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Editorial

That Daunting Insecurity May Not Undermine 2023 Elections

 

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Nigerians can be likened to currently being in a pressure cooker: lives, limbs and livelihoods are being snuffed out at will. Terror elements are on the prowl showing the monopoly of violence with the government in an apparent lack of capacity to discharge its primary responsibility. Sheer anarchy is loosed upon the land, precipitating sorrows, tears and blood. Residents are fast receding from humanity such that it no longer makes the headlines when scores of citizens are killed in cold blood. Nigeria has regrettably become a huge killing field and a large funeral parlour.

Agents of death and horror are now strutting to areas that have recorded relative peace in recent times to defy such communities with bloodbaths, rape and wanton destruction. This was the reality of Plateau and Benue States during the week. On Sunday, terrorists stormed seven communities in Kanam Local Government Area of Plateau State, shooting at every villager on sight, abducting several others from their homes, burning homesteads and rustling animals. In the wake of this attack, 106 people fell with locals still recovering bodies from the bushes.

Benue State has known some respite from attacks for some time. This was interrupted Monday night by armed herdsmen who invaded several villages in three local government areas, killing no fewer than 25 people including a traditional ruler, injuring scores of people and torching homesteads. In Tarka LGA where there is the possible recovery of more bodies besides the 15 persons killed, youths soon embarked on a protest, displaying the bodies of the victims along the Makurdi/Gboko Federal Highway and disrupting traffic on the Trunk A road for hours.

Reacting to the killings, the Benue governor, Samuel Ortom rued the incessant killings of Benue people by suspected herders which have made them endangered species. His words, “My people will have to rise to the occasion to defend themselves and their heritage against the Fulani army of occupation. We have cried for help [to the federal government and security forces] against these invaders but nothing is forthcoming. We are left alone and it looks like it is a deliberate strategy. Now, we have only one option; to defend ourselves or be extinct”.

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Calls for Nigerians to defend themselves have since heightened due to the debilitating security crisis in the country which seems intractable. From the hallowed chambers of the House of Representatives, citizens have been advised to bear arms in self-defense. The Kaduna governor, Nasir El-Rufai took it to another level when he expressed readiness to engage mercenaries over the deleterious insecurity in the political capital of northern Nigeria. Inhabitants of Kaduna, the state with the highest number of military and paramilitary formations in Nigeria, have continued to reel from the yoke of deadly attacks by bandit terrorists.

Those abducted from the bombed train heading to the state a fortnight ago are still in the den of the terrorists. Only yesterday, their distraught relatives were at the National Human Rights Commission’s office pressing the government to secure the release of their imperiled loved ones. Watching their press conference can melt even the most hardened heart, one of them slumped. How effective are the nation’s security agencies and architecture if terrorists can kidnap loads of Nigerians and keep them for weeks without being smoked out?

It is for this reason that Naija News believes it’s balderdash for Minister Lai Mohammed to tell the nation that bandits collaborated with dislodged Boko Haram terrorists to bomb the Abuja-Kaduna train. What he should be telling citizens is whether the military and security agents have closed in on the terrorists or the bandits have been neutralized with those arrested being charged to court. For the Information minister to have made such an announcement suggests that the authorities did not see the bandits’ collaboration with terrorists coming. Since they didn’t foresee this, no wonder such an unholy alliance wasn’t forestalled.

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We regret that insecurity has become so pervasive, merchandised and decentralized in the country. The instances cited above are just a fraction of the extent. Much more attacks in the country by terrorists, bandits and sundry criminal elements go unreported. The latest data from the Nigeria Security Tracker (NST), a project of the Council on Foreign Relations, has it that 2,968 people were killed while 1,484 were abducted in Nigeria from January to March 2022! While the northern part of the country recorded 2,575 deaths (86.8%), southern Nigeria suffered 393 casualties averaging (13.2%). Insecurity shouldn’t be this bad since Nigeria is not at war and there is a commander in chief with well-funded military and security agencies.

Quite distressing is the audacity of the perpetrators who go scot-free only to return to the hapless citizens over and over. Even when citizens yielded the Abuja-Kaduna expressway to the bandits, they followed them to the trains. There was also an attack on the Kaduna Airport where a NAMA staff was killed. There have also been reports that security personnel, who are catered for by taxpayers, collaborate with these criminals. Last week, the Zamfara State Government disclosed that an army officer and his girlfriend were recently caught supplying ammunition and military uniforms to armed bandits in the state.

The House of Representatives alleged that the security chiefs were benefitting from insecurity in the country because of the huge funds being allocated to the defence sector. This is utterly despicable and reprehensible. Naija News demands that the legislature must square up to their oversight responsibilities, this is one role they must play rather than repeatedly calling for the sack of the NSA and the Defence chief.

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This newspaper had before now called on President Buhari to go beyond the security briefings he receives into setting up a Situation Room where he will be hands-on in tackling this terrifying security crisis. If he can’t lead this charge, the President should honourably heed the call by the Northern Elders Forum for him to resign. Never have Nigerians and Nigeria been this insecure despite having a war-tested General as President. The widespread killings, raids, rape and kidnappings question if tackling insecurity is really among the three-plank agenda of the Buhari government. Neither does the Hobbesian state of nature justifies the confidence Nigerians reposed in Buhari at the 2015 polls based on his military background.

Talking about elections, Naija News worries about the implications of the security crisis on the 2023 polls. INEC is already raising concerns over the possibility of conducting general elections amidst the widespread insecurity. Already, gunmen’s attack in Ihitte Uboma Local Government Area of Imo State where they recorded a video warning people against having anything to do with national elections has made the electoral commission cancel the continuous voter registration exercise there. Beyond incapacitating INEC, the reign of violence across the country will result in voter apathy and dissuade eligible potentials from even going for the CVR.

It is for this reason that Naija News recommends the wholesale integration of technology in the conduct and management of elections in Nigeria. A downloadable mobile app or USSD Code-based voting system can be created through which Nigerians of age can vote from their homes, shops, offices and schools. A country that effected this with e-Naira can also do so with its election processes. This will save the country billions of scarce resources and take away the need to deploy an overstretched military or shutting down the economy over the conduct of national elections.

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Polling can open at 0000 hours on Election Day with the app or portal having a real-time vote counter which automatically tabulates and updates votes cast for each party for everyone to see. Through the IMEI number and IP address of their phones, users can be prevented from voting more than once. Naija News believes that being this smart with the forthcoming general elections is a better option than having to deal with the constitutional crisis that could emanate if overwhelming danger to lives and properties prevents INEC from conducting elections within the period stipulated by the Grundnorm.