Nigeria is under siege, NBA declares

The Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) on Monday took a look at the myriad of problems that has almost rendered Nigeria comatose and declared that the country is under siege!

Speaking through its President, Olumide Akpata, NBA declared that the Nigerian government has failed its people.

Akpata spoke at the 2021 NBA Section of Public Interest and Development Law(SPIDEL) currently ongoing in Ibadan, Oyo State.

NBA SPIDEL committee has been able to gather an array of both senior and junior lawyers from across the country, three governors, including the host governor, Seyi Makinde and national legislators. The occasion provided all the speakers to greatly examine the state of the Nigerian nation. The prognosis is not encouraging.

Akpata in his address said that “It is an understatement to say that Nigeria is currently facing a myriad of challenges. The NBA has followed with great concern the deteriorating state of internal security and the gradual erosion of the monopoly of the Nigerian State over the use of force and arms. All over the country, hapless Nigerians are being killed, abducted, or maimed with reckless abandon. From the East to the West, and from the North to the South, we are faced with the grim picture of a country under siege and tottering at the edge of the precipice. Illustrative examples abound”.

The leader of the bar gave ample examples of insecurity in every part of the country. “In the Northern part of the country, especially the North East, while the security agencies continue to analyse the veracity of the widely reported clash between Boko Haram and their ISWAP counterparts, which has led to the reported death of the Boko Haram leader, Abubakar Shekau as well as its implications for the security situation in Nigeria, the reality on ground is that the war on terrorism and insurgency continues to rage;

In recent weeks, terrorists have taken their attacks to a new deadly dimension, ransacking villages in the region, and stamping their authority. We read of the disturbing attack a few Sundays ago, on a military base in Mainok, Borno State, leading to the death of 30 soldiers. A few weeks ago, Boko Haram militants reportedly attacked Geidam, a Local Government Area that is some 200 kilometres from Damaturu, the capital of Yobe State, and took over the community, while reportedly hoisting their flag in the community and imposing taxes. With these, together with the reported advances of Boko Haram into parts of Niger State, which is contiguous to the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, there is now a clear and present threat to the sovereign integrity of Nigeria, in a manner that is unprecedented;

Another deadly dimension to the violence is the clearly concerted attacks on the education system. As at Monday, 26th April 2021, a total of 5, out of over 25 students of Greenfield University, abducted by armed bandits on 20th April, 2021 had been killed while the rest remain trapped in the enclave of their abductors, potentially faced with the fate of their deceased colleagues.  All over the country, it is as though government is no longer able to provide a secure atmosphere for learning and education to take place, with several schools under lock and key on security considerations;

Unfortunately the war against terror recently suffered a major setback with the death of the Chief of Army Staff, Lt. General Ibrahim Attahiru and 10 other gallant officers of the Nigerian Army and Airforce who died in a plane crash on Friday 21st May 2021. While we pray for their souls to rest in peace, the best way to honour their memories will be to ensure that they did not die in vain and this can only be done by ensuring a total victory over terrorism and insurgency in Nigeria;

In the South East, a region which until recently enjoyed relative peace, as well as some States in the South – South, a peculiar wave of insecurity has emerged, manifesting in brutal attacks on law enforcement formations and law enforcement agencies especially the police by armed gunmen, as well as the destruction of national assets such as offices of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). There have also been reported cases of attacks on, and extrajudicial killings of, civilians by the law enforcement agencies;

In Anambra State, no fewer than four communities were until recently under State-imposed dusk-to-dawn curfew, arising from the mind boggling killing of about 19 persons at Igbariam, by unknown assailants.  A similar curfew was imposed in parts of Rivers State, following the killing of law enforcement agents at their duty posts by armed assailants. Very recently too, the Federal High Court in Abakaliki, Ebonyi State, was attacked, and a section of it torched, by the attackers.  This is not to mention the attacks on some communities by suspected criminal herdsmen in the State leading to loss of lives;

Recently, the United States Embassy issued a Travel Advisory to its citizens cautioning against traveling to different parts of Nigeria, citing security reasons. In a similar token, the United States Consulate in Lagos, in a “Security Notice” dated 27th April 2021 decried the rising spate of crime in Lagos State, and advised its citizens to be more cautious in their movement in and about the State. These are all indicative of a near breakdown of the security architecture of the Nigerian State and call for emergency security measures;

