WAY OUT OF INSECURITY: THE ROLE OF GOVERNMENT AND THE CHURCH

 

A Talk on WAY OUT OF INSECURITY: THE ROLE OF GOVERNMENT AND THE CHURCH being delivered at the 2020 Laity Week at Church of the Assumption Parish Asokoro on Wednesday, 11th March, 2020 by Rev. Fr. Christopher Nnubia

 

 

 

1. Introduction

 

 

 

When I was approached last week Tuesday to present this paper today, I had three just causes to reject the request. Firstly, the scheduled date fell on the burial of Most Rev. Peter Adoboh, Bishop of Katsina-Ala which I had wanted to attend. Secondly, the time given was too short as I had other papers and assignments to accomplish within a space of time. Thirdly, this is a delicate issue which will take away some powers from me as I am not competent on security affairs. Having said all these and after prayerful reflection, I decided to forgo and suspend all other issues for this crucial topic: Way out of insecurity: the role of government and the Church.

 

Not until 2009, Nigeria was not used to insecurity linked with terrorism of any kind.Prior to the emergence of insecurity linked with terrorism, we witnessed criminal acts like armed robbery, oil bunkering, bank fraud and violent demonstrations by disgruntled people. Today, many people are worried of this ugly development in our country. People have been asking questions, especially a question on the way forward. I think, it is in line with this ongoing search for the way forward that the organising Committee of this year’s Laity week wants us, especially, you, the laity to reflect on the way out of this insecurity.

 

Here we shall be discussing security as a right and a duty, a brief historical development of insecurity in recent times, impacts of insecurity on national development, the role of government as well as the role of the Church in seeking the way out of insecurity in our dear country, Nigeria.

 

 

 

2. Security: a right and a duty

 

 

 

Security is everybody’s business. Everybody has the right to be secured or protected as well as the duty to secure others and self. The duty to secure others may appear unrealistic in Nigeria because of loopholes in our security system. In America and Europe, the duty to secure others is well pronounced with the help of their national emergency code number like 911 (U.S.A), 112 (EU). In addition, it is the primary responsibility of any government to secure her citizens. The 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended) as captured by section 14 (2)b states thus: “[…] the security and welfare of the people shall be the primary purpose of government [….]” Thus, the Constitution spelt out statutory responsibilities of the government which includes the mandate to manage security challenges on behalf of her citizens, amongst other functions that border on peaceful co-existence of the federating units that make up the Nigerian state.

 

However, today, security has become a big issue or problem in Nigeria. The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Nigeria, in its communique issued at the 2020 First Plenary Meeting said that “for many, security of life and property is now only a wish”.[1] What a pity! How did we get to where we are now as a nation? Let us look at the historical development of insecurity in Nigeria in recent times.

 

 

 

3. A brief historical development of insecurity in Nigeria in recent times

 

 

 

On Christmas day 2009, it was alleged that one Mr. Abdulmutallab, a Nigerian, was trying to detonate a destructive device on the airbus 330, en route from Amsterdam, Netherlands to Detroit, Michigan, U.S.A. which was carrying 289 passengers and crew. I was among many Nigerians who initially doubted the act because such a thing was not in our character as Nigerians and a nation. It was said that Nigerians cannot go to that extent of suicide bombing. Before then, we used to hear news of suicide bombing in other parts of the world. Not too long, Abdulmutallab was convicted in a US federal court of eight federal criminal counts, including attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction and attempted murder of 289 people. He was eventually sentenced for life terms plus 50 years without parole on February 16, 2012. The Abdulmutallab’s case changed the perception of many Nigerians about what some Nigerians are now capable of doing. As this happened, fear gripped many Nigerians because in the wake of the 2009 riots, Boko Haram turned horribly violent.

 

We should recall that Boko Haram was founded in 2002 in Borno State by a group of Islamic clerics led by Mohammed Yusuf. They wanted to turn Nigeria into a truly Islamic state by imposing Sharia law throughout the country, including imposing it on Christians. At the beginning, Boko Haram was radical, but not yet violent. That changed in 2009, when Boko Haram members decided they were going to refuse to obey—of all things—a law requiring motorcycle riders to wear helmets on the grounds that it was somehow un-Islamic. The arrest of several members sparked a riot where Boko Haram had its first large clash with Nigerian police in riots that left a staggering 800 people dead. Mohammed Yusuf was detained by Nigerian security forces and interrogated. His questioners taunted him for owning computers after he had spent years denouncing Western education. After his interrogation, he was executed without trial in what the government described as a “gun battle.”[2] This was what sparked insecurity linked with terrorism in Nigeria.

