13 January 2013

Nigeria: Vanguard/Police National Summit On Security - a Quest for Peace Through Security

Mr Sam Amuka, the Chairman of Vanguard, one of the leading newspapers in Nigeria, is not a happy man for many reasons. Although he is a contented man by all standards, his vision for Nigeria when he was a young man is not what obtains today.

And what bothers him the more is that, on daily basis, the hope for a better Nigeria is meteorically plunging down the cliff, diminishing the potentials for a great country. The indices for fear and hopelessness are boldly written on the face of the average Nigerian. The melancholy, thrown up by the system that has consistently failed to inspire hope, coupled with the frustration that daily pricks the citizenry that they are far from their cherished destination, has left many with jeremiads and crippled their altruistic instincts.

Left with nothing but frustration, in the midst of opulence routinely exhibited by the mandarins covetously manning the levers of power and business, many have taken to malevolent activities as trades, not minding the consequences of their actions. A few years ago, it was kidnapping in the Niger Delta by young, pernicious but ambitious elements who set out to sabotage the oil industry for their pecuniary interest and they got it on a platter, as they virtually overpowered the system that was meant to checkmate their valiance. It was the late President Umaru Yar'Adua, who halted their advance by instituting an amnesty package that is now both a source of anger and hope to the nation: there are some who loath the programme for giving so much money to a section of the country and others who believe it is working for the nation. And while the nation is yet to recover fully from the madness of kidnapping and destruction prevalent in the Niger Delta and some parts of the South, a more frightening atrocity has enveloped many parts of the North, threatening to dismember the region and the nation. The marks of Boko Haram insurgency, which reared its ugly head from Borno State in early 2009, have given Nigeria a bad name while the sect inflicts maximum damage on the country that Lord Lugard joined in an unholy marriage in 1914. This has in return created a bad business environment for the nation.

Representative of the President and Minister of Police Affairs, Navy Capt. Caleb Olubolade, rtd, (3rdl)flanked by the Chairman of the event, Alhaji Gambo Jimeta (2ndl) and the Inspector Genral of Police, Alhaji Mohammed Abubakar, while the Interior Minister, Comrade Abba Moro (2ndr); Publisher Vanguard, Mr. Sam Amuka (l) and other dignitaries at the official opening of the National Summit on Security Challenges in Nigeria held at the ICC, Abuja. Photo: Abayomi Adeshida

The sect, according to the Chief of the Army Staff, Lt. Gen. Azubuike Ihejerika, has, so far, killed over 3,000 persons. Foreign Direct Investment, FDI, has also nosedived as a result of the reluctance of investors to pump more funds into the country with the hydra-headed monster of insurgency.

The National Economic Summit Group (NESG), at its 18th summit, last month, lamented that Nigeria's FDI dropped by 19.14 per cent to $10.4 billion, from $12.8 billion a year ago. This shows that Nigeria's FDI shrank to 43 per cent from 62 per cent recorded in the preceding year.

NESG believes the resurgence of violence, particularly the activities of the Boko Haram, is responsible for the economic decline.

It says, "These results collectively echo investor perception about the extremist insurgence in the northern part of the country and gradually renewing militancy in the Niger Delta and the resultant negative impact on investments into the country."

Nations that are gripped by fear and frustrations rarely achieve their set targets while the citizens may never hit their personal goals. Nigeria, a global giant that is being looked upon by other countries for help and leadership, has been adversely affected by growing insurgency and corruption - two monsters that have refused to abate despite a shouting march from the rooftop.

Amuka and other well-meaning Nigerians have not been able to sleep as the turbulence in the land continues to reverberate. In fact, when Amuka founded his newspaper, VANGUARD, in 1984 under the military junta, with notoriety for hounding the media and journalists, Nigeria was a better place to live and do business than what obtains today.

Realising the power of the media "as a political and economic instrument and an educational resource", as espoused by McBride, Amuka and his management team relocated from Lagos and assembled at the International Conference Centre, Abuja and, for two days, between Tuesday and Wednesday, created a public/private initiative, they brainstormed on how to solve the rising insecurity in the country as a means of creating a conducive atmosphere for sustainable peace and development.

The summit, with the theme, "Addressing Nigeria's Security Challenges for Sustainable Peace and Development", was organised by the newspaper in conjunction with the Nigeria Police, whose officers and men have been at the receiving end of most of the Boko Haram attacks.

