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Insecurity in Nigeria, by Obi Nwakanma

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The real challenge of writing a weekly newspaper column in Nigeria is that Nigeria does not listen. We are now repeating ourselves. Everything has been written.

All that needs to be said about the Nigerian situation have been said. Facts and figures have been deployed to show the state of our incontinence. And Nigeria is serially incontinent.

But the needle has not moved one bit towards an answer to the many questions raised by Nigerians, and by newspaper columns. In fact, does Nigeria still exist? That is the question.

What evidence is here to indicate that there is still a nation, and that a federal government of Nigeria is still in charge of Nigeria’s body corporate? The obvious and objective facts seem to suggest that Nigeria is no longer in existence.

It is what scholars of nation call a “failed state.” Yes, it does seem to exist, but only formally. What exists is a shadow of a nation held together by a fragile thread. A little nudge, and the super-structure will collapse like a pack of cards. The fundamental spirit of the nation has left. The spirit of a nation is the people.

Nigerians no longer trust Nigeria. They no longer value the meaning of Nigeria, nor comprehend it. They are increasingly aware that the current state of Nigeria is a threat to their own existence. Therefore, their first, and immediate tendency is to resist it.

Fight it and tear it down. This is dangerous. And this is what seems to be the situation in Okuama, Delta State, where Nigerian soldiers were attacked and killed.

The state as a terrorist state breeds resistance. This is a dialectical fact. Let me bring to bear two works by the American social critic, public intellectual, and Emeritus Professor of Linguistics and Philosophy at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Noam Chomsky.

The first is his book, Failed States (2006), and The Culture of Terrorism (1988). Chomsky outlines in these two books, what I think highlights the Nigerian dilemma. “Failed States,” Noam Chomsky writes, are characterized by their, “inability or unwillingness to protect their citizens from violence and perhaps even destruction.

Another is their tendency to regard themselves as beyond the reach of domestic and international law, and hence free to carry out aggression and violence.

And if they have democratic forms, they suffer from a serious “democratic deficit’ that deprives their formal democratic institutions of real substance.”

The foregoing characterizes Nigeria in its current situation. It no longer, it seems, capable of protecting its citizens from violence.

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It has failed in the first, and most fundamental objective of the nation: to guarantee the safety of its citizen. Every other objective of state is linked to this fundamental objective. That is why nations create institutions.

In the Constitution of Nigeria, the institution established and mandated to protect Nigerians from domestic violence and terrorism is the Nigerian Police Force. Not the Nigerian Army. The job of the Armed Military Force is to secure the territorial integrity of Nigeria, and defend it against foreign aggression.

The only time the Nigerian military forces can be deployed internally, for internal operation is if the President obtains emergency powers to conduct internal security operations under a state of emergency.

In that situation, that is when the Army is called upon to act, the only condition must be for the “suppression of insurrection.”

The president cannot deploy the Armed Forces internally except under such an emergency, and unless he obtains such power from the National Assembly.

As a matter of fact, the Nigerian Police Force can be mustered, according to the Constitution of Nigeria, and the Police Act to military duties. The Constitution of Nigeria is clear on this: in section 214: 2, paragraph (c) “the National Assembly may make provisions for branches of the Nigeria Police Force forming part of the armed forces of the Federation or for the protection of harbours, waterways, railways and air fields.”

In other words, the Nigerian Police Force is established, and ought to be equipped to deal with the problems of banditry, terrorism, kidnapping, and even insurrection within the internal territorial state called Nigeria.

That is why, we must now ask the real questions, with regards to the very sad, tragic, unfortunate, and unacceptable killing of seventeen Nigerian soldiers in Okuama.

What were these soldiers doing in Okuama? On what constitutional authority were they deployed to a civil dispute? There was no insurrection in Okuama.

There was a land dispute. A simple domestic affair which could have been very peacefully quelled by a properly trained Police unit.

