By Nnaji Jekwu Onovo
The nation is bleeding and reeling under pains inflicted by terrorists, bandits, militants, secessionists and kidnappers. Violent crime is now the norm, as armed groups wreak havoc across the nation, killing, maiming and burning properties. Jailbreak adds another angle to the twist and puzzle, as it is unimaginable that security facility could be overrun with ease. We hear and read about jailbreaks and prisoner escapes across the world, but not in the dimension of the Kuje Prison attack that lasted hours and freed about 1,000 inmates, including terrorists, thereby unleashing more daredevil criminals on the hapless citizens of Nigeria.
The fundamental truth is that criminal elements, including the foreign breeds, live and interact with us. And the fact of the matter is that some of us know our criminal neighbours, fraternise with them, provide them with vital information to strike their targets, hide and provide them escape routes from security operatives. Those hobnobbing with criminals will be the first to cry foul and accuse the leadership of failure. The leadership (politicians and security officers) continue with the promises of finding a lasting solution to the problem, even when it is obvious that some of the leaders are sabotaging the efforts being made. A cursory look at the security architecture of the country shows there are many men and officers of questionable character. We are gradually losing our moral compass and the escalating violent crimes across the country are a moral burden on all Nigerians.
When kids choose a profession, they tend to follow in their parents’ footsteps: Doctors’ children often become doctors, lawyers produce lawyers, and plumbers beget plumbers. Studies show that crime, too, can run in families. Yet, despite the abundance of evidence showing the role of family in crime, criminologists and policymakers have largely neglected this factor. Instead, researchers have looked at other well-known risk causes like poverty, deviant peers at school, drugs, and gangs. Of course, these are real issues. But, a child’s life begins at home with the family even before the neighbourhood, friends, or classmates can lead them astray. “What you are raised with, you grow to become,” says Tracey Bogle, who served a 16-year prison sentence for kidnapping, armed robbery, assault, car theft, and sexual assault. “There is no escape from our criminal contagion.”
Criminals in Nigeria come from multiple sources, home-grown and cross-border or trans-border. Nigeria’s borders are porous, allowing all sorts of cross-border criminal activities such as human trafficking, smuggling, drug trafficking, arm robbery, money laundry and illicit arms trafficking resulting to proliferation of SALW (small arms and light weapons). All these are possible because of the inefficiency, ineffectiveness and corrupt practices of the officers of the Nigerian Customs and Nigeria Immigration. The trafficking and wide availability of weapons fuel communal conflict, political instability and pose a threat, not only to security, but also to sustainable development. The Nigeria Customs and Nigerian Immigration officers should search their souls.
Corruption, which crept into the Nigeria Police Force, has gradually assumed a greater dimension in recent times. Today not only are individual officers involved in corrupt practices, evidence abounds of officers’ involvement in organized acts of negligence and collusion with unknown persons to perpetuate heinous crimes, including escape from lawful custody. Men and officers of the Nigerian Police Force should search their souls.
The criminal activities including terrorism, kidnapping and militancy in some parts of the country came about as a result of failure in intelligence gathering. For most of us, the intelligence community including the SSS (DSS) and NIA is a shadowy no-go area. The National Intelligence Agency is Nigeria’s version of the Central Intelligence Agency, while the State Secret Service (SSS) is Nigeria’s version of the FBI. In addition to the police, Nigeria’s intelligence community, such as the State Security Service, which is responsible for domestic intelligence, NIA, which is responsible for foreign intelligence and counterintelligence operations, has failed to stop the violent activities of Boko Haram and other militants across the country.
The main dilemma of the defence and intelligence establishments in responding effectively to security challenge is the absence of mutual confidence amongst them. There is undue rivalry and suspicion among the sister organizations, and a quest for personal glory at the topmost levels of the agencies.
In most of Nigeria’s 36 states, where the largely federally-controlled security structures often fail to monitor or respond to grassroots insecurity, state governments have set up supplementary community police organisations or empowered community-based vigilantes. These forces can play a major role in fending off attacks and providing regular armed forces with critical local knowledge, thereby bolstering the effectiveness of counter-insurgency campaigns. But vigilance groups also can undermine central authority, widen conflict by targeting ethnic or political rivals or threaten longer-term stability by continuing as an autonomous armed force after the original conflict has subsided. To use them is to wield a double-edged sword.
Security is everybody’s business, is a cliché that reverberates in every forum, advertisement, discussion, conference and organization. However, Nigerians are turning their back on neighbours under attack, while some aid and abet criminals attacking their neighbours. Nonetheless, when these callous people notice their neighbour’s house is on fire, they would call the fire department. They would want to help the neighbour and also ensure that the fire doesn’t spread to other homes including theirs. This convoluted way of thinking and behaving is a moral burden on the entire citizenry. Nobody, no matter how sophisticated and clever, is insulated from crime to humanity. It behoves citizens to be their brother’s keeper.
How effective we are in maintaining the security needs of the country depends to a great degree upon how well we work together, how well and how clearly we understand and perceive the dangers to our national security, and what steps we need to take to effectively reduce identified risks. A successful security programme follows an educated appraisal of the situation, a reasonable approach to a solution, and an open line of communication. There should be no unanswered questions on security matters.
Remember. Security is everybody’s business!
Security is particularly your business!
More important, it is your personal responsibility!
•Onovo can be reached on [email protected]