The continuing killings in the South-East, particularly in Anambra State, demand immediate and intense attention. Hopes that the mutually destructive bloodletting in the region will soon diminish seems to be fading away. These wanton killings are amorphous. Recently, gunmen overran a funeral ceremony at Ebenebe in Awka North Local Government Area of Anambra State. Not only did they murder at least 20 mourners, but they also expurgated the corpse in a casket by shooting at it severally. This is delusional.
Daringly, multifaceted armed men, whose identity remains in dispute, physically assaulted citizens, security agents and formations repeatedly in the region. On January 14, this year, such violent disturbance reared its dreadful head again in Imo State. The criminals descended upon the Mgbidi Divisional Police Headquarters, exterminated an inspector and wounded another officer. This is a very terrifying situation for the residents, the region, and society at large.
The bloodcurdling murder of a Nigerian Army Master Warrant Officer, Linus Audu, and his partner, an Army Private, Gloria Matthew, accentuated a turning point in the persistent violent onslaughts on security personnel, public infrastructure and civilians in the South-East. According to reports, Audu and his fiancée, Matthew, who hailed from the Nkwerre Local Government Area of Imo State, were travelling to the State for their traditional marriage rites when they were intercepted by gunmen.
The hooligans reportedly raped Matthew before her fiancé and shot the couple. Thereafter, they decapitated them. The gang then circulated a clip of their heads and other dismembered remains on the Internet. This is the zenith of depravity and savagery! Sadly, the terrorists who perpetrated this unconscionable act are yet to be identified and apprehended by law enforcement agents for abrupt punishment.
Criminals have lately run amok in the South-East, turning a hitherto non-violent place right into a conflict zone. Almost every other day, people are cut down in cold blood or abducted. The recent abduction and beheading of a member of the Anambra State House of Assembly painted in scary strokes the hazard that lurks in nearly each corner of the South-East, specifically in Anambra State.
But the latest event was the vicious and mind-altering killing of a pregnant woman, Mrs Harira Jubril, and her four children by gunmen in Anambra State. The incident happened in a community in Orumba North Local Government Area of the state. This provocative and heinous killing which has assumed an ethnic dimension portends grave danger to national peace and security. The state is gradually descending into anarchy. The Federal Government must take full responsibility for the security of life and property in the area.
A new approach must be adopted to end the senseless butchery in the region. The Federal Government has failed because it controls the apparatus of state security such as the police and the military, both of which have been unable to contain the onslaughts from criminals generally referred to as “unknown” gunmen, even though these have been operating for, at least, two years.
Usually, the security forces arrive on the scene of attack long afterwards. Where they arrest anyone, it is mostly the wrong people, giving the real criminals another moment to mobilise and launch new blitzes. Lamentably, the police have become the main target of such incursions, leaving untold numbers dead.
Political leaders, in particular the governors of the region, are also guilty of non-performance and lack of political will to do whatever is necessary. They speak with superficial plausibility and with a false assurance of safety, when in fact they do not do much. For instance, they, knowing full well that security in the region is too significant to be left alone with the police, set up a regional security outfit called Ebube Agu only to abandon it, soon after its establishment.
Surprisingly, state security agencies, including the police, cannot unravel the mystery of “gunmen”, whether known or unknown. Clearly, the security apparatuses are deluged and require crucial redirection. The present police force is highly imperilled, and it is only a matter of time before it is wholly over-run.
Signs of weakened and subdued police are already discernible all over the country. The earlier the authorities at both state and federal levels start exploring state police options, the better for Nigerians. This would assist to deconcentrate the system and entrust the regions and states with funding and control of the police. Under such fenestration, policemen recruited from the localities can identify and undrape any unusual and mistrustful face in the state or region.
The real matter is to recognise the source of the bloodletting. While the Nigerian state promptly tracks it to the proscribed Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), the group denies it, claiming it only seeks to secede from Nigeria and wants its leader, Nnamdi Kanu, released from detention by the federal authorities. It contends that it is being sabotaged by criminals, who carry out their activities using IPOB as a cover. The truth probably lies in between. The security agencies have to establish the truth and get a lasting solution.
