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Blighted by Insecurity

Ahamefula Ogbu

The traumatic security situation as Nigeria marks her 63rd Independence anniversary is so glaring. When the statistics on killings and displacement of victims from their ancestral homes is summed up, the reality will only be too grim.

Once a peaceful haven, Nigeria in the last 10 years has been facing deplorable insecurity.  So bad is the situation that every global index now ranks it high. Just last week, it was ranked sixth in the world for organised crime, according to the 2023 Global Organised Crime Index.

The report stated that Nigeria continues to face a series of security challenges, corruption and other criminal activities.

According to the survey done by the Global Initiative Against Transnational Organised Crime, which was released on Wednesday, the status of organised criminality in Nigeria increased by 0.13 points, making it the sixth in the world and second highest in Africa behind the Democratic Republic of Congo (7.35) and ahead of South Africa (7.18).

Although serious efforts are being put in place by the current administration to tackle the situation, analysts believe that it is going to be gradual.

States such as Benue, once proudly described as the food basket of the nation, now harvests more dead bodies than crops as herdsmen picked up their gauntlet since 2015 to the extent that the number of the dead make it appear as if they are not human lives.

In Kaduna State, especially in its southern part, people are killed or kidnapped at will. Zamfara State has also been ravaged by bandits who collect hundreds of millions of naira in ransom from communities before the residents can freely move in their fatherland.

Sokoto, Adamawa, Taraba and Kebbi are not spared of the orgies of violence as people who dare to earn decent livelihoods pay taxes and levies, not to the Nigerian government but to criminals who move freely with sophisticated arms.

In Niger State, with vast arable lands, bandits said to be foreigners even challenge the firepower of the armed forces, shooting down helicopters and fighter jets as if Nigeria is in a full-scale war with organised armies.

The once peaceful Plateau State has also been in the news, not for its weather conditions that imbue it with natural ability to grow crops to feed the nation but for the numerous sacking of villages and towns even with the Special Forces stationed in the various parts of the state.

In the North-east, places like parts of Borno State, despite the commendable efforts of the people-oriented governor, Professor Babagana Zulum, normal living conditions have continued to be interrupted violently by the Sambisa Forest warlords while residents of Bauchi and Yobe states appear to have had relative relief. The North-west state of Katsina has particularly had it rough as border communities with Zamfara State and the adjoining forests have become a haven of banditry.

Though Kano is a bit calmer, the state is traditionally a hotbed of political upheavals. Kogi State, a North-central state, which is a gateway to the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) has become the hidden hotbed of insurgency and other forms of criminalities, resulting in serious jailbreaks.

Nasarawa State has become a victim of military operations to dislodge insurgents in the neighbouring states, which led to the influx of bandits into the state.

The South-east states are also suffering from the divisive and discriminatory actions of former President Muhammadu Buhari whose strong-arm tactics appeared to have morphed the flag-waving Biafra agitators into arms-carrying youths, which has fuelled frightening levels of insecurity in the zone.

The hope that the agitators would see light and give peace a chance has remained a dream. A region, which had touted itself as the most peaceful, has become a dry keg of gunpowder with a roaring flame on it. The daily news from the South-east is of killings and arson carried out deliberately by the agitators or security agencies who have been targets of attacks and who unleash reprisals on the innocent residents of any community they suffer casualties.

The once peaceful states are no longer safe as Russia-type private armies are hired by the federal government, while security forces are crying out over inadequate funding. Businesses are fleeing the region while youths and security agents are being killed in their numbers.

Military aircraft now bomb the suspected locations of the agitators who have built criminal enclaves in the name of fighting for freedom. In all those states of the region personalities have been killed and properties destroyed while youths inhabit forests from where they launch attacks on their targets.

Although Rivers State has always been a hotbed of resource control agitators who claim that they break pipelines to steal crude oil due to government’s repeated promises that its plan to deliver democracy dividends is in the pipeline, the quest for control of the political power in the state has also fuelled cultism.

The latest violent and embarrassing incident in the state was the decapitation of a senior police officer, said to be an uncommon crime buster whose genitals were severed and paraded on a platter by people who chanted and hailed themselves as members of Icelander cult group.

Bayelsa State, which has its own armed ‘generals’ is not left out of the violence equation. The Nembe killings and clashes with herdsmen said to have been invading some communities, added to illegal oil bunkering, have raised different forms of violent agitations. In Akwa Ibom State, cultism and fights for control of areas of influence are increasingly yielding results in the form of increased number of unexplained killings while in Cross River State the issue of Bakassi and separatist agitations have also fuelled insecurity. In Delta State, apart from constant herdsmen attacks which claimed a number of traditional rulers, there is also a spillover of violent activities of Biafran separatist agitators from Anambra State.

In the South-west, the formation of their regional security outfit, Amotekun, seems to have improved the level of security in the region; the invaders have not given up.

Ondo State has particularly had it rough from invaders who detonated a bomb in a church and killed many worshippers. Incidents of kidnappings are also rife there. Osun State said to be the host to some natural resources, is having similar problems as Zamfara State where it is alleged that interests struggling for control of minerals create a crisis to distract and control.

Ogun State is also having similar issues of kidnapping and banditry, in addition to other forms of criminalities. Oyo State, with its vast forests and landmass, and Lagos State, are not spared.

The toga of untouchable which Abuja wore for long has also been challenged as security breaches have put a lie to. The hitherto secure estates in Abuja have become victims of kidnappers, who at their leisure, stroll in there and take their booties.

In all these, there seems to be a lacuna in appropriate responses because though black spots on the highways and towns are known, the problems of insecurity still persist in such places thereby creating the impression that there is lack of motivation among the security agencies. There also appears to be politicisation of security. It is common to hear the heads of security agencies openly praising the president and saying with his marching orders, they are going to do things differently as if their appointments were not for them to be effective and discharge their duties without waiting for marching orders from certain quarters.