By Drew Povey
We face an increasing wave of insecurity – from Boko Haram in the north-east to cultists in the south-west, from bandits in Zamfara, farmer/herder disputes in the middle belt, with increasing burglaries and kidnapping everywhere.
It would be great if the government could come to our rescue and eliminate those perpetrating the violence. But it is not as simple as that. Insecurity has economic roots of inequality, poverty and corruption. Until these causes are removed we will continue to suffer the consequences.
Each of the elements of insecurity have their own peculiar reasons and backgrounds, but the common element is the economic challenges that most of us face. As a result, some people turn to violence, crime and attacks, of course this is not the best. Some feel forced down this route by the desperation of their poverty.
Insecurity is never solved by the security forces. Do we really expect those soldiers murdering #EndSARS protestors at Lekki Toll Gates to save us from insecurity? In fact it works the other way. Soldiers trained to kill Boko Haram, bandits etc are more likely to turn their guns on protesting youths. Police who spend their days extorting drivers and torturing suspected burglars are more likely to shoot at protestors, especially when the Inspector General of Police regularly says that they should defend themselves.
We have to accept that Boko Haram, like the Niger Delta militants before them, have some measure of popular support. In these circumstances no army in the world can defeat them. The US army, by far the most powerful army in the world, has been fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan since 2001. The French army have been fighting Islamist militants in the north of Mali since January 2013.
Such armed movements can only be ended with a peace settlement and the economic roots of the troubles being addressed. Insecurity in the Niger Delta only reduced after a truce with the militants and their recruitment as ‘security’ agents.
However distasteful it may be to some, many of those causing insecurity have to be settled and at least some of their issues need to be addressed. We were all horrified by the deaths of the rice farmers in Borno State at the end of November, but whatever we do now cannot bring them back to life. The best we can hope is that future killings are reduced.
It is no surprise that insecurity has dramatically increased this year after the economic situation was made worse with the impact of Covid-19, the closure of the national borders and the lockdowns.
The National Bureau of Statistics indicated before these developments that 40% of the population were living on or below the bread-line. Many of these families, especially those dependant on the informal sector, have suffered catastrophe, lack of food, children out of school as school fees cannot be paid and deaths as medical bills are unsurmountable.
Is it any surprise that some of these people turn to crime or worse to try and save their families? What do young men do who are sitting in IDP camps watching their families starve to death as their food is stolen or rots in ware-houses? Some will, of course, be tempted by relatives or friends who phone them to say how much they receive from being part of Boko Haram missions.
We need the government to address the inequality, poverty, corruption and resulting insecurity. We need the minimum wage fully implemented in all states and local governments with another increase next year. We need massive increases in spending on health and education so that fees can be dramatically reduced. We need the demands of the striking ASUU members and health workers to be addressed. Without such steps we will all continue to suffer the fear of insecurity in our communities.