By the time the conference opened on Tuesday morning, it was as if the whole of Nigeria had assembled in one place to find an answer to a nagging crisis. The setting was just right with the appropriate stakeholders in attendance. The Africa Hall of the International Conference Centre, Abuja was not only filled to capacity by Nigerians from all walks of life but the calibre of speakers and discussants was also noteworthy.

None of those invited as speakers or discussants, who were drawn from the security agencies, the academia, civil society, the Bench, the Bar and the business community, disappointed the audience.

The Inspector General of Police, Mohammed Dikko Abubakar, set the ball rolling, by declaring that the police would not shy away from their constitutional duty of protecting lives and property despite the challenges inherent in the system. Abubakar gave a message of hope to the hordes of senior police officers and men and other Nigerians who had assembled at the venue, vowing to defeat the enemies of peace and security in Nigeria.

He said: "All efforts are geared towards ensuring the security of lives and property of citizens, which is very paramount to us. We now have a very serious management team in the police. We are committed to doing our duty as stipulated by the constitution."

Former Inspector General of Police, Mohammed Gambo Jimeta, who chaired the ceremony, is unhappy that successive governments have allowed the security system to deteriorate to a point where criminals now have a field day terrorizing innocent Nigerians without appropriate response from law enforcement agencies. According to Jimeta, the present security challenges in the country were self-inflicted, as government has abandoned the provision of basic facilities for the detection of crimes for other pursuits.

"Let us, for God's sake, put our priorities right by building a robust security and defence system. Poverty and deprivation are all over the nation. The basic facilities that can sustain lives are not there and people are suffocated and frustrated,"the former IGP said.

"The only person who is in jeopardy is the common man who is left at the mercy of God, as the rich and powerful have been provided with security just as the criminal is fully armed.

"There is need for caution and demonstration of sympathy for the ordinary citizen. The strangulation of the Nigerian citizen is such that if nothing is done immediately about it, it would lead to an implosion that would be difficult to manage."

President Goodluck Jonathan, who has promised action against the insurgents, said the security situation in the country would be tackled headlong by his administration to pave the way for the realization of the transformation agenda.

"Time has come for all Nigerians to stand up and fight the security challenges in the land," Jonathan said in address delivered on his behalf by the Police Affairs Minister, Navy Capt Caleb Olubolade. Jonathan said Nigeria would remain secure under his administration and asked Nigerians to support his drive to make Nigeria a better nation.

"The political will by this administration to change the security situation in the country is there and there is hope Nigeria will remain fully secured under President Goodluck Jonathan," the minister stated.

The President was however full of praises for Vanguard Newspapers for being at the forefront of the move to find answers to the security challenges facing the nation.

Eight were presented by eminent Nigerians with a view to highlighting the problems that have made it difficult for Nigeria to tackle the security challenges facing the country. The papers include, Building Sustainable Trust between the Public and Law Enforcement Agencies for Effective National Security, Constitutional Framework for National Integration, Reviewing Nigeria's Criminal Justice System for Effective Internal Security and Inter Agency Cooperation in Defending the Nation against Security Challenges. Others are Religious and Ethnic Discord as a Major Threat to National Security, Militancy, Terrorism and Arms Proliferation as a Threat to National Security, The Role of the Judiciary in Ensuring National Security and Intelligence Gathering and Sharing as an Effective Tool for National Security.

The beauty of the papers lies in the fact that each attracted as much attention as the other and, at the end of each presentation, enthusiastic questions and reactions from the audience followed in torrents.

Vanguard's Editor-in-Chief, Mr. Gbenga Adefaye, explained that the company was deeply concerned about the worsening security situation in the country and decided to co-host the summit with the NPF, as part of its corporate social responsibility.

Adefaye, who is the President of Nigerian Guild of Editors, NGE, pointed out that Vanguard would continue to support efforts to improve the development of Nigeria and the well-being of the citizenry.

He said, "The security challenge is not beyond the ordinary and we believe that, working together with an action agency like the police, we can make the required difference."

Although a communique is expected to be issued, it is clear that using a common approach by stakeholders can solve the nagging security challenges and they can be overcome.

It is only when the ghost of the nation's common enemy called insecurity is exorcised and peace and security attained, that sustainable development can be achieved in a country whose natives have never had it so bad in its 53 years of nationhood.

And, it is only when that Eldorado dawns that Amuka and his officials would be able to smile once again. For now, the newspaper's search for answers to the nation's troubling security challenges continues.

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