Some people are campaigning for the security forces to do more on security. We are facing increased insecurity, but will demanding more from the armed forces really reduce the number of people who are killed?
People have demanded that bandits, kidnappers and others be called ‘terrorists’ and so allow the army and others to shoot them on sight. Action by the air force in bombing the ‘terrorists’ has been applauded despite the increasing number of innocent deaths. This has happened here and in other countries.
The term ‘terrorist’ is used internationally to mean those that take up arms against the US state and its allies. Socialists and other progressive minded people should take great care when using this term. It suggests that we are aligning ourselves on the side of the US in their ‘war on terror’. This is despite the American state being the organisation that inflicts more terror on the world than any other organisation.
This is a list of the countries bombed and/or invaded by the United States from the end of the Second World War to 2020 (https://www.maurer.ca/USBombing.html):
|Afghanistan 1998, 2001- 2021
Bosnia 1994, 1995
El Salvador 1980s
Guatemala 1954, 1960, 1967-69
Iraq 1991-2000s, 2015-
Lebanon 1983, 1984
Libya 1986, 2011-2018
Pakistan 2003, 2006-
Somalia 1993, 2007-08, 2010-
Yemen 2002, 2009- 2021
The problem with demanding more action from the army and others to defend us from insecurity is that armies are not trained to do that. They are trained to attack an identifiable enemy in war. Armies across the world who are involved in ‘counter insurgency’ activity inevitably end up killing far too many innocent people.
As happened in the North East, if the army was attacked, it would go out and massacre a few people in the area where they were attacked. This is what armies across the world do when faced with such attacks. This is what appears to have happened after the recent attack on the Presidential Brigade Guards in the FCT.
After the attack, over 30 people in the Bwari area of FCT were killed by the army. Kawu and Ido villages were cleared and the army says that it recovered three weapons. Who knows who the army killed but they do not seem to have been heavily armed – one weapon for every 10 people killed? The Guards were attacked on Monday night and the retaliation was announced on Thursday. Would insurgents really stay locally after attacking the army?
The Police Commissioner for the FCT has said that they will take “the fight to the bandits and terrorists in their camps which are mostly located in states boarding the FCT”. The problem is will the security forces be able to tell the difference between local villages and ‘bandit camps’.
Many innocent young men appear to be being killed in the South East by the security forces and others. On 25th July, hundreds of women and youths of Oguta local government area, Imo State, staged a protest, calling for the government Ebubeagu security outfit to be banned from operating in Oguta. They said a youth was killed the day before. At least seven others were killed in Oru West Local Government Area the week before. Two-day mass protests were held by all the communities in Oru West who barricaded the Owerri/Onitsha road.
The Nigerian army (like all armies across the world) has been guilty of many massacres. This includes the Lekki Gate killings. According to the panel of Inquiry, at least 48 protestors were shot dead (at least nine) or injured or assaulted. Another three died in the attack on protestors at Alausa, Ikeja the same evening. They also massacred Shiites in Zairia in December 2015 (at least 348) and by Karu Bridge, Abuja in October 2018 (39 dead). In 1999 possibly several hundred were killed in an attack on Odi town, Bayelsa State. This was in retaliation for the killing of 12 police and an ambush of soldiers locally. In April 2013 as many as 200 civilians may have been massacred by the army in Baga a small fishing village in the far north east of Borno State.
The use of air power is likely to result in much more ‘collateral damage’ as we showed in the following article: https://socialistlabour.com.ng/2021/09/18/how-can-we-address-insecurity-do-aerial-bombardments-have-any-role-2/
Since this article was written we have had the Air Force killing in Kaduna and more recently six children were bombed in Niger State .
In the early hours of Saturday, 26th March, 2022, bandits invaded the Kaduna International Airport for twelve hours. 12 people were then killed by the Air Force with a helicopter attack, after one person was killed. The army spokes person said, “On arrival, the bandits were already running away. So, we engaged them through the use of ground forces. Then we called for air strike and a helicopter was deployed and from the air report, about 12 of the bandits were killed.”
On 13th April 2022, the air force bombed Kurebe community in the Shiroro area of Niger State, six girls were killed by a bore hole. The Air Force had been informed that there were only bandits in the area. See the Premium Times investigation: https://www.premiumtimesng.com/investigationspecial-reports/545183-investigation-inside-story-of-how-nigeria-air-force-bombed-children-terrorised-by-boko-haram-in-niger.html
A military aircraft bombed a village in the north of Togo in the early hours of July 10, 2022, killing seven civilians. It was assumed that they were insurgents, but as usual who knows who was actually killed? The Togolese armed forces admitted on July 14th that they were responsible for the killing of seven civilians and injuring two others
So the total spending has increased from N302 billion in 2015 when Buhari came to power to N907 billion for this year. Buhari has increased the military budget by three times since he came to power, but he only increased the minimum wage once and this has not even been implemented in several states. He has not significantly increased the budgets for health and education. As a share of the total budget, the federal education budget was less than half the rate in 2015.
On the subject of insecurity in Nigeria Eddy Madunagu said (in February 2020):
The fundamental demand that should be made on the Nigerian state is that everything should be done within the Constitution to protect the masses – at no extra cost to them, but rather, with a substantial reduction of their current existential burden. No entity (state or non-state) should circumvent or abridge the known basic laws which the Nigerian state and the ruling class claim they are currently using to rule the nation. We must, with clear heads, insist on this because modern history has taught us that one clear sign of rising fascism under capitalism is the increasing inability of the state to govern by its own laws or by its own laws alone.
Beyond this central composite demand on the Nigerian state there are complementary practical demands that can be made on the authorities at different levels. We should note that the country is in a situation in which the Left, in groups and as individuals, may ally with or support clear “pro-people” and “progressive” initiatives from outside the movement – the dangers of not having a guide or “compass” notwithstanding. Beyond these steps is the advice to be given directly and continuously to the masses. This popular campaign should always include the insistence that at the root of this “insecurity” and this “threatening state failure” is capitalism, capitalist rule and this particular generation of Nigeria’s capitalist ruling class.
International experience has shown that insecurity on the current scale in Nigeria cannot be defeated by military power and that this only results in more deaths. The underlying social and economic problems of terrible poverty, insecurity and corruption have to be addressed this is the only way to stop future killings and kidnappings. Remember the US were defeated in Vietnam and more recently in Afghanistan, the French were asked to leave Mali, Britain had to negotiate with the IRA and re-build the police in Northern Ireland. We cannot call for more action from the security services – their guns will inevitably be turned on us and other innocent people. We need to campaign for solidarity with the tertiary education strikes, the implementation of the NLC’s Charter of Workers demands (https://socialistlabour.com.ng/2022/07/15/nlc-charter-of-demands/) and its adoption by the Labour Party. Insecurity will only reduce when we have a fairer society.