COMMUNIQUÉ ISSUED AT THE END OF AN EXPERT GROUP MEETING ON PUBLIC SAFETY AND SECURITY IN NORTH-WEST NIGERIA, HELD AT CLEEN FOUNDATION HEADQUARTERS, ABUJA, TUESDAY, 5TH JULY, 2022.
Section 14 (2b) of the 1999 Nigeria Constitution as amended, states that the welfare and security of the citizens shall be the primary purpose of the government, thus government at all levels owe the people a constitutional duty to protect their lives and properties, irrespective of their ethnic, religious and political affiliations.
The call for self-defence in recent times has begun to gain traction from all quarters of Nigeria due to the recent surge in insecurity and gun violence in North-West, with governors from Benue, Plateau and most recently Zamfara State calling on their citizens to take up arms and protect themselves from attacks.
In view of the foregoing, CLEEN Foundation organized an Expert Group Meeting to critically reflect on the security challenges confronting the country, particularly the North-West region and proffered workable recommendations for effective response to them. The meeting was held on Tuesday 5th July 2022 at the CLEEN Foundation Headquarters, Abuja and had in attendance leading civil society organisations, academia, community-based groups, the media and the public.
Based on the dialogue by experts and various stakeholders, the following key observations were highlighted;
- UNGOVERNED SPACES
Nigeria is increasingly becoming a theatre of war, and it appears as though the government has failed to appreciate the magnitude and dimensions of insecurity bedevilling the country. There are no ungoverned spaces: every space in Nigeria is either governed by state actors or non-state actors. Citizens now pay taxes, levies and other forms of benefits to violent non-state actors; some give up their farm harvest and even their daughters to appease the armed groups. Hence it is regrettable that the government’s capacity to protect the lives and properties of every citizen is increasingly being challenged; thus, seeding her responsibilities to citizens to protect themselves.
- LACK OF POLITICAL WILL/WEAK INSTITUTIONS
The lack of political will on the part of the government to holistically tackle insecurity in Nigeria has left the Nigerian State in dire straits. The complete failure of leadership fueled by greed, widespread corruption, complacency and conspiracy from top to bottom in governance has encouraged the proliferation of non-state actors who are constantly challenging the state, thereby resulting in the call for civilians to bear arms. The EGM expressed concern that this development might result in a return to the “Hobbesian State of Nature”, while noting that the failure of the security and judicial institutions and the political processes have contributed to the worsening public safety situation in Nigeria.
- CENTRALIZATION OF POWER
The centralization of the security structure has equally contributed to worsening insecurity. The Expert Group Meeting contended that security should no longer be on the exclusive list. The features of Federalism as expressed in the Nigerian constitution are faulty, and thus should be addressed. The structural arrangement wherein enormous power and resources is concentrated at the centre impedes sub-national governments from effectively responding to the task of providing security of lives and properties at the state and local government levels. A unitary system in a supposedly federal state with diverse ethnicity, religion and culture cannot be sustained. The rise in insecurity today is as a result of the excessive concentration of scarce resources at the centre.
The total disregard for rule of law is a major factor that has led to insecurity in the country, including in the North-West region. The government has failed to live up to its responsibility and the citizens, in turn, have failed to hold the government accountable. Governors and state actors have continued to ignore the responsibilities of their offices. Consequently, the worsening situation is overwhelming the state, and the citizens alike.
- PROLIFERATION OF SMALL ARMS AND LIGHTS WEAPONS
The proliferation of small arms and ammunition is driving the increasing rate of violence in North-West, as in other parts of Nigeria. The challenge of porous borders and increasingly violent conflict in neighbouring countries have further led to the proliferation of SALW. Access to these arms, largely smuggled through the borders, has emboldened criminal actors who attack defenceless citizens and boldly challenge the Nigerian state.
- ILLITERACY AND DRUG ABUSE
The twin problem of drug abuse and Illiteracy have equally contributed to insecurity in the country. Research have shown that bandits, kidnappers and several other actors perpetrating insecurity across the country usually consume hard drugs. Also, illiteracy and worsening employment rates have contributed to poverty and the growing incidence of drug abuse and opiate cultivation. As a result, community members who are idle and unemployed tend to be easily co-opted into various armed groups either to serve as informants or drug peddlers.
In line with the observations outlined, these recommendations were proffered;
- Establishment of State, Local and Community Policing: The managers of the Nigerian State should demonstrate the political will to address the worsening security situation by decentralization of policing powers. There is a need for a constitutional amendment to enable the establishment of State, Local and Community police in the country. The current national arrangement does little to address local challenges, especially at the grassroots levels;
- Co-production of security: There is a need for collaboration of State and non-state actors in providing security, sharing the powers to possess and use arms with organized civilian stakeholders to co-produce security (e.g. Civilian Joint Task Force in the North East in partnership with the Nigerian Army and Vigilante Group of Nigeria). This should be done with credible institutions only;
- The national security architecture needs to be revisited and overhauled: The “whole-of-the-society approach” of the National Security Strategy, 2019 is ambiguous and needs to be re-examined and better operationalised;
- Strengthening Local Governance: The Local Government institutions should be strengthened to perform local security provision functions such that autonomy and constitutional powers will be given to the traditional institutions;
- The Fire Arms Act (as amended in 2018) laws should be reviewed to capture the realities of contemporary society and its challenges. Individuals should not be allowed to carry guns; however, licensed and regulated informal policing outfits can be allowed to bear arms and provide security at the local community levels.
- The Economic and livelihood of the rural communities need to be strengthened;
- CSOs and Demand for Accountability: Civil society organisations should form a stronger coalition to vigorously demand for accountability in governance, good governance and educate the citizens on their fundamental human rights;
Global Rights, Nigeria
Amnesty International, Nigeria
Policy Legal and Advocacy Centre (PLAC)
Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC)
Savannah Centre for Diplomacy Democracy and Development (SCDDD)
Dr. Freedom Onuoha
Dr. Philip Vande
Dr. Nura Dauran
Bar. Sarah Alalade
Rabi Ibrahim Gusau