The precarious security situation of the country and the COVID – 19 pandemic resurgence, are the twin devils confronting this nation at the moment. We have never been this challenged, not even the 30-month civil war left us as vulnerable as we are today.
I remember that just 20 years ago, I used to shuttle the Abuja – Lagos route with the famed luxurious night buses. On many occasions, when we left Abuja at about 6pm, we got to Lagos sometimes around 3 – 4 am. Then, I just dropped off at Ojota, Lagos and picked a cab to Iju, on the outskirts of the city where I lived.
All that is history. Whoever tries that now does so at their own risk. Nowhere is safe in Nigeria. Our expressways have been taken over by armed bandits, kidnappers and terrorists. Most disturbing is the cold fact that, kidnapping for ransom has become the fastest growing industry in Nigeria today. The jobless youth involved in this heinous crimes have since realized that armed robbery is more dangerous and less lucrative than kidnapping.
An armed robber could get killed in the course of operation, which is always dangerous. And if caught, tried and convicted, the law prescribes the death penalty. Not so for kidnappers. Kidnappers hold a hapless victim and negotiate their release for a healthy ransom, sometimes running into millions of naira. Because these ransoms are often paid in exchange for the freedom of the victims, the business is more attractive, safer for the criminal and a lot easier to do.
With this scenario, say what you will, kidnapping would continue unabated. That’s where we are at the moment. Meanwhile, the Boko Haram insurgents, too, have also taken to hostage taking for ransom, seeing that it brings easy funds to procure weapons and run their violent campaign.
Boko Haram fighters are able to recruit informants in the local areas because, once they succeed in their usual raids of targeted communities, funds gotten from ransom payment help them pay their collaborators, spies, and new recruits. And because they have a lot of collaborators on the Nigerian side, the terrorists have been able to sustain their campaign for so long, buoyed up, of course, by their foreign sponsors.
Many Boko Haram fighters are now moving into banditry, seeing that it’s more lucrative and less risky than fighting a protracted, dangerous bush war. While the core Boko Haram fighters continue their attacks in and around Bornu local government areas, some small groups have migrated to the north western states of Zamfara, Sokoto and Kastsina, where they now operate as bandits – kidnappers.
Down south, robberies still abound, but the felons mainly target banks. Kidnapping, is of course, the main business and is now almost a daily affair especially with the advent of the invasion South West forests by Fulani bandits. The recent face-off between the Presidency and the Ondo State governor, Rotimi Akeredolu over the quit notice given to herdmen to leave Ondo State forest reserve, was the culmination of the surge in the activities of Fulani kidnappers in the State.
In that part of the South West, kidnappers of Fulani extraction have been killing, raping and kidnapping people with increasing regularity, hence the violent response of vigilantes, hunters and Pan-Yoruba activist, Sunday Adeyemo (a.k.a Sunday Igboho), to defend citizens of the area.
Setting aside all the sentiments for or against herders and local militias, there’s a need for a holistic response to this perennial crime war. However, in view of the growing spread of this kidnapping virus, and the obvious difficulty in meeting the challenges, we cannot dismiss the contributions of private, local militias trying to contain the mance. Nation – wide, our security agencies are overstretched, if not even out – gunned and overwhelmed completely in certain areas. This is what you get when crime becomes big business.
This problem calls for a new algorithm altogether. The government must fix the entire fault-lines that gave rise to crime in the first instance. While still talking about restructuring of the political system, we should first revamp the economy and continue the diversification away from total dependence on crude oil export. Reliance on the export of petroleum products is our nemesis. We neglected agriculture for many decades until this APC administration came to power.
President Muhammadu Buhari should go all out with his bold plans to lift 100 million Nigerians out of poverty as a way of drastically reducing the crime rate, and boosting economic activities in a way that ensures macro-economic stability. To achieve this, government should deploy resources to four critical sectors that have the potentials for mass employment.
These are Agribusiness, Entertainment Sports and Tourism; Construction and Security. Through a vigorous public-private sector partnership, government should create a new policy framework that could stimulate private participation in the four aforementioned sectors, by giving investor low interest rates, tax holidays and loans with longer maturities.
If the federal government could anchor its plan on lifting 100 million Nigerians out poverty on these four sectors, using the preceding incentives, industrial activities would explode beyond the 70s/80s levels. Once the economy starts running on full steam again, all the dormant sectors that led to mass importation would be activated and, within a short time, domestic production would meet virtually all our local needs and our nation would become self-reliant. When you get 100 million people out poverty, where would the criminals come from? That’s a food for thought.
Weekend Spice: A bold vision would always attract more skeptics than supporters.
Ok folks, let’s do it again next week. COVID-19 is real. Stay safe and be motivated.