ATTACK on security personnel in the country has generally been perceived by well meaning Nigerians as a joke taken too far, as it were. Such gross abnormality came like a bolt from the blues during the Obasanjo administration in 1999, when army personnel were attacked in Odi, Rivers State and Zakibiam, in Nasarawa State. Obasanjo, severally perceived as a no-nonsense and “imperial president”, instead of observing the rule of law, went on over-drive by ordering patently unrestrained retaliatory attack which resulted in disastrous consequences with massive collateral damage to the sleepy riverine community.
In both unfortunate incidents, government received nation-wide flacks because it was believed that the leaderships of the two communities were not in cahoots with the lawless groups that led to the senseless attacks on the law enforcement agents.
The recent attacks on the law enforcement agents in the South-East and South-South Geo-Political Zones of the country were frowned at by the generality of the people of those zones. The purported reason adduced by one of the arrested so-called “unknown gun men” which was that the law enforcement agents failed to protect the people from the mindless slaughtering of farmers, raping and kidnapping by the supposed “foreign herdsmen”, could never be a justification for unselected killing of law enforcement agents and even going the extra mile to destroy offices of the Independent National Electoral Commission(INEC) and federal offices.
State governors of the affected states were manifestly disturbed by the curious development and warned the perpetrators to rein in whatever grievances they may have nursed against the federal government who apparently failed to allow the security agents to exercise their constitutional mandate of securing lives and property in those geopolitical zones. For instance, on attacks on security personnel in parts of Anambra State during which some policemen and naval officers lost their lives, Governor Willie Obiano warned that any attack on security personnel meant an attack on the state, warning that those involved in the dastardly act would face the full weight of the law.
He said: “Within the past week or so, we have witnessed what obviously is a planned and targeted attack on security personnel and facilities in the state by armed hoodlums. So far, police officers and Navy personnel on official duties at strategic checkpoints in various locations in the state were sporadically attacked, and some killed and their firearms taken away. Also, prison and police personnel conveying an inmate to court were equally attacked and killed. This morning (Sunday), a Police outpost was attacked unsuccessfully as joint police and vigilante and community efforts repelled the attackers”.
The governor, who promised that everything possible was being done to apprehend the perpetrators and bring them to justice, further said: “Since these attacks commenced, I have personally coordinated security commanders in the state with a joint effort to halt this mayhem and by God’s grace, we will surely succeed. Let me emphatically state that any attacks on security personnel in Anambra is a direct attack on the state itself and will be resisted with our greatest might. Those who attack us are obviously intent on distorting the peace and security we have enjoyed in Anambra State in the past seven years and we will not allow that.
“We have received massive Police, Army, Navy and DSS deployment since yesterday and they have joined their teams on ground to enforce security. I have therefore directed all security agencies in the state, the vigilante services, all taskforces and every structure in the state security infrastructure to rise in defence of our dear state.
“I call on all youths in Anambra State, all communities, all market task forces and indeed every outfit in this state to duty, all traditional rulers, presidents general of communities, as well as every stakeholder in Anambra to rise to protect our state. As your governor, I hereby raise the security alert in the state and I commit to restoring order and security immediately. I call on everybody irrespective of affiliations to come together and support government and security agencies to fight our common enemy. Those who seek to destroy what we have laboured to build must not be tolerated in any manner.
“I ask the public to help with information and intelligence to the state to nip this situation in the bud. Going forward, extensive security activities will be obvious and by God’s grace, we shall overcome. Fitted tinted glasses on vehicles as well as covered plate numbers will no longer be allowed on all roads within the state. Security agencies will be conducting special and strategic operations aimed at neutralising the emerging threats to our collective safety.
“The police, military and all security agencies and outfits in the state are urged to step out in full boldness to reclaim the public space, dominate the streets, confront criminals when identified and urgently restore order and safety to Anambra State.”
It is interesting to observe that some countries who have enormous economic relations with Nigeria have expressed concern at the pervasive and apparently intractable insecurity in Nigeria.
The country’s existential malaise revolves around faulty governance structure which is summarised as “the national”. It is painful that the security glitches under President Muhammadu Buhari has attained frightening dimension and maladroit. Making reference to the fundamentally flawed structure, Professor Wole Soyinka said that “if the country didn’t decentralise, it would disintegrate”.
Friendly foreign nations have expressed reservations over the spike in insecurity which has deleterious effect on foreign direct investment. For instance, the United States Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, during a virtual roundtable with Kenyan and Nigerian journalists, described the security challenges in Nigeria as extraordinary.
Blinken, who was responding to a question on how the US could assist Nigeria to tackle the security challenges posed by Boko Haram, bandits, and Indigenous People of Biafra (IPoB) said: “It is fair to say that the challenges that Nigeria faces when it comes to security are quite extraordinary – and you referenced them – whether it’s terrorism, whether it’s banditry and criminality, whether it’s piracy. All of these are real challenges.
“One, we are in absolute solidarity between us in trying to address these challenges together. And the United States is committed to supporting Nigeria as it meets these challenges. And what that involves primarily is helping Nigeria continue to build its capacity through training, through resources, through information sharing, through equipment, and all of that done, very importantly, with full respect for human rights.
“But it’s also important that we work together, as we are, to address some of the drivers or facilitators of violence and instability that we know those engaged in these activities can sometimes feed on. And that’s why you have to have a comprehensive approach to these challenges”
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