President Muhammadu Buhari’s handling of security has been atrociously abysmal. Any assessment of the president’s attempt at securing lives and properties in the last seven years that is marginally better than this will be a brazen and unforgivable lie.
In 2014 when he was campaigning to be elected president if there was one sector many Nigerians agreed he was going to do better than the flailing Goodluck Jonathan’s administration, was security.
And you won’t blame Nigerians for being so hopeful. Close to the twilight of the Jonathan administration, the country was ravaged by terror – the terrorist maniac, Shekau has a thriving caliphate in parts of Borno and Yobe, Maiduguri was under a relentless siege, the Chibok girls had been kidnapped, and bombs and IEDs were going off around civilian targets.
We thought things couldn’t get worse. We thought wrong.
Buhari, a former infantry general, primarily campaigned with his military creds – he was a battalion commander during the Nigerian Civil War and in the 1980s and he led the Nigerian Army’s charge that put down the Maitatsine revolt. In fact, one of the more popular campaign slogans of his party, the All Progressives Congress, was “Buhari will handle security while Osinbajo will handle the economy”.
But Nigerians have become less secure during his presidency. Non-state actors have killed tens of thousands, millions have been displaced, kidnap-for-ransom is perhaps one of the most lucrative enterprises in the country, and large swaths of Nigeria’s Northwest region are now under the country of terrorists. In the Southeast, militants of the separatist group, the Indigenous People of Biafra, have set up an alternate government and people are more inclined to do their bidding than those of the government.
The country’s security forces clearly are overwhelmed and are struggling to even protect themselves, if one considers how often news of the killings of soldiers and police personnel are being reported.
Though the military and police have been taking a battering from non-state actors for some time, the last few weeks have been terrible. On the last day of June in Niger State, 37 soldiers and police officers who were responding to an attack at a mining site in Shiroro Local Government, were ambushed and killed.
Days after, the country’s security forces suffered another humiliating defeat as Islamist militants broke into Kuje Prison, on the outskirts of the country’s capital, freeing at least 60 prisoners linked with the terror group, Boko Haram. The terrorists operated for several hours. There was no backup to assist the beleaguered prison guards.
On July 5th, bandits in his home state of Katsina also ambushed an advance team of President Buhari and shot. Two people sustained injuries in the attack.
Even the president was frustrated at the ease with which they carry out these attacks and the inability of the country’s security forces to neither pre-empt them nor respond promptly when they occur.
He expressed his frustration in a tweet he posted in response to the prison break:
“Saddened by the attack on the Medium Security Custodial Centre, Kuje. I am disappointed with the intelligence system. How can terrorists organise, have weapons, attack a security installation, and get away with it? I am expecting a comprehensive report on this shocking incident.”
Since the successful prison break of the correctional facility in Kuje, these terrorist gangs have made several attempts at breaching the security and peace of the country’s capital. On July 24, a captain and two other soldiers of the elite Guards Brigade of the Nigerian Army were killed after they were ambushed by terrorists. The soldiers were part of a platoon that responded to a distress call by authorities of the Nigerian Law School following an attempt by terrorists to attack the school. Subsequently, the Call to the Bar ceremony of the school was moved to a different location.
The tattered state of the security in the country, and the obvious inability of the country’s security forces to ensure stability, are not in consonance with the assurances by the Chief of Defence State, Lucky Irabor, in this interview with Kadaria Ahmed of Radio Now 95.3fm, Lagos.