On August 8, 2019, Nobel laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka, sparked a national debate after he proposed that a state of emergency on insecurity be declared in the South West.
While attending the Fagunwa Study Group Second International Conference in Akure, Ondo State, which was held to celebrate his 85th birthday, he had a brief chat with journalists and expressed concern over the high rate insecurity in the South-West. He said that there is need for urgent action to be taken to address the problem and that the most fitting measure to take in view of the escalating situation is to declare a state of emergency across the zone.
His words: “As regards the insecurity in the South-West, there is an emergency. There should be a declaration of security emergency throughout the land and measures taken accordingly.”
His statement which was widely reported is similar to the concerns over insecurity raised by the Ooni of Ife, Oba Adeyeye Ogunwusi in his letter to President Muhammadu Buhari, the Alafin of Oyo, Lamidi Adeyemi, the leader of the O’odua Peoples Congress(OPC), Aare Kakanfo Gani Adams, The Yoruba Council of Elders (YCE), Afenifere, Agbekoya Farmers’ Association, Soludero Hunters Association, and a host of other prominent Yoruba leaders.
When President Buhari met with traditional rulers recently over the issue of insecurity, he outlined some of the steps his administration is taking to address the challenges. He said the government will increase the number of security personnel and install CCTVs on highways and other strategic locations so that activities in some of those hidden places can be exposed.
Kidnapping for ransom and banditry has become two of the major security challenges facing Nigeria. Many people are killed and kidnapped very frequently in different parts of the country by armed groups such as terrorists, bandits, kidnappers and armed herders.
A report by Nigeria Security Tracker (NST), a project of the Council on Foreign Relations’ Africa program, revealed that 7,253 Nigerians died between June 2018 and May 2019 as a result of insecurity. These figures include those killed by Boko Haram and Islamic State West African Province (ISWAP) in the North, herdsmen and extra-judicial activities by the military. The report stated that during the timeframe, Borno recorded 2,384 killings while 1,157 people were killed in Zamfara.
Other states that made up the top 10 states of death from violent activities are Kaduna, 540; Benue, 330; Adamawa, 303; Yobe, 264; Taraba, 176; Plateau, 166; Rivers, 160 and Katsina with 127 deaths. The least affected states are Kebbi, three; Kwara and Jigawa, four; Osun, eight; Kano and Bauchi, 10; Gombe, Oyo and Enugu, 11 and Abia, 12.
Calls for state of emergency
A state of emergency is a situation which allows the government of a state or country to increase powers in the area. It can be declared for reasons including security, civil unrest or a natural disaster. When an emergency is declared, it gives the government a wide range of special powers to deal with the situation at hand.
During his tenure, former president Olusegun Obasanjo declared a state of emergency in Plateau and Ekiti states; the democratically elected governors (Joshua Dariye and Ayo Fayose) were impeached by the State Houses of Assembly and administrators were appointed in their stead. In the case of Plateau, there was constant riots where lives and property were destroyed and in Ekiti, the political atmosphere then was also not pleasant.
In other climes, governments have also adopted it to deal with peculiar situations. In Italy for instance, the Prime Minister, Giuseppe Conte, declared a 12-month state of emergency in the Liguria region in response to the motorway bridge collapse in Genoa. He also said he would make an initial €5m ($5.7m) available from central funds to the North-Western region.
The British Columbia government in Canada declared a state of emergency in response to a wildfire situation. A state of emergency was declared in areas near Athens when huge forest fires raged through Greece in July of this year. In February 2018, Ethiopia declared a 6 months long state of emergency following the resignation of Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn. Venezuela has been in a state of emergency since 2016 due to mass protests driven by a crashing economy and widespread hunger.
Should a state of emergency be declared?
Daily Sun reached out to prominent Nigerians from different parts of the country to know their views on the issue. When contacted, elder statesman, Tanko Yakassai, said that so far, the president’s ideas have failed to yield any positive results. He said the current security chiefs have performed below expectations and that unless there is a total change, the situation will remain the same.
“What difference will it make if Buhari declares emergency on security? My own approach is that the President himself should think of his priorities in the security situation in the country. From the look of things, all his ideas have not succeeded and he needs new ideas. His security chiefs have not been able to address the problem and he needs new people to come up with new ideas. We started with Boko Haram and now we have up to six different security challenges, certainly, we are not doing better. “
Former minister of transportation, Ebenezer Babatope, and a long time member of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) from Osun State is in support of Soyinka’s proposal for an emergency. When Daily Sun reached out to him, he said that a state of emergency should be declared but should not be limited to the South West alone but to the entire country and that no matter how fantastic the government’s economic plans are, if the issue of insecurity is not immediately addressed, all the plans will amount to nothing.
“Soyinka knows what he is talking about but emergency on security should not just be declared in the South West alone, it should be declared all over the country. Imagine how the daughter of Chief Fasoranti was killed; this is a man who has spent many years of his life, fighting for the betterment of Nigeria.
