It is obvious that, just as in 2015, one of the key issues that will determine the outcome of the 2019 general elections will be the issue of security. In the 2015 polls, then President Goodluck Jonathan lost because he was perceived not to be doing enough to tackle the Boko Haram insurgency in the North -east zone and the then candidate of the main opposition party, Major General Muhammadu Buhari was positioned as a man with the background, experience and ability to make the difference in that regard by restoring peace.
While there have been official claims of successes recorded in the fight against Boko Haram, reports coming from the North-east show that Boko Haram remains a major threat to the peace and stability of the country. More than that, another more dangerous and potent security threat has reared its ugly head and is festering across the country, but with more intensity in the Middle Belt zone. That is the herder-farmer, Indigene-settler killings.
The situation has become so calamitous that there are reports of the clashes having led to the death of hundreds of people this year alone. The gruesome murder of people has caught global attention such that the parliaments and government departments in the United States, Britain and other influential countries have debated and advised the Buhari Administration on the need to quickly tame this strange, but sad, development. In fact, a British Member of the House of Lords, Lord Acton, said the killings from herder-farmer clashes has profiled Nigeria as a “potential Rwanda” waiting to happen. Also, many international organizations have called on the Federal Government to label the herders as a ‘terrorist organization’ while others have simply chuckled at the bestiality being displayed through the killings.
At home, it is obvious that the Middle Belt zone of Taraba, Benue, Plateau and Nasarawa States are not the only places where these unexplained killings and wanton murders are occurring. Zamfara and Kaduna States in the North-west zones are recording deaths of innocent people through the devilish antics of cattle rustlers and ethnic jingoists. While this writer believe that these killings are simple manifestation of the mutation of the same Boko Haram elements who have decided to expand the theatre of the insurgency beyond Borno, Yobe and Adamawa States, in different guises, the security agencies that have the personnel, requisite facilities and the know how to analyse the issues, come out with prescriptions and antidotes appear overwhelmed and unable to appropriately respond to these strange but crude developments.
The inability of the security agencies to appropriately tackle the security situations has led to the call for “rejigging of the security architecture”, a coinage that emanated from the National Assembly, which has since the beginning of the year focused a lot of attention, debate and briefing on the issue. All these aimed at finding genuine solutions to the intractable problem.
The Eighth Senate has in fact held about ten full debate sessions on the security situation while also holding five special briefing sessions with security agencies. The consistent failure of one of the heads of the security agencies to respond to invitation to appear before the parliament for briefing has led to the said official being described as unfit to hold public office. The result of this legislative submission has led to the unleashing of all dirty tricks by the agency to blackmail, intimidate, suppress, overawe and stain the leadership of the parliament. Also, the Senate has constituted a standing investigative committee on security issues headed by Senate Leader, Dr. Ahmed Lawan.
The committee, apart from visiting the crises areas had also hosted a summit where the President and all security chiefs attended and made submissions. Also, the Senate President, Dr. Abubakar Bukola Saraki, in providing leadership had always visited the danger zones to get first hand information and also give message of hope to the beleaguered people that the rest of the country share in their grief and stand with them in the determination to end these killings.
Last week, the Senate further had a debate on the security situation, at the end of which it decided that within the next two weeks, it must completely review and amend the Nigeria Police Act, complete the confirmation hearing for the newly appointed members of the Police Service Commission and also commence work on the passage of the necessary amendments to the constitution in order to allow for creation of STATE AND COMMUNITY POLICE.
Also, the Senate considered the Report of the Ahmed Lawan Committee on Security and adopted the 20 point recommendations proposed by the body. The recommendations include a comprehensive review and strengthening of the basic security apparatus and isolation of the current challenges from partisan politics and ethnic-religious sentiments. The killings are to be viewed basically as acts of criminality and should be dealt with strictly on that basis. In addition, the Senate recommended that the national security structure must be revised by the Presidency to address the gaps in coordination, collaboration and synergy while clear lines of authority and responsibility for national security issues must be identified and adopted.
The Senate also assigned responsibility to the judiciary as the latter is expected to operate with the highest standards of justice delivery in order to ensure that citizens have confidence in our judicial system’s ability to freely and fairly adjudicate over criminal and other matters. Again, in order to adopt other options other than the use of force in its response to security issues, the nation must develop strategies to improve chances of resolving conflicts without resorting to the use of force.
It was also suggested that a strategy aimed at limiting the proliferation of firearms and other light weapons amongst the citizens must be adopted while the country must assert its sovereignty amongst its neighbours, particular in the areas of arms control, drugs, terrorism, trans- border movement and economic sabotage. Additionally, all international commitment that have impact on our domestic national security must be reviewed. It was also suggested that while the international community has demonstrated its willingness to support Nigeria in the fight against violent groups, the nation must improve in areas that inhibit the delivery of such support, particularly in the areas of human rights, accountability and transparency.
The Lawan committee also submitted that the presence of millions of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in the North-East and millions of others who have no form of education or strong social links presents a potent threat to the present and future security of the nation. It is therefore suggested that the government must immediately develop policies and initiatives that are aimed at addressing the reconstruction, rehabilitation, and development of the North-East and the development of the uneducated members of society.
Again, in taking a futuristic approach to the security issues, it was argued that the growing national population may become a major threat to the country’s future, unless substantial and sustained investments are made in the areas of human capital development, particularly education and health. In this regard, a visionary strategy must be developed for the national economy that is aimed at providing quality education, skills development and employment for our nation’s young people.
Corruption and wastes were also identified as threats to national security. In this regard, a strong political will, effective policies and improvements must be made to ensure the efficiency of institutions while the entire focus of governments across all levels must target poverty reduction, as poverty is a threat to national security.
To further tame the monster of insecurity, it was suggested that the nation must develop its knowledge and skills in managing its extensive forest reserves in order to turn them into assets. This is because the nation’s demographic indices indicate shifts in population size, composition, land use and impact of the environment on human economic activities.
The need to generate a strong political will to improve the policy, legislation, regulatory and enforcement capacities to reduce the damage of the production, importation and consumption of illicit drugs in the nation — which represent a major threat to national security – was canvassed.
The Senate committee also advised that the Federal and State governments should work out a strategy to integrate the Almajiri system with the formal western educational system while provision of low-interest rate loans for herders to develop ranching businesses in the country was suggested.
It is believed that just as it did when the nation was declared to have slipped into recession, the Senate recommendations if adopted and acted upon may help the country to resolve the incessant killings and shedding of innocent blood.
–Olaniyonu is Special Adviser (Media and Publicity) to Senate President.