With the recent bomb blasts in Jos on Christmas eve, Bayelsa state and Abuja on new yearâ€™s eve following on the heels of the deadly independence day bomb blasts on the 1st of October, Nigeria has no doubt entered the most dangerous phase of a security crisis that has been on the rise since the advent of the civilian administration. Many underlying factors has led to the increasing security crisis amongst which are the arming of unemployed youths by the political class for the purposes of thuggery and election rigging, poverty -mass unemployment and ethno-religious strife. These factors form the crucible for the wave of insecurity that has engulfed the nation.
While the security crisis has been on the increase, the government whose most important constitutional responsibility is the protection of lives and property have demonstrated a shocking irresponsibility and nonchalance in their response to the grave security situation. Government inaction has inadvertently sent a message of tolerance and has over the years increased the impunity with which terrorists and other criminals operate. For decades Nigeria has experienced periodic acts of terrorism in the guise of ethno-religious strife but not a single person has been convicted and punished for such heinous crimes which has claimed the lives of thousands of persons, neither has the government accepted to hold a sovereign national conference to settle the many ethnic and religious issues that has directly or indirectly led to such acts of terrorism. In recent times, kidnapping which ordinarily thrives only in war ravaged nations crept into Nigeria and governmentâ€™s lack of aggressive response has led to the proliferation of the crime. To date not a single individual has been convicted anywhere in the nation.
These acts of irresponsibility on the part of the government in the face of a national security crisis have led to a steady proliferation of such vices which has now recently metamorphosed into the deadliest phase of targeted bombings. When recently in China a group of ethnic Uyghurâ€™s staged violent protests that killed scores of people, the Chinese government responded with maximum force by charging the culprits to court and getting them convicted and executed within two months to serve as a deterrent. In the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, the United States government took far reaching measures including the fighting of two external wars and the creation of the homeland security agency as a robust response to prevent further terrorist attacks which has so far been successful.
The Nigerian government must realise that a democracy has more responsibility to protect the lives and property of Nigerians by any means necessary. They must realise that unlike in the past, the new trend of highly organised criminality which have now progressed to bombings will not leave them unscathed no matter how much security they surround themselves with. The federal Government must therefore take responsibility for its past negligence which has led to the increased insecurity across the nation and implement urgent measures to tackle the national security crisis as proposed below before the nation reaches the point of no return.
Creation of Anti-terrorist Agency:
The federal government must move with deliberate speed to enact an anti-terrorist legislation and create an anti-terrorist agency whose duty will be intelligence gathering, monitoring of terrorists, disruption of terrorist activity and the capture or killing of terrorists. The federal government should increase pressure on the national assembly to urgently pass the anti-terrorism legislation that has since been gathering dust.
Creation of Special Tribunals and Capital Punishment:
Regular courts cannot cope with a national security strategy to decisively combat crimes such as terrorism and kidnapping. Special anti-terrorist tribunals possibly military tribunals should therefore be created specifically to try designated cases such as terrorism, kidnapping and gun running with a view to getting convictions within 3 months to demonstrate the governmentâ€™s determination to punish offenders. As part of government resolve of zero tolerance for such dastardly crimes, mandatory death sentences should apply for terrorism and kidnapping offences and all convicted criminals should be executed not later than a month after conviction. This would serve as the ultimate deterrent and help to restore social order in the nation.
The arming of unemployed youths-thugs by unscrupulous politicians and the attendant proliferation of arms represents a grave national security threat. This phenomenon which has led to an increasing availability of sophisticated assault weapons including explosives has contributed significantly to the security crisis and the increasing inability of the police to cope. Inspite of this obvious danger there is so far no anti-thuggery legislation to check the menace. The federal government should therefore urgently enact tough legislation that will sufficiently deter thugs and their sponsors. Legislation should mandate a 10 year jail term for thugs and politicians found to have sponsored thugs should be disqualified from holding public office and should also face a mandatory 10 year jail term.
