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Insecurity in Nigeria: The Implications On The citizens

Insecurity in Nigeria: The Implications On The citizens 

-Tope Shola Akinyetun 

There is a compelling need to address the protracted and recurring multidimensional insecurity in Nigeria. The prevalence of insecurity in the country is multipronged and caught in a cyclic web. Insecurity in Nigeria comprises insurgency, killer herdsmen, extrajudicial killings, ethnoreligious conflict, armed robbery, militancy, banditry, cybercrime and attacks by unknown gunmen, among other things. The incidence of attacks by unknown gunmen is pervasive and symptomatic of a fragile state where the government’s monopoly of force is challenged and where marginalisation, crises and contested spaces are ubiquitous. The thrust of this paper is that the menace of unknown gunmen is pervasive and threatens to plunge Nigeria into a cesspit of fragility. The argument is predicated on the conceptual and theoretical suppositions of a fragile state. To this end, the paper adopts the documentary method of data collection and uses qualitative descriptive analysis to expound on the phenomenon. The findings reveal that the words unknown gunmen – terminology that is used to describe the spate of insecurity in the country – are a bane to peaceful coexistence. The paper also shows that the insecurity caused by these armed attacks and other forms of threat is emblematic of a fragile state. Consequently, policy recommendations – state-building and peace-building – are proffered.

Nigeria is presently bedevilled by an abundance of security challenges that gnaw at the very soul of the nation’s existence. One such challenge is attacks by unknown gunmen whose identities are unclear, hence the epithet ‘unknown gunmen’. Killings by unknown gunmen have become a daily occurrence even when the reportage is repetitively downplayed. The attacks by these misfits have claimed the lives of several people, including the political elite. The prominent Nigerians murdered by unknown gunmen include Ahmed Gulak, the former special adviser on politics to President Goodluck Jonathan, who was killed in Owerri, Imo State, on his way to the airport. Other victims include Justice Stanley Nnaji, the former judge of Enugu State High Court and Linus Owuamanam, a prominent businessman, who were killed in Enugu and Ibadan respectively. There is also the case of Okiemute Mrere; the Chief provost of the Nigerian Immigration Service in Imo, who was killed along the Owerri-Port Harcourt Road in Owerri. At the time of writing, the most recent attack has been the gruesome killing of Prof. Samuel Ndubuisi, the Director-General, Scientific Equipment Development Institute (SEDI), in Enugu on 7th July 2021 on the Enugu-Port Harcourt Expressway. This happened two days after Ifeanyi Okeke, the Chief Executive Officer of Auto Ease was killed in the same area.

These killings demonstrate the high level of insecurity in the country and the government’s loss of its internal security mechanism – an index of fragility. The London School of Economics (2018, p. 4) asserts that “state fragility drives some of the biggest problems in our world today: extreme poverty, mass migration, terrorism, trafficking, and more.” Nigeria is reportedly a fragile state where security, legitimacy, state capacity, private investment, economy and cohesion is constantly threatened and where a weak state structure deepens insecurity.

It is imperative to disentangle the term ‘unknown gunmen’ which has recently become a popular catchphrase in Nigeria’s insecurity imbroglio. The term has been used to refer to criminal elements from a particular part of the country (Nda-Isaiah, 2021, p. 1) thus giving the incidence of insecurity in Nigeria a religious and ethnic colouration. ‘Attacks by unknown gunmen’ is a phrase often used to describe sectional violence taking place in the south-east of the country.

Taking a different stance, Security Peace and Development (SPD) avers that the unknown gunmen phenomenon appears to be connected to the banditry malady confronting the north-west. The attacks by unknown gunmen have increased since the government placed a ban on open grazing. Meanwhile, it is not clear whether the unknown gunmen are individuals masquerading as bandits or a repeated case of farmer-herder conflict or vengeance. It is however clear that the incidence requires prompt attention because the spate of killings in the country shows that violent death is fast becoming a norm.

Their modus operandi involves sporadic shooting, abduction, maiming, arson, jailbreak and extrajudicial killing. Their targets include private citizens, business owners, politicians, government institutions and business organisations. Their activities are carried out in rural and urban areas; in daytime or at night. The aftereffect of such attacks is the destruction of life and property, piles of dead bodies, displacement, torched villages, maimed victims, lots of casualties, an increase in internal displacement, forced migration and food shortages. Attacks by unknown gunmen have led to a humanitarian crisis with an increase in the number of internally displaced persons, student abductions and wanton killings (SPD). These attacks also have economic implications as the means of livelihood of several Nigerians have been destroyed, while foreign investors have been scared away from such volatile areas.

The daunting security challenge in Nigeria is necessitated by a plethora of socioeconomic and socio political quandaries such as marginalisation, deprivation, poverty, ungoverned spaces, under-policing, the proliferation of light arms, the porous border and the lack of political will. This coupled with youth unemployment, a high inflation rate, low industrial output, inadequate physical and social infrastructure and insurgency gives impetus to the proliferation of criminal groups, thereby increasing the risk of fragility. The neglect of Nigerian human resources and the attendant economic discontent increases people’s vulnerability to recruitment for violence.

This has not only impeded community and national development, but also threatens the security and national cohesion of the country. These issues coupled with institutional incapacity make the delivery of public services difficult and can lead to aggrieved Nigerians taking part in criminal activities. Pervasive youth unemployment, widespread poverty and marginalisation become triggers of frustration and aggression for young people to engage in violence.

The issue of marginalisation in Nigeria can be traced to the colonial era which emphasised a northern hegemony that transcended to the post-colonial era. Nigeria is a multicultural state with varied ethnic nationalities and three major groups: Igbo, Hausa/Fulani and Yoruba. These groups are characterised by ethnic rivalry and a contest for superiority which has engendered conflict on several occasions. The politics of identity became rife with the military incursion of January 15 1966, which was seen as an Igbo coup, and the counter-coup of July 29 1966. Following the massacre of Igbos in the North, Col. Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, the Governor of the Eastern region, declared the Republic of Biafra on May 30 1967. This culminated in a civil war that lasted 30 months. The war left anguish and pain in the Eastern region, while its people have since decried the state of marginalisation and deprivation in the region. Meanwhile, the efforts by the government to foster unity and address the lingering deprivation and neglect – through its Reconstruction, Rehabilitation and Reconciliation initiative, the introduction of Federal Character, Unity schools and the National Youth Service Corps – have failed to mitigate the pervasive marginalisation. On the contrary, there has been an increase in agitations, ethnic rivalry, violence, militancy and secessionism.

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