Saturday, May 29, marked exactly six years since President Muhammadu Buhari took office as the fourth man to lead Nigeria in the Fourth Republic.
The former army general who became the first opposition candidate to win a presidential election in Nigeria returned to power in 2015 on the strength of his promise to tackle insecurity, fight corruption and improve the economy. His election followed the abduction of more than 200 schoolgirls from a Chibok in the country’s northeast Borno state by Boko Haram armed group.
In his inaugural address, Mr Buhari vowed to tackle “head on” the Boko Haram insurgents who at the time had taken over several local government areas in Borno, Adamawa and Yobe states.
He vowed to crush Boko Haram within three months and recover all the territories it had seized.
But six years after and about two years to the end of his final second term, insecurity has worsened beyond the Boko Haram insurgency. Virtually all parts of Nigeria are currently battling one form or another of violent crimes, evidence that the president has failed to keep his promise on security.
The Global Terrorism Index (2019) ranked Nigeria as the third-worst nation prone to terrorism with no improvement since 2017.
Asides insurgency, banditry, kidnapping and secessionist violence are pushing Nigeria towards the brink of collapse with many calling for the resignation of the president for “failing” to secure the country.
Last month, a lawmaker from the president’s ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), Smart Adeyemi, was moved to tears while contributing to a debate in the Senate on the dire security situation.
Overwhelmed by the situation, the president appealed to the United States for help.
PREMIUM TIMES in this report examines the steps the Buhari government has taken towards ending the insecurity and why they are yet to yield the desired results.
Fighting Boko Haram
Upon resumption of office in 2015, Mr Buhari relocated the military command from Abuja to Maiduguri, the birthplace of Boko Haram.
He improved the military budget and approved the purchase of arms for the security forces and agencies.
Based on his promise to also end corruption, Mr Buhari began a probe of the use of military funds under the previous administration of President Goodluck Jonathan.
As part of that process, he ordered the arrest of the former National Security Adviser, Sambo Dasuki, over alleged embezzlement of $2 billion or nearly N650 billion allocated for arms purchase.
Some gains were made in the recovery of lost territories with the government repeatedly claiming it had recorded “technical defeat” over the terror group, but the reprieve was short-lived. Boko Haram’s split in 2016, leading to a splinter group called Islamic State- West Africa (ISIS-WA), heralded a new dawn of terror.
Matt Eze, a security analyst believes the presidents’ “lengthy and constant medical trips abroad left a leadership gap that emboldened insecurity.”
Barely one year in office, Mr Buhari made his medical trip to the UK as president. He continued to make such trips and in 2017 alone, spent over 150 days abroad treating an undisclosed ailment.
A Daily Trust analysis showed that the president by 2017 had spent over eight months in the UK since he took office.
Meanwhile, in 2018, the military suffered its highest fatalities against Boko-haram. The group captured a large cache of military hardware and was responsible for the death of at least 600 Nigerian soldiers, the Conversation reported.
Mr Buhari would soon start losing key political allies ahead of his reelection bid in 2019 due largely to the worsening insecurity. Several states in the war-ravaged regions of the north threatened not to vote for him.
In a frantic move to reassure Nigerians of his commitment to ending the insurgency, the president in late 2018 approved the withdrawal of $462 million from the Excess Crude Account (ECA) for payment to the United States for the procurement of 12 Super Tucano aircraft, without prior approval of the National Assembly.
Within the same period, he also gave approval to the military to make weapons purchases worth $1 billion, former defence minister, Mansur Dan Ali, had said.
The jets have not been delivered to Nigeria and the Nigerian army has kept blaming inadequate weapons and personnel for its losses in the fight against insurgency.
After months of pressure over his response to the worsening security situation, Mr Buhari in January fired his service chiefs and top military commanders.
In his new year message, the president admitted that insecurity was destroying investments in Nigeria under his watch.
In the past decade, even before Mr Buhari took office, Nigeria’s defence budget had taken a large chunk of the total budget.
Under former President Jonathan, in the 2015 budget, N934 billion was allocated to the security sector.
The figures for 2011 and 2012 were N920 billion and N924 billion respectively while N923 billion each was given to the sector in 2013 and 2014.
How these huge sums were spent however remains unclear as there were no reliable performance reports by the security agencies at the time.
In the last five years under President Buhari, the defence budget continued to be high with N878.4 billion and N840.56 billion earmarked for the military in 2020 and 2021 respectively.
