Nigeria is dealing with security threats ranging from incessant petty crime, to terrorism. But as the level of insecurity increases especially in city outskirts where police presence is low, more Nigerians are beginning to take matters into their own hands, by arming themselves for protection.
Last week, news media outlets reported kidnap cases in Abuja, Ondo, Cross River, Rivers, and Benue state. The Abuja and Rivers kidnap cases occurred after home armed robbers decided to abduct a family member on their way out as a way of getting more financial returns. The Calabar incident involved a domestic staff who abducted a toddler but was caught whilst trying to sell the child. In the Ondo incident, the robbers took advantage of the situation when the vehicle two nuns broke down on the road. The nuns were recently released thanks to the work of an “intelligence squad” sent from Abuja by the Inspector General of Police.
The Benue incident unfortunately is still on-going. About four weeks ago, a Reverend Father, the Vicar General of Otukpo Catholic Diocese was kidnapped by gunmen in Okpokwu LGA, Benue state. Till date, security agencies have still been unable to locate the victim. The Benue state government has even offered a N5million reward to anyone who can provide information on the whereabouts of the Rev. Father.
Although security officials are actively doing what they can to secure the safe rescue of kidnapped victims, Kidnapping in Nigeria persists, mostly because security agencies still do not have an effective method of preventing it. The security agencies have “sort of” figured out how to react when a kidnap incident is reported; they call on the “intelligence squad from Abuja” to handle the situation. However, the police forces in individual states are not as adept in resolving kidnap for ransom incidents. States with more police resources such as Lagos, do a much better job than states such as Benue and this leads to incidents of local residents taking matters into their own hands, as is the case in the Benue herdsmen attack.
Following the highly publicized attacks in Agatu, herdsmen once again attacked Agwabi community in Buruku local government area of Benue State, on 13th May 2016, killing 5 individuals. The Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria, MACBAN stated that the Herdsmen attacked the community because Tiv youths in the Benue community stole 800 cows. So, instead of reporting the incident to the appropriate security authorities, the herdsmen took matters into their own hands and killed Benue villagers.
On Friday 20th May 2016, suspected herdsmen attacked a village in Ikole Ekiti LGA, Ekiti state, killing two and severely injuring three others. This incident sparked outrage across the state with the state government stating that this incident could lead to reprisal attacks against Fulanis in the state.
Nigeria is getting to a point where people in the North East will walk around with weapons to protect against Boko Haram, farmers in the Middle Belt and South East will walk around with weapons to protect against Herdsmen attacks, people in the North West will walk around with weapons to protect against cattle rustlers, parent’s and business owners in the South West will walk around with weapons in order to protect themselves against kidnappers and people in the Niger Delta will walk around with weapons in order to protect against vandals that keep destroying pipelines in their communities.
The incessant attacks by herdsmen, kidnappers, vandals, cattle rustlers, insurgents and the inability of Nigerian security forces to proactively stop them has led to an increasing number of Nigerians vowing to protect themselves and their communities by arming themselves. This act will significantly increase the prevalence of illegal weapons across the country, further exacerbating crime and insecurity in Nigeria.
Picture: Lagos state government commissioned 140 Patrol vans, 335 power bikes and other resources to Security Agencies in operating within the state on Monday, 23 May 2016. Not all states in Nigeria are able to emulate Lagos in providing adequate resources to their Police Command. Residents in such states end up taking matters of security into their own hands as there is low police presence and lack of adequate resources for the police within those states.
States Aiding the Police
Following the clashes between Fulani herdsmen and farmers in the South-East, there has been an increased sense of caution between indigenes and northerners. On a few occasions, the Nigerian Police had to dispel rumours of impending attacks including a false rumour in Abia state that said a cache of ammunition was evacuated from a Mosque in Aba.
State governments across the country are trying to step up their assistance to the Nigerian Police Force in the prevention of crime within their states. In Kogi state, the governor donated several vehicles and equipment to the state’s police in response to the increased kidnapping, armed robbery and cultist clashes that have been taking place within the state.
Lagos state government recently donated a large fleet of service vehicles and equipment to its state’s police force, as part of its effort to improve the security standards of the state. In addition to this, the Lagos state government has also begun plans to establish a DNA forensic lab to aid in the reduction of crime and easy identification of criminals.
South Eastern states have started taking proactive steps in preventing any future herdsmen attacks within their territories. Anambra, Enugu have begun utilizing aerial surveillance to track herdsmen camps within their states. Enugu state has also instituted a ban on night time grazing and other states within the region have begun clamping down on herdsmen caught with firearms. Delta State recently meted out a 12 year with hard labour sentence to two herdsmen that were caught with illegal firearms.
The Ekiti state governor has taken things a step further and banned the grazing of cattle in his state. He said that a bill was in the Ekiti State House of Assembly “that will make the movement of cattle from one location of the state to another a criminal offense, and any cattle seen anywhere in the state other than on a ranch created for them by their owners will be confiscated”.
However, there is a significant security threat looming, which could be devastating for the state should the bill pass. The state must have adequately manned and well equipped security forces to ensure the safety of its citizens who will be sure to face violent attacks should any herdsmen cattle be ‘confiscated’. Ekiti state would have to proceed with caution when implementing such a law as Fulani herdsmen have been known to go to any lengths in order to protect their cattle.
On a national scale however, if a strategic solution centering on ways to curtail the spread of unregistered and illegal weapons across the country is not devised, the defeat of herdsmen by self-appointed vigilantes, will simply usher in a new frontier of an increase in local violent crimes.