The Department of State Services (DSS) has, once again, raised the alarm over plans by unnamed groups to exploit some of our national fault lines to cause ethno-religious violence in some parts of the country. In a statement by its Public Relations Officer, Peter Afunanya, the Service revealed that there are desperate moves by some groups to subvert public order by resorting to inciting, unguarded and divisive statements and acts that pit citizens against one another. The disclosure, coming on the heels of a similar alarm by the agency in January, is worrisome and should not be ignored.
In its January report, the organisation had identified states like Sokoto, Kano, Kaduna, Plateau, Rivers, Oyo, Lagos, and the rest of the South East as targets for the plot. The agency added that part of the plans was to cause inter-religious conflicts by deploying hoodlums to attack worship centres, religious leaders, personalities, and vulnerable points.
The Senate and other prominent Nigerians, like the Nobel Laureate, Wole Soyinka, and former Defence Minister, General Theophilus Danjuma, had separately raised related fears. The Senate was to discuss a motion that raised fears on ethno-religious war if the situation is not well managed.
This is not a matter that should be treated with levity. Already, the country is seriously grappling with the activities of insurgents, bandits, kidnappers, herdsmen and other non-state actors taking laws into their hands. All over the country, ethnic champions have lately been issuing inflammatory statements and threats, and infusing fears into the polity. The menace of armed pastoralists and other criminal elements in the society is making life difficult for peace-loving citizens.
The Federal Government’s ominous silence in the face of the flagrant abuse of the constitution and rights of other Nigerians is dangerous and equally unhelpful. Ethnic tension, hate speeches and disregard to the rights of others, were among the factors that led to the 1967-1970 Nigerian civil war, with the attendant losses in human lives and material resources. Such unguarded utterances and reckless actions also contributed to the genocide in Rwanda and Burundi.
Nigeria cannot afford to go through another civil war. This is the time for the government to take a stand and halt the imminent slide to anarchy by living up to its constitutional obligation of guaranteeing the security and lives of the citizens. It should not joke with the warning by the DSS, the Senate and other prominent Nigerians. The Federal Government should check the proliferation of arms and ammunition as well as enforce the laws against illegal possession of firearms by arresting and punishing anyone involved in the illicit act.
The National Security Adviser and the newly appointed service chiefs as well as the Inspector-General of Police should come up with new ideas to rejig the nation’s security architecture. There is need for more effective measures to address the current security challenges. Other security agencies like the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) and Nigerian Customs Service (NCS) also need to be encouraged to police and monitor the borders using technology to check illegal immigrants and smuggling of firearms and light weapons.
Therefore, we urge the DSS to go beyond the issuing of warnings and take actions to apprehend and prosecute those responsible for security breaches such as terrorism, kidnapping, banditry and the killing of innocent citizens. The present spate of insecurity across the nation has many consequences, including famine and food insecurity because many farmers can no longer access their farmlands. The government and its various agencies should act fast before the situation gets out of control.
We urge the Federal Government to always remember the diversity of the country in all its decisions. The allegations of alienation and exclusion by some parts of the country must be adequately addressed. There should be fairness in policies and appointments by all the tiers of the government, taking into consideration the principles of federal character. The government should also listen to the calls for restructuring and devolution of powers to the federating units.