“Nigeria has many security experts that can advise us on what to do. What is important now for Nigeria is to pursue an agenda to ensure that we secure our country from the hands of bandits and those who want to destroy our unity. The insecurity in this country is frightening. President Buhari has been saying that he would contain the erratic activities of herdsmen and bandits but we are yet to see any positive results. So as far as I am concerned, as long as we do not immediately proffer solutions to the insecurity in the country, we are wasting our time,” Babatope said.
A lawmaker in the Lagos State House of Assembly and a chieftain of the All Progressives Congress (APC) Tunde Braimoh, disagrees with the idea of an emergency because according to him, it will only make the situation worse. He told Daily Sun that insecurity is not exclusive to Nigeria and no action that would exacerbate the issue should be taken.
“I have the highest regard for Prof. Soyinka and I do not query the right or duty of the elder statesman to make comments on contemporary national issues but his opinions no matter how pliant must be properly dimensioned as to be sure we are not creating more mischief than we want to avoid. Two wrongs don’t make a right; it’s like going from frying pan to fire because that will mean jettisoning democratic rule. We should not try to create more problems than we want to avoid.
“If you talk about crime, go around the world and see what is happening. When you watch foreign stations, you hear about mass shootings all the time; so will they now declare an emergency because there have been constant mass shootings where thousands are killed? Insecurity is not peculiar to any country. What we need to do is to join hands together to make sure that our culture which does not condone such heinous actions, is not eroded. We need to remind our people about the importance of our national interest and unity. These crimes are alien to us, so we need to appeal to our people not to forget that our nation should come first,” Braimoh said.
One of the leaders of the Southern and Middle Belt Forum, Dr. Isuwa Dogo, from Kaduna State, told Daily Sun that a national state of emergency on security is long overdue. He said: “A national state of emergency on security is absolutely needed and in fact, it is long overdue. We are suffering terribly from the high rate of insecurity especially in Southern Kaduna. The North has the highest rate of insecurity at present despite some of the policies of the Federal Government. If you set up a radio station in Fulfude, it would be a waste of time for those who do not understand the language. If you set up Ruga settlements, they would not see it as if you are helping them; they would see it as their birthright.
“The police can tackle this problem effectively but what is lacking is the motivation and remuneration. How long did it take for them to capture Wadume, the kidnap kingpin? That is to say that the police can capture anyone anytime. We do not need the soldiers or the navy because the police can do the job if they are well remunerated and the resources are made available to them.
“The fact is that our security forces are not adequately motivated. Those who reach the top may have all the funds but after that, it does not trickle down and so you have a police man earning N17, 000 a month or even less. There is need for a complete overhaul of the security architecture of the country. We have so many security agencies but are they properly trained and remunerated? Our borders are not too large to be patrolled. How big is Nigeria? Is it as big as the US? Our borders are not too large to stop these criminals from entering and those who think that they have brothers in Mali and Niger and therefore should be allowed to have sanctuary in Nigeria are making a mistake. This is because they are not coming here to see their brothers, they are coming here to kill and those who give them sanctuary will be their first victims; I can assure you of that.
“Many of those in power believe that they are providing sanctuary for their brothers in neighbouring countries to settle in Nigeria. But these people are not coming for that purpose because the very people who are providing the sanctuary for them will be their first victims just as you have seen in states like Katsina, Zamfara, Sokoto and other states in the North. It is an illusion to think they are doing themselves a favour.”
The leader of Arewa Youths Consultative Forum (AYCF) Yerima Shetima, disagrees with the narrative that those in power are aiding the movement of foreigners from neigbouring countries into Nigeria. He told Daily Sun that the security situation has been made worse by the government’s policies and that it needs to take responsibility for its failure. However, he agrees that a national emergency on security should be declared.
“Insecurity has become a national issue and a state of emergency should not be restricted to any particular zone. Despite the fact that all the security chiefs are from the North, we still have the worst case of insecurity compared to other parts of the country. If there is going to be a declaration of emergency on security, then it has to be national. We’re more divided that we are and insecurity has compounded our problem. Insurgency, kidnapping, banditry, killing have never been this bad. The Northern part of the country has been hit the most compared to the Southern part.
“The increase in unemployment rate and the unpopular policies of this administration has worsened the situation. Foreign investors are not coming any longer because the country is not safe for them. The government says that most of these people that carry out these acts are from neigbouring countries but then, why do we have porous borders if that is the case? Do we have incompetent people manning our borders? If that is the case, then let them remove the incompetent people and employ those who have the capacity to do the job. The government should take responsibility of the failure in security,” Shettima said.
Is this border issue a case of those in power allowing their ‘kinsmen’ to illegally come and settle in Nigeria as is being alleged? Shettima dismisses this. He says there should be no ethnic coloration and that crime should be treated as crime irrespective of who is committing it.
“If a crime is committed by one criminal, the criminal should be dealt with as a criminal and should have no ethnic coloration. Crimes that were committed recently by Nigerians in the US have no ethnic coloration. As far as the FBI is concerned, they are Nigerians. Every tribe has good and bad people, so let us not make the mistake of attributing crime to any ethnic group. We have a law in this country and if someone breaks the law, the person should be dealt with. The government must take responsibility of the security situation and the right thing must be done. There must be unity and everybody must be brought on board to tackle this challenge,” he said.