 

As Boko Haram members are operating in the northeast, the members of Odua People’s Congress (OPC) which was founded in 1993, are also operating in the southwest. The Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) founded in 2004, the Niger Delta People’s Volunteer Force (NDPVF) founded in 2004 and the Bakassi Boys founded in 2006, are operating in the Niger Delta. The Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB) founded in 1996 and the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) founded in 2014 are operating in the southeast. The herdsmen militants known as Fulani herdsmen started many years ago but in 2010, the group became so powerful and deadly. Another group is the Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN) which its members are members of the Shiite Islamic sect. Boko Haram has also splintered into several factions. One, known as the Islamic State in West Africa, (ISWAP), has allied itself with ISIS in the Middle East. Unlike Shekau's faction, ISWAP is believed to distinguish itself by refusing to kill Muslims.[3]

 

Among all the groups mentioned above, four of them have been tagged as terrorist groups: Boko Haram, the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), herdsmen militants and the Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN). The Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) and the Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN) are tagged as terrorist groups by the government after securing a court order allowing it to prohibit the groups’ activities as "terrorism and illegality". Nevertheless, many people still wonder why IPOB was tagged as a terrorist group. The other two are tagged terrorist groups by international bodies. In 2015, the Boko Haram was declared a terrorist group by the US Government. The Fulani militant group is tagged the fourth deadliest terrorist group according to online Independent news media.[4]

 

The question is what impacts have these groups particularly, the internationally acclaimed terrorist groups done to Nigeria as a nation?

 

 

 

4. Impacts of Insecurity on National Development

 

 

 

These terrorist groups mentioned above, particularly, the internationally acclaimed terrorist groups, have created numerous challenges which pose serious threats to the unity and security of Nigeria. Today, the unity and security of Nigeria is threatened by the armed insurgency and the rising attacks on innocent citizens by these terrorist groups. We have moved from security of life and property to insecurity in the form of destruction of life and property. For the Human Rights Watch report of January 2020, Boko Haram members had killed an estimated number of 27,000 people, including 37 aid workers, since the onset of the conflict in 2009.[5] Still on the Human Rights Watch report of December 2013, violence between Fulani herdsmen, farmers and local communities had killed 3,000 people since 2010. If about 3, 000 people were killed between 2010 and 2013, how many had been killed between 2013 till date in the violence between Fulani herdsmen, farmers and local communities? Only God knows!

 

It is no longer news that the Abuja-Kaduna highway has become notorious for banditry attacks and kidnappings. The Inspector General of Police, Mohammed Adamu said in April, 2019 that 1,071 people were killed in criminal attacks and 685 kidnapped across the country in the first quarter of 2019 alone.[6]

 

The level of insecurity in the land today is really complex. It seems that it has gone beyond the control of the government. Nigeria is no longer the same. Human life seems to have lost value in Nigeria. The major problem is not really about the complex nature of insecurity in Nigeria but about insincerity of those concerned in tackling this mayhem. To be honest, I think that, insecurity rose to the level it is today because of insincerity. In fact, insincerity strengthens insecurity in Nigeria. Another word to qualify insincerity is duplicity. How do I mean?  I will give instances to support my claim.

 

The former President Goodluck Jonathan, speaking at a church service held at the National Christian Center to mark the 2012-Armed Forces Remembrance Day, said that the militant Islamic sect Boko Haram, has infiltrated the three arms of government at the federal level. According to him, "some of them are in the executive arm of government, some of them are in the legislative arm of government, while some of them are even in the judiciary". "Some are also in the armed forces, the police and other security agencies." He made the statement without unmasking them for people to know them. These people continued to be members of his government until the government handed over to another government. Can we say that President Goodluck Jonathan lacked the courage or will power to call a spade a spade? Can we say with certainty that the members of this militant Islamic sect, Boko Haram who infiltrated the three arms of government at the federal level then have repented, retired or died? Can we say with certainty that the members of this militant Islamic sect, Boko Haram who infiltrated the armed forces, the police and other security agencies have also repented, retired or died?

