The desperate security situation in the country brought a renewed sense of urgency recently when President Muhammadu Buhari ordered the newly appointed service chiefs to “go into the field and secure the country.” The President gave the charge when he decorated the service chiefs with their new ranks. He also gave them a tight deadline. “You have got a few weeks to do that because by the rainy season, we expect people to develop confidence (in the safety of their farms) and go back to the land so that we don’t get into trouble by being away from the field and therefore unable to produce enough food for the nation.”
The ceremony was the climax of series of security meetings, actions and directives to improve what has become an embarrassing security situation in the country, including the imposition of “no fly zone” on Zamfara State, the ban on all manners of mining activities in the state, and a stern order on security agencies “to reclaim all areas dominated by bandits, kidnappers, scoundrels and scallywags.”
The President’s physical presence and his personally decorating the officers underscored the gravity of the situation as the new Chief of Defence Staff, General Lucky Irabor, was promoted to a full general, he now joins the small elite group with four stars. The Chief of Army Staff, Lt.-Gen. Ibrahim Attahiru received his insignia; likewise the Chief of Naval Staff Vice Admiral Awwal Gambo and the Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal Isiaka Amao.
The most immediate cause of anxiety has been the almost daily occurrence of kidnappings all over the country worsened by the sensational mass kidnappings on February 27 of 27 students of the Government Science College, Kagara, and three members of staff of the school and 12 family members of the kidnapped staff. This tragedy was followed four days later by another mass kidnapping of 300 girls from the Government Girls Secondary School, Jangebe, Zamfara State. All the girls were freed without harm on March 1.
The government has claimed that no ransom was paid while a great many have expressed doubts, which led to a national argument on what manner of contact and co-operation should be fostered between governments and the bandits. The reality of Nigerian life today, however is that no Nigerian could without fear, put his car on the road and drive outside our cities. The country is fast earning a reputation as an insecure country, the greatest discouragement for an investor.
President Buhari’s marching orders to his new service chiefs is not the first of such orders and there is no certainty that the orders would be carried out. Since 2015, Nigeria had witnessed so many broken promises by both the president and his officers on security matters and Nigerians seem to be praying that the latest orders are not as ineffectual as previous ones. What is reassuring, however, is that, given the way the president spoke and his linking security and farming, he appears fully aware of the consequences of the farming communities being scared from the farms by the threat of killer herdsmen. For nearly two years, the nightmare of farming communities has been the fear of having to contend with the herders and the often unspoken fear that the government did not understand the true situation. Now the president has spoken, it is assumed that everyone is on the same page and that’s cause for some hope.
Although the appointment of new service chiefs appears a few years late, we think it is good the president has given them a mandate akin to a declaration of war against bandits, kidnappers and other organised crimes. The President should also give them the wherewithal to prosecute the war. Nigerians have had to endure the ineptitude, intelligence and operational failures of security agencies, even battle field defeats were glossed over. Let us take the new chiefs’ tenure as a new day in the nation’s struggle for safety of life and property. The government’s old argument that Boko Haram has been technically defeated should be rested. The Army should try to rebuild its credibility and its ethics.
The president has now publicly given the officers a free hand to perform, including finding competent officers to help them achieve the nation’s goals. The pervasive activities of kidnappers throughout the nation cannot be tolerated. Technology is available to pinpoint the location of criminals and the country needs constant aerial surveillance to help the police on the ground and our soldiers in various war theatres. There must be a constant, indeed, daily co-ordination of anti-kidnapping activities among the states and federal authorities.