By Gbenga Akinmoyo
Let me refresh your minds today with my concluding remarks in Part One of this series:
“To be frankly candid, the Federal Government in Nigeria today is an artificial vehicle that was given subtle credence by the Constitution through the allocation of powers, which needs to be urgently and substantially down-sized.”
As I previously stated, our President-Elect, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, must approach the assignment at hand radically differently to all his predecessors because the expectations of Nigerians around the globe in 2023, is divergent to what has obtained ever before, even though many of the deep-rooted problems that still need to be imperatively addressed have been recurring decimals on our national spectrum for several decades. It is not rocket science, you only need to ask the expectant average Nigerian, ‘What are the problems bedevilling our beloved country today?’ and they will reel them off spontaneously – Insecurity; Economy/Poverty/Hunger; Unemployment/Joblessness; Power/Energy; Infrastructure/Enabling environment; Health; Education; Agriculture/Food sufficiency.
Flashback to 2014 when Rtd. General Muhammadu Buhari became the presidential flag-bearer of the All Progressives Congress (APC), I was one of those who ferociously attacked the idea of imposing such a bitter pill on a vulnerable Nigerian populace. But when the 2015 elections came and the loud cry for Change from the voters, was heard not just on roof tops but bellowed into the polling units, the majority had their way for what has turned out to be 8 years of President Buhari. Today is precisely 8 days to the expiration of his tenure and nothing can be stated by either Lai Mohammed, the Honourable Minister for Information & Culture; nor the combined rhetoric and sweet talk of Garba Shehu and Femi Adesina, (both senior media aides of the President) that can extend the duration by even 24 hours – The bottom line is that time is up. Another Federal Government era is over and we can safely use 3 parameters to assess the performance of President Buhari – Insurgency; Corruption; and the Economy – since those were the units of measure he set for himself 8 years ago. But we shall leave that discussion for another day as it’s beyond the scope of our present focus.
Although Buhari and Tinubu are from the same political platform the APC, Nigerians will have no patience to tolerate a repeat of many shenanigans of the last 8 years, Therefore, Tinubu must take heed; tread with caution, but at a steady methodical pace. But this factual reality is an instructive reminded as Tinubu and APC prepare for the Aso Rock occupation. In the recently concluded 2023 Presidential Elections, the President-Elect, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu and his running mate Senator Kashim Shettima jointly polled a total of 8,794,726 votes out of a total of 24,025,940 valid votes cast. By simple deduction it means at least 15,231,214 voters preferred someone else to govern Nigeria for the next 4 years beginning from 29th May 2023 through to May 2027 – a humbling thought.
Having said that, I like many others would opine that the Tinubu/Shettima ticket were probably best qualified and most deserving of their victory considering all the hurdles they had to overcome in order to cross the winning line in first position according to the results declared by INEC. So, in humble gratitude to the Divine Orchestrator of the destiny of men, we urge Mr. President-Elect and his deputy to get stuck into the business of “Good Governance” as soon he is sworn-in next week.
Despite the fact that we are not experts in all the fields above mentioned, we have listened to the politicians, experts, researchers, commentators and the like, who often times exaggerate the problems and solutions, rather than putting them in layman’s language and we have also listened to the ordinary people and sampled their opinions on a wide range of issues, The thoughts present here are instructive of what they are saying on these critical yet fundamental life-affecting variables.
We begin with the all important question of Security or as it really inflict us today, Insecurity. So important was it that the outgoing administration made it one of the three cardinal points of their manifesto and campaigns to the people of Nigeria in 2014/15. It is no secret that if we were fishermen, the fishing net required to contain insecurity in 2023 and beyond has expanded substantially since 2015, without being too critical of the outgoing administration. Whilst in 2015, identifiable insecurity features pervading Nigeria included insurgency/terrorism; oil theft and illegal bunkering; cult clashes; communal clashes and killings; it is fair to say that eight years later the insecurity cocktail has been enlarged to encompass – ravaging banditry; deadly unknown gunmen; kidnapping and abductions; ritual killings; farmer/herder clashes; internet fraud; but to mention a few. The ugly tentacles of insecurity continue to be a threat to the lives & property of the vulnerable people and the natural resources & commonwealth of the Federation. Yet we have a Government of the Federation, State Governments and Local Governments, each with constitutional responsibilities.
