BY IKEDDY ISIGUZO, Chairman Editorial Board
ANY regular visitor to Abuja would notice the heightened security in the city. Some roads have been closed, especially near military facilities and important government offices. The surroundings of the Abuja International Conference Centre, tucked between some of the facilities of security, was a beneficiary of extra security when the Vanguard/Police National Summit on Security Challenges in Nigeria held there Tuesday and Wednesday.
Once inside the expansive centre, passing through the security screening, you enjoyed a peace that surpassed your fears about Nigeria. Speaker after speaker confirmed how bad the situation is, but there was hope in abundance on ways of changing the security situation so that Nigerians can have peace, without which development is more challenging.
Is there ethnic or religious discord? – Arthur-Woreign
He promised to use privilege as chairman of the session judiciously. His father was Urhobo, born in Jos, who spoke no word of Urhobo, and married a Yoruba woman. I married an Oron woman, so I represent many nations, but I present myself as Nigerian.
We held a summit in this hall about nine years ago, during which I represented the then Lagos State Governor. We are still discussing the same issues. We should take the bulls by the horn and implement the wonderful recommendations by the experts. Every delay makes the changes more expensive, we cannot run away from security challenges. Is there religious and ethnic discord in Nigeria? If there is, how does it manifest? In some places like Yoruba land, one family could have six different religions and live in peace. Is there discord or an opportunity for people to cause problem?
Political leaders have a greater responsibility for careful engagement since they are elected and they have sworn to be fair to all. We should cancel the barracks and get the police to live in decent places. It is took much expecting people in such places to be effective. – Chairman of the morning session: Fola Arthur-Woreign, Former Solicitor-General, former Commissioner for Land, Chief Executive Officer, Lagos State Security Trust Fund
No boundary between religion, ethnicity – Egwu
There is an overlap of religion and ethnicity, without clear boundary. We live in a highly plural society reflected in 300 ethic groups, 36 States, 774 local governments. Diversity is an advantage if well managed. Democracy offers great opportunities for managing diversity.
Image of Nigeria is changing rapidly. The impunity of attackers and failure of state to provide security, and attack on symbols of state authority are so of the ways that the attackers are using in their course. Ethnic and religious loyalties affect the resolution of the conflicts, where security agents take sides.
Failure of development and state building projects are responsible for the conflicts. Why are people thinking more of their ethnic groups than Nigeria? National security is not about the state and people in power. Governments should invest in the people, not only by huge budgets for security agencies, but improvement of the well-being of the people.
Ethnicity and religions are real and are identities that people are willing to die for; they cannot be dismissed. Ethnicity is exploited, manipulated by those who can use them to cause problem. Religion is a double-edged sword that can create, acquiesce or fuel fights against injustice.
Fighting against injustice
The two identities feed on sentiments. Issues that drive the conflict – unequal ethnic relations in competition for power and resources. Perception that the state is not a neutral arbiter in struggles among people sustains some conflicts. Conflicts coincide with economic problems, economic insecurity erode people’s sense of nationalism. Citizenship as it affects the ethnic divide, and the distinction about indigenes are other causes of conflicts. Politicians appeal to ethnic sentiments to get votes.
Better equipment for security agencies, a move from national to human security, dialogues, civic and political education can help. Both religions have strong codes that can enhance behaviours of people in conflict.– Prof Sam Egwu of the United National Development Programme, UNDP, on Religious and Ethnic Discord As A Major Threat To National Security.
We have prayer contractors – Hayab
Religious and ethnic conflicts are real or not, depending on how we see them. Religion and ethnicity are divine arrangements, but man manipulates them. The religious class manipulates religion which the politicians use. Religious leaders should speak the truth. Do religious and ethnic groups have roles in nation building and development? If the Christian Association of Nigeria is looking at developing the country and Muslims do the same, we can sit on the table peacefully. Poverty and disasters do not discriminate against religions and tribes. Religious leaders have become prayer contractors who go to the politician’s house to pray for him. Nigeria comes before my religion, but my religion helps me to be a better Nigerian – Rev Joseph Hayab, Discussant
We should speak out – Shehu
Hayab is from Southern Kaduna and I am from Northern Kaduna. We get on very well and people should emulate us. I spent four years in prison under Abacha, for alleged coup. I was sentenced for life. A country passes through challenges. A regime of silence and fear is sustaining the conflicts. There is power in speaking out. We have no other country than Nigeria, whether Christians or Muslims. Christians were deported from Israel, Muslims were deported from Saudi Arabia – they were telling us to go to our country. Once injustice is institutionalised, governors who are amassing wealth when the people are getting poorer, they are inciting people. People are having difficulties surviving. We have to deal with the political issues of proper election; rigging and imposition are not part of democracy.