Yet, the performance of the military remains poor. So what accounts for the mismatch of funding and effectiveness?
Corruption, funds mainly allotted to recurrent budgets and late passage of annual budgets are the main factors militating against effective use of funds to tackle insecurity, according to security experts.
For instance, the military and the police spent a whopping 91 per cent of their budgets on recurrent expenditure in 2020, comprising overhead and personnel costs.
The Ministry of Defence, comprising the Army, Navy, Air Force, Defence Headquarters, Nigerian Defence Academy, Defence Intelligence Agency and 11 other units shared N878 billion in 2020.
Of the total allocation, the recurrent expenditure stood at N778 billion while the remaining N99 billion went to capital expenditure for the purchase of defence equipment, sea boats, rehabilitation of barracks across the six geo-political zones, procurement of ammunition among other things needed to fight insecurity and defend the Nigerian territory.
Recurrent expenditure goes into personnel cost, comprising salaries, wages, allowances and social contributions.
Of the N409 billion received by the police in 2020, the total recurrent expenditure was N395 billion, representing a huge 96.75 per cent of the allocation.
The situation is forcing some of the security agencies to make part payments for security items they would have used to fight insecurity.
On the corruption front, a recent survey by the Conversation gathered that some military personnel, politicians and other public officers were diverting public funds meant to fight terror and insecurity.
The report revealed how expenditures are sometimes duplicated using different headings by staff in the defence ministry and military institutions.
It also showed that the lack of transparency in the procurement process encouraged corruption. The procurement of military weapons was usually shrouded in secrecy which meant that outdated items instead of modern weapons were purchased.
Negotiating with terror groups
Globally, the dilemma of fighting insurgents, militant groups or bandits have been either to fight them to the finish or to engage them in talks and negotiations towards amicable settlements.
Many developed countries battling terrorists, including the U.S., have engaged in negotiations with them even though they sometimes deny such publicly.
Nigeria officially started negotiating with armed groups back in 2009 with the late President Umaru Yar’Adua’s amnesty deal with Niger Delta militants aimed at reducing unrest in the oil-rich region.
President Buhari in March 2018 announced that his government was ready to accept the “unconditional laying down of arms by any member of the Boko Haram group who shows strong commitment in that regard.”
In July 2020, some “repentant” Boko Haram terrorists in Borno State were “rehabilitated” and given the opportunity to live normal lives.
Many Nigerians, however, criticised this move. A majority of Nigerians who participated in an online poll by PREMIUM TIMES in March 2020 kicked against a proposed bill to create an agency for the rehabilitation of repentant Boko Haram members. The bill had triggered outrage and debate after it was introduced.
Many fear that releasing ‘repentant’ Boko Haram militants into the civilian population could be counterproductive. Negotiating with terrorists cannot guarantee a lasting solution but embolden them to keep making endless demands, security experts say.
The Niger-Delta amnesty programme has been sustained as the government is still paying militants to dissuade them from resuming hostilities.
Authorities in Katsina, Sokoto, and Zamfara states initiated direct negotiations with armed groups last year. As part of these negotiations, the governors offered criminal groups amnesties and other incentives to end violent attacks.
But these agreements have failed partly because many of the armed groups lack central command hence it was difficult bringing them all to one negotiation table. Collapsed negotiations have led to renewed attacks.
The Katsina State Governor, Aminu Masari, said he was betrayed on two occasions by bandits after they were granted amnesty by the state.
Paying ransom to kidnappers
Kidnapping for ransom has become lucrative and pervasive in the last five years.
PREMIUM TIMES in 2018 reported how some lawmakers said the release of some of the Chibok girls kidnapped in April 2014, involved payment of ransom.
The abduction of Leah Sharibu and her colleagues in Dapchi reportedly brought the government to the negotiation table with terrorists.
In December 2020, about 344 schoolboys were declared missing after gunmen attacked a school in Kankara near Katsina, the president’s home state.
Although jihadists claimed responsibility, the boys were later freed after a ransom was allegedly paid, security experts said. They believe such payment and negotiations have become part of the government’s strategy of fighting crime.
Highway: Regional policing and CCTVs
Despite numerous checkpoints along many highways, violent crimes, killings and kidnappings remain rampant on Nigerian roads.
The killing of Funke Olakunrin, the 58-year-old daughter of a Yoruba leader, Reuben Fasoranti, in a kidnap attempt by suspected herdsmen at Kajola along Ore-Ijebu Ode expressway – was one of the most widely reported violent crimes recorded on Nigerian roads in the last three years.
