The Senate President, David Mark, is drawing a lot of flak from sections of the civil society and concerned stakeholders with his remark that a state of emergency should be declared in Abia state and all other areas where kidnapping and violent crime appear to be recurrent.
I think the condemnation of the Senate president for this reason alone is somewhat unjustified, rather such a declaration coming from a man in his position should be taken as a serious national security alert and a basis for action. What he points to is the breakdown of order in the country, and he is not the first man to say so, indeed there seems to be a general consensus among ordinary Nigerians that the entire country is in a state of emergency already. What better illustrates this than the fact that we now have to rely on the MOSSAD to resolve the kidnapping of four journalists and their driver.
What should normally be a usual bi-lateral co-operation between two sovereign states was served with an undertone that amounted to a ‘call for assistance in a state of helplessness and emergency.’ This will not be the first time our police, nay security forces, have cried out about their deficient capacity. We had to rely on United Kingdom forensic experts with our election petitions, we also relied on UK and American homicide detectives with political assassinations in the past and under General Abacha, we got help from the Israelis in building the menacing Strike Force led by Major Hamza Mustapha. What happened at the press conference of the Inspector General of Police, with the Israelis gleefully paraded amounted to a declaration of emergency in the country’s security system. All this is being presented to the people under the guise of the police’s commitment to the protection of lives and enforcement of fundamental human rights.
Unfortunately, the Israelis are not the best in this area of engagement for they have a record of violating every possible norm including human rights to get results (remember the recent attacks on the Flotilla and the multi-country identity theft scandal of Dubai). However, should they succeed in solving the kidnap case in Abia state and avoid any mishap, we may need to extend the model and further outsource the governance of Nigeria which is really where the emergency is. The British would be glad to return, the Americans would not mind having full control over the management of our extractive industry and the Chinese would gladly make a bid for Nigeria. We should consider this: would the outsourcing of governance, note the word ‘outsourcing’ and the difference between it and voluntary neo-colonialism, not help put an end to the reign of chaos in the land, the cluelessness of our leaders, and the sheer incompetence and inconsistencies that are on full display? It is in this latter regard that David Mark should be taken to task and I intend to do so with emphasis on the phrases: indiscretion and abdication of responsibility.
The abduction of the four journalists and their driver has thrown many public officials into fits of paroxysm, including the Senate president who in contributing to a motion tabled by Senator Anthony Manzo and 18 others on the subject: “The Rising Wave of Insecurity in Nigeria ” decried the failure of the police in providing security. He intervened by calling for the removal of the Abia state Commissioner of Police. “There is no reason”, he had said, “why the commissioner of police should be sitting on his seat if there is kidnapping in his state.” I agree but this is assuming that the police force in that state have the wherewithal to do the job.
Walter Rugbere is the Akwa Ibom state Commissioner of police. He however must singularly take credit for the most unintelligent contribution to the kidnap saga so far, when he reportedly said that the victims are the architects of their own misfortune. Why, he had pointed out, would they travel on a road that is commonly known to be dangerous? And why did they have to go to Uyo in an official vehicle instead of travelling by air? “I have been advising people going through Abia axis to go with security or pass through the Port Harcourt area because that side is a bit safe.” This is stupid. The Senate President was therefore quite justified in expressing anger about the inefficiency of the Nigeria Police Force, which in this case as in many others, has been abysmal at best. On Friday, I had commented on the Inspector General of Police (“Nigeria as the kidnapper’s den”, The Guardian, Friday, July 16), but since then, the police have again compounded their failure.
They managed to discover the kidnappers’ hideout and the Inspector General of police held a press conference and announced that with glee! One newspaper has reported when the police will storm the kidnappers’ hideout and when the abducted journalists will return home! It is likely that it is due to this stupidity of the police communication process that two informants who have been assisting the police with investigations in this kidnap case have now been killed. The Daily Trust in reporting the story (“Kidnapping: Two police informants killed”, Daily Trust, July 16, p. 1) states that people in the affected area are now afraid to assist the police with information. And so again, David Mark is right to state that the training and the orientation of our present crop of policemen is inadequate.