For the avoidance of doubt, this is what the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended) says about this particular subject matter. The Constitution states that:
▪︎ the security and welfare of the people shall be the primary purpose of government –
S14 (2) (b); and
▪︎the participation by the people in their government shall be ensured in accordance with the provisions of this Constitution – S14 (2)(c);
The President-Elect will note that security and welfare as captured in this constitutional provision is a primary duty of government, but it requires the active participation of the people in order to ensure the delivery of this mandate. The second limb of that constitutional provision is usually overlooked and forms the major contention of this persuasive submission.
All too often, those commentaries about security are swift to dump this responsibility wholly on the government with the Federal government taking the bulk of the blame while the State and Local governments are minor actors in the cast of the drama playing out as Ravaging Insecurity Menace in Nigeria, leaving the people as victims, which is clearly misguided according to the constitutional definition. The people have a significant role to play in ensuring that government fulfills its security and welfare functions, but to what extent can we say it has been under-achieved as a result of either public apathy; institutional negligence; deliberate exclusion or an unhealthy combination of these?
You must concede that there is no geo-political zone in the country that has high degree of each of the insecurity threats identified above which threaten lives, property and natural resources, of which we emphasize again, do not reside in a Federal Government, but rather in the States of the Federation, which in themselves comprise of several local governments. Therefore, there is no singular killer-formula that can be prescribed or applied to eradicate insecurity, particularly as the traits and symptoms manifest differently in each of the six geo-political zones generally and within the states that make up each zone.
We suggest that in order to be more successful in addressing this critical area of human misadventure, it is essential that the States and regions take a lead in proffering practical solutions and at least for once, the federal government must listen to and follow their recommendations. The erroneous belief that the federal government through its security apparatus can tackle the insecurity tendencies better than the state or regional agencies is a fallacy. For example, in the South West zone that the federal intervention can be better than Amotekun Corps, (SW regional security outfit) or Ebubeagu floated by the governors in the South East zone; or the states in the northern part of Nigeria who operate one form of local security outfit – Zamfara; Borno; Yobe; Katsina; Adamawa; Nasarawa; Plateau; Niger, Bauchi and Kaduna State with the Kaduna State Vigilance Service was established in April 2018. It is not possible for the federal security agencies to know the local terrain better than the locals themselves and their vigilante intelligence.
The strategy for the incoming federal government must be to tackle this national problem through microscopic lenses which may require examination perhaps at local government levels, such that at least 774 security reports are generated after thorough forensic analysis at that level and then begin to work their way up the ladder through the states, to the geo-political zones, threading together areas of commonality while also identifying areas of unique distinctions because we must accept, for instance that the insecurity challenges of Idanre LGA are different to those of Akure South LGA even though the two LGAs share local boundaries in Ondo State. We cannot overemphasize the point that the lives, property and natural resources which need to be secured reside in local governments and that is where funding and resources need to be deployed rather than the previous practice of giving over-bloated attention to the federal government level and national agencies.
In our observation, there has been too much focus on the role of Service Chiefs and adjusting the national security architecture thereby adopting a top-to-bottom approach, whereas we opine that there will be greater gains if we reverse the emphasis and work from bottom up. If the President-Elect tows the same path as before thinking that the federal government has the wherewithal to tackle the hydra-headed insecurity monster, we predict further looming failure which the nation can ill-afford. Undoubtedly, solutions will be different depending on the menace we are seeking to eradicate and local intelligence is crucial in reaching the desirable prism or benchmarks.
