The security situation in the country seems to be deteriorating by the day, as the activities of gun-wielding hoodlums assume a grave dimension. Sadly, an otherwise relatively peaceful South-West that was thought to be insulated from militancy has suddenly become vulnerable. Recently, several borderline towns in the riverine areas between Lagos and Ogun states were subjected to repeated attacks by suspected militants alleged to be of Ijaw extraction, leaving in their wake sorrow, tears and blood. Many of the communities, particularly the 18 communities making up Imushin, have reportedly become ghost towns as the traumatised survivors have relocated to safer abodes.
The curious and most unsettling aspect is that the attacks were reportedly preceded by issuance of threats by the invaders, yet executed without official resistance. It was just like in the Niger Delta where all the premonitions given by the vandals were easily followed by collateral damage to some oil and gas infrastructure. The militants have become quite daring either by reason of their trust in the sophistication of their munitions or the expectation of feeble resistance from the security agencies. Their effrontery has so heightened that the deputy governor of Ogun State, Mrs Yetunde Onanuga, together with her delegation, was practically prevented from accessing a part of the state! Onanuga had gone to assure some of the troubled communities of government’s commitment to providing adequate security of lives and property when her convoy reportedly came under fire from the militants at Akoka Ebute area of Ibafo, in Obafemi-Owode Local Government Area. In that circumstance, discretion became apt given the readiness of the hoodlums to sustain their ferocious attack. The condolence and solidarity visit by the Number Two citizen of Ogun State had to be cut short.
That event is emblematic of the sorry state of security in the country today. Gunmen are attacking communities at will, killing, looting, raping, kidnapping and dictating the pace as if they were a law unto themselves. It has been alleged that the pipeline vandals were visiting the riverine communities with violence because they believed the residents were reporting their illicit activities to the government. Sadly, the marine police do not seem to be effective. The land police are also handicapped because they lack the required facilities to combat organised crime. The centralised security architecture of the country is detached and ill-equipped to respond swiftly to emergencies in a vast country like Nigeria. The Nigerian Navy also complained recently about inadequate equipment which has been hampering its effort to rein in the activities of pipeline vandals in the Niger Delta. All of this points to an urgent need for a comprehensive review of the country’s security structure. The Chief Executive of a state should not be looking up to Abuja to provide adequate security of lives and property to residents of his state. That is rather unbecoming.
Therefore, there can be no more apposite time than now for the Federal Government to re-consider its aversion to the creation of state police. Federating units that are ready for state police should be allowed to have it. The existing legal framework should be amended to accommodate the existence of sub-national police forces side by side with the central one with a clear delineation of functions. In the intervening period, however, the Federal Government should brace up to the challenges of discharging its most paramount duty of securing lives and property. A government that consistently fails in this regard has a question mark on its capacity and commitment to providing effective and purposeful leadership.
The country’s security apparatuses, especially the police and the Navy, should be adequately equipped, trained and re-trained to cope with the grave security situation of the time. Existing police reform should include population reform so that it is in sync with the UN recommended police officer to citizen ratio of 1 to 450. Also, deployment of security operatives should be done with due cognizance of the familiarity of officers with the operating terrains. This is why it is crucial that recruitment into the security forces, including leadership recruitment, should reflect federal character and not limited to regions which the political leadership is comfortable to work with. In any case, a truly national leadership should be able to find like minds to work with from different parts of the country.
It is obvious that the Federal Government cannot afford to be fighting protracted battles at different fronts simultaneously, spreading its limited security resources thin, and to the point of ineffectiveness. Therefore, it should act decisively and stamp out militancy in the coastal communities between Ogun and Lagos states so that the residents can have a new lease of life and government can concentrate on the resolution of the lingering militancy in the Niger Delta. It is also imperative that the intermittent invasion of South-West coastal towns by the militants is addressed urgently to avert ethnic dimension to the crisis as the Oodua people’s Congress (OPC), a South-West based sociocultural youth organisation, is already threatening to join the fray.