In addition to the worsening insecurity, we also face the problems of constriction of the civic space, and endangered freedom of expression, ostensible failure of institutions at different levels of governance. We are all witness to incessant civic demonstrations from ENDSARS to ASUP Strike, ASUU strike, including the ongoing JUSUN strike which has hit at the heart of our dear profession and practice. These are indicators of the state of the precarious state of the Nation”

Akpata blamed all the challenges on the failure of the government. “I dare say that this precarious state is indicative of the failure of governance at all levels which had been long in coming but has become exacerbated by the day. While there is a role for the citizens and civil society groups in that process, the bulk of the responsibility rests on the shoulders of the government to tackle the problems head-on. While efforts have admittedly been made, these have clearly not been satisfactory. Governments at all levels must take charge and deliver on the most important mandate of their offices: the protection of lives and properties.  They must restore the faith of Nigerians in the social contract that the citizens have with the Government. Indeed, they must govern in the Public Interest”.

He said further: “Nigerians have become beleaguered and are desperately yearning for good governance. And the good governance we must all seek to enthrone is not the type baked on altar of political crucibles, ethnicity, religious or other sentiments and overhyped over radio and TV jingles, but a genuine system of sustainable and measurable delivery of economic growth and empowerment of the masses under conditions that the fundamental human rights of individuals and rule of law prevails. It is good governance considered on the basis of attainment of social and economic objectives, equality, timely and just remediation for people whose rights are infringed”. 

Ondo State governor, Arakunrin Olurotimi Akeredolu in his presentation reiterated the stand of governors of the Southern part of Nigeria on ban on open cattle grazing, saying “our position stands”.

Akeredolu who also argued in favour of state police and Judiciary autonomy said that the South is not against cattle trade. “We are opposed to criminality and we will fight it with everything we have”. 

He said: “Dangote is doing business in Lagos, can he leave Lagos? Bua is doing business in the south, can he leave? The mention of spare parts sellers by the Attorney General of the Federation is most unfortunate and it reveals his mindset. I have no apology for what I said. Judicial autonomy, we are getting there soon.

Akeredolu said that the issue of state police has come to stay. “This is the time to have state police. Even before Amotekun, my brothers in the North had their own state police. The East have started their own too. Amotekun has come to stay. Anyone not satisfied should go to court. We are elected for the security of our people. The security of my house is in my hands. The security of our village is in our hands.

The governor of Bauchi state, Bala Mohammed said while he agreed with the southern governors, the question must be asked: Where did this dangerous herdsmen that has been killing and maiming people across the country, come from? He admonished Nigerians to beware of ethnic profiling, arguing that all Nigerians must be free in every part of the country. The governor said that what must be tackled is the criminal elements that turned honest Fulani cattle traders into victims. 

“What Akeredolu said is true. PDP governors endorsed the position of Southern governors. The Fulani man is my hero just as the Nnewi traders who defy all challenges to ply his trade anywhere it finds itself. What we are against is ethnic profiling. The problem is the cluelessness of this government. This Fulani engaged in criminality where are they from? The Fulani man is a Nigerian plying his own trade but he has no right to foist criminality. We have to be careful against ethnic profiling.

Former governor of Imo State, Rochas Okorocha however differed. According to him, the bane of Nigeria is injustice and poverty. He said all the problems boggling the country are actually effects, not causative. “Nigeria itself does not know its problem”, he said, saying that Nigerian leaders must learn to take responsibility for the problems.

He added: “There is injustice and poverty in Nigeria. These are the major problems. If we don’t address these two, we can bring all forces, the problems will not be solved. A 12 year old boy is made to trek from Niger, to Sokoto, Kaduna to Port Harcourt. The injustice done to the 12 year boy is more important to me than any other issue. If we have the right leadership, are we going to be talking about insurgency and kidnapping? The answer is no. To address insecurity, we must address poverty. Let’s engage our youths as their energies must be used, positively or negatively. Nigeria will not go down. The flag of Nigeria will fly high”, he concluded, adding his popular slogan, my people! My people!!

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