But quick to the draw, they sent in the Army, apparently to intimidate the town of Okuama, and subdue the parties in the land dispute.

There was no state of emergency in Delta State for which a military unit should be deployed for internal operations.

It is unclear whether the governor of Delta state was aware this military operation, which resulted in these casualties.

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It all seems like a very arbitrary use of the Armed Forces. The question therefore is a very constitutional one.

Although no act of killing, including of military personnel should be tolerated, but the point should be raised that the soldiers were there in violation of the constitution of Nigeria, and may have triggered violent citizens response.

If the Nigerian National Assembly were properly up tom its task, it should have started investigations on the unconstitutional deployment of the Armed Forces, and heads would roll. The rule of law will prevail.

And there will be a sense of constitutional order. Part of the reasons for Nigeria’s insecurity is the long sense of siege, from the era of military dictatorships, which Nigerians feel.

Successive Nigerian governments have used the Armed Forces to terrorize Nigerians. Nigerian citizens have been forced to develop a very deep adversarial relationship with the military, who ought to be fighting at the borders, against international threats by transnational terrorists’ groups like Boko Haram and ISIS in West Africa rather than within Nigeria’s domestic space.

A properly designed and equipped Nigerian Police Force should be “policing” Nigeria. But Nigerian citizens do not respect, nor do they trust the police as a true law enforcement institution.

In any case, it is a deliberately undermined, poorly organized, and poorly equipped service, which in its current state, cannot fulfil its constitutional role in Nigeria. Nor was it designed to. It is dated. It is ineffective.

Imagine that the president of Nigeria possibly has no idea the basis of the constitution in which his office operates.

This was evident when he told the Chief of Defence Staff to “fish out” the killers of the soldiers. Is the Chief of Defence Staff a policeman? He has no such powers. The power to pursue and arrest belongs to the Police.

The next line of action now would be to level Okuama like Umuechem, Odi, and Zakibiam, and destroy innocent lives without qualm. Nigeria has proved itself a terrorist.

A terrorist state, breeds terror. State and public terror are the products of long years of the mismanagement of institutions of law, and of law enforcement. That is why Nigeria has far too many security flashpoints.

National Security has been privatized. It is now the basis of a National Security protocol, to use non-state actors as both merchants of terror and peacekeepers. Dokubo Asari. Tompolo. Ateke Tom.

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An entire phalanx of non-state actors equipped, armed and empowered to do the job for which the Nigerian Police Force was established.

It has grown even more complex. Terror is now a serious form of merchandise. Insecurity is now very big business. Terror is a lucrative gig.

Take the kidnappings in Kaduna, and other parts of the North. It is now so childish and so obvious that these are poorly staged acts of “terror.”

It worked under Buhari, and even under Jonathan, with the kidnap of the Chibok girls. It was a show of spine that Tinubu refused, and declared that Nigeria under his presidency will not negotiate or pay the kidnappers. He got that one right. And it was not long before the students – 136 out of 287 – were released.

They were all arrayed in very clean batik clothes on arrival. But what nobody has yet to answer is the logistical question: how could this number of students be kidnapped, moved through the town of Kuriga, to a kidnapper’s hideout in neighboring Zamfara, without alert or police action? Where are Nigeria’s Eyes in the sky, its drones, a Central Command Center for an anti-terrorism task force, highly trained, highly efficient and deadly, which should be deployed, just like the Mobile Police of yore, but this time with better training, better organization, and new technologies. A task force that is both visible and invisible.

That should anticipate, and nip acts of terror in the bud before they occur; that can do precision and targeted operations, by day or by pitch darkness; at sea; on land, or in the sky; that has intelligence gathering capabilities, and that can protect Nigerians quietly and silently. This is what Nigerian needs now. This is what the National Assembly and President should sit down to design and deploy with a unique oversight created mechanisms created to prevent executive misuse. That’s what Nigeria should be talking about. Enough pussyfooting.

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