Poverty and unemployment have also activated the security crisis. The current rate of unemployment in Nigeria is a remarkable 33.3 per cent. This means that many youths are idle and have become willing tools for crime. They take sundry hard drugs, making them lose value for human life. A few weeks ago, the South-East was designated as a haven for drugs. Drugs and crime go together. Youths who consume them can go to any length to perpetrate evil.
Small arms ontogeny in the region also fuels the situation. Last year, gunmen went on a killing spree of security agents. Accomplishing the killing mission, they dispossessed them of their weapons. In 2020, the EndSARS protests against police brutality led to the killing of over 60 policemen and the burning of about 200 police stations across the country. These actions considerably countermined the police. Now, criminals have a field day and operate without much ado in the region.
Agitation to secede must not be violent. Scotland is planning a second referendum to quit the United Kingdom; the initial one in 2014 failed by a 55 to 45 per cent vote in favour of the ‘remain’ bloc. In Spain, the political leadership persuaded the Basque Separatist Movement to end its armed struggle in 2011, as part of negotiations with the Spanish authorities on secession. The Federal Government can negotiate with IPOB on the group’s secessionist agenda. Against this backdrop, armed violence will decline. Governors in the region must muster the political will to drive the Ebube Agu project to protect their people. This is the time for the communities in the South-East to rise up and tame the roaring monsters which have held the region hostage.
Matawalle’s Call For Self-Defence
Following the inability of the Nigerian security agencies to ensure the safety of lives and property of citizens and residents of Zamfara State against overwhelming killings, abduction for ransom and raiding of communities by bandits and terrorists, the governor, Bello Mohammed Matawalle, has decided to resort to self-help by encouraging the people of the state to take up arms and begin to defend themselves. This provoked mixed reactions among Nigerians.
While admitting that it is apprehensive about terrorism, the state government said the directive was part of its commitment “to ensure adequate security and protection of lives and property of the citizenry in the state”. Matawalle subsequently asked the Commissioner of Police to develop terms and conditions for the licensing of firearms to residents who were prepared to carry weapons to protect themselves. The military high command has, however, denounced the call.
The Chief of Defence Staff, Lt-General Leo Irabor, said it was appropriate for stakeholders to follow the rules and Constitution accordingly. “We do not take instruction from the state governments. We have a Commander-in-Chief. The constitution gives the right and powers to the C-in-C for the use of the Armed Forces, and I believe what we are doing in Zamfara State and across the states of the federation are not different from the provisions of the Constitution.
“We are there to give support to the civil authority in this case, the police. We are there to ensure that peace returns to Zamfara. The governor does not have the power to ask the Commissioner of Police to issue licences. I am yet to get the details but I do not think that is the right thing to do”, he was quoted to have said. The Defence Chief added that the Federal Government, through the Attorney General of the Federation, was charged with resolving the matter.
The directive not only denies the spirit of the social contract, but shows to what extent the crisis of insecurity in the country has become elusive. Before now, the state government had taken several steps including dialoguing with bandits, banning the use of motorcycles, shutting down petrol stations, markets, blocking phone and Internet services, suspending some traditional rulers suspected to have aided the bandits, including sending people to Saudi Arabia to hold prayers, among other measures.
These steps have failed to address superfluous killings, hence, this latest despairing action to arm citizens who are called upon to be answerable for their safety. Assuming without conceding that this call is apposite in the circumstances, do the citizens have the means to procure multifaceted weapons that can correspond with those handled by the bandits? Perhaps, in frustration, the Zamfara government has deemed that calling people to arm themselves for self-defence is the last resort.
Matawalle was not the first governor who advocated self-defence. Before him, the sullen Governor Aminu Bello Masari, whose state, Katsina, is also in the eye of the storm, made a comparable call after he bargained and extended amnesty to bandits that later infringed on their promise to lay down arms. Benue State Governor, Samuel Ortom, also called on his citizens to arm themselves as part of efforts to rein in banditry in his state. Moreover, Lt-General Theophilus Danjuma made a similar appeal to his Taraba State citizens to take up arms and stand up for themselves against killer-herdsmen.