It drew national outrage at the time with the Inspector-General of Police (IGP) ordering a “total overhaul” of the security structures on highways across southern Nigeria.
In the aftermath of the incident, the Buhari government ‘agreed’ to allow state governors in the South-west employ community policing strategies to curb the rising spate of insecurity in the region.
President Buhari also said the government would install CCTV cameras along highways among other measures to check violent crimes. However, little or nothing has been done in that regard.
Following negotiations with the federal government, the governors of the South-west states established Amotekun as a state-based law enforcement agency last year.
However, a PREMIUM TIMES analysis revealed that more than a year after the establishment of Amotekun, kidnapping and killings have remained rampant in the region.
Similarly, governors of the South-east states last month announced the launch of a security outfit codenamed Ebube Agu (Wonderful Tiger). They also announced a permanent ban on open grazing.
But constant clashes between the security agencies and ESN, the paramilitary wing of the outlawed Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), are capable of scuttling efforts to keep the region safe with Ebube Agu.
Botched RUGA programme
President Buhari in 2019 announced the RUGA programme, an initiative to enable willing states to contribute land to the federal government for construction of animal husbandry settlements as a solution to the farmer/herders crisis, which has claimed thousands of lives and led to the destruction of properties valued at billions of naira.
RUGA is projected as a fresh idea to create the infrastructure that encourages restricted pastoralism, which many have demanded as an alternative to the highly risky practice of open grazing.
The presidency had said 12 states have indicated willingness to be part of the programme.
But after it was heavily criticised by many Nigerians with many state governors opposing it, the president suspended the programme while the crisis remains unresolved.
Porous borders and arm proliferation
The president in 2016 gave approval to the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) to install e-border facilities in 10 Nigerian border posts as a way of ensuring better management of Nigeria’s porous borders.
Nigeria’s border with Niger, Cameroon and Chad which spans about 1,000 km is poorly policed, a situation heightening the potential spread of terrorist activities into the northwest region.
The vulnerability of the border to the infiltration of terror groups is compounded by the presence of large forest reserves in the region. The vast, rugged terrain, sparse population, and dense vegetation make surveillance difficult—making the forests ideal hiding places and operational bases for terror groups.
President Buhari had on several occasions blamed herders’ attacks on terrorists from Chad and Niger who enter Nigeria through its porous borders.
Intelligence gathering, monitoring
Mr Buhari in 2018 said his government was refocusing its fight against insecurity by investing heavily on the country’s intelligence gathering capacity.
“At the level of the military and intelligence agencies, intelligence-sharing must become the rule and not the exception,” he noted while speaking at the 8th National Security Seminar 2018 of the Alumni Association of the National Defence College (NDC).
According to him, the scope of the battle against insurgency is broadened by the vast landmass of the North-east.
He said without investing in intelligence gathering, there would be very little hope for the country.
A recent analysis by this newspaper revealed how Nigeria’s poor intelligence gathering processes have crippled its ability to nip crime, violence and killings in the bud as done in more advanced climes.
Many of the crimes committed and violence recorded could have been averted if Nigeria had a virile intelligence network and there is greater collaboration, not rivalry, among the government units tasked with providing intelligence and security, say some of these experts we spoke to.
A security expert, Timothy Avele, in his reaction to the security situation in the country blamed both the security agencies and some state governments.
On the part of security agencies, Mr Avele ascribed the lack of improvement to what he described as the non-coordination of security agents.
He also said governors were aiding insecurity by paying ransoms to kidnappers rather than finding a lasting solution.
“Security situation as it stands now is getting worse. A day hardly passed without hearing one form of insecurity or the other in many parts of the country.
“The government is trying but it is not enough, it needs to do more. The missing link seems to be lack of proper coordination among security agencies and appropriate intelligence application.
“Secondly, the state governments are contributing indirectly to the insecurity ravaging the country by negotiating with bandits, kidnappers and paying them millions as compensation. This action will only encourage others to form criminal gangs within and in other states.
“Thirdly, many states are simply sitting and waiting for FG to come and remove criminal enterprise in their state instead of doing something concrete to battle the scourge
“Lastly, we can only expect to see results when there’s a political will to end insecurity across Nigeria. A lot of sacrifices and compromises on the part of the government, institutions, security agencies and citizens is a must,” he said.
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