6 November 2012

Nigeria: Endless National Security Threats?

Last Sunday, a church was bombed. On Tuesday, armed bandits attacked a village in Zamfara State. On Friday, General Muhammadu Shuwa (rtd) was assassinated in Maiduguri. This Sunday, gunmen struck in Kano and Fika, Yobe State. These events claimed more than 33 lives.

Not many nations at war have lost so many people in so short a time. It seems the federal government is incapacitated and hopeless in the face of what has become the fundamental reason for its existence: security of life and property, maintenance of law and order. But the police and the armed forces have become more concerned with protecting themselves and their families. Across the nation, people have lost faith in the ability of bribe-seeking and gin-drinking security agents to protect them.

Survival, it is said, is the first law of nature. Therefore, Nigerians should no longer wait for government and its law enforcement agencies to protect them from armed bandits. There is need for more vigilance. Communities should devise new security strategies, especially those that can prevent crimes. Every criminal is known by at least one non-criminal. The behaviour of everyone is known in his community, so picking up the criminals in our midst will not be a difficult job. But resort to jungle justice even without sufficient evidence of wrongdoing, as was the case in Rivers State recently, must be avoided. Everyone has the right to arrest a suspect and hand him/her over to the legal authorities. The main reason people don't give out information to the police is the fear that bad eggs in the institution could report them to the criminals. But communities, once organised, can find ways of dealing with higher authorities.

Nigeria is fast descending into a failed state because of endless security threat. Ongoing conflicts in the sub-region are also having a negative effect on the country: Sudan has broken up into two; Mali is facing insurrection from the Tuaregs who have declared a new state; Somalia and Chad are in worse conditions; Libya has exploded and is still shimmering. Sophisticated firearms are coming into Nigeria from all directions, and the rebels and soldiers of fortune are ever ready to create killing fields here.

We hope the government has not been underestimating the threats. The police, the intelligence community, all other agents of the law and indeed all citizens should work together to check these security challenges. Soldiers, in particular, should increase patrol around our borders and seaports, using all arsenals at their disposal to ensure that this is effective. Once more, the federal government is reminded to change its present strategy. New ways to tackle the present dangers should include overhauling its intelligence capacity and working out ways of infiltrating hostile elements. Each security threat such as terrorism, kidnapping or banditry should be isolated and dealt with.

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