the resolve to work out new security policies, commitment to total war against terrorism and the need for civic education for all which will develop patriotism amongst Nigerians
The Government at all levels must be seen to be ‘working its talking’. Match action with words. The Nigerian Constitution, in Chapter 12, Section 14, out rightly places on the Government the responsibility to protect lives, property, etc of the people of Nigeria. It stipulates in part: The security and welfare of the people shall be the primary purpose of government.
President Goodluck Jonathan from all indications is still battling to let Nigerians feel his commitment to his pledge to safeguard lives and property of Nigerians as the head of Nigerian Government. “As president, it is my solemn duty to defend the constitution of this country. That includes the obligation to protect the lives and properties of every Nigerian wherever they choose to live” Even with these comments on the commitment of the federal government to bring terrorists to their knees, Nigerians are yet to heave a sigh of relief, because each new day brings them to fresh realities.
At the maiden Nigerian Leadership Summit organised by Anabel Leadership Academy in Lagos recently, solutions proffered to save the nation from the clutches of insecurity include: empowering the youth, ensuring the emergence of good leaders and followers, pursuing revolution of ideas instead of bloody revolution and amending the constitution to cater for the welfare of the citizenry.
Convener of the summit and president of Anabel Group, Prince Nicholas Okoye, who kickstarted the discourse when he spoke on the need for a new direction of leadership for Nigeria, outlined the major political failures of the past and hinged the blame on the Nigerian constitution, which he said must be amended for the nation to make meaningful progress.
“The indigene clause must give way to state of residence; if a Nigerian works in Lagos and pays his taxes in Lagos, he should be allowed to represent Lagos in national issues,” he said.
He identified the indigene clause as the primary cause of recurring sectarian violence in Nigeria, especially in Plateau State where people are being referred to as settlers even after living in an area for over two generations.
Not done, Okoye decried the billions of dollars Nigeria loses by being heavily dependent on imported rice, sugar, fuel and generators. He berated the Nigerian middle class for spending over $500 million a month or $6 billion a year on medical services abroad and between $10 to 12 billion a year on educating middle class children in the United States, Great Britain and Ghana.
He argued that there would be opportunities for job growth that would accommodate Nigeria’s millions of unemployed youths if only the leadership would focus on plugging the leaks in the system.
Citing the fear of poverty as the major cause of corruption in Nigeria, Okoye advocated a complete mindset change for leaders in Nigeria and making job creation the single most important driver of all government policies.
He lamented that about $400 billion stolen funds were stashed in foreign bank accounts by corrupt politicians and civil servants. To recover the funds, Okoye advocated a six-month financial amnesty for anybody that has never been charged, whereby the Federal Government will allow all looted funds to return to Nigeria over a six-month period with no questions asked, provided the individuals responsible pay a 10 per cent Federal Government tax, 5 per cent tax to their chosen state of residence and invest the 85 per cent balance of the funds in key target areas of the economy that would create jobs for millions of Nigerian youths.
To Dora Akunyili, who spoke on “Principles-centered leadership: A Nigerian experience,” there is the need for leaders to have principles and the followers to have life-changing ideas. Recalling how she almost lost her life as Director-General of the National Agency for Food, Drug Administration and Control, NAFDAC, when she took on fake and adulterated drugs cartels, she said the country should not be allowed to continue the drift into abyss.
“Some people have been talking about bloody revolution, what we need is revolution of ideas,” she said and appealed to the present generation of leaders to read the writing on the wall and not wait until it was too late to act.
In an emotion-laden tone, she said: “What we are seeing here is deep energy by people that are angry. What is happening in Nigeria cannot continue. Yes it cannot continue. A leader is not just the president, governor, minister or director. A mother is a leader of the home; a father is a super leader of the home. The chief cleaner of a hotel is a leader there. So at any level ineffective, non-principled and bad leadership becomes catastrophic.
Speaking on the importance of leadership, Prof. Pat Utomi of the Lagos Business School said we need credible leaders because “we live in a world full of problems and to solve the problems we need leaders that will galvanize energies that are generously given to people to solve these problems.
All are agreed, that modern security challenges are tackled using a multifaceted approach of intelligence gathering and community policing among others. Since small arms proliferation, drug peddling and cultism have been linked to violent crime, proactive measures stopping these anti-social activities would help in making the environment for crime un-conducive for criminal elements.
But above all, everyone must summon courage to condemn the spate of violence raging across the country.
General condemnation helps to morally and socially isolate the criminal elements and to weaken their courage. A situation where some influential citizens make comments that create the impression that they are playing politics with national security only goes to embolden the criminals.
In gathering intelligence, the security community should pay close attention to some political groupings that have found it fashionable to train cultists and thugs for the purpose of intimidating their political opponents during elections. Politicians that are suspected to be funding these activities must be watched closely. Parents, teachers and religious leaders must also be seen to be playing effective role in the upbringing of children. Street hawking which exposes under aged children to criminal elements that entice them and sometimes forcefully recruit them into cult and criminal gangs should be banned.
Government on the other hand must take its single most important role of securing lives and property seriously. Embarking on job creation programmes and projects rather than spending fantastically on frivolous political activities will go a long way in removing the mind of the youth from criminal activities.
Further effort should be made by both the state and federal governments to mop up what is left of the Niger Delta militants into some job creation and empowerment programmes.
The general view today seems to be that winning the war against insecurity, would, require politicians separating politics from national security.
Desmond Osueke with reports from Nneka Amaechi-Nnadi, Abuja
Nkpemenyie Mcdominic, Lagos