The solution to our insecurity, sad to say, is not in drones or CCTV cameras alone.
“Mobilising the people of a country as complex and heterogenous as ours, under the banner of a common purpose was never going to be an easy task, but this is not to say it is impossible. Multi-religious and multi-ethnic countries all over the world, grapple daily with tensions that come with diversity” VP Yemi Osinbajo
I yield this column today to Ologun Afemikhe, a graduate of the University of Lagos, with a strong bias for international relations, and security matters. He is an advocate for the right security architecture in Nigeria.
Concerning security, Nigeria is in dire straits but we are not totally helpless. A lot could still be done if we are serious. and treat insecurity in our country like a cancer that has metastasized. In analysing our current security situation it is necessary to diligently study the details as they occur. This I have tried to do. After a very painstaking interrogation of the modus-operandi of the criminal elements and the consequential mayhem visited upon communities across the country, I have come to the unmistakable conclusion that rather than being Fulani herdsmen, what we have tormenting Nigeria today are Boko Haram elements, and the earlier we all come to this realisation, the better. One critical question to ask those who finger Fulani herdsmen as the culprit, especially in the Southwest is: where are their cattle, and the farms destroyed?
They cannot be found – well, maybe a few farms as decoy – because they are simply not available. A closer scrutiny would reveal that this is the strategy Boko Haram prefers so that they would not be treated to the pounding they are getting in the theatre of engagement in the Northeast, A brief insight into this will reveal the following: Before the 2015 elections, Boko Haram had reached as far as Okene in Kogi State where the boundaries between it and Edo State is almost non-existent. This is where we have the Ososo hills , Ogori Magogo, and other arteries which are contiguous to the Southwest, especially around Ibillo in Akoko-Edo, dovetailing into Akoko in Ondo State – areas which are so porous, and without any iota of localised policing. From here, through Igarra and Auchi, all the way to the South south, and the south east, there are not very many major highways, so that any one travelling through is largely anonymous, the illegal road blocks littering the few roads in this entire territory are manned by police men who aid the criminals with Intelligence gathering, get paid, and easily look the other way.
After the bombing of both the Louis Edet and U.N offices, in Abuja, subsequent changes in military strategy in the north east, especially by the multinational joint task force, it has become almost impossible for these criminals to move further north. Rather, they moved into the middle belt, gradually gravitating towards other parts of the country. Does it seem reasonable that over 100 people would be killed because of cows and farms? Common sense would not let this fly because it is impossible. Take another look at the killings in Plateau State and it remains a damning amazement that people still think we are dealing with herders.
Believe it or not, Boko Haram is in town, and has become operational all over Nigeria. Only this can explain the efficiency of their operations and the ease with which they elude our security agents that even where a hundred of them operated, policemen would hardly succeed in arresting any. Another surprise is Miyetti Allah, ever eager to protect the herdsmen,is never able to appreciate that Boko Haram elements have since taken over. A major challenge is that any state which successfully dealt with these elements would only have succeeded in pushing them to the next state as borders are not so distinct. Is it even reasonable to think that Boko Haram, which rustles cattle, and robs banks in search of funds, would not want to take part in the stupendously lucrative kidnapping? What exactly have our security forces been thinking?
The solution to our insecurity, sad to say, is not in drones or CCTV cameras alone. First and foremost, all the security personnel on most of the rural arteries connected to major highways, especially in the flash point areas should, as a matter of great urgency, be weeded out as they are, in most cases, working in cahoots with the so called Fulani herders, but who, really, are Boko Haram elements, operating as professional kidnappers and armed robbers but using the ‘Fulanisation’ of the crises, and the lackadaisical attitude of the police, as cover. 80 percent of the criminals operating between Ore and Benin are indigenous to that area. Or where are their cattle?
I have been pursued twice on that road during which they operated like commercial transporters in a Toyota picnic bus; and the people in that vehicle who pulled a gun at me were not Fulani “herders”.
What the situation calls for is a solid recruitment process of graduates who are smart, and motivated enough, to form a 1000 per state special forces, drawn mostly from within the localities. The Oba, or his representative, should head a local committee on intelligence gathering, while a central intelligence hub, at the state headquarters, should be manned by a clergy or retired judge, or somebody with the right credentials. Here, prompt response and communication is key. A help desk – more like a public complaints commission – well funded and functional in many locations in each state, where people can promptly report credible observations to the authorities must be available. Special numbers, toll free, should be put on stickers and pasted in homes, as well as public places. Road transport unions should be asked to document travellers on a manifest which must be inspected weekly. If I have my way, new arrivals in a state, anywhere in the country, who would be staying for more than a week must document his/ her itinerary, and purpose of visiting, even though people will shout fundamental human rights. These are no ordinary times in our country and for us to get it right, some inconveniences will have to be suffered since to make an omelette, eggs must be broken. I suspect that people who go to the president to suggest that drones, and CCTV, alone, should be used to fix this massive insecurity, hardly travel by road, and so may not understand the urgency of now as well as what it will take to fight the menace.
Of course, technology is important and will help tremendously but given our level of development, and the extremely poor electricity situation, they cannot form the core of this battle against insecurity.
Amongst the 1000 graduates recruited for each state, there must be, especially in the forest areas to the South, forest rangers as well as those who will monitor the highways under the protection of well armed members of the Nigerian security forces.
The official security agencies must be ready, 24/7, to act on credible intelligence.
In all these, human intelligence will be key and the security agencies must be equipped with tracking equipment which would be pressed into service once any report of a kidnap is made. In such places, prompt investigations must be made to ascertain whether there is collusion or in serious cases, the entire police contingent should be moved out and new ones brought in to replace them. A cardinal aim of the new security architecture must be to allow communities take ownership of their security since they feel the pain the most and know the areas like their palm.
The federal government, since it continues to observe a stranglehold on almost everything in the country, must know that it has to sufficiently fund this and for that reason, special grants must be given to the states.
We are in dire straits and everything must be done to restore sanity into our affairs.
Not only are people no longer able to travel freely, farmers have been run out of their farms meaning that hunger may not be farfetched. Above all, government must realise, and own up to the fact that we are fighting, not against only herders, some of who hug AK47 and still perpetrate truly heinous crimes, killing and destroying farms, but principally against Boko Haram elements most of who are foreigners and, therefore, think nothing of slitting throats or disembowelling pregnant women. They are evil and our response must be equally ferocious. We must exterminate them like ants from our Fatherland.
Government is already far behind in ensuring the security of our lives and properties but it may not be all lost yet, as a stitch in time may still save nine.
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