Citizens’ angst as insecurity persists despite increased allocations

Since 2009, when full-scale insecurity started in Nigeria, every administration has taken steps to address the menace from escalation through increased allocations to various defence formations. Despite those steps, from militancy, it has escalated to banditry and now kidnapping. In this report, SUNNY IDACHABA examines the concerns and stakeholders’ solutions.

It seems insecurity masquerading in the forms of militancy, banditry and kidnapping has come to stay in Nigeria judging from increased daily occurrences in the last 15 years. This is despite the corresponding annual budgetary allocations to defence formations.

This is more so as it seems the menace is turning into a booming business for those faceless perpetrators who appear to have assumed the status of ‘untouchables’ over the years.

In particular, investigations have shown that between 2019 and 2023, while the expenditures for defence formations increased considerably, killings and incidents connected with insecurity also rose astronomically to the point where people now wonder whether or not there is a correlation between those allocations and ‘sustained’ insecurity.

Also, in the last five years, data from the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project (ACLED) revealed that more than 44,000 people have been killed in various insecurity crises that rocked Nigeria with many carried out by non-state actors like arsonists, secessionist groups, kidnappers, bandits and militants.

For instance, on December 25, 2023 alone, more than 100 people were killed as a result of an attack on 15 communities in Bokkos and Barkin-Ladi local government areas of Plateau state. In that singular attack, more than 200 houses were razed despite the presence of military operations in the state.

Just like Plateau state, several other states like Kaduna, Benue, Zamfara, Kogi, Niger, Enugu, Katsina, Sokoto and, of course, Borno have experienced horrific attacks leading to deaths in local communities. In many instances, there were little resistances because of the absence of security operatives who in several cases were often victims too.

No corresponding results

According to the ACLED data, 44,779 people were killed in 20,398 incidents collated from media reports between 2015 and 2023. This is 16 per cent higher than the 38,515 deaths recorded between 2014 and 2018.

By calculation, there are 1,826 days between January 2015 and December 2023. If the total number of deaths is divided by each day, this would mean an average of 25 persons were killed daily in the last five years.

As a result of these attacks, farming activities and communal family life in many rural communities in the country have been affected. Therefore, individuals who are supposed to grow food found themselves as refugees in IDP camps as a result of which the cost of food items suddenly hit the roof- top amidst growing inflation.

However, an examination of the expenditures of seven security agencies (Nigerian Army, Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC), Nigeria Air Force, Nigeria Navy, Ministry of Police Affairs, Defence Headquarters and Ministry of Defence Headquarters) showed that their budgetary allocations increased, just as painfully as insecurity also continued to escalate.

For instance, taking a look at the recent allocations between 2019 and 2023, it was discovered that N7.71 trillion was released to these seven units. The allocation of the Army increased by 191.19 per cent, NSCDC rose by 32 per cent and the Air Force budget jumped by 74.53 per cent. Also, the budget for the Navy increased by 87.19 per cent, the Defence Headquarters budget rose by 1550.5 per cent while the Ministry of Defence budget jumped by 129.1 per cent.

Meanwhile, the police had a budget of N366.13 billion in 2019 after which it became a ministry in 2020. Between 2020 and 2023, the ministry’s budget increased by 104.7 per cent.

In the 2024 budget, the President Bola Ahmed Tinubu administration increased the allocation to 11 security agencies and ministries by seven per cent. Despite these increases, insecurity has grown to become the country’s greatest challenge.

The general opinion is that many of those dastardly incidents could have been contained where budgets for insecurity were judiciously expended and requisite infrastructure made available to security forces to contain such onslaughts.

It was this concern that resonated recently at a public engagement organised by NOI Poll on the prevalence of insecurity especially kidnapping/abduction in the country where security experts and analysts bore their minds.

Loss of confidence

On his part, the CEO of Beacon Consulting, Dr. Kabir Adamu, who is a security expert, said kidnap for ransom and other forms of criminalities are security threats to the country’s well-being.

“It is no longer a perception that what is strangulating our nationhood is continued kidnapping and abduction. From the recent report released by NOI Poll about the percentage of persons who paid ransom for their release, it is evident that Nigerians do not have confidence in the rescue efforts of the security formations. The government may discourage payment of ransom, but Nigerians are paying to secure their release from kidnappers and bandits, which means there is disconnect. If people, therefore, depend on themselves to provide security, then the social contract between the government and the people has been breached,” he said.

Military needs to embrace technology

A social commentator, Abba Dukawa, in his view, said insecurity has greatly affected the image of the country both domestically and internationally, especially in the area of the nation’s quest to attract Foreign Direct Investment (FDI).

“For more than decades, the issue of insecurity in Nigeria has become something of grave concern to all citizens, most of whom continue to wonder how the country arrived at such a dastardly situation where no one is safe; and worse still, rather than abate, the problem is escalating.

“There is a need for further investment in technology and infrastructure, coupled with adequate training and equipping of security operatives to enhance their operational effectiveness and responsiveness. Let federal, state government and other local and international stakeholders provide security agencies with modern equipment to track down the criminals,” he said.

Failure on those vested with the responsibility

On his part, a former Chief Security Officer to Gen. Sani Abacha, Major Hamza Al-Mustapha, said the spate of security challenges in the country is as a result of decades of neglect because those trusted with the responsibility of guaranteeing peace and stability of the country failed in their primary assignment; hence, the increasing level of security challenges today.

“The security situation in Nigeria and indeed most African nations has been neglected for so long and has degenerated to the level where the mechanism of damage control becomes inevitable in finding solutions to the intractable challenges of banditry, terrorism and violent crimes,” he said.

Al-Mustapha noted further that, decades of neglect of security challenges have made it a herculean task to manage and pull the country right; therefore, he said modern empirical, systematic and scientific approaches must be adapted to reverse the trend of insecurity.

Food, national security intertwined

While reflecting on a previous poll by NOI on insecurity as it relates to ‘stomach infrastructure’ , Barrister Frank Tietie, a media analyst, said there is a correlation between food insecurity and national insecurity as 28 per cent of Nigerians believe that the only way to tackle national insecurity is first and foremost to tackle food insecurity.

According to him, “70 per cent of Nigerians go to bed hungry everyday based on NOI poll; that means food insecurity tops most as the outcome of general insecurity in the land because one is the outcome of the other.”

According to that NOI Poll report on insecurity, especially kidnapping as presented by Dr. Chike Nwangwu, the head of the poll in the country, “Nigeria has seen a sharp increase in kidnapping incidents in recent years. Similarly, the 2023 Nigerian Security Report on kidnapping/abduction by an Abuja-based security risk management and intelligence company revealed that the security architecture at the moment is not accountable as it lacks operational, financial and democratic accountability, a development the report said has made it difficult to attain the desired success on security.”

Part of the report read that 39 per cent of Nigerians say economic hardship is responsible for kidnapping and insecurity while 29 per cent blamed it on unemployment. However, 10 per cent put the blame on bad governance while only four per cent blamed it on poverty.

Therefore, as stakeholders are proffering solutions to the insecurity situation in the country, both in kinetic and carrot approach, it is hoped that saboteurs would not turn back the hands of the clock.