Solving the Kidnapping/Banditry Menace in Northern Nigeria
By Abdulhaleem Ishaq Ringim
AREWA AGENDA – Nigeria as a state has surfed through numerous hurdles for as far as security is concerned. Ranging from the Niger Delta Insurrection and militancy, the Boko Haram misadventure, the herders – Farmers crisis and most recently, the restive banditry and intractable kidnappings for ransom in the Northern part of the country.
Today, Nigeria’s citizenry nurture a feeling of absolute disappointment and insecurity towards the constitutionally mandated body saddled with the responsibility of their security and welfare – The Government. The ineptitude of the government towards the current ravaging security challenges is indeed alarming.
According to the United Nations, about 1400 lives were lost to banditry and kidnappings in the first quarter of 2019. About 685 kidnappings occurred in the same period costing families hundreds of millions of Naira hence rendering many of them financially impotent in this current harsh economic conditions.
This is coming at a time when the country is recovering from the agony of almost 27 thousand deaths, more than 2 million displaced persons and a financial implication of more than 5 Trillion Naira in just 4 years(2016-2019) caused by the Boko haram insurgency.
Northern Nigeria, is now the new hub for banditry and kidnappings for ransom. The roads which are the most used method of transportation have become utterly unsafe. In roads like that of Niger, Kaduna, Abuja, Birnin Gwari, Zamfara and lots more, stories of kidnap incidences and armed banditry have become a daily routine.
By critically assessing the trajectory and history of insecurity in Northern Nigeria and even Nigeria at large, one will clearly realize that the root causes are rallying around some definite factors which if not confronted heads on would continue to fuel these seemingly unquenchable crisis.
First, It is only in my country that insecurity and many other sensitive issues of national concern are seen to be sole faults and responsibilities of the government and the governing political party alone. The opposition parties choose to remain dormant and selectively mute to such issues, all one could hear from them are statements of condemnation and blames. They only seem to be active during elections and in times of election appeals.
The ruling party party also never look upon opposition parties as collaborative agents, the “let’s come and work together for our country” mantra is never given any serious consideration or genuine commitment.
And we can never deny the fact that most of these security challenges are politically motivated either directly or indirectly. We have bandits today partly because some Politicians would contract, illegally sponsor and equip criminal minded people for the purpose of causing mayhem in cases where some political interests of theirs are not protected and if it so happens that these interests become protected, these criminals will be left on their own with destructive arms at their disposal. What does one expect they will do with those arms?
Hence, there is need for the government to convene a grand security summit targeting Northern elites, traditional rulers, politicians, political parties, regional advocacy groups, security experts of Northern Nigeria to come to the table and rigorously discuss security in-depth and come forth with a realistic and consensus-based strategy of tackling this decimating menace. The government should open her doors to inter-party collaboration with the aim of curbing this menace.
Second, there is need for a holistic review of the nation’s security framework. The centralized system of defense and policing has proven to be ineffective in a country like Nigeria. Community policing strategies should be adopted so that policing of a particular region would be the responsibility of the indigenous people of that region who have the knowledge of the region’s peculiar challenges, local inhabitants, culture, and geography and can proffer peculiar solutions that would be commensurate with the region’s insecurity dynamics. There should not be need for any police officer to be posted to anywhere other than his state of origin for effective citizen-focused security.
Third, Nigeria is by international standard one of the most under secured countries in the world. 200 Million people are policed by 371,800 policemen. While some believe Nigeria is under policed, others believe it is even over policed but still under secured as the UN standard police to citizen ratio is 1:450. What we don’t put into consideration is the fact that a large chunk of the police force manpower are attached to the regime and “the people that matter” leaving a relatively low portion to safeguard the general citizenry.
The police force is also underfunded, underequipped, undertrained, under resourced and poorly remunerated.
Therefore, there is need for a review in the policing system where policing will largely be citizen-focused, more police officers should be recruited to augment the existing once and curtail the already existing overstretch.
The government should consider options of funding the police outside the budget through leveraging the large population of the private sector so that challenges of dilapidated barracks, inadequate equipments and training, poor service delivery and lack of morale would be largely solved.
Technology and forensic sciences should be adopted in Nigeria’s policing system. The police force should leverage on several citizen database systems in the country for example the BVN, National Identity Cards, Voters Cards etc for information and employ CCTV operations and adopt forensics like fingerprint matching, facial recognition, Hair and other DNA analysis so as to enhance speedy criminal recognition. They should also enter into active collaboration with the NCC and all mobile service providers for accurate tracking and triangulation of criminals wherever they are. It is very unfortunate that kidnappers usually communicate to families through mobile phones that are trackable but the police never leverage on that advantage.
Fourth, just like the police, the military is also seriously challenged with issues of understaffing, lack of security intelligence, poor morale, lack of state of the art military gadgets and infrastructure, corruption and exhausted leadership.
There is need for the federal government to immediately sack the country’s service chiefs and replace them with fresh bloods with more effective, prudent and pragmatic strategies to arrest the numerous insecurity challenges. Corruption in the military should be solved with adequate and frequent accountability and transparency checks and brutal punishments should be prescribed for corrupt military officers. The military should be adequately funded, trained and equipped for effective crackdown on insecurity in the country.
Fifth, international politics unarguably plays a vital role in Nigeria’s internal security challenges. The firearms proliferation in the country is largely attributed to lack of commitment of neighboring countries (especially francophones) to the fight against insurgency in Nigeria. France which is their mother nation has roughly over 4500 troops in the West African region but have never taken a bold step in helping Nigeria fight most of its security challenges especially armed banditry whose main actors are allegedly of Tuareg and other francophone origins. There are allegations that even with France’s heavy military presence in the region, supporting Nigeria’s fight against insecurity would be counterproductive to their quest towards undermining Nigeria’s regional hegemony. Some nurture the intuition that there exist conflict entrepreneurs in these neighboring countries who arm these bandits and offer them these destructive contracts.
Hence, there is need for Nigeria to actively engage France and all neighboring francophone countries in discussions around insecurity in Nigeria. The role they need to play should be clearly defined and any hidden interest should be vividly tabled and diplomatically trashed. The Multinational Joint Task Force should be properly leveraged for regional defense.
Sixth, most of the security challenges in Nigeria are rooted around lack of political will, bad governance, unstable economy, illiteracy, corruption, large economic gap and ineffective post insurgency peace building strategies.
The government needs to be proactive in setting effective poverty alleviation strategies and economic policies that would ensure citizen-based development. For crimes to be properly controlled, our educational sector needs a thorough overhaul to create an educational system that must guarantee jobs at the end through curriculums that would ensure graduates being job providers rather than job seekers.
Rule of law should always prevail and the country should establish transparent redress and reconciliation programs aimed at solving problems around extrajudicial actions taken by the state to restore citizens trust in the government. The government should also focus on peace building and sustenance mechanisms to avoid re-eruption of insecurity after successful management.
Finally, Nigeria must leverage the powers and influence of traditional rulers in the country as they are most often highly respected and are lucrative sources of genuine information. There is need for a review in the laws guiding traditional leadership institutions in such a way that they beget more recognition, statutory responsibility and rewards. They would unarguably be productive resources towards curbing the insecurity menace in Nigeria.
Abdulhaleem Ishaq Ringim is a political and public affairs analyst, opinion columnist and an advocate for sustainable development. He writes from Zaria and can be reached through [email protected]
Arewa Agenda is a Publication of young writers from Northern Nigeria towards Peaceful Coexistence and National Development through positive narratives