NIGERIA AND NATIONAL SECURITY CONCERN
A few weeks ago, the unusual, never suspected and most harrowing death came calling where no one would have conceived it could ever happen in Nigeria. It was at the United Nation building in the bowel of the nation's capital Abuja. I have lost count of the number of unwarranted, unnecessary yet avoidable deaths and injuries caused by mischief makers because in Nigeria, facts and figures stand wide apart. Most times, rule of the thumb suffices. But in this case, while the world mourned, the pocket few who masterminded the bombing of the now most talked about UN building have been clicking their glasses, may be with Champaign- an alcoholic drink or some other spirit which the they, the bombers religiously disapprove of, or in some other ways but in secret places. All these happened while the Muslims were observing their Ramadan fast and suddenly it was Id-El-Fitri; Muslims and Christians alike, started preaching the message of peace. But is it the peace of the grave yard? Could they go to the family of the affected to preach their brand of peace? For now they have seemingly gone unnoticed, but one God saw everything from planning to execution stage and even now, in their hiding places, He sees them.
Serial bombing and killings have been organized by groups in Nigeria who called themselves different names and finally aligned themselves to one religious or political organisation and there after obtained cover. This is why to date; no criminal killer from inception has been prosecuted, fined, jailed or brought to book in any form through the process of the law and be used as deterrent to others promoting the wasting of innocent blood. By the last count, the chicken had come to roast. The ugly name which we have been avoiding is here finally with us – Nigeria is a terror state and watchful nations and their nationals are busy sending necessary signals to their countries and relations giving them the state of affair despite our painting different story.
The security system operating in any nation can be felt even from its international airport by any visitor through the activities of men and officers of their various surveillance networks. It can be felt through ordinary discussion or request by an ordinary passer bye for direction from a security operative at any check point or at worse their offices. The pain of this deceit is that those who most of our 'big men' move with as escorts are them selves likely to be the real time bombs to be avoided if only they knew.
Resigning to fate, most Nigerians have taken their destiny in their hands long before now. But how effective have these been? In every neighbourhood, one is certain to encounter illegal but necessary blockage of main streets or roads, which at best are opened within limited time frames necessitating dwellers to hurry back home daily or be locked out given the security arrangements. Residential buildings are littered in cities, suburban towns and villages with security men most of which are better known as mallams. On the major roads are the real hazards. Within the South- South, South East and South West, the minimum description of the faces of security operative is that of a war situation or state of emergency. I have lost count of the number of operative of all shades we see on the Benin -Sagamu- Lagos express way alone, but l can attest that in less than four (4) kilometers apart, a commuter encounters either 'Stop and Search” Police, highway Police, Nigerian Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), Federal Road Safety Corp (FRSC), Immigration, Customs, Local Government officials or task forces of various kind. All of these operate ostensibly to protect, but most only to extort money from every one through various antics possible. In the midst of all these, they even cause accidents at regular intervals but rather than save life, most of the officers care for the loads in their quest for cash! Many have died due to lack of attention in critical moments not to mention those who managed to get to the hospitals to the waiting arms of nonchalant medical attendants!
Since the country has failed to provide one of the services it swore constitutionally to give, how has it fared in assisting all who decided to help themselves? All Nigerians except those travelling in government vehicles have paid the unconstitutional Police Equipment Levy. The amount which ran into Billions of Naira was discovered to be some huge fraud by its promoters main of which is one Chief Martins fingered to be an in-law to past president Obasanjo. The case as being fought by Barr Festus Keyamo is currently facing all the hiccups necessary to frustrating its findings. Other than religious killing, organized kidnap which the South-South had been notorious for, has spread to all corners of the country in a jiffy. The game was then used to abducting people in the Oil rich Delta, Rivers, Bayelsa, Cross Rivers and Akwa Ibom states for financial settlement mainly, but now it is applied to settle scores as little as avenging boy/girl friend relationship, business disagreements, perceived family disputes, land sales etc. not to mention out right robbery at homes, on the highway and assassination all of which are frequently rampart!
From the media chat organized by no less a man than the National Security Adviser to the President, Gen. Patrick Aziza, going by the spate of killing still going on in Plateau state, response by the Inspector General of Police and other organizations like the Civil Defense Corp and so on, it is obvious that Nigeria needs an external aid to be able to resolve security issues. Our law makers have continued to leave in fools paradise thinking that they are far away from the nuzzle of the killers gun. The problem with Nigerians is that we are so forgetful. How long did it take to execute the killing of Chief Rewane, Bola Ige, Harry Marshall, Dikibo to mention just a few? Which if their killers have been successfully arrested and prosecuted? Has anyone asked why our Police and military officers return from foreign assignments with laurels yet fail to sustain the tempo within? How can we reorganize our system to make it more effective?
All around the country are buildings with high prison walls called fences, but in actual fact, are some kinds of guard rooms or house arrests. In our quest to prevent break-in of thieves, assassins or stray visitors, most of the rich have fortified their home to the hilt. How I wish all these have ever been effective on a bad day. Our super rich have all fortified homes, offices and cars. But of what use is your money if you are not free to spend it where you want, how you want and yet sleep with your eyes still open? Are the current high walls we see today the same thing we were used to in earlier Government Reservation Areas (GRA) or are the now rejected areas? Where are the lawns, pools, walkways, gardens etc? Can all these help when if and when God the author of life Himself come calling?
In the past, when Nigeria was in dire desire to get out of the debt burden, some rich individuals within the country and in Diasporas suggested the idea of pulling resources together for the common good of giving the nation debt relief. The plan had hardly hit the street when fraud was fingered. Recently, High net worth individuals and organized private sector attempted giving succor to the populace by donating vehicles, equipment and cash to the Police Force but almost all went into private hands. How else can a government be helped?
It must be shouted loud and clear that tribalism, nepotism, bribery and corruption are among the issues we have to contend with in matters of security and hence it has not been possible for us to have any head way. Rather than condemn a citizen for any of the above ills, we get emotional and make every effort to stop the process of justice with the “he is my brother”, if not then from my state, my clan or religion syndrome. How far have these helped us?
Our Abdulmutalab, when he undertook that flight of life on December 25, 2009 was making negative history. But almost two years after there is no remorse instead, he recently re-enforced his belief. We have had unchecked killings many years down the line that is why we can talk about negotiating with Boko Haram today. What the government is saying by discussing with the group is that organized crime could be legal after all. The same way, we have also designed beautiful dress for corruption and now call it by different names -illegal use of unspent fund, misappropriation, kickback etc all these have effects in the breading of the current insecurity in more ways than one. If there is no punishment for crime committed with impunity, it's higher and more sophisticated form should be expected.
Whereas it is imperative we know that the rich may remain rich with their high fences all over the GRAs in Nigeria, the fact remains that they still need the poor in the streets to demonstrate the effect of their wealth. However, would the streets be dangerous if there were employment opportunities, affordable education and provision of social amenities? It is shocking that after huge expense on high walls, bullet proof doors etc, they still employ mallams as guards! What is the net worth of any mallam compared to the value they are meant to protect? How many of these employers know the minutest details of these guards? If these remains unanswered questions, then it is about time a more pragmatic step is taken by concerned persons to effect a permanent and positive change.
The evil is before every one and should we leave it to chance, your guess would be as good as mine. We shall return to the era before the French revolution.
Mike O. Akpati is a Public Affair analyst based in Port Harcourt