By - Makinde Ebenezer
Nigeria’s Security Challenges And Crisis of Development, the Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen Tukur Buratai recently missed the point when he attributed the setback and security challenges faced by the Nigerian Army in the light of their operations against insurgency and terrorism in Nigeria to lack of commitment on the part of the Nigerian soldiers. Gen Tukur Buratai blamed lack of commitment of the Nigerian soldiers for the renewed threats on the Nigeria`s sovereignty occasioned by the recent deadly attacks by Boko Haram.
According to him, “it is unfortunate, but the truth is that almost every setback the Nigerian Army has had in our operations in recent times can be traced to insufficient willingness to perform assigned tasks or simply insufficient commitment to a common national/military course by those at the frontlines.” Though this statement has been met with different reactions from the general public, with some individuals and groups calling the president to sack the Chief of Army Staff, I am of the opinion that the statement essentially revealed the position of Nigerian military on the security challenges in the country.
On many occasions, the Nigeria`s government approach to insecurity including terrorism, insurgency and banditry has been that of a conventional war between the insurgent groups, kidnappers, bandits, militant groups and the Nigerian security forces. Therefore, parts of the problems being faced by the Nigerian government on insecurity relates directly with government`s understanding of the security challenges in the country.
It is my opinion that political economy approach to Nigeria`s security challenges should be adopted for better understanding of our current realities. For example, though Lt. Gen Tukur Buratai did not tell us why the soldiers are no longer motivated or committed to the tasks assigned to them, it is well documented that in the last ten years, a period which coincided with the culmination of terrorism and insurgency in Nigeria, the Nigerian military have suffered from problems related to conditions of service and welfare of its personnel and foot soldiers. In 2015 for instance, it was reported that 54 soldiers from the 111th Special Forces Battalion were sentenced to death for mutiny after they refused to join an operation against the insurgents in August due to reasons related to poor weapons given to them to fight the insurgent group.
In fact, during the regime of President Goodluck Jonathan, the Nigerian military was so broken that its soldiers refused to fight or refused to fight with commitment. The current security realities in the country especially in the light of the recent statement by the Chief of Army Staff means that Nigerian military have returned to the bad old days.
Security Crisis in Nigeria
The problem of insecurity in Nigeria is well-documented. Though not in war, the number of lives that have been lost to political violence, terrorism, and banditry in the past ten years in Nigerians is enough war casualties. According to Nigeria Security Tracker by the Council on Foreign Relations, between 2011 till date, about 61, 514 Nigerians have lost their lives either to terrorism, ethnic violence, farmer and herdsmen crisis or militancy. Though the statistics above is simply indicative, there are indications that more lives have been lost within the period under review.
Many of these killings are motivated by political, social and economic grievances. Since the emergence of President Muhammadu Buhari in 2015, the security situation in the country has not improved significantly, though the current regime was elected under the impression that it would fight corruption, decimate insurgency and all other forms of insecurity in the country and improve the economy.
As a former general, President Muhammadu Buhari unlike President Goodluck Jonathan was expected to succeed on the security front, but the current realities have proved otherwise. From May, 2015 to May, 2019, the period of President Muhammadu Buhari first tenure as the Grand Commander of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (GCFR), a total of 26, 602 Nigerians have lost their lives to political violence. The North East due to terrorism and insurgency and North Central due to farmer and herdsmen crisis and banditry have suffered the most casualties during this period.
Apart from terrorism and banditry, many deaths have also been reported due to unprofessionalism of the Nigerian security personnel. For example, in recent times, the Nigerian police have engaged in a number of extra-judicial killings, exploitation and brutalization of citizens they are supposed to protect. In the same report of the Nigeria Security Tracker by the Council on Foreign Relations, between 2011 to 2019, about 7, 000 people were killed by state actors, including the military, police and other security personnel of the Nigerian state.
Nigeria`s Security Challenges and Crisis of Development
The emergence of President Muhammadu Buhari brought renewed hope among Nigerians for a better future. The basic problems of the country including insecurity was expected to be solved. After first four years in office, the situation has remained as dire as it was before 2015. In the case of insecurity, being a former general himself, it was expected that Mr. President would engage his expertise and knowledge in helping to decimate the security challenges facing the country. However, after Buhari`s first term in office, it has become obvious that insecurity in Nigeria has little to do with the man in office. Specifically, the problem of insecurity in Nigeria is not only endemic, but it is also a manifestation of deep-rooted problem of development in the country.
The emergence of conditions of poverty, unemployment and inequality in the country have continued to lead to frustration and social discontent that spark violence and insecurity. In other words, there is an economic side to the problems of insecurity in Nigeria. Nigeria as we know it, faces no existential threats from any of its neighbours which means that the major source of threats to the country`s national security has been essentially internal, predicated upon the country political, social and economic realities.
The most pathetic feature of Nigerian state is that majority of its people are living in a state of destitution, hopelessness and poverty. Over the last few years, the optimisms and aspirations that emerged as a result of institutionalization of democracy in 1999 have turned into disillusion which have created feeling of anger and frustration which have further found expression in violent conflicts, militancy, terrorism and banditry. For example, though a young boy who ends his life as suicide bomber certainly has different motivations than the one who makes little money for his subsistence by spying or helping the terrorist organisation out, economic factors play major roles in explaining the actions of the two boys.
In a comprehensive report by the U.S. Institute of Peace under the auspices of CLEEN Foundation in Nigeria it was discovered through survey that the high incidence of unemployment and poverty in Borno and Kaduna states are the second most important reason why youth engage in religious-based violence.
The finding makes more sense when we consider the fact that in June 2013, young suspects who were released by the military claimed Boko Haram paid them 5,000 naira each (about $30 U.S. dollars) to set schools in Yobe and Borno states on fire and spy on soldiers. High level of illiteracy is also directly related to increased radicalization and engagement in terrorist activities. For what its worth, it is unlikely to find a Boko Haram foot soldier who has completed his university education. People adopt extreme religious views due to their poor or limited exposure to modern realities.
The poor economic development characterized by unemployment, poverty and access to education have created a class of poor and disenchanted majority in Nigeria to such alarming extent that they are not afraid to engage in illicit acts like terrorism at the most extreme, and kidnapping, banditry and militancy for their survival. Can any man resist the temptation of evil if his survival depends on it? In all of these, the Nigerian political leadership over the years have poorly grasp the dynamics of the country`s social and economic challenges which explains why their responsiveness to the aspirations and yearnings of the people is very dismal.
In the last few years, the Nigeria`s government has expended massive resources on the security sector of the country, but no significant efforts have been made towards eradicating poverty, unemployment and illiteracy in the country. It is important that we mention that extreme poverty, unemployment and illiteracy are fundamental security threats in Nigeria as we currently have it. And until genuine and organized (not piecemeal) efforts are made to solve these problems, the challenges of insecurity in the country might continue until no place is safe again.
As a final analysis, as long as the Nigerian government continue to understand, approach and treat issue of national security separately from the issue of national development where the challenges of unemployment, inequality and exclusion, extreme poverty, and access to basic education are not tackled proactively and diligently, the challenges of insecurity will continue to ravage the country. Therefore, addressing the conditions that influence young Nigerians to engage in banditry, kidnapping or identify with terrorism and insurgency in Nigeria will help in a significant way to reduce the menace of insecurity in the country.
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