Wednesday, 2 October 2013

It’s all About Us.

I just read a story about an acclaimed Kidnapper who threatened his state government over insubordination and crippled development on his community. In military regalia with an intimidating arsenal of weapons and charms, he and fellow gang members stroke a pose with clad faces surrounded by women and children from his community. In my view, the picture depicts the acceptance of an infamous underdog war lord.


In his testimony, the acclaimed kidnapper spoke on the injustice his community experienced over the years despite being a large contributor to Nigeria’s Oil revenue. He maintained his community delivered the second best oil in the country but still had no hospitals, schools, libraries, motor able roads or sight of commendable infrastructural development.  According to him, till date, graduates and eligible youths from the community have no jobs, market women are hardly supported by financial institutions and the community is in a mess. He refuted the tag of him being a kidnapper and side-lined his cause to be one for the liberation of justice, equity and a better livelihood for his people. However, he didn’t denounce the fact of him being wanted for several months by the police. In fact he makes mention that his public appearance is a declaration to the fact that he lives in the same community he has been declared wanted all this while. He canvassed largely for the development of his community and made hint of having both local and international support with him on this militant crusade.

Local men, women and children were also in support of this robin-hood like figure and showed appreciation to the villain hero while speaking to newsmen at the scene. After several remarks, he gave the Federal and Delta state government a 60day ultimatum for the development of his community or else, major oil well heads would be sabotaged and mayhem unleashed in not only several parts of Delta State but all of Nigeria. He literarily said and I quote – “While Boko Haram does the bombing in the north, we would be doing the bombing in the south south”.

The Delta State Police Command has refuted this story saying nothing of the sort occurred. They claim the suspected kidnapper never came to the community or addressed newsmen and everything was propaganda being played out by the kingpin with the support of the media. Other military personnel dispatched to the area – Kokori Community- say they have been on the trail of this gang for months and cited the gangs’ sophisticating strategies as what made them continue to evade arrest. Recently, there is claim this suspected kidnapper has been caught and presently in police custody.

Recently , renowned lawyer and activist, Mr. Micheal Ozekhome (SAN) was some time ago also kidnapped and upon his release, narrated his experience. In his testimony, he made mention of the intellectual acumen of his kidnappers and how they demonstrated to be on some sort of cause for the interests and development of their local communities.

Also, Senior Special Assistant to the Edo State Governor on Surveillance, Mr. Athananasius Ugbome, was kidnapped on the same route as Ozekhome and released only after millions of naira was paid as ransome. The latter is quite saddening for me because I personally know him and the family to be generous and selfless individuals.

The second highest ranking Anglican Cleric in Nigeria and Arch Bishop of the Niger Delta Province, Ignatus Kattey, was also recently kidnapped. Kattey upon his release made mention how his abductors switched camps in thick forests and their well articulated strategies. He narrated how rescue helicopters flew over the area he was kept more than five hundred times as his abductors showed super control of the situation.

Before I began to write this piece, I also read how gunmen visited an uncompleted building in Abuja and opened fire on its inhabitants. Over 20 people were murdered. The world is constantly becoming the more unsafe and unpredictable. The issue of inadequate security is no more new and Nigeria seems to be further unsafe as millions of dollars is continuously spent on security. From the National Budget in 2013, N950 billion was allocated for national security purposes. In 2012, N921 billion was set aside for security. In 2011, N1.1 trillion for the same feat. These figures are overwhelming given the fact that there is still a huge lapse in security and a trust deficit between citizens and security agencies. This is more evident through Kattey condemning statements of being rescued by the police and Ozekhome reiterating his ignorance to ransom paid for his release.

Some few weeks back, the Commissioner of Police, Delta State, Mr. Ikechukwu Aduba claimed the character in my opening paragraph reached him over the telephone to negotiate surrender by Amnesty. Are we witnessing another model of frustrated youths posing as renegades in order to get adequate recognition or financial freedom? Is there any justification for billions of naira spent on the purchase of helicopters, intelligent telematics and other security infrastructure?  Isn’t the problem of insecurity more societal than any state or federal government?

Some have argued that the responsibility to provide a secure environment in the country lies in the hands of the federal government. However, due to several debates from the porous nature in results from handling this task, a few states have taken responsibility in ensuring their states are to an extent, safe and secure despite denial by the federal government to adopt the long awaited state police service. Sometime ago on a visit to the Governor of Ekiti State, Kayode Fayemi, the Assistant Inspector General  of Police Zone 8, Jonathan Johnson, was quoted as saying though the Police is a federal security agency, it has in recent times gotten more support from state governments than the federal government.  
Lagos state has done quite well in guaranteeing a safe environment. The creation of its state security trust fund has highly helped in assisting the 33,000 police officers deployed to the state by the federal government to discharge their duties judiciously over 18 million people. Its plan to go a step further by installing Circuit Camera Televisions and base stations (CCTV) and make Lagos a much smarter city was thwarted by the Federal government.