The country has several national security agencies and collectively they play a role in addressing the insecurity in the nation. Leaving aside the Armed Forces which include the Nigerian Army; Nigerian Airforce and the Nigerian Navy, the existing national security architecture also boasts of the Nigeria Customs Service; Nigeria Immigration Service and Nigeria Correctional Service. But the list does not end there, add to the list the State Security Services (SSS) or also called the Department of State Security (DSS) which replaced the National Security Organization (NSO);; Nigeria Police Force (NPF); Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC); National Intelligence Agency (NIA); Defence Intelligence Agency (DIA); National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA); Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC); Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB); Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) as well as the Independent Commission on Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences (ICPC). All these bodies said to be working for us and the level of insecurity is on the rise rather than falling, so we are obviously not doing something right.
It is often said that, “ Crime Does Not Pay ”, but this adage is only true in the so-called sane clines that are intolerable of criminal activity on both sides of the pendulum, namely the governors as well as the governed. Each of the insecurity threats that we have identified involve a dimension of criminal activity which often results in a financial or pecuniary benefit to the perpetrator(s). The sad fact is that those proceeds of crime are often spent within the same communities where they are exploited. When ransom payments are paid to Kidnappers and Abductors and the monies are neither traced nor recovered and the perpetrators are not tracked, investigated, prosecuted and convicted to pay for their crimes in a Correctional Center then others take up the vocational malpractice. For the perpetrators who live on your street and my street where crude oil theft and bunkering is taking place uninterrupted in the backyard of the compound next door to you, then crime really begins to pay. When the internet fraudster who is harboured in your Hotel or Guest House paying over-generous tips and running huge expense bills, using the proceeds of the crime committed under your nose, then crime is not only paying but thriving and the activity becomes attractive and fashionable to others. So now we can see why the federal government must adopt a fresh grassroots approach and the citizens must recognize that they have a proactive participatory role in making sure that Section 14(2) (a) and (b) of the Nigerian Constitution are not mere words on paper.
Under a joint convention aimed at a New Security Order the government(s) and the people must have a burning desire for a change course; then map a new security strategy and work assiduously to implement it. The ingredients of such a strategy are not domain in any particular location, but we reiterate our strong advocacy for a significant involvement of local intelligence. It might also be useful to consider some of the following nuggets:
▪︎Cooperation from the general public to volunteer information. Whistle-blowing needs to be second nature for citizens not just as a response to pecuniary incentives;
▪︎Concerted efforts should be made to recruit and protect covert Local Intelligence Officers who can double-up as Street Managers. A network of streets can be easily organized into Neighbourhood Watch and the people will gladly contribute to a safer environment;
▪︎Proper investigation and prosecution of cases. Some people do not offend simply because of fear of being caught and facing stringent penalties and/or sigma in the community.
▪︎There should be prompt dispensation of justice and meting-out punishment to offenders;
▪︎Periodic review of sanctions for various offences to make necessary legal adjustments that will enhance the corrective/deterrent effect. If committing crime seems easy it becomes attractive to take risks. Although Human Rights activists will have a view, convicted Kidnappers and Abductors may think twice if the offence carried automatic death penalty.
▪︎There must be synergy between the various tiers involved in the security structure with modified and effective Reporting Channels for improved information exchange and dissemination. For example, sexual offenders must be public knowledge within the locali.
▪︎We must take advantage and employ greater use of I.C.T for intelligence gathering and information sharing at the appropriate levels.
During the last General Elections it was possible for INEC to deploy 176,606 polling units which covered the length and breadth of the vast land occupied by the 774 local government areas. Now imagine in a new dispensation if we were able, by combined effort between the rulers and the governed, to engage 176,606 Intelligence Officers/Street Managers who will assist (even if it is just) the existing frontline national law enforcement agencies like the Nigeria Police Force (NPF) and the Civil Defence (NSCDC) to supplement the efforts of the regional security outfits. Just ask yourselves, the amount of gains that we can bring to each of our local communities, local government areas, States and the Federation as a whole. This must be the way to go or certainly something along those lines. The Constitution says that security is the responsibility of us all, not just the government(s). What role are you playing in reducing the level of insecurity in your community? Let us all work together to make our communities safer places to live so that we can all sleep with both eyes closed, while we look forward to a radically different approach to be adopted by the next administration.
This article was written by Gbenga Akinmoyo who is a legal practitioner, public affairs analyst and the C.E.O of LeadiFollow Limited (+234 803 660 9090).