Nigeria: Government is Not Doing Enough to Protect Citizens

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The Moment (London), Agatha Emeadi, 6 August 2011

Interview

SECURITY expert, Dr. Ona Ekhomu, Nigeria’s first Chartered Security Professional, dissects the security challenges presently confronting the nation, comes down hard on the Jonathan administration for its failure to crack the jigsaw puzzle, and proffers solutions.

The security situation in the country is going from bad to worse. Where do we go from here?

 

I think the first thing is to recognise that we do have a veritable security problem in the country, though not a contrived one. People’s lives are being lost and government is not living up to its mandate, not living up to expectation. The usual mandate of government involves protection of lives and property – that is the first concern of any government. It is a contract between the government and the governed. As long as the government is not living up to its mandate at any level, be it federal, state or local, it is a breach of that contract. It is very unfortunate that crime is everywhere; it is a human condition and experience, but, then, when you have rampant crime and there appears to be inability to control the crime – because that is what you could do; you cannot eradicate it – but when it appears that people who are supposed to be controlling crime are not able to control it, that gives concern and that is exactly where we are today.

We as the service recipients, we know that the service is inadequate, so we have to say that the government has to go back to the drawing board.

Now, government keeps on en-paneling one commission or the other; even last week they en-paneled one for Boko Haram to go and find out who the Boko Haram people are. Boko Haram would not come out to say here we are because they are a terrorist organisation; they have a lot of blood on their hands. They believe in the destruction of the Nigerian State, so it is an anarchical organization. They want us to go back to the cave man days. I do not know what they are talking about. I think the law enforcement option should be applied to control their deviant behaviour.

Can they really be controlled?

Their activities could be controlled. I think it should be controlled before talking about the grievances, underlying causes, etc. What is happening now is criminal action and terrorist action. The way you deal with terrorism is not necessarily by saying, ‘Okay, I will turn the other cheek for you to slap’. No! Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) a.k.a bombs are going off here and there. What is happening? Where are they coming in from, because they are not manufactured in Nigeria? IEDs are imported into this country from neighbouring countries. What sanctions are we applying against those people who are sending people to destabilise our country? If they are embracing them and talking about African brotherhood, what kind of African brotherhood are we talking about?

 

Law enforcement agencies should take a second view of what is going on there because you have the diplomats talking, and you have the enforcers saying their own. Why are the borders so loose that people could come in with truckloads of explosives and truckloads of AK 47? Why are the borders so loose all the times? Where are the Customs? Where are the Immigrations? Where is police border patrol? Who is being sanctioned for all these loose borders that we have?

We know that Borno State has been a beehive of activities for foreign anti-social elements coming in from across the borders because they look like Nigerians and they speak the same language. Why is it that we are not able to identify Nigerians among them and send the rest across the border?

What about the intelligence on the movement of IEDs? Where is the money for payment for information about IEDs in Borno State? Instead of buying cars for the widows of Boko Haram victims, why can’t such money be used to pay for information that will lead to the capture and killing of Boko Haram members? Priorities are being misplaced where we are talking about pacification and mollification rather than enforcement of the laws and protection of the citizens of this country. It is very unfortunate. Maybe I am the only one who is not getting it right.

What we are supposed to do is to go after the deviant elements. There is nowhere you do not have aggrieved people. There is no state in this country that do not have one complaint or the other, including my state, Edo. My state has the highest number of university graduates in this country, but where are the jobs? Does that mean they should carry arms and start fighting the Federal Government of Nigeria? Some of those graduates you see are into farming of all sorts, planting and harvesting, fishing, poultry, plantations, orchards, etc. Have you not noticed that most okada riders and commercial bus conductors are also university graduates? Even though we all condemn prostitution at all levels, but those girls you see that prostitute in Europe who are being repatriated in form of human cargo are from my own state and it is so shameful. I am not justifying it because I detest prostitution, but they are doing it because it is an easy way to survive, even though it is evil. Why can’t all these groups of people carry arms and start fighting and killing people?

 

For you to take up arms and start shedding innocent blood, women and children killed daily, police killed daily, law enforcement personnel killed daily . . . the government should understand that their first job is to protect and preserve the life and property of the citizens of this country. Their job is not to promote anarchy. Since Boko Haram’s job is to promote anarchy, I am not ready to go back to the cave man’s days. I am sure that all the millions of Nigerians who came out and voted for President Goodluck Jonathan are not ready to go back to the cave man’s days. If the Boko Haram people think they are so popular, why didn’t they go and stand election to see if they would win? That is how to test popularity and get popular mandate. This is democracy, for goodness sake; it is not an anarchical type of government.

Some people are of the opinion that, considering the boldness of Boko Haram, other radical groups such as OPC, MASSOB, Arewa Youths and Niger Delta militants should not be stopped. What is your take?

I think there are different social criminal problems. Some are criminals while some are terrorists. They are different and I like to call all of them deviant problems because they are deviant behaviours that these people are putting up in different parts of the country. If you follow my history in the past 20 to 30 years in this country, whenever any of these social problems rears its head in the country, I have spoken against them, including OPC here in Lagos. I had very strong positions against OPC and government bought some of my ideas and discarded some. My model basically is law enforcement.

What does the law say and how do we enforce it? Then, we can now deal with the political issues behind that. It is not for one group to come out and exhibit deviant behaviour and use that to justify the action. It does not work like that. You cannot come out and after killing some people, you say after all everybody would die at the end of the day and that would be the reason why you committed murder. That is nonsense. No civilised society accepts that. We have had all kinds of problems in the past: MASSOB in the East, the Niger Delta militancy in the South-South, Arewa people, OPC here in the South-West. Meanwhile, OPC are performing as security guards now. Why I mentioned them is because here we are talking about a basic failure in policing. Why are these social groups relevant? They are relevant because of a basic failure.

That is not the problem in Borno State. In Borno and Bauchi, the problem there is that the militants there are foreign in origin, foreign in financing. That was why I asked where are all these IEDs coming from? Boko Haram has a lot of al-Shabab elements from Somalia, which is al-Qaeda’s offshoot in Africa, in it. Boko Haram also has the GFFC from Algeria in it. So you see you have that toxic element of al-Qaeda, you can see the kind of extremism and the kind of hate that goes in there. You could see that religion became a smokescreen for another agenda. You see what is happening in Somalia right now. Let the Boko Haram go and fix the problem in Somalia. We do not want that kind of problem here because here in Nigeria, we have our own drought in the Saharan zone.

The agrarian opportunities, fishing opportunities in Borno State are diminishing. We have all these problems here and that does not mean we will descend into anarchy. It means that we have a big country, which is pluralistic, secular. It literarily shows that Benue can feed indigenes of Borno State. We do not need those extremists who do not have any reality other than fighting and killing and bloodshed to come and start dictating for a country like Nigeria. When you want to solve a problem, you must have a mental level of understanding, you do not solve things by wishful thinking.

 

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