Security yields to banditry as government remains aloof

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Minister of Defence Mansur Dan-Ali

The security of lives and property and the welfare of the people are two fundamental businesses of governments the world over. But increasingly, the Nigerians have begun to worry if indeed there is a government that is working for them. International rating bodies have not just adjudged them the poorest in the world they are also being killed in their numbers on a daily basis across the country and their government seems incapable of lifting a hand to stop the mass murder.

The killers and kidnappers have become so emboldened that they have taken the battle to the doorsteps of President Muhammadu Buhari whose kinsman they recently abducted while he is away on a ‘private visit’ to London.

Unfortunately, in spite of the outcry of well meaning Nigerians President Buhari has refused to tinker with his security apparatus by offloading all the service chiefs and injecting new blood into the system. Only Ibrahim Idris, former Inspector-General of Police, received the hammer while his colleagues in the defence ministry, Army and Air Force remained in office, including the presiding minister of defence.

However, Neighbouring Mali and far-away Sri Lanka in Asia offer Mr. Buhari the only available option when serious breach happens in a country and its security architecture fails to perform its job optimally. Sack! The presidents of these two countries wasted no time in wielding the big stick and sacking their top security personnel. Such action, it is envisaged, would send the right message to the criminal world that it cannot be business as usual.

Recently, 134 people were killed in Mali in what was seen as ethnic clashes. President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita immediately ordered the sack of the country’s security chiefs. Armed Forces Chief of General Staff, M’Bemba Moussa Keita, and chiefs of the Army and the Air Force were among senior officers affected. In the meantime, Prime Minister Soumeylou Boubeye Maiga said new military chiefs would be named.

Nigeria can take such security lesson from Mali; but Buhari has stubbornly stick with his security chiefs since 2015 when he took office. In fact, Nigerians will be surprised if Mr. President rewards Mansur Dan Ali with a reappointment in the next cabinet in spite of his failure to stop the bloodbath in his home state and other parts of the country that have been boiling since he assumed office as defence minister.

Also in Sri Lanka, President Maithripala Sirisena asked his defence secretary Hemasiri Fernando and Inspector General of Police Pujith Jayasundara to quit after it emerged that security forces shrugged off intelligence alerts of an impending terror attack. This is in spite of scores of suspected militants arrested since the April 21 attacks on hotels and churches that killed more than 250 people, including 40 foreign nationals in Sri Lanka.

From Zamfara to Kaduna to Abuja, the country has become a killing field, as innocent Nigerians are slaughtered everyday without consequences. Some have argued that the failure of Nigeria’s security personnel to perform their duty of arresting the carnage provides impetus for the killers who are emboldened each day to kill more. Nigerians from all walks of life have continued to cry out for government to stop the carnage. But it is either government is helpless or engages in endless game of blame even as the killings continue unabated.

In Kaduna State, governor Malam Nasir el-Rufai continues to single out one ethnic group as perpetrator and another as victim thus fueling more bloodbath. In Zamfara, the Minister of Defence, who is also from the state, singled out traditional rulers, as sponsors and supporters of the murderers. The royal fathers have since come out to vigorously refute Ali’s grave allegations and equally challenge their son to name the erring traditional rulers involved in the crime. Mr. Mansur Dan Ali is yet to take up the royal fathers’ challenge. In the meantime, he has done little in his capacity as defence minister to stem the bloodbath. Innocent lives continue to be lost in Zamfara State and other parts of the country.

And in Nigeria’s capital city, Abuja, from where Mr. Ali presides over Nigeria’s vast defence community, kidnappers have struck gold, the equivalent of the deadly Zamfara goldmines that have been turned into killing fields. In broad daylight both on the outskirts of the city and along its Kaduna-Abuja Expressway, the daredevil kidnappers kill and take Nigerians hostage at will. Also in Zamfara, kidnapping for ransom has become rife. Cattle rustling has become part of the evil fare. Ironically, this is at a time when its FSARS and police harass and sometimes kill innocent Nigerians. So-called yahoo-yahoo boys and any young man with tattoos and dreadlocked hairs in city centres are at risk of being arrested and fleeced of money or being shot.

Although Book Haram still operates in the Northeast, sometimes targeting Nigerian security personnel, its activities now seem a distant echo compared to the notoriety of the Zamfara killers and the alleged ethnic cleansing in Kaduna State. Recently, it emerged that while Nigeria’s soldiers are being paid a paltry N1,000 a day for risking life and limb to fight the insurgents in the Northeast. Meanwhile, the terrorists, non-state actors are receiving a handsome USD$3,000 (equivalent of N1 million) a day, thus tilting the balance of motivation and force on the side of the insurgents. It is not certain if the N1,000 gets to the soldiers; some were court marshalled two years ago for protesting their unpaid allowances.


The Chief of Army Staff, Lt.-Gen. Buratai Photo:NAN

How did the country fall into this deadly, helpless security trap? Officials have put the death toll at over 130 people killed in Kajuru LGA in Kaduna State in the last four months alone. In Zamfara, it’s well over 3,000 since mid last year, officials say. The casualties continue to rise. Governor Abdullazeez Yari of Zamfara State wept last year over the killings and threw in the towel as Chief Security Officer of the state, an honorary position governors occupy. But the real chief security officer sits in Aso Rock Villa. Meanwhile, Buhari has continued to insist the country does not need restructuring so state could have their own police that are answerable to the governors.

The security chiefs are enscounced in Abuja, far away from the theatre of carnage while those they are appointed to protect and defend die needlessly daily right at the outskirts of the city. These security chiefs have inadvertently become unwilling undertakers of their charge, as they watch the mass murders happening. It was the former Inspector-General of Police, Ibrahim Idri, who personalised the somnambulism of Nigeria’s security system, when he simply refused to carry out the orders of the Commander-in-Chief to relocate to the troubled Benue State where farmers-herders’ crisis had reach a head. He would later spend about a year in office before being removed. Some say only in Nigeria would such flagrant disobedience happen without consequences.

A security expert, Dr. Bone Chinye, said the country is facing enormous security challenges. He said the insecurity would persist so long the security apparatus is in the hands of a section of the country. He also noted that the fighting men in the Northeast were finding their way to the Northwest, adding that failure of intelligence to track the drift was a major problem. Chinye faulted the reactionary programming of Nigeria’s security system, and canvased the deployment of advanced technology needs to be deployed to effectively checkmate all terror activities.

“There is lack of will on the part of the president to consider the perception of what the people think about what should be done,” Chinye said. “Is there anybody in his party who is challenging the president on what should be done? The media should also tell the president that Nigerians are demanding that he should change the security team. We need people who can do the job; we’re not interested in individuals to be appointed, but people who can do the job.”

A retired Assistant Inspector-General, Don Iroham, said it would appear the president is satisfied with his security appointments not minding that many Nigerians see it as being lopsided in favour of one ethnic group.

According to him, “If the president is satisfied with his appointments, he doesn’t need to change them. What satisfies Buhari may not satisfy you or Nigerians. So the questions to ask are, why are there so many children out of school in the north? They have the largest share of appointment in virtually every sector of government yet why does the north have the poorest number of Nigerians?

“At the heart of it all is injustice. Nigeria has to sit down and decide how to run this country. You cannot have all security chiefs coming from one section of the country and expect solutions. There should be a dilution of personnel at the top. Who are those fighting Boko Haram? How much are they being paid compared to what Boko Haram fighters get? So things are not working well. There must be restructuring of this country to get the needed balance.

“You know in Nigeria, nobody resigns. Nigeria is a country of chop-chop. If those performing the security job are not performing, let them go.”

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