The worsening insecurity profile in Nigeria is reaching a worrisome dimension with the unfortunate incident on Monday 28th March 2022, when some gunmen launched a deadly attack on a Nigerian Railway Corporation (NRC) Abuja-Kaduna evening train carrying an estimated 398 passengers. After the attack, reports confirmed that eight people were killed, and twenty-two people are still missing. Earlier, on 26th March 2022, the Kaduna Airport was attacked, leaving one dead and many maimed. This is is rather frightening and increasingly threatening to the well-being of Nigerians.
On behalf of the business community, the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry is concerned with the current insecurity crisis because of its impact on businesses and the economy. We are also very concerned because of the apparent threat to our forthcoming general elections in 2023 and, by extension, a threat to our democracy. In the absence of peace and security, it would be challenging to hold credible, free, and fair elections that would reflect the choices of the electorates about whom their leaders should be.
The 2021 Global Peace Index published by the Institute for Peace and Economics ranked Nigeria at 146 out of 163 countries, only better than countries like Iraq, Syria, Libya, Afghanistan, Sudan, Somalia, Yemen, and Russia, which are typically known to have been conflict areas for a long time. The security challenges are continuing to spiral into general lawlessness and anarchy. Also, the Global Conflict Tracker hosted by the United States Council on Foreign Relations recorded that attacks by bandits across the North-West have claimed at least 5,000 lives since 2018. Since 2009, nearly 350,000 people have been killed in the North-Eastern part of the country due largely to the activities of Boko Haram Islamist insurgents. The number of displaced people in the Lake Chad Basin is about three million.
Insecurity in Nigeria is multidimensional and pervasive, ranging from armed banditry, kidnapping, attacks on state infrastructure, perennial herder-farmer clashes to gang violence, attacks on police stations, prisons, airports, and power transformers, inter-communal violence, ritual killings, mob justice, and casual intimidation of ordinary citizens by the law enforcement agents. In the South-South region, we have an economic war as the Government struggles to maintain the peace required to achieve optimal crude oil exploration for FOREX earnings. Nigeria earns about 80% of its foreign exchange earnings from the Oil and Gas Sector. There are political agitations in the South-East, secessionist agitations in the South-West. Today, we have terrorism, banditry, and kidnapping in the Northern part that have taken frightening dimensions and colorations.
In the face of these challenges, the Lagos Chamber wishes to make the following recommendations:
- Nigeria needs a surveillance infrastructure that is monitored in real-time to respond to emergencies and foil planned crimes. This calls for more technology deployment to gather intelligence, provide 24/7 responsive surveillance, and track persons’ movements and activities, especially in already troubled areas.
- Youth unemployment is a critical factor fuelling insecurity in Nigeria. The latest data from the National Bureau of Statistics show that youth unemployment is at 42.5% and youth underemployment at 21%. This is a driving factor for the insecurity crises in Nigeria. We need more jobs to engage our youths productively.
- We must tackle gun control crises where unauthorized and unidentified people possess firearms without strict control. It is estimated that more than six million small arms are in the hands of civilian nonstate actors.
- Drug abuse by our youth must be curtailed, and drug traffickers adequately prosecuted and punished as a deterrent. The United Nations Office on Drug and Crimes (UNODC) in 2021 revealed that about 14.4% of Nigerians were engaged in drug abuse. This portends a negative trend for the country’s future when we estimate the connection between drug abuse and violence.
- The huge amount of N2.41 trillion earmarked for the defence and security sector in the 2022 Federal Government budget may have reflected Government’s commitment to resolving security challenges. We however need to be prudent with spending and put in place checks to prevent the diversion of funds to other uses like sponsoring political activities. In 2019, Nigeria had the third-largest military budget in Africa, behind only South Africa and Algeria. At the state and local government (LG) levels, governors and local government chairpersons have severally been accused of regularly mismanaging “security votes,” a monthly federal allocation towards security-related expenses within the states. There is a need for better accountability in the disbursement of these funds for suitable projects.
For immediate action, we recommend that the President, Commander-In-Chief of the Armed Forces, Federal Republic of Nigeria, President Muhammadu Buhari, GCFR, should convene a National Council of State Meeting to deliberate on the several issues around politics, the economy, insecurity, and the forthcoming general elections. We also call on the Federal and State Governments to expedite actions to restore peace, law, and order in the country before the full-scale launch of political campaigns for the 2023 general elections. If we do not commit to a new order and a more enabled and innovative security architecture, soon, security will suffer a heavier blow once politics takes centre stage in governance. The major challenge waiting for the incoming Nigerian president (likely a civilian) will be to resolve the security crises. Still, first, we must restore and preserve law and order in Nigeria today for us to be able to hold the elections next year. Majority of Nigerians still have confidence in President Muhammadu Buhari, GCFR being an accomplished and retired Army General to be well equipped to tackle Nigeria’s daunting security challenges.
Asiwaju Dr. Michael Olawale-Cole, CON
Lagos Chamber of Commerce & Industry
Monday 4th April 2022