What is unusual is that Matawalle went one step further by requesting firearms licences to be authorised. Once people comply with this request, there will be a great circulation of small and light weapons with all the aftermath, including the possibility of an anarchic situation. We recognise that the state government has a dilemma. But then, the governor of Zamfara, like some of his colleagues who have issued similar appeals, must fathom that the distress signal is a reflection of a collapse of governance.
This is an unwholesome development that is pointing more and more to a failed state. While the Zamfara State governor’s counsel to citizens of the state to bear arms could be looked upon as a recipe for mayhem, does he have an alternative course of action in the face of the Federal Government’s atrocious flop to secure lives and properties? It must be a serious situation for the governor. But if people are allowed to carry weapons, terrorists could pass themselves off as citizens to get permits. What does the government intend to do about this?
Although Section 33 (2) of the 1999 Constitution allows citizens to defend themselves, the Zamfara situation signals a terrible omen for residents and Nigerians in its entirety. The Firearms Act (2004) provides procedures for citizens who wish to carry firearms. Permits for the use of personal firearms may only be issued by the Inspector-General of Police (IGP). The IGP is to issue such licences upon the principles decided by the President. He can also delegate this power to Commissioners of Police.
Egregiously, the Federal Government’s failure to protect citizens leaves the public with only one choice: to defend themselves. After all, self-preservation is nature’s first rule. Our fear, however, is that we may have finally arrived at the gates of the Hobbesian “state of nature” where human life is “solitary, poor, wicked, brutal and short”. Terrorists who kill, kidnap and occupy people’s land have unconstrained control because this government is not doing enough to keep people safe.
The premonitory signs of the failures of the Nigerian state luxuriate and are conspicuous all over the place. It is usually easier to ask people to arm themselves than to retrieve the projectiles when anarchy boils over. Even if guns in the hands of the common people ultimately result in the trouncing of the terrorists, it might also lead to the emanation of warriors who could divide the space among themselves, as was encountered in Somalia.
It is a severe denouncement of the Federal Government that some heads of subnational governments, out of resentment, are contemplating self-help as an attainable alternative to secure lives and properties within their jurisdictions. This represents a precarious signal for citizens and the global community. The Federal Government has to step up. Undoubtedly, the security situation in the country is tremendous, and it can only get worse unless germane actions, supported by essential political will, are brought to bear on the jeopardy to curb the increasing wave.
Lessons From CJN’s Resignation
On June 27, 2022, news broke that the number one judicial officer and 16th Chief Justice of Nigeria
(CJN), Justice Ibrahim Tanko Muhammad, had resigned his position, citing ill-health. Expectedly, the information, indeed, came as a shock to many stakeholders including top lawyers, politicians, and technocrats. Although health challenges are natural phenomena, many doubted if ill-health was the principal ground for his decision.
Following Muhammad’s resignation, President Muhammadu Buhari swore in Justice Olukayode Ariwoola, the second in the Supreme Court ranking, as the acting CJN. Indications that all was not well emerged with the absence of the ex-CJN who was billed to speak at the opening programme of the training on alternative dispute resolution for judges at the National Judicial Institute (NJI) in Abuja. Muhammad failed to appear at the function without prior notice and did not send a representative either.
Assuming office as CJN under controversial circumstances, Muhammad stepped down in an even more contentious manner. He became a Justice of the Supreme Court in 2007, from the Court of Appeal where he served for 13 years, and became the Chief Justice of Nigeria, first in an acting capacity on January 25, 2019, and then substantively on July 24, 2019. He succeeded Justice Walter Samuel Nkanu Onnoghen whose departure from the apex court is probably the most questionable ever in the history of the nation.
It would be recalled that less than two weeks before his historic resignation, 14 Justices of the Supreme Court confronted former Chief Justice Muhammad over his style of administration which they claimed disregarded their welfare. The development was, however, the culmination of a simmering crisis that had been on since last year, and the apex court Justices, after being pushed to the wall with no solution in sight, decided to write a formal memo to the ex-CJN.