 

The present government once told the nation that Boko Haram has been “technically defeated”. With this good news, there was joy in the land that day only. This is because a day after the statement was made till date, the same sect still attacks people with impunity. As observed by Anthony Cardinal Okogie, “one of the biggest lies ever told by any government in the history of Nigeria is that Boko Haram has been “technically defeated”. Boko Haram has not been defeated.  In fact, it is waxing stronger.  There are too many mass burials. Too many kidnappings of school children, of travellers, invasion of peoples’ homes, invasion of sacred places like Churches, mosques, seminary, etc. The brutal killings of innocent Nigerians by Boko Haram, and terrorists’ herdsmen who are invading people’s farmlands forcefully are becoming a daily occurrence in Nigeria. The kidnapping for ransom in every part of Nigeria is the order of the day. Many women, children, babies, and men have been killed by the terrorists. Perhaps, those who used the phrase “technically defeated” may need to explain to Nigerians, the real meaning of it.”[7]

 

Sadly, President Buhari himself, as reported, expressed his lack of capacity to defeat the armed insurgency and the rising attacks on innocent citizens by armed Fulani herdsmen, armed bandits, boko haram terrorists and many other lawless anarchists who have made life so difficult for commuters on all federal roads in Nigeria.[8] “The problem is even older than us,” President Buhari said of killings. “It has always been there, but now made worse by the influx of armed gunmen from the Sahel region into different parts of the West African sub-region.” “These gunmen were trained and armed by Muammar Gaddafi of Libya. When he was killed, the gunmen escaped with their arms. We encountered some of them fighting with Boko Haram. “Herdsmen that we used to know carried only sticks and maybe a cutlass to clear the way, but these ones now carry sophisticated weapons,” President Buhari said. Imagine statements such as these coming from the President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic Nigeria. Noting these statements attributed to President Buhari, one may be tempted to be in perpetual panicking. What measures are in place to check the influx of armed gunmen from Sahel region into Nigeria? The “consoling messages, measures and packages of the government” are: 1) New Visa on arrival application process for all business travellers and African Union countries except ECOWAS member countries; 2) not to mete out capital punishment on any suspected bandits the local communities catch, rather they should hand them over to the law enforcement authorities; 3) releasing the captives under the guise of ‘repentant Boko Haram’ etc.

 

People have speculated a lot which put some of us in doubt of the seriousness of this present government in tackling insecurity problem in Nigeria. For me, I think that there is duplicity in dealing with insecurity in Nigeria on the side of the government.

 

With the above statements from our past and present Presidents, it is obvious that the end of the road to defeat these deadliest terrorist groups in Nigeria is still very far. Nevertheless, with God all things are possible. The end of the road may be very far but God will surely bring the end of the road closer to us. However, we should not relent in finding ways out of this insecurity in the land. We must continue to play our individual and collective roles in rooting out insecurity in Nigeria as well as to proffer solutions to the government on ways to tackle this problem.

 

 

 

5. The way out of insecurity: the role of government

 

 

 

To get out of this menace called insecurity linked with terrorism, the government must be sincere. What actually is going on? Where are we and where are we going? Who are the actual sponsors of these deadly terrorist groups? Why have they not been traced? Can the Boko Haram members in the executive arm of government, in the legislative arm of government, in the judiciary," in the armed forces, the police and other security agencies be identified? If the government has interest in any of these terrorist groups or the members of these groups have vital positions in government, then the answers to the aforementioned questions can never come to daylight.

 

Recently, the US Government placed a ransom of $7m, for anyone who has information that can lead to the arrest of the leader to the deadly terrorist sect (Boko-Haram) in Nigeria. Can anything come of this? Let us continue to pray for God’s intervention.

 

The government should provide adequate facilities for the security agencies for this guerrilla warfare. It is not enough to provide these facilities, rather to make the security agencies use them for the purpose of their purchase and not to divert them by selling them or giving them to the terrorist groups.

 

The government’s policy on biometric data of Nigerians and non-Nigerians living in Nigeria should be realistic and not the usual way of suffering Nigerians in endless queues. The policy on biometric data of Nigerians and non-Nigerians living in Nigeria should be handled by one reliable government agency as obtainable in any serious country. Some years ago, Nigerian Police intended to introduce the biometric data of Nigerians as it is called the Biometric Central Motor Registration as a means of checking “rampant terrorism, kidnapping and car theft”. This is a noble intention really, except that with the amount of biometric data of Nigerians already captured at different places and agencies in Nigeria without proper coordination and connection, one may question what differentiates this from the previous ones. Is it not the usual way of suffering Nigerians? I have discovered that every year, the government, directly or indirectly, will bring out a policy that will inflict pains and hardship on Nigerians. To be candid, Nigerians are good people.

 

The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) had severally ordered Nigerians to register or re-register their Subscriber Identification Module (SIM) cards. Many Nigerians have also complied but what is the outcome of it? Has it solved the problem of “rampant terrorism and kidnapping? Of course, no! On Monday, 9 March 2020, the Executive Vice Chairman of the Nigerian Communications Commission, Mr Umar said that the Commission has deactivated not less than 2.2 million improperly registered Cards across all telecommunication networks in the country. Why were they improperly registered? Whose fault, the machine, the registration officer or those who purchased the sim cards?