In January 2009, with the collaboration of the private sector, Lagos state embarked on the installation of 10, 000 cameras but was called back by the federal government. The federal government claimed it had a similar project in the pipeline for Lagos and the latter needed to step down. Till date, Lagosians still await federal government’s implementation of the CCTV system.  Also in 2011, as a result of Ogun State’s private sector participation it was able to raise over N3 billion asides donations of several security tools and infrastructure. Experiencing high levels of insecurity due to porous borders and large landmass areas, Ogun state adopted the Lagos state model to tackling insecurity. Today, statistics show consistent reduction levels as regards insecurity in both states and most importantly high levels of citizenship participation and engagement to ensure crime is fought. It is pertinent to note that the attributed success would not have been witnessed without private sector participation in different forms such as the establishment of a state security trust fund, corporate social responsibilities and an enabling environment for business owners by state governments.

There have been talks that Oyo and Osun state might follow suit but Ekiti state has taken cue from both Lagos and Ogun State. Having police staff strength of a little above 3, 000 to ensure the security of 2.7 million people is a daunting task. Asides asking for an increase in deployment of police personnel, the state has promised to put in place an engaging platform for private sector participation and a state security trust fund. 

There are ways worth considering in tackling insecurity. And most are interwoven. Governments must be committed to maintaining an enabling environment that catalyses the growth of just and equitable socio-economic conditions. Insecurity always has something to do with inequitable living conditions. The involvement of private sector businesses, non-governmental organisations, pressure groups, community leaders and think-tank associations in areas of public service delivery such as security, gives satisfactory results. If duties aren’t carried out alone by government and citizens are included in the administration of these duties, not only is a feeling of self worth accommodated by citizens but also, an indirect commitment from them to developmental obligations. 

From these commitment and developmental obligations to stop crime comes the creativity, knowledge and expertise to design products and services to prevent crime. There are examples of good practice in this area undertaken by Ghana, Singapore and Australia. Australia has reduced car theft by its National Motor Theft Reduction Council; an organisation highly private sector driven.

The provision of independent processed and implemented standard policies that ensure strict compliance of the law is another method to tackling insecurity. Policies or laws should be created not to only penalize offenders but be a support system for law-abiding citizens and social development. This approach involves recognizing the complex social and cultural processes that contribute to crime and focuses on proffering contextual solutions reducing its risk factors - poverty, illiteracy, unemployment, etc - by strengthening the range of personal, social and economic status which protects families, children and youths from being involved in crime. Consistent rewards in form of grants and adult literacy intervention programs would eradicate illiteracy. Sport talent hunt initiatives and youth empowerment schemes would do well to address poverty. These platforms can help eradicate insecurity and improve living conditions.

A third and interwoven method is the continuous synergy of private sector partnerships with obligations of government. This is fast being used in public service delivery in Nigeria. Lagos, Ogun and Ekiti states are examples. I believe this is an effective method to eradicating insecurity as it reciprocates dividends of a communist and just society. It’s also very contextual to the African setting as our primitive social systems thrived off communal living. We had rulers – Obas, Chiefs, Emirs - during pre-colonization and their reign thrived successfully following sensitive engagements with those they ruled over before making developmental decisions. We can see a remerging approach of this social system in the way new public administration is handled today and the results speak clearly.

Lastly, given the consequences of crime in Nigeria and Africa at large, it is clearly in the interest of citizens and the private sector to help build safer communities and not leave it all to government. Through corporate social responsibilities, community vigilance and sensitization, swift reporting of crime and not after becoming quasi photo-journalists, we can all help build safer communities.

For over three days, gunmen in Kenya seized the Westgate Shopping Mall in Nairobi killing at least 62 and leaving over 175 injured. Amongst those killed - Kofi Awoonor, a renowned Ghanaian Poet and Diplomat and President Uhuru Muigai Kenyatta’s nephew. Estimating the calamity of this terror not only takes shape from an individual point of view but also from a business point of view bearing the location chosen to unleash terror. The loss of lives to business is incomparable however; the impact of the crime on business and the community is very much substantial.

In considering the costs incurred by this horror, asides from lives lost is very difficult. The impact and cost of the crime committed within and against businesses cannot be shared by the sector alone. Increased expenditures on the criminal justice system for the taxpayer, higher prices for the consumer, lost revenue for government, increased fear in the community, job losses for employees, and a decrease in property value of locations are all examples of incalculable costs that extend beyond the direct impacts on the property of business owners. We all must be involved in this fight against crime and insecurity. It’s all about us...

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Jide Alara.

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