I have had a deep interest in sharing my objective opinion about the state of Nigerian security. Sadly, myriads of events have prevented me from doing this. However, the heart-rendering tales of pain, chaos, and suffering that keeps filtering in through newspaper reports, television headlines, and social media posts have made whatever justifiable reasons I had irrelevant.
The urgency to share my opinion became even stronger while I researched on the subject of the supply chain of certain goods and services in Nigeria. I made some interesting discoveries that clearly explain why there is no traction in certain aspects of Nigeria’s national security.
The right place to begin this discourse is the recently concluded election that ushered in the season of swearing-in of new leaders across the nation. Though the mandates and speeches by elected officials were carefully crafted to revive hopes and expectations, the situation and disposition of people in the country remain the same. I have read countless accounts of how southwestern governors have consulted with generalissimos of the Yoruba land in a bid to curb the spate of kidnappings that have ravaged the region. Sadly, there is yet to be any feasible solution.
Insecurity has always been a very worrisome issue in Nigeria. Its prevalence in the past eight weeks has been mind-boggling. There have been more reports of people being kidnapped; more accounts by people who survived kidnapping attempts; and more stories by people who were released after a lump sum of money was paid.
I believe that the right attention is yet to be paid to the state of insecurity in the nation. The government’s go-to strategy for addressing the situation has been the ‘throw money at it approach.’ – a strategy that has been in place since I was a little boy growing up in Nigeria.
Sadly, from the time of the military regime until now, no government has paused for a moment to review this failed strategy. None has taken time to answer questions like, what is the root cause of this problem? How do we secure the nation while we attack the problem of insecurity from its root cause?
The inability of successive governments to find answers to this has made Nigeria a state where everyone needs to protect themselves. The borders are porous and left unguarded. The security agencies in operation are not physically fit or tactically trained to sense and combat the threat.
Before the Boko Haram insurgency, I had the privilege of touring one of Nigeria’s premier training school. I was privy to see the status of the small arms in their inventory and I can categorically say that hundreds, if not thousands of those weapons were no functional. What was more worrisome was the fact that there was no plan in place to repair or replace them. The ‘justifiable’ reason for this was that the entity charged with managing the nation’s war supply was broke!
What is the use of investing in trade, technology, and human capital when there is no system in place to secure the advancements made? Sustainable growth and development in any economy is a function of persistent vigilance and constant security.
Based on my experience as a military officer, I know that when one seizes an objective, the first task will be to secure the objective. It is by securing the objective that other tasks to sustain or fight stems from. Without achieving this first, the whole exercise will be futile.
Abraham Maslow clearly understood this when he postulated the Pyramid of need. He identified security as a need that must be satisfied before self-actualization can be achieved. Though several security issues need to be addressed, I will spend the remaining part of this discourse highlighting the ones I consider to be more pertinent:
The issue of birth registration
In Nigeria, there is no system to accurately captures citizens’ birth details. Anyone can go to the Local Government and swear an affidavit attesting to claim that they were born on a certain date.
This means that Nigeria does not know how many people are currently in the country not to mention how many citizens there are and that is a huge security breach and a national security risk. Some say that there are over 200 million people in the country, others argue that is it less than that. But how do we know which figure is more accurate?
Nigeria needs to set up an effective system for capturing the birth details of everyone within its border. One sure way of achieving this is to implement a birth registration solution that works in both rural and urban areas.
The Nigerian Immigration
I read an article in one of the major Nigerian newspapers that said that there are 1400 unmanned border points and I think that the gentleman was being conservative because we believe there are more than that.
Of course, the exact location of these border points was not stated but who knows exactly where these locations are?
Why should a nation infested with the tactics of Boko Haram have 1400 unmanned border points? It is safe to assume, for argument, that weapons keep moving across the Northern part of Nigeria and no one can account for them.
The extremely porous nature of the country’s borders is one of many issues plaguing the immigration section of Nigeria. The situation is further worsened by the fact that immigration officers are not properly trained and fitted. It is not uncommon to see custom officers who are out of the chase. How on earth will they be able to chase after immigration law violators?
The menace of kidnapping
In the course of the last 10 weeks, I have seen families of people who were kidnapped and read reports about kidnappings. Although not all reports have been validated, they cannot all be false either.
I once read about a southwestern king who was kidnapped within his territory! If citizens cannot move freely within their country, what is the fate of the country’s tourism industry and foreign investors?
Who will be willing to come to Nigeria to invest knowing their workers and managers are going to be kidnapped? Just look at how much this affects Nigeria’s GDP, the trade and investment performance metrics. From armed conflict locations to herdsmen who are committed to journeying to the South, the killings and kidnapping are endless!
A 2015 report on armed conflict and location in the country revealed that there has been a 1000% increase in Fulani Herdsmen killings in the Southern part of Nigeria. Could this be a confirmation of the theory that in the last 10-20 years, the Middle Belt of Nigeria has been constantly attacked because they constitute 60% of the fighting tribes of Nigeria? The Tivs and Nupes constitute the fighting tribes and they are all indigenes of the Middle belt region
If the Fulani herdsmen continue to kill the citizens of this area, who will pick up arms to defend Nigeria?
If this conspiracy theory proves true, then the attacks on the Middle Belt region is strategic, not incidental.
Whether or not we try to explain the attacks as religiously or ethnically motivated, it does not detract from the fact that no man’s life is better than the other. We need the security agencies to bring order into this chaos that has been allowed to go unchecked for too long.
To play the devil’s advocate, I sometimes think that the Boko Haram insurgency is a ploy to distract us from the inner threats that have been left unguarded. How?
Nigerians have now taken to the streets to defend themselves. I heard of the new AK47 on the Nigerian black market which is about N1.5 million and the used one which is about N500, 000 and civilians are looking to purchase it. My friend showed me a pistol of N900, 000 that he is willing to buy.
You cannot walk freely or drive freely in the country of your birth without having to defend yourself and this leads me to another question. What do Nigerians not do for themselves? We have to provide our water, electricity and even security. It is time to ask, what is the function of the government that has been elected to provide all these?
As I flip through the pages of the manifestoes of different State Governments and the Federal Government, I realize that none of them address the issue of Nigerian security. This makes me think that we are in it for the long haul.
I sincerely hope that somebody will wake up from slumber and figure out a way to start addressing and quantifying the issue of security in Nigeria. If Nigeria is not secured now, Nigeria will never be secured.
I have identified a series of issues plaguing the Nigerian security system. I have worked in the security sector for most of my adult life and I understand that most people will not consider these as major threats. But looking at all the data and from all indications, Nigeria is at war, and nobody wants to talk about it.
So, what options do Nigerians have?
There is only one simple option though it might seem like a herculean task to accomplish.
Before complicated democracies and political structures, before advancing technology, Nigeria has always been a communal nation. We have always policed ourselves. We know who comes in and who goes out. Protecting ourselves needs to be done communally.
All these different routes that have been plagued by kidnapping can be addressed. The policemen and local chiefs can address this. It has to be done communally.
Everyone has to support one another. Everyone needs to police themselves. We need to know who is strange looking, who is new in town, who doesn’t belong here.
By the time we start addressing this, these perpetrators of evil would be fished out and when people realize that even the citizens are not taking matters lightly, they will desist.
Insecurity in Nigeria is a major threat. We need to start treating it as one.