How to solve the Kidnapping/Banditry menace in Northern Nigeria

NEWS DIGEST – Nigeria has surfed through numerous hurdles as far as security is concerned. They include Niger Delta militancy, the Boko Haram misadventure, herders/farmers conflicts and most recently, banditry and intractable kidnappings for ransom in the Northern part of the country. Nigerians nurture a feeling of absolute disappointment and insecurity towards the constitutionally mandated body saddled with the responsibility of their security and welfare – government. The ineptitude of the government towards the current ravaging security challenges is indeed worrisome.

According to the United Nations, about 1400 lives were lost to banditry and kidnappings in the first quarter of 2019. About 685 kidnappings occurred in the same period costing families hundreds of millions of Naira hence rendering many of them financially impotent in this current harsh economic condition. This is coming at a time when the country is recovering from the agony of almost 27 thousand deaths, more than 2 million displaced persons and a financial implication of more than N5 trillion in just four years (2016-2019) caused by the Boko Haram insurgency.

Northern Nigeria is now the new hub for banditry and kidnappings. The roads which are the most used method of transportation have become utterly unsafe. In roads like that of Niger, Kaduna, Abuja, Birnin Gwari, Zamfara and lots more, stories of kidnap incidences and armed banditry have become daily routine. By critically assessing the trajectory and history of insecurity in Northern Nigeria and even Nigeria at large, one will realise that the root causes hover around some factors which if not confronted heads on would continue to fuel these seemingly unquenchable crises.

First, it is only in my country that insecurity and many other sensitive issues of national concern are seen to be sole faults and responsibilities of the government and the governing political party. The opposition parties choose to remain dormant and selectively mute to such issues, all one could hear from them are statements of condemnation and blames. They only seem to be active during elections and in times of election appeals. The ruling party also never looks upon opposition parties as collaborative agents, the “let’s come and work together for our country” mantra is never given any serious consideration or genuine commitment.

And we can never deny the fact that most of these security challenges are politically motivated either directly or indirectly. We have bandits today partly because some politicians would contract, illegally sponsor and equip criminal minded people for the purpose of causing mayhem in cases where some political interests of theirs are not protected and if it so happens that these interests become protected, these criminals will be left on their own with destructive arms at their disposal. What does one expect they will do with those arms?

Hence, there is need for government to convene a grand security summit targeting Northern elite, traditional rulers, politicians, political parties, regional advocacy groups, security experts of Northern Nigeria to come to the table and rigorously discuss security in-depth and come forth with a realistic and consensus-based strategy of tackling this decimating menace. The government should open her doors to inter-party collaboration with the aim of curbing this menace.

Second, there is need for a holistic review of the nation’s security framework. The centralised system of defense and policing has proven to be ineffective in a country like Nigeria. Community policing strategies should be adopted so that policing of a particular region would be the responsibility of the indigenous people of that region who have the knowledge of the region’s peculiar challenges, local inhabitants, culture, and geography and can proffer peculiar solutions that would be commensurate with the region’s insecurity dynamics. There should not be need for any police officer to be posted to anywhere other than his state of origin for effective citizen-focused security.

Third, Nigeria is by international standard one of the most under secured countries in the world. 200 million people are policed by 371,800 policemen. While some believe Nigeria is under policed, others believe it is even over policed but still under secured as the UN standard police to citizen ratio is 1:450. What we don’t put into consideration is the fact that a large chunk of the police force manpower are attached to the regime and “the people that matter” leaving a relatively low portion to safeguard the general citizenry.

Therefore, there is need for a review of the policing system. Technology and forensic sciences should be adopted in Nigeria’s policing system. The police force should leverage on several citizen database systems in the country like the BVN, national identity cards, voter cards, etc for information and employ CCTV operations and adopt forensics like fingerprint matching, facial recognition, hair and other DNA analysis so as to enhance speedy criminal recognition. Fourth, just like the police, the military is also seriously challenged with issues of understaffing, lack of security intelligence, poor morale, lack of state of the art military gadgets and infrastructure, corruption and exhausted leadership.

Fifth, international politics unarguably plays a vital role in Nigeria’s internal security challenges. The firearms proliferation in the country is largely attributed to lack of commitment of neighbouring countries (especially Francophones) to the fight against insurgency in Nigeria. France which is their mother nation has roughly over 4500 troops in the West African region but has never taken a bold step in helping Nigeria fight most of its security challenges, especially armed banditry whose main actors are allegedly of Tuareg and other Francophone origins. Hence, there is need for Nigeria to actively engage France and all neighbouring francophone countries in discussions around insecurity in Nigeria. The role they need to play should be clearly defined and any hidden interest should be vividly tabled and diplomatically trashed. The Multinational Joint Task Force should be properly leveraged for regional defense.

Sixth, most of the security challenges in Nigeria are rooted around lack of political will, bad governance, unstable economy, illiteracy, corruption, large economic gap and ineffective post insurgency peace building strategies. The government needs to be proactive in setting effective poverty alleviation strategies and economic policies that would ensure citizen-based development. For crimes to be properly controlled, our educational sector needs a thorough overhaul to create an educational system that must guarantee jobs at the end through curriculums that would ensure graduates being job providers rather than job seekers.

Finally, Nigeria must leverage the powers and influence of traditional rulers in the country as they are most often highly respected and are lucrative sources of genuine information. There is need for a review in the laws guiding traditional leadership institutions in such a way that they beget more recognition, statutory responsibility and rewards. They would unarguably be productive resources towards curbing the insecurity menace in Nigeria.

Abdulhaleem Ishaq Ringim is a political analyst, an activist and an advocate for sustainable development. He writes from Zaria and can be reached through [email protected]