It must have come as a refreshingly pleasant surprise to many, especially those who had lost every shred of hope that President Muhammadu Buhari can successfully tackle the problems of insecurity bedevilling the country.
Buhari rode on the crest of a three-point agenda to success in 2015 when, for the first time in Nigeria’s chequered political history, a sitting president was defeated by an “outsider”.
The high point of Buhari’s campaign in 2015 was to fix the economy, fight corruption and tackle the security challenges staring the country in the face, particularly the nuisance called Boko Haram.
When Buhari mounted the saddle of leadership, people were hopeful that the Boko Haram menace would be a thing of the past, given his military background.
Inexplicably, however, rather than improve, the issue of insecurity worsened under Buhari as banditry, farmers/herdsmen clashes and kidnapping were added to Boko Haram, which was the prevalent security challenge when Dr Goodluck Jonathan was the president. Today, acts of violent crime have grown to form a major threat to Nigeria’s national security
The general feeling across the country was that Mr. President was either clueless as to how to handle the problem of insecurity or he was treating the matter with kid gloves, ostensibly because of the tribe of the people perpetrating the atrocities.
Perhaps most perplexing is the fact that herdsmen brazenly carry AK-47 rifles, which they use openly to attack their victims, and nobody is doing anything about it.
It is against this backdrop therefore that President Buhari’s order to security personnel, to shoot on sight, anybody seen carrying AK-47 in the forests, came as a surprise.
Buhari needs to be commended for his courage in taking the decision. The presidential order is a step in the right direction but it is only a scratch on the surface. More needs to be done.
Those who are recruited as suicide bombers, insurgents, bandits and abductors are, in the main, uneducated and jobless youths. The Federal Government should begin to think seriously about how to create jobs to mop up the army of unemployed youths while state governments, especially those in the north, should begin to encourage and incentivise their youths to go to school.
Government should adequately equip the security agencies through the recruitment of more personal and purchasing sophisticated weapons for the soldiers. There also has to be improved logistics support for the security forces. Security operatives need to up their game in the area of intelligence gathering and sharing. There should be improved welfare for security personnel and special incentives for those at the forefront of battle.
The story of soldiers who abandoned their duty posts without any formal disengagement is still fresh in our memory. This action of the soldiers may not be unconnected with the issue of lack of incentives.
The Federal Government has a no-ransom policy in place. It should stick by it because when you succumb to payment of ransom, not only will it encourage others, the abducters will use the ransom money to purchase more weapons to continue perpetrating their dastardly act.
The security architecture of the country, as it is presently, places the control of the police force squarely in the hands of the federal government, leaving state governors, in whose domain the insurgency and banditry take place, powerless.
If the country wants to frontally tackle the problem of insecurity, one of the things it has to do is to have state police, as is the case in other advanced climes.
In addition, the country must come up with stricter penalties for kidnapping and other violent crimes. The punishment of imprisonment “for a term
which may extend to ten years and shall also be liable to fine” prescribed in section 273 of the Penal Code for kidnapping, is child’s play!
The Kidnapping Abduction Act of 2017 which prescribes death sentence for any one who’s kidnapping activities lead to
the death of any person is also not strong enough. Why wait until the kidnapping act leads to death before death penalty comes into play?
The bigger problem is that even when these criminals are caught, in most cases, they are either not prosecuted or the full weight of the sanction is not brought to bear on them. The country must set up strong institutions that can exert the full punishment for all offences, no matter who is involved or where the person is from.