Thursday, August 6, 2009

Shall we tell the president?

I decided to borrow the title of this article from the famous British author, Jeffery Archer, because it is very apt for what I intend to discuss in this piece: the state of insecurity in Nigeria. That there is a breakdown of law and order in Nigeria is not an exagerration, what with the way criminals have held the nation by the jugular. The militants of the Niger-Delta were having a field day, bombing oil installations and taking people hostage; in the Southern Nigeria, kidnapping has become a flourishing business. In fact, according to Police Affairs Minister, Yakubu Lame, in a press report of July 23, 2009, an estimated 512 persons have been kidnapped in the last six month of this year with Abia State alone recording 110 cases. Armed robbery and cyber-crimes are uncountable. This year alone, there have been about three cases of religious riots with the recent Boko Haram sectarian violence being the worst. The earlier ones being in Bauchi and Niger states.
Now on Boko Haram, there were different newsreports on the activities of the sect. The sect has been existing for 14 years and the leader was said to have been arrested last November and charged to court but was granted bail in January 2009. That act of indiscretion by the judge partly cost the country the five days of preventable wanton destruction of lives and properties witnessed from Sunday, July 26 to Thursday, July 30, 2009 when the sect’s leader, Mohammed Yusuf, was alleged to have been captured and later killed. By the way, why should the security forces decide to kill Yusuf after he has been captured without the due process of being charged to court for prosecution? Is this an attempt to cover up or could that be because of lack of confidence of our security agencies in our judicial system? Even Saddam Hussein and Charles Taylor, who allegedly committed worse crimes were given fair trials in court.
Unfortunately, the President was away to Brazil when the Director General of State Security Service, Afakriya Gadzama, opened up about the state of insecurity in Nigeria, warning that 2011 elections would be bloody if the situation remained unchecked.
The DG SSS was reported to have given the warning at an interactive session with the House of Representatives Committees on National Security and Police Affairs on July 30. Gadzama accused government of ignoring security reports. He absolved his agency of dereliction of duty when he said “SSS had never failed to issue warning notices on impending troubles in all flash points, but not much was being done to avert such crisis.”
The SSS boss said information on kidnapping in Niger Delta, armed robbery in South East, attack of Atlas Cove in Lagos, the Jos crisis and the latest sectarian violence in some parts of the northern region had been passed to the appropriate quarters. He blamed the problems of insecurity in the country on the fallout of political system that disconnected the people from the government and the porous borders. Given the example of Anambra State, Gadzama said there was a large influx of arms into the hands of thugs, which, according to him, gave rise to kidnapping and violent robbery. He alleged that the attitude of displaying wealth and government’s inability to carry the people along also contributed to the state of insecurity, not only in the South East, but in other parts of the country. He warned that ending the crisis in the Niger Delta would not put an end to violence, as there was the need to strengthen all security agencies in areas of provision of working tools and improved service conditions. He also mentioned a disconnect among security agencies. The new IGP, Ogbonna Onovo, in his submission at the occasion, said the problems of the Nigeria Police were not strange to the House in areas of inadequate vehicles, shortage of personnel and outdated equipment to work with. Even though he said the police were doing their best, he urged the lawmakers to increase funding for the police.
Now, Gadzama’s can of worms calls for certain clarification. Much as it seems like the familiar story of buck-passing and blame game, there are a few questions we must ask the SSS DG. Which appropriate quarter did the SSS DG share this intelligence information at his disposal with? Is it the Army, Air Force, Navy, Police, Customs or Immigration? Was the security reports shared with the president and/ or concerned state governors who are chief security officers of the country and their states? If the answers to these questions are in the affirmative, it then shows that our political leaders have been playing politics with the security of this country. That has not been in doubt anyway.
Section 14 (2b) of the 1999 Constitution says “the security and welfare of the people shall be the primary purpose of government”. The president and the state governors and perhaps the council chairmen enjoy huge security vote which they don’t account for every year. Annually, the budget for defence and the police are in the top five, yet there is a perennial and incessant complaints by the security agencies for better logistic support and welfare. It is in the same police that is clamouring for better funding that a former IGP was convicted of embezzling a whopping N17billion (cash and assets) while the driver of a former Commissioner of Police in charge of Budget was also caught with a sun of N21.6million in June 2007. It is in the Nigerian armed forces that we have theiving army officers who steal money meant for their subordinates and sell arms to the Niger Delta militants. It is in the same security sector that we have oil bunkering ship that was impounded and disappeared (remember the case of MV African Pride?)
Shall we tell the president that Nigeria’s security sector will continue to be a cesspit of corruption and inefficiency inasmuch as there is no political will to remove the bad eggs, deadwoods and the fifth columnists in that sector. Shall the president be informed that if the arrowheads and financiers of Boko Haram sect and other perpetrators of sectarian violence are not brought to justice and everything is made to end at the level of Commission of Inquiry, then sectarian crises in Nigeria shall not abate. Shall we tell the president that the unemployment rate, poverty rate and crime rate in the country are intolerable and that he must be proactive and live up to his responsibility as the President and Commander –in- Chief of the Armed Forces?