 

It is a clear evidence of unseriousness on the side of the government. The Nigerian government should learn from the Italian government that has fiscal code officially known in Italy as Codice fiscale for foreigners and proper National Identity Card for citizens. The fiscal code is similar to a Social Security Number in the United States, the National Insurance Number issued in the United Kingdom or our National Identity Number (NIN). It is an alphanumeric code of 16 characters. The code serves to identify unambiguously individuals residing in Italy irrespective of residency status. Designed by and for the Italian tax office, it is now used for several other purposes, e.g. uniquely identifying individuals in the health system, or natural persons who act as parties in private contracts. This number reflects on the documents acquired by individuals such as resident permit, health insurance card etc. Individual’s identity card is demanded virtually for any serious transaction in Italy. Thanks to the Nigerian government for the introduction of the National Identity Card and enforcing the possession of it by Nigerians. In a chat with a friend while trying to obtain our National Identity Number (NIN), he remarked, “as people are queuing come sun come rain every day at the headquarters of the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) just to obtain their NIN and cards, others not excluding the so-called armed gunmen from the Sahel region who entered into Nigeria may have received theirs including the cards without any stress”. I may not be surprised at that statement because in Nigeria, anything goes. I hope that our present National Identity Card policy will not end up as our normal jamboree on policies. This is the second National Identity Card; the first one issued in 2003 ended up with a story that it had no identity number. I hope that the policy on this present one is well articulated.

 

The government should reactivate our national emergency code number, 112 or 199 and make it to function effectively. Like some serious countries, let the number be one and not 112 or 199.

 

Having skeletally mentioned some roles of government in tackling insecurity in Nigeria, let us look at the role of the Church.

 

 

 

 

 

6. The way out of insecurity: The Role of the Church

 

 

 

To make this section simple and straight to the point, there is need to recognise the Christian faithful in the Church. The Christian faithful in the Church are the sacred ministers who in law are also called clerics (Bishops, presbyters and deacons); the other members are called lay people. There are members of the Christian faithful from both the clerics and lay people who are members of Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, (Cf. Canon 207). To understand properly, the role of the Church, is to understand the role of clerics, members of Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life and lay people in finding the way out of insecurity. Since we are in Laity week, I will prefer to step down to some extent, the roles of the other groups and dwell on the role of the lay people.

 

By a way of searchlight, you will agree with me that the clerics, collectively and individually have been voicing out. Some of them have been insulted and humiliated for speaking out. The members of Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life have also been doing the same. They have been organizing programmes for the lay people with a few usual lay people in attendance.

 

Moreover, to talk of the role of the lay people in seeking the way out of insecurity, it is proper to begin with the population of the lay people. The current population of Nigeria is 204,506,039 million as of Tuesday, March 10, 2020, based on Worldometer elaboration of the latest United Nations data.[9] Out of this estimated number, “over 100 million are Christians and 22 million are Catholics”[10] said Archbishop Augustine O. Akubeze. Out of about 22 million Catholics, about 90% are lay people. The clerics and the members of Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life share 10%. Aside children, the majority of lay people belong to the statutory groups, associations, sodalities and movement in the Church. The same majority of lay people carry out day to day activities in different fields in our country. The question is what are the lay people doing concerning insecurity in our country? Are we still in the era of the father’s church where clericalism reigned supreme? With the Second Vatican Council, the idea of clericalism had been supressed. The Church is now seen as the People of God, the Christian faithful of which the lay people are the majority and have vital roles to play.

 

To get out of this menace, we must pray and fast the more. Let us use this season of Lent to pray and fast for our dear country, Nigeria. 

 

The lay people should through their groups educate themselves on security measures.   For if a man cannot stop a bad rain from falling, wisdom demands he should at least take measures to protect himself from being beaten by the rain.