In the internal memo jointly signed by the 14 protesting justices of the court, they complained of non-replacement of poor vehicles, accommodation problems, lack of drugs at the Supreme Court Clinic, epileptic electricity supply to the Supreme Court premises, increase in electricity tariff, no increase in the allowances for diesel, lack of internet services to residences and chambers and poor take-home pay that could no longer take them halfway, among others.
Many Nigerians, to say the least, were scandalised when the memo hit the media. They could not believe that the nation’s temple of Justice could be desecrated and tainted with allegations of maladministration with a tinge of corruption allegations. However, the nation was not kept in suspense for long as the CJN, through his media aide, Ahuraka Yusuf Isah, gave a response to the memo from the Justices. The CJN said he had managed the resources at the disposal of the apex court judiciously and that there was nothing to hide.
But the point had been made in some quarters that perhaps Justice Muhammad was pushed out of the door, and not for health reasons, because his brother Justices, who had lost confidence in him, were beginning to show signs of anger and restlessness. They even threatened to stop sitting. Imagine Justices of the Supreme Court of Nigeria going on strike!
Regardless, Tanko deserves commendation for voluntarily quitting his office following his inability to continue. After all, what has been reported is simple: he resigned on health grounds. Ordinarily, that should be enough. The job of a Supreme Court justice requires that he should be compos mentis and enjoy the agility of the highest order to lead a nationwide body of judges, provide leadership at the Bar and the Bench and simultaneously run the activities of the apex court of the land.
Muhammad’s resignation is a positive development. It is rare in this part of the world to see someone resign honourably and voluntarily from an exalted position. Clearly, he acted for the overall benefit of Nigeria’s judiciary and the nation at large, since he could no longer continue in office. Muhammad knew that his ill health was interfering with his job and he might not easily cope going forward. Nigerians must learn the lesson of putting safety and health first before any other considerations.
For the high office of the embattled former CJN, events of the last few months will unsettle anybody who has integrity, regardless of what might have happened. So, he has, by disengaging, in a way, rescued the total image of that institution. It shows that for people of honour, whenever their integrity is challenged or questioned, they will do what is right and put the institution above their interest. We hope other public officers of high standing like the ex-CJN in other arms of government, when the occasion calls for it, will have the respect for due process and institutional integrity.
Regrettably, however, the latest developments in the Supreme Court call for sober reflection and a need for an investigation into the situation is not improper. The allegations against the retired Chief Justice should be investigated to promote the administration of justice. The NJC, the Body of Benchers, and the anti-graft agencies should commence their separate duties. If found culpable in the end, he should be sanctioned. This is necessary to serve as a deterrent to others.
The crisis brewing between the former CJN and his colleagues is not only an embarrassment to the entire judiciary, but also a disgrace to Nigeria. The watershed at the nation’s apex court confirms that the general arbiter who, for decades remained the last hope of ordinary Nigerians, has turned against itself. If anything, it seeks to erode public confidence in this all-important arm of government. In other climes where conscience matters, this would be an additional reason for Muhammad to have left office, especially since his colleagues had lost confidence in him.
To restore the almost-lost public trust, the judiciary, especially judges at all levels of the system, must put their act together and redeem the dented image of this structure of government. The third arm of government should look inward and provide the moral rectitude for the other two arms – the Executive and the Legislature. It is time for Nigerian judges to be exemplary in character to command moral authority over citizens. Whatever it is, there is still some unfinished business around and about Muhammad’s resignation.
Checking Rising Child Defilement
A day hardly passes by without unpleasant news of child defilement, particularly against the girl-child
in Nigeria. Child desecration has assumed startling heights that deserve vigilance by the government. Child sexual abuse is an offence under several sections of Chapter 21 of the Criminal Code. These psychopaths deserve swift and severe retribution. There should be tougher penalties exacted on paedophiles and their enablers. The authorities must carry out inflexible laws to stamp out this evil.
