Sunday, May 15, 2016

Imperative of peace and security to national development

There is no gainsaying that Nigeria is on tenterhook given the myriads of security challenges the country faces at present.  Everywhere you turn, security reports give goose pimples. It will seem banditry has become the order of the day.  Incidences of armed robbery, kidnapping, rape, and insurgency are daily dominating the headlines. Was it like this in the past? No! I recall with nostalgia the days of yore when life was blissful and peaceful in Nigeria. Those were days when farmers sell farm produce by using pebbles to indicate the cost while they go on with other chores and buyers buy and put the monies their for farmers to come later and pick.  That was when night life was devoid of fear and molestation and people can go partying till day break without let or hindrance. I am talking of a point in time when Nigerians were not living in fortresses and cages as they are wont now; that was when perimeter fence of a house was part of decoration which is optional and not mandatory as we have it now.

While every other crime may have been with us from time immemorial, pipeline vandalism, illegal oil bunkering, kidnaping for ransom and religious terrorism are all recent phenomena. Militancy in the Niger Delta region started in the 1990s. I have heard story about how Niger Delta youths began violent agitation for resource control after they were bussed in from the creeks to Abuja for the one million man march in support of late Gen. Sani Abacha’s transmutation into civilian president in 1994 or thereabout. It was alleged that when the youths saw the beautiful structures and amenities in Abuja they wondered why their region which is the goose that lay the golden egg (produce oil revenue for the country) is in deplorable condition. It therefore did not take too long before we started hearing of Egbesu Boys, Movement for the Emancipation of Niger Delta, Niger Delta Volunteer Force, Niger Delta Avengers  and several other amorphous organisations claiming to be fighting for the development of the region.  The trademark of these groups includes kidnapping for ransom, blowing off oil pipelines, illegal oil bunkering, and many others. According to Albert Camus, “Rebellion cannot exist without the feeling that somewhere, in some way, you are justified.”

The activities of "Jama'atu Ahlis Sunna Lidda'awati wal-Jihad” better known as Boko Haram took the violent dimension in 2009 when Mohamed Yusuf  who was the then spiritual  leader of the sect and some of his aides were extra-judicially murdered by security agents in Borno State. Since then, the group has unleashed unprecedented terror on the Nigerian state.  Thousands of lives and properties worth trillions of naira have been lost to the fiendish activities of the Islamic insurgents.  Before the advent of Boko Haram, the worst form of religious extremism Nigeria has previously experienced were a few isolated attacks by a religious group known as Maitatsine led by Mohammed Buba Marwa. The sect stirred up religious conflicts in Kano between 1980 and 1985. Among the latter day terrorist groups are the herdsmen who in the course of herding their cattle destroy farmlands as well as kill and maim the farm owners. They have done this in places like Agatu in Benue State and recently in Nimbo in Enugu State.   Heinous deeds of various cult groups on the campuses of our academic institutions as well as those of street gangs have combined to heighten tension in this country.

The activities of the aforementioned terror groups have constituted a great deal of security threat to our dear nation. These groups apart from instilling fear in the minds of average Nigerian have also got us on the black book of international community such that when you travel outside the shores of this country, one is profiled as a suspected terrorist.

Nigerian Constitution in section 14 subsection 2 (c) indicates that security and welfare of citizens shall be the primary purpose of government. Truth be told, government at all levels have been trying to provide some measures of security for the citizenry. The armed forces such as the army, navy, air force; intelligence forces such as Directorate of State Security, National Intelligence Agency and Nigerian Police as well as para-military agency such as the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps have all been established and deployed to provide security against internal insurrection and external aggression.

Some states have even gone further to establish neighbourhood watch groups or vigilante forces to provide some form of community policing. In this category is the Civilian Joint Task Force (Civilian JTF) which is working to assist the military to checkmate the activities of the Boko Haram insurgents in the North East region, especially in Adamawa, Yobe and Borno States. There is also the religious police known as Hisbah Corps in Kano State. The Abia State governor, Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu recently revived the defunct Bakassi Boys to support the regular police to curb crimes and criminality. There are also Anambra and Ogun State vigilante services. Many companies, corporate organisations and communities across the country also employ private security guards to protect them and their properties.

The socio-economic cost of insecurity is gargantuan. As earlier mentioned, lives and properties have been lost to terrorists and bandits operating in Nigeria. Many victims have also become physically disabled due to injuries inflicted on them. People have also lost their peace as many now observe self-imposed curfew by refusing to go out at night. Above all is the retardation of national development. It is a trite axiom that there cannot be development without peace and security. Nigeria remains a crippled giant due to the activities of the purveyors of crimes and criminality. Resources that could have been used to provide social amenities such as roads, hospitals, schools, railway, electricity and the rest, are daily being deployed to fight terror and crimes. The ultimate solution to this daunting challenge is good governance. There is need to tackle illiteracy, unemployment, poverty and corruption. Highly desirable are justice and equity in governance as well as patriotism.