Nigeria: Insecurity - Humanitarian, Political and Economic Fallout

18 February 2020

The seemingly unending nationwide insecurity is increasing in scope from a human tragedy to encompassing political and economic tragedies. The human tragedy has been well documented for well over a decade, however the political and economic tragedies are just rearing their heads. What surprised observers during the 2019 elections was the purported high turnout of voters in war-torn Northern States which was much more than would reasonably be expected. War-torn and bandit ridden Borno State gave the President the third highest vote of any State.

At the time skeptical Nigerians were told that "the people have spoken". Well apparently the same people have spoken again and showed their displeasure with the current pervasive insecurity by lining up on airport road Maiduguri to deride the President. Rushing to the his defense former Borno Sstate Governor Senator Kashim Shettima said critics should stop demonizing the President over insurgency in the North because he has done enough security wise for the North East especially with bulk of the Service Chiefs coming from that geo-political zone.

According to Shettima despite the poor reception the government and people of Borno Sate are firmly behind the President and that what happened in Maiduguri was "very unfortunate"! The poor reception in Borno should come as no surprise because in the first place it beggared belief that Borno citizens would be happy at the manner in which insurgency and banditry are running rampant in their State. Blaming the Service Chiefs and calling for their retirement has become the current fad which the House of Representatives has joined by passing a resolution demanding their retirement. Weighing into the matter the Senate President Ahmad Lawan suggested that those employed to be in charge of security should be given targets and that they should be sacked if those targets are not met.

Critics who say that the Service Chiefs are as useless as the "p" in psychology, fail to appreciate that they are not in office to implement their own security ideas, but rather to work according to directives given by the Commander-in-Chief. They are only a symptom of the problem not the problem itself. The Army Chief of Staff has made it clear that in his opinion nothing will be gained by sacking him or other Service Chiefs because they are "a source of national pride". He said that the President "knows where it pinches" and knows "what the problems are". Interestingly he also said "those who would cry loudest against the Service Chiefs are within, and they are the ones who should be more vocal in the things that are not going right". This lends weight to the suspicion in some quarters that the real reason insecurity is over running the nation isn't because the Service Chiefs are incompetent, but rather because "fifth columnists" have somehow infiltrated the highest corridors of power and intentionally doing a disservice to the President. Nigerians have every right to be disappointed with the high level of insecurity because they believed that as a former General, the President had all the qualifications to clamp down on insurgents and bandits and put an end to the killing of innocent citizens.

The political tragedy is heightening as protests are being planned against insecurity. Admittedly Nigerians have a right to demonstrate, but what the protests are intended to achieve can only be clear to the organizers. There are even plans to take legal action against the President because the Security Chiefs are overdue for retirement according to extant regulations. State Governors are criticizing both military and police while forming their own security outfits leaving many Nigerians wondering why if all this money for vehicles, uniforms and payment of salaries is readily available wasn't it then given to security agencies in the first place?

Politically, government hasn't done enough to address the concerns of Nigerians who are exposed to heart rending videos of the national flag draped coffins of gallant Nigerian soldiers who lost their lives in service to the nation, while there is no insignia indicating loyalty to the Federal Republic of Nigeria on the uniform given to their Boko Haram killers who are being released back into society. No explanation has been offered as to why their reward for supposedly "repenting" is to be fed and housed in far better conditions than either our patriotic soldiers at the front, or our Internally Displaced Persons (IDP's) in makeshift camps. All the while the widows of slain soldiers are yet to be rehabilitated, and the civilian victims of insurgency or banditry are yet to be compensated.

Even if the nation can somehow cope with the humanitarian and political fall-out of massive insecurity, it may not be able to cope with the economic fallout. To paraphrase legendary CNN journalist, Christiane Amanpour it seems contradictory for government to anchor its economic revival program on agriculture while at the same time farmers are running away from their lands out of fear of attacks! Definitely the impact of these attacks will have a major negative impact on the economy whose effect will take far longer to recover from than the political and humanitarian tragedies.

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