Until recently, the word ‘insurgence’ was alien to the Nigerian society. But the activities of the jihadist terrorist group popularly called “Boko Haram” opened this new chapter of militancy in Nigeria. Shootings, bombings, kidnappings, arson in various parts of the country became ubiquitous, especially in the North. These activities have heightened the spate of insecurity in the nation. For us to make progress as a nation, the spate of wanton killings must be stopped. No nation can make meaningful progress in this situation.
Apart from igniting fear; insecurity has become the common word on the lips of every Nigerian and a discussion topic where two or three persons gather. The presence of several illegal armed groups, ethnic militia groups, religious fundamentalists and fanatics does not augur well for us as a nation. These have given birth to series of violent crimes and injustices that we hear every day. It is clear that these happenings are negatively affecting Nigeria politically, economically and culturally. Even the international community is losing confidence in the ability of Nigeria to contain the situation.
However, the worst of all is the kidnapping of young innocent schoolchildren especially those in boarding schools in northern states. Kidnapping of school children started seven years ago in a little known community called Chibok, in Borno state on April 14, 2014 when Boko Haram terrorists abducted hundreds of schoolgirls from their dormitories at a time the students were writing their final year exams. About 57 of the girls managed to escape at different times while on transit with their abductors.
This Chibok incident was followed on 18th February 2018 by the abduction of another 110 schoolgirls by Boko Haram in Dapchi town of Yobe State. On 11th December 2020, gunmen attacked Government Boys Science Secondary School in Kankara Local Government Area of Katsina State and took away over 300 students. Incidentally, it happened while President Buhari was in his Daura hometown of Katsina State. Again, on 17th February 2021 another set of bandits abducted 27 students and 15 others at Government Science School, Kagara in Niger State. The last and most recent was the abduction of 317 female students on February 26, 2021 by bandits at Government Girls Secondary School Jangebe, Zamfara State in an early morning raid on their school. Many of these students (from Chibok and Dapchi) are yet to be rescued and reunited with their families several years after they were kidnapped.
Suffice it to say that these kidnapping cases as well as destruction of farm lands and other heinous crimes all over the country paint a picture of a deteriorating security situation in the country and a growing assertiveness of terrorist groups.
We reject government’s ineffective response to the deepening insecurity in the country and failure to protect civilians from the insurgency as well as criminal violence.
That the gunmen were able to move hundreds of boys and girls through the roads without challenge shows security in the areas are inadequate. Successful negotiation resulting in the release of kidnap victims is one thing that is fueling the spate of kidnappings across the country, making it a lucrative business with huge returns.
Many armed groups operate in the forests therefore reaching an agreement of good conduct with one of them does not guarantee that others would not embark on a similar venture in the future especially when certain concessions are made.
Nigerians should learn to hold those in government accountable. The federal government should be disgusted with what is currently happening. It is ironic that while government is willing to part with millions of Naira to placate the criminals, Nigerian soldiers have lost morale, defending the nation with no proper care, facilities and equipment. The soldiers also contend with vast, ungoverned territories that they do not know, but which are familiar ground to the criminal gangs and insurgents living there.
In 2019 alone, more than 800 soldiers and policemen were killed; one of the deadliest years since Boko Haram’s violence started 12 years ago. On the whole over 16,000 persons have lost their lives in the last 12 years when Boko Haram insurgency started.
As a way out, government must review the existing security architecture in the country, motivate the soldiers and stop payments for ransom. Anybody caught involved in kidnapping and banditry should be made to face the law. In this regard, the military should be made to face its primarily duty of defending the territorial integrity of Nigeria while the Nigerian Police Force should be re-organized to handle internal security; properly equipped and motivated.