Sim- Card Registration:
GSM in Nigeria has been subject to so much abuse which includes death threats, offensive calls, co-ordination of terrorist operations and other crimes, negotiation of ransoms and with the new bombing phenomenon, could also possibly be used to detonate IEDâ€™s. These abuses underscore the importance of having every sim- card registered to identify every sim holder and drastically reduce related vices. In the light of the increasing national security crisis the federal government should create a committee that would co, ordinate and oversee the registration of sim- cards which must include the capture of digital photographs and the fingerprint -biometric details of every sim-card holder. The committee should establish a deadline by which time all unregistered sim-card holders will be switched off. The committee should also establish protocols with the GSM service providers which will make it possible for anyone who loses their phone to report such and have their GSM lines blocked to prevent criminals from using lost or stolen phones to perpetrate crimes. A comprehensive registration of sim-cards is an urgent national security strategy that will go a long way in bringing abuses and crimes such as kidnapping and other vices linked to GSM use to a drastic reduction and thus help in re-establishing social order
State Civic Registration Biometric Identity Cards:
The absence of a comprehensive data base in Nigeria has significantly aided terrorists and other criminals in operating without any possibility of being caught. Previous attempts at establishing a national identity card and database failed because of ethno-religious politics of population. To avoid such pitfalls that dogged the last attempt, the federal government should pass legislation that makes it mandatory for every state to carry out a civic registration exercise of all those resident within their respective states and issue them with state identity cards.
Each state will ideally maintain their respective digital databases and must co, operate with the security services by granting access to the database in case of any criminal investigation. It should also be mandatory by law for every Nigerian from sixteen years of age to carry an identity card at any given time once outside their private residence. Biometric identity cards keeps everyone under some kind of surveillance and makes it harder for terrorists and other criminals to operate, it will also help in identifying all those without a means of livelihood and make it easier for the government to plan specific interventions to help in job creation and the provision of other social services.
Establishment of Free confidential Police Telephone Lines:
Nigeria is long overdue to have a free national police number as it exists in other nations to make it easier for members of the public including those who might want to be anonymous to report crimes and give valuable tips or intelligence to the police, which will no doubt make policing more effective and efficient. The federal government should therefore urgently partner with telephone service providers to set-up free national police confidential lines.
Convening of a Sovereign National Conference:
No matter how we try to run away from it, Nigeria must have to deal with the fault lines of its creation by convening a sovereign conference of ethnic nationalities where there would be an exhaustive dialogue to get the consent of the ethnic nations to be Nigerians and to create a confederate structure that will adequately accommodate the ethnic and religious diversity of the various ethnic nations. The structure will for example make it possible for those who want to practice sharia to do so in their autonomous region and vice versa. The absence so far of a dialogue of ethnic nationalities and a well structured nation has led to the emergence of ethnic militiaâ€™s and various forms of ethno-religious strife which has now metamorphosed into Al Qaeda type terrorist bombings. The federal government should therefore urgently put together a template to convene a sovereign national conference.
Addressing Poverty, Inequality and Unemployment:
Nigeria presently has millions of poor and unemployed youths roaming the streets in hopeless despair. This massive scale of poverty, inequality and unemployment has provided an endless pool of youths for recruitment as thugs and into other social vices. It is a time bomb that is already creating a national security crisis. Therefore at the same time that stringent security measures are being pursued, the federal government must also urgently tackle the increasing levels of unemployment through the creation of jobs, vocational training and enterprise opportunities.
The federal government should set â€“up dedicated industrial parks where small and medium scale enterprises can cluster in every state of the federation as a strategy of job and enterprise creation. An â€œenterprise boardâ€ should also be set-up by the federal government. This board will function by giving grants to youths who have had some business or vocational training to set-up small or medium scale businesses within the industrial clusters.
As a further strategy of job creation, the federal government should commence a massive public works programme to construct critical infrastructure across the nation. Federal roads, new roads and bridges, modern rail lines spanning the six zones, water works, schools, hospitals etc should be built and refurbished across the nation. Funding for the massive public works can be sourced from collaboration of a public private partnership, through a special trust fund from excess crude oil sales, through raising bonds locally or borrowing internationally. The roads and bridges will have toll gates which will make it easier to repay borrowed funds.
The infrastructure project is a win-win which will create millions of jobs and increase capacity for long term sustainable growth.
Nigeria is in an emergency and a combination of measures with a robust security strategy, addressing of the citizenship question through the hosting of a sovereign national conference and job creation efforts as proposed will go a long way in ushering in a new era of social order and prosperity.