He also argued that unemployment cannot be used as an excuse for kidnapping in the South East because there is unemployment in every part of the country. He is wrong here. Poverty and unemployment provide the main justification for the spread of crime in Nigeria. The nature of the predominant crime may differ from one part of the country to the other, but generally the entire county has reached a state of heightened insecurity. There are too many idle hands looking for things to do in order to put food on the table and where there are no jobs because the factories are closing down and relocating to neighbouring countries due to the high cost of doing business in Nigeria, and companies within the country are under-performing because of the disorganized state of the economy, more people are forced to take to a life of desperation. The question then is: what is David Mark as a policy maker doing about this? He was right however when he pointed out that the prevalent crime level is “taking us to a level where sooner or later, people will begin to fear coming to Nigeria.” Besides, many Nigerians have placed an embargo on trips to the South East, and the South South, and to travel in the country, those who can afford to do so engage the services of a retinue of bodyguards (an industry populated by ex-police officers and some still in service).
In offering a solution to this drift towards anarchy, the Senate President went completely overboard when he recommended jungle justice. “Personally,” he says, “in the situation of jungle environment where we want to apply rule of law could be very difficult indeed at times. Those who are involved must be handled in such a way that they will never contemplate it in life again, because at the moment they are being handled with kid gloves…presently it is simply a jungle environment and the rule must change to conform to those who operate in jungle environment and I believe the security agencies should be able to do that.” The Senate President is not saying that existing laws on kidnapping should be enforced, he is saying that Nigerian has become a jungle environment where jungle methods should be adopted and that the security agencies should begin to do so because the rule of law cannot always be relied upon. This is preposterous coming from the country’s chief lawmaker. The duty of the legislature is to make laws for the good governance of Nigeria and in a democracy, the rule of law must reign supreme at all times whatever may be the difficulties. The word “jungle” often dances easily on the lips of Nigerian public officials, a poor reflection of how far we have come from the military governance mindset.
If this is truly a jungle, then what has David Mark done about it, what laws has he and his colleagues put in place to transform Nigeria. If this has become a jungle, it is due to the failure of people like him in the corridors of power who have created an enabling condition for the flowering of crime. Even as the Inspector General of Police paraded the streets of Abia with Israeli mercenary-agents, the kidnappers struck again this week in Warri, Delta state seizing three persons; in Imo state a retired police woman was also kidnapped last Wednesday, in the presence of her husband, also a retired police officer by five armed men posing as police officers! David Mark sounded very passionate condemning the police, but he shares, given his position, part of the blame for the wave of insecurity in the land and it is a shame that he does not see this.
Careless thoughts openly versified as deep thinking by public officials could have serious implications for national security and integrity. We have had many of such instances in the past few months involving Ministers, regulators, heads of security and enforcement agencies, governors, Special Advisers to Government all speaking either carelessly and reversing themselves or speaking at cross-purposes to create the impression of a government in disarray- (“How They Govern Nigeria,” The Guardian, July 8). It is a trend that should be arrested. Public communication is very critical to the governance process: what is said or done by key officials of state are potent signals with cost implications. This is why the United States would push General Stanley A. McChrsytal to tender his letter of resignation as Commander of the US Forces in Afghanistan, after making a careless statement. McChrsytal had criticized President Obama’s top security policy advisers in a Rolling Stone magazine article on him. In accepting his letter of resignation, the US President noted that “it is the right thing for our mission in Afghanistan, for our military and for our country.” Public officials in their engagements should not be directed by sheer whim but reason and wisdom, lest they create so much confusion. The President of the highest lawmaking body saying that the rule of law may have to be suspended occasionally is shocking. The main challenge is that many of our public officials have had no training or proper grooming for the positions that they occupy. A man or woman who has never managed a public crisis suddenly finds himself in high office and having to deal with crisis almost regularly; he takes on the task totally unprepared, and because positions are more important than ability in Nigeria, he continues to commit blunders, saying the wrong things and reversing himself or committing worse blunders, without exposing himself or herself to opportunities for learning on the job. We may be getting used to this style of governance but that is not the international standard. We await David Mark’s bold move to address this problem using his position as the number 3 man in the country, the chief lawmaker, rather than the usual ‘we have to go back to the drawing board’ talk with which he concluded his sermon on security and the menace of kidnapping. This will serve to reassure that he didn’t mean to reject the rule of law that he swore on oath to defend and that he would always defend it no matter the difficulties in the jungle he presides over and that indeed the best way to rescue this jungle is to strengthen the rule of law, a job for which he currently has a unique responsibility.