Nigeria: The Vulnerability of Rural Dwellers

(file photo).
30 July 2021

The authorities are not doing enough to secure the countryside.

The spate of attacks on rural communities in Northwest Nigeria has gradually brought the average citizen to the Hobbesian state where life has become nasty, brutish, and short. That operatives of the various security agencies usually arrive scenes of attacks only after many people had been killed has only heightened the sense of foreboding. Meanwhile, the inability to bring attackers to justice, according to Amnesty International, only helps to fuel dangerous conspiracy theories that escalate the violence. It is therefore incumbent on the authorities to find solution to the growing lawlessness across the country but most particularly in the north.

The failure to protect the people is put squarely at the doorsteps of the federal government that has lost the capacity to rein in sundry cartels of gunmen who now terrorise rural areas of the country. "The Nigerian authorities have left rural communities at the mercy of rampaging gunmen", said an Amnesty International report published last year. "Terrifying attacks on rural communities in the north of Nigeria have been going on for years," added Osai Ojigho, director of Amnesty International Nigeria. "The ongoing failure of security forces to take sufficient steps to protect villagers from these predictable attacks is utterly shameful," she added.

To make matters worse, where members of these marauding gangs are arrested, the impunity in the justice system works to set them free. This gives the impression of a conspiratorial nexus between the invaders and rogue operatives within the security agencies. For most of these cases, that the perpetrators have never been brought to justice leaves rural communities feeling completely abandoned to their fate. The impact on their means of livelihood compounds the situation. Since it is impossible to carry out farming activities under an insecure environment, it is also no surprise that domestic agricultural production has been stifled while access to regional markets remain blocked.

Forced to flee their communities, many of these people are now being further traumatised to learn that their tormentors are considered more important than them. For many Nigerians, particularly those in the North-east, life has never been so brutal. With the maimed, the orphans, the widows, widowers and the tides of refugees in IDPs camps practically left to their own devices, the preoccupation with making some killers happy is not lost on them. Inmates of Kuchingworo and Durumi camps in Abuja recently threatened to join Boko Haram should federal government continue to romance terrorists and ignore their victims. This followed a revelation that hundreds of 'repentant' Boko Haram insurgents who had completed the de-radicalisation programme would be reintegrated into the communities. With the federal government expending huge resources on these insurgents, their victims who have been condemned to the IDP camps now wonder whether their lot would not be better if they also carry arms. It is criminal to ignore these most vulnerable citizens and then begin to pamper those who put them in the situation they are in.

We align with the call on the federal government to urgently deploy security forces into the hinterlands, including consistent aerial surveillance to track down the purveyors of the carnage and consequently end the wanton waste of lives and property. Government at the federal and state levels should also muster the courage and political will to halt the incursion of non-state actors who have now decided to make the education space unsafe by the alarming rate at which they storm schools to abduct students for ransom. The urgent imperative therefore is for President Muhammadu Buhari to realise that a government that cannot guarantee the security of life and property for citizens and residents in a country has failed.

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