 

Furthermore, the lay people should not only be involved in politics as foot soldiers who are being used to make and implement policies against the Christian faith but to take active positions in politics, governance and policy making. What are the lay people doing to make sure that we have a Catholic President in Nigeria? Where were the laity when sharia was enshrined into the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria? Where are the lay people when others through the strategic system of information gathering, occupied and still occupying what may appear as ‘insignificant positions’ in Nigeria but in the actual sense, they are positions where things happen? The only way out of this insecurity is for the lay people who are knowledgeable in the social teaching of the Church to be fully involved in the governance of the nation and other ‘insignificant positions’ where things happen. Note that, I do not mean those lay people who through their party affiliation and loyalty found themselves at the corridor of powers and positions. Whenever we see such people, we know them. At times, some of them come to the Church to use any slightest opportunity to promote and protect their political parties and not the Church policies. For such people, their political parties first, others including their faith follow later. Recall that last week, the first plenary meeting in 2020 of the CBCN took place in Abuja. At the opening ceremony, some government functionaries who are Catholics attended it. It is really commendable. At that same day at 3.00pm, the CBCN scheduled a peaceful protest against the high level of insecurity in every part of Nigeria. How many of the same Catholic government functionaries who attended the opening ceremony of the plenary meeting also attended the peaceful protest? I think, none of them was there to support our bishops and demonstrate their faith. Does it say something to you as it said to me?

 

I am happy that, nowadays, an awareness on the social teachings of the Church is being created as well as constant call for the lay people to be involved especially in politics. We have the Catholic Action Group and the Catholic Witness in Politics (still an online group). By God’s grace, we shall get there.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

7. Conclusion

 

 

 

The issue of insecurity in Nigeria should spur us into action to wake up from slumber. From the perspective of Anthony Cardinal Okogie, “While it is true that friendship in Nigeria does cut across religious boundaries, it is also clearly evident that some practitioners of Islamic religion are saying it is a crime to be a Christian in Nigeria.”[11] I want to conclude with the words of Bishop Kukah: “Christians (I mean lay people) must rise up and defend their faith with all the moral weapons they have. We must become more robust in presenting the values of Christianity especially our message of love and non-violence to a violent society. Among the wolves of the world, we must become more politically alert, wise as the serpent and humble as the dove (Mt. 10:16).”[12] He further said, “We Christians (especially lay people) must be honest enough to accept that we have taken so much for granted and made so much sacrifice in the name of nation building. Today, our years of hypocrisy, duplicity, fabricated integrity, false piety, empty morality, fraud and Pharisaism have caught up with us. Nigeria is on the crossroads and its future hangs precariously in a balance. This is a wakeup call for us. As St. Paul reminds us: The night is far spent, and the day is at hand. Therefore, let us cast away the works of darkness and put on the armour of light (Rom. 13:12). It is time to confront and dispel the clouds of evil that hover over us.”[13]

 



[1] CBCN, A Communiqué issued at the end of the First Plenary Meeting of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Nigeria (CBCN) at the Catholic Secretariat of Nigeria (CSN) Resource Centre, Durumi, Abuja, 29 February to 6 March 2020.

[2] J. Ford, ‘The Origin of Boko Haram’, in the National Interest, June 2014, https://nationalinterest.org/feature/the-origins-boko-haram-10609.

[3] A. Smith, What is Boko Haram, the militant group terrorizing Nigeria, in News, June 18, 2018, https://www.nbcnews.com/storyline/smart-facts/what-boko-haram-militant-group-terrorizing-nigeria-n884146.

[4] R.T. Buchanan, Global Terrorism Index: Nigerian Fulani militants named fourth deadliest terror group in world, in The Independent, Wednesday 18 November 2015, https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/africa/global-terrorism-index-nigerian-fulani-militants-named-as-fourth-deadliest-terror-group-in-world-a6739851.htm

[5] Human Rights Watch, ‘World Report 2020 – Nigeria’, https://www.ecoi.net/en/document/2022679.html, January 14, 2020, [accessed: 10.3.2020].

[6] Human Rights Watch, ‘World Report 2020 – Nigeria’, https://www.ecoi.net/en/document/2022679.html, January 14, 2020, [accessed: 10.3.2020].

[7] A. Okogie, ‘Walls have ears’, February 4, 2020.

[8] M. Sotubo, ‘President Buhari’s article on Washington Post’, in the Pulse.ng, July 15, 2015, https://www.pulse.ng/news/local/buhari-read-full-text-of-presidents-article-on-washington-post/xk9fk0p, [accessed: 10.3.2020].

[10] A.O. Akubeze (AB), Remarks at the Peace Protest by CBCN in Abuja March 2020.

[11] A. Okogie, ‘Walls have ears’, February 4, 2020.

[12] M. H. Kukah, Homily at the Funeral Mass of Seminarian Michael Nnadi at Good Shepherd Seminary Kaduna, 11th February 2020.

[13] M.H. Kukah, Homily at the Funeral Mass of Seminarian Michael Nnadi at Good Shepherd Seminary Kaduna, 11th February 2020.

 

 

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