No fewer than 340 operatives of the defence and security services died during separate armed attacks that took place nationwide between January and April 2021, Global Rights, an international human rights organisation based in Washington D.C., has revealed in a new report.The report, which covered the violent incidents nationwide, also revealed that the numbers of lives lost between January and April, painted a dreary picture of the declining state of security and increase in human rights infractions across the federation.
The incidents were revealed in the Mass Atrocities Casualties Tracking Report, a publication of Global Rights, obtained by THISDAY at the weekend, signposting unprecedented deterioration in the state of security when compared with the previous year.
In its 2020 report, for instance, Global Rights claimed that Nigeria's sub-national governments had lost confidence in the capacity of the federal government to provide security amid rising cases of mass atrocities that claimed 4,558 lives nationwide in 2020.
It had also claimed that the reported cases of mass atrocities in 2020 represented a 42.9% increase above 3,188 incidents recorded nationwide in 2019, thereby making 2020 a brutal year for most Nigerians amid the outbreaks of COVID-19 and the eruption of #EndSARS protests
It had revealed that mass atrocities-related killings by region affected no fewer than 1527 (33.5%) in the Northwest with Katsina, the home state of President Muhammadu Buhari, recording second highest after Kaduna; 1508 (33.08%) in the Northeast, 685 (15.03%) in the North-central, 443 (9.72%) in the South-south, 231 (5.07%) in the South-west and 162 (3.55%) in the South-east
However, according to the update released to THISDAY by the organisation, the country's defence and security services incurred loss of 340 security personnel fatalities nationwide between January and April 2021 alone.
Of the 340 security personnel fatalities, the report revealed that the Nigerian Army lost 193 officers to violent incidents; the Nigeria Police 131; the Nigeria Navy four; the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) three; the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) three and the Nigerian Correctional Service two and Civilian JTF four.
While the report put the security personnel fatalities at 340 between January and April 2021, it revealed that violent killings claimed 2,260 lives nationwide within the same timeframe equivalent to 50.4% of total fatalities that occurred in 2020.
Based on geo-political zones, according to the report, 989 violent fatalities were recorded in Northwest; 332 in Northeast; 331 in North Central; 256 in Southeast; 191 in Southwest and 161 South-south.
Global Rights, in a remark by its Executive Director, Abiodun Baiyewu, concluded that Nigeria "is clearly a fragile state, and remains vulnerable to combustion from several forms of atrocities. The question to ask is: what are its government and citizens doing to stem the tide?"
With the huge records of unresolved crimes, the organisation observed that Nigeria's penchant of covering multitudes of crimes with the blanket of impunity and amnesty does not augur well for the country.
Rather, according to the Washington-based rights organisation, the reign of impunity has emboldened perpetrators to increase their activities and serves as a motivation for other actors to cash in on the monopoly of violence.
It, therefore, noted that lack of trust in the government to ensure justice "is a motivation for reprisal attacks by aggrieved persons and communities.
"In spite of the hundreds of armed pillages that have occurred in the North, security agents have barely been able to make arrests. There have been no prosecutions for these crimes. The same lens would apply to kidnaps, and communal conflicts."
In spite of its continued denial, the organisation noted that several sources "have documented attempts by some state governors to placate organized criminal groups - paying fat ransoms to kidnappers and offering cashback to bandits in exchange for their weapons and assurance of security."
It, however, warned that huge ransoms paid "to kidnappers by the government sets a dangerous precedent that will encourage criminality rather than quell it.
"Organised criminal groups who maim people, rape women, destroy properties and cause severe humanitarian crises should be made to face the wrath of the law rather than be mollycoddled," the organisation recommended.
It added that the latest mass kidnapping from schools in recent weeks called to question the implementation of the "Safe School Initiative" which was launched with millions of Naira invested, after the Chibok girls were abducted to bolster security in schools in the Northeast.
It said Nigeria's perpetual battle against insecurity "is at a high cost, with both security operatives and civilians paying with their lives. That cost continues to be too high.
"According to S 14(2)(b) of the 1999 Constitution, the primary objective of the government is to ensure the security and welfare of citizens.
"Despite the government's claim of being on top of the security situation in the country, the spread and context of insecurity have metastasized and shown no signs of abating, blackholing the enormous budgetary allocation to security."
The organisation, therefore, observed that it would take more than security hardware to end insecurity across the country.
"At the core of the various forms of mass atrocities in Nigeria is impunity and at the core of impunity is the failure of state institutions to ensure the safety and security of all Nigerians, as well as justice for crimes perpetrated", the group added.
On these grounds, the organisation recommended that Nigeria would need "an effective long-term investment in a holistic security architecture that should comprise the efficiency of all aspects of governance and the promotion of human rights.
"The state's continued failure to proactively fulfil and respect human rights has led to mass grievances that are compounding the nation's insecurity and jeopardizing its peace and security," the organisation suggested.