The United Nations Children’ Fund (UNICEF) revealed in 2015 that one in four girls and one in 10 boys in Nigeria had encountered sexual violence before the age of 18. According to a survey by Positive Action for Treatment Access, over 31.4 per cent of girls said that their first sexual experience had been rape or forced sex of some kind. The Centre for Environment, Human Rights and Development recounted that 1,200 girls had been raped in 2012 in Rivers State.
Children are considered to be a source of enormous exhilaration to their families and future leaders of the nation, but many of these children remain victims of different forms of abuse, violence, and exploitation. Section 218 of the Criminal Code Act defines child defilement as the unlawful carnal knowledge of a girl under the age of 13 while the culprit that immerses in the act is guilty of a felony and liable to life imprisonment.
Defilement is traumatic and often associated with psycho-social problems in children. Defiled children, more often than not, have negative outcomes in terms of poor academic performance, low self-esteem, depression, and poor social relationships. They show cruelty to animals, have attention deficit, hyperactivity disorders, and teenage pregnancy, among others.
Some identified causes of defilement include carelessness of parents, improper dressing, drug abuse, absence of sex education, lack of cordial relationship between parents and children, inability to exercise self-control, and promiscuous lifestyles by parents. At times, offenders are found to engage in the dastardly behaviour for ritual purposes because they have got themselves involved in what they should not.
The culprits are usually the same – teachers, uncles, parents, clerics, neighbours and drivers. These are protectors who become predators. This is sheer wickedness! The 2014 UNICEF National Survey on Violence Against Children said one in four girls, and one in 10 boys, had also experienced sexual violence. The report added that more than 70 per cent of the victims experienced the violence repeatedly.
Regrettably, 60 per cent of child abuse cases are never made public. This allows a vast number of child abusers to go unpunished. Beyond the physical damage, studies have shown that sexually abused children develop psychosocial challenges. Some become sex addicts due to this premature exposure, while others turn to prostitution as they lose their sense of self-worth and self-dignity. Early signs include a drop in academic performance, depression and suicidal thoughts, say experts.
This crime is a global phenomenon, attracting diverse counter-measures by governments. Consequently, Nigeria’s federal and state governments need to step up measures as it has reached near-epidemic proportions in the country. Every other segment of the society, formal and informal, must join the crusade. Parents and guardians must take personal responsibility for the safety and security of their children and wards.
Regular medical check-ups can assist uncover evidence of defilement. Parents must fight frivolous and salacious compliments on their children by randy caregivers and neighbours passed off as jokes. Where a case of abuse is established, they must never consent to secret pacts and settlements. These embolden paedophiles to source more victims. Faith-based organisations, community leaders and traditional rulers should leverage their leadership positions for constant sensitisation against the plague.
Legal experts observe that there are certain provisions in the laws that are both adequate and inadequate and that one of the limiting factors associated with the criminal and penal codes is that they cover rape in general and not defilement. They say there are other things about child defilement that are not captured by the Act. Such include limitation of time at bringing up criminal allegations and charges against suspected persons in the court. The criminal code makes provision for only two months as its limitation period. This statute-barred barrier should be tackled.
What it takes to curb child defilement is a combination of strategies and efforts by everyone in society. In specific terms, people must desist from engaging in vicious acts such as going into rituals. They should be governed strictly by godly living. Victims of defilement should be spirited enough to report their unpleasant experiences to relevant governmental and non-governmental bodies for rehabilitation. They should expose perpetrators.
Parents should be intimate and more sensitive to their children’s needs. They should also instruct their children on sex education and scrutinise what they watch in the media and on the internet to be free from pornography and dangerous elements. Adults should have self-control, while parents have to avoid living promiscuous lifestyles that could influence their children negatively. Available laws and legislation need to be strengthened.
Publicly naming and shaming convicts will serve as a deterrent. Every state should have a regularly updated sex offenders list. Public advocacy groups should step up their activities. Paedophiles must be ostracised and made to face the full wrath of the law. Again, all states should domesticate the Child’s Rights Act and make its implementation easy, while the tie-ups militating against the smooth prosecution of cases in law courts should be discarded to successfully fight the menace in the country.
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