We cannot have ethnic and religious sentiments if the country is not peaceful. Under the military some from the North refused to join the protests, people are using the same sentiments of “it is our son” to defend what is going on today. We cannot have peace in a country that honours thieves and we expect that those who have been denied those resources would keep quiet.
Extra-judicial killing is also injustice. This gathering would be different if we tell those those are benefitting from the crisis the truth. The people are not faceless. My reason for suggesting meetings with them is to get first hand information. They have raised some issues. The crisis is not different from those in Sudan and Northern Kenya. Insurgency and the peace process have become industries that people are exploiting. The solution does not lie with law enforcement alone, but engagement. – Mallam Sani Shehu – Human Rights Activist, Discussant
Nationalities need political space – Sagay
We were not always Nigerians. We became Nigerians after the colonial balkanisation of Africa by 1885. There should be political space for the various nations in the country. We were doing well operating with some level of autonomy until 1967. The unitary Constitution called federal, in 1979 contributed to the insurgency. If we restore true federalism, Adamawa should have been able to develop its own resources. Suppose the government has parochial interests that do not spread to Adamawa? The governors are all the time in Abuja because everything is in Abuja.
We should transfer resources and power to the States for their development instead of coming to Abuja for allocations that are wasted. There is no incentive for internal generation of revenue. It is all sharing and no productivity. We should restore the authority, resources and fiscal resources of the States. Abuja can do with some benign neglect. Under the 1960 Constitution, 43 items were on the Exclusive List. Today, there are 68 items on the Exclusive List and the government is taking up more. We should have a lean federal government with few responsibilities that it can handle well. Good governance is not the responsibility of the security agencies. The lack of performance of governments is responsibility for most of the security issues, which are social and economic matters that the governments should have handled better. – Prof Itse Sagay, Chairman of paper Militancy, Terrorism and Arms Proliferation As A Threat To National Security
Freedom from fear, want – Omoregie
Well being of citizens now considered the most important considerations in security. We should be free from fear and want if we are secure. Security issues elsewhere pose threats to others; an example is Mali where the militancy is spreading to other countries. The proliferation of small arms helps in the execution of their activities. Vigilante groups started in 1988 by Gov Abdul One Mohammed in Bauchi to help the police to curb armed robbery. Initial successes, but gradually the vigilante groups started using their position to settle personal scores. Privatisation of security has helped in arms proliferation. Unemployment, inadequate infrastructure, poverty, bad governance also fuel insecurity. The growth in economic figures has not reduced poverty or created more jobs. The Edo State Neighbourhood Watch is designed to assist the police, it is not state police.
Maj-Gen Charles Omoregie (rtd), former Commander JTF in the Niger Delta, Chairman of Edo State Neighbourhood Watch, Community Policing, who spoke on Militancy, Terrorism and Arms Proliferation Implications WIith National Security
1966 coup, first terrorism – Gbanite
I disagree that Major Adaka Boro’s group began the terrorist movement in Nigeria. The 1966 coup that displaced an elected government was the first act of terrorism. Emergence of Pentecostalism and Izalaist among the Muslims pushed the frontiers of the insurgency through religion. We got to this point because we lacked intelligence infrastructure. General Theophilus Yakubu Danjuma said that if there was intelligence infrastructure the civil war would have ended in weeks. Why are foreign countries interested in Nigeria’s internal security? Foreign media reporting of the events invited the foreign interest.We should diversify the economy by commencing mining in the North. Adamawa is potentially the richest State in the country. There should be national ownership of the crisis; it does not belong to the State where it occurs. The President should visit the conflict areas to give confidence to Nigerians who live there. Vibrant intelligence units and community intelligence units that start from the wards are important. We should equip the Navy and the marine sectors of the Police and National Civil Defence Corps for effective policing of our coastlines. Cyber terrorism is the next wave of terrorism. We should monitor the international media in the country, in particular areas of our countries. The police should be better trained about bombs and explosives. We should encourage the President to issue amnesty to Boko Haram, he would not lose face. Those with light weapons should surrender the arms for purchase. – Max Gbanite, a doctoral candidate, security expert
Security is collective responsibility – Alobi
NIGERIANS have encouraged insecurity by not empowering the security agencies. Arms in wrong hands are serious threats to national security. Police are meant to maintain law and order with other agencies assisting; Section 214 of the Constitution created the police and clearly stated their role in internal security. Rather than empowering the agencies, government creates others, weakening the existing agencies. Bad governance and leadership make the people poorer. Leadership is concerned about controlling and dominating the people, not empowering them. – Lawrence Alobi, lawyer, former Commissioner of Police, Federal Capital Territory