2 February 2013

Nigeria: N34 Million Per Head Will Do


In a piece titled 'The fallacy of the security vote' published some weeks ago on this page, I had complained that the monumental sum budgeted for security concerns in this country cannot be justified in the face of the rising level of insecurity being witnessed daily. The recent attack on the Emir of Kano, HRH Alhaji Ado Bayero was a rude reminder of this unfortunate fact. The widely-condemned incident had left at least six people dead, several others wounded, including the Emir's two sons, and the royal father himself rather shaken.

Like many such brazen attacks in recent times, the attackers themselves had escaped the scene scot-free. Arrests in connection with the incident were only made after the day of the attack, in the course of police investigation. So, one cannot say for certain that the real perpetrators of this gargantuan evil will ever really be brought to justice. Which brings us back to the old question of whether it is worthwhile dedicating a quarter of the country's budget to security, when security has remained elusive to virtually all segments of the Nigerian society.

In the above-mentioned piece, I had campaigned for youth empowerment and education as a way out of the present predicament, if the government will invest the necessary time and resources into providing them, and if it will be willing to slash the security budget by half to channel the money into these productive sectors of our society. Today I have another agenda for that larger- than-life security vote that yields no commensurate result. The federal government must urgently compile a list of all those who died innocently in the last three years of this so-called insurgency and pay compensation for their lives.

From those killed at home to those killed in churches and mosques, from those shot in their vehicles to those murdered at their police duty posts or soldiers check-points, every life killed in cold blood must be paid for to relieve the suffering of their survivors and dependants. This will not only provide them with much-needed relief, it will also, at least show us one concrete proof of what the security vote is being spent on. For now, we all know that the real beneficiaries of the vote are so-called foreign security experts who sell us all kinds of keep-your- poor- relations- and- beggars- away kind of gadgets without saving any lives or limbs in the process. While these security contractors are laughing all the way to their banks daily, the real victims of the unrest and bloodshed in many parts of Nigeria have no idea anything extra is being done to change their situation.

As of last year, the Islamically-prescribed compensation for a life was a little over N33 million. I have tried to find out the exact figure for this year but all I got was that it is just over N34 million. Now this amount per man, woman or child killed in our current state of insecurity will do nicely to cushion the effect of their great loss. It will never bring back loved ones but it will at least help feed wives and aged parents as well as educate orphans. I am not aware that Christians, as followers of the common law justice system, have any such provision as compensation for a life unlawfully taken. It is therefore better for them to join us and campaign for a uniform N34 million per life, so that all bereaved families could be compensated adequately.

This amount is arrived at yearly by the computation of the cost of one thousand gold coins or the original blood-money; which is a hundred red camels. Whatever the amount arrived at is what is paid to the survivors of any human killed in cold blood. Right now not even the donations given by individuals and corporate bodies to victims of this current wave of insecurity are allowed to reach the beneficiaries, you can imagine the difficult times experienced by widows and orphans. Take the case of Emir Bayero's orderly, his bodyguard and his carriage driver, these are all relatively young people who died and left young wives and children, totally at the mercy of the society. And the story is generally like that among the hundreds of Nigerians who have fallen victims to bombings and drive-by shootings since October 1st 2010, how can such families be saved from destitution if we do not fight to make sure they are directly paid necessary compensation?

Some people might argue that in Islam diyya or blood-money is only paid in the case of accidental killing, where the assailant fatally wounded his victim without meaning to, like a car or factory accident or some other incident where the killing was not premeditated. But when you look at the current wave of insecurity in the country, no one can show you who the assailants are nor tell you why they have eluded arrest, but money is still being pumped into the security system in their pursuit. The government has to take responsibility for it because the killings are a direct result of its failure to do what is needed to secure people's lives and belongings. And the fact that it has also failed to bring to book anybody truly found to be involved in this bloody massacre of innocent Nigerians, makes it binding on the federal government to use the huge security budget to compensate relatives and treat the wounded.

The Kano state government reportedly gave out three houses and a million naira each to the families of Emir Ado Bayero's slain aides. This is a great gesture on the part of the Kwankwaso administration, but the federal government must do better than this by adopting the Islamic blood-money and paying it as compensation for every life lost in the current spate of bloodletting. Life is already bleak for millions of Nigerians living below the poverty line, by the time you add the loss of a breadwinner or an adult child whose parents whole hope was woven around him, you can only imagine their extent of misery.

All state governments currently facing this security challenges must encourage families who lost their loved ones to come forward and give details and proof, so that a comprehensive list can be made of all the victims of this unfortunate bloodletting. Whether the dead are victims of the insurgents or of the dreaded JTF or STF, they must be paid for because they are first and foremost the victims of a failed national security apparatus.

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