According to Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) statistics, there was a 94 per cent increase in the hacking and destruction of pipeline infrastructure across the country in November 2019. This report is coming at a time when Boko Haram insurgents are continuing to wreak havocs in the North-east, bandits are gradually seizing control in the Northwest and armed robbers and kidnappers are on the prowl in other parts of the country. To retrieve our country from these criminal gangs will require a unity of purpose that is in short supply, with the country sharply divided along ethno-religious lines.
For sure, some progress has been made in the fight against insurgency. But since terrorism is most often asymmetrical warfare, it is difficult to completely stamp out. Recent reversals of the earlier progress threaten our collective security and anyone who has seen the gory photographs from the Boko Haram massacre of innocent citizens in Auno village along the Maiduguri-Damaturu road will understand the gravity of our national security crisis. Vehicles and their passengers had on Sunday stopped over at the outskirts of Maiduguri to spend the night as they could not make it to the Borno State capital before the movement restriction time (and city gate closure) of 6pm daily. Aside the socio-economic implications for millions of our nationals in that part of the country, road travellers are now also left at the mercy of Boko Haram men. And on Monday morning, these murderous insurgents responded with their usual bestiality.
Whichever way one looks at the current challenge of insecurity across Nigeria, it all leads to the doorstep of President Muhammadu Buhari. Now that Afenifere, Ohanaeze and the Northern Elders Forum are singing from the same hymn book about his leadership, he needs to be worried about the growing anarchy in our country. Nothing sums up the state of the nation quite like the fact that the recent report on source of the weapons used in the conflicts between farmers and herders. According to Conflict Armament Research (CAR), an international conflict research group, some of these weapons with which herdsmen and farmers fought were traced to “stockpiles of Nigerian defence and security forces”.
Of the 148 different weapons discovered and analysed, the report reveals that “Nigerian-manufactured small-calibre ammunition—including cartridges manufactured as recently as 2014—is the second-most prevalent type of ammunition in this data set. Four of the weapons in the data set were previously in service with Nigerian national defence and security forces. CAR has established this through formal tracing and the analysis of secondary marks applied to the weapons, which identify their users.” The pertinent question here: If those that are paid to protect us are the very people colluding with criminals, how can we win the battle against insecurity?
Before I go to the beef of my intervention, let me state that this problem has been with us for a long time, so we do not attribute it to the current administration. In August 2005, nine police officers were paraded by the then Inspector-General of Police, Mr Sunday Ehindero, with one of them confessing that Police Armourers sell a packet of ammunition of 20 rounds of live ammunition to robbers for between N300 and N500 each. In November 2011, a retired Assistant Superintendent of Police and two Inspectors were arrested in connection with the illegal sale and distribution of arms and ammunition to criminals in Adamawa State. In December 2015, a serving Lance Corporal in the Army was arrested along with seven others, for selling ammunition to a gang of armed robbers which specialized in attacking banks in Lagos and Ogun states. A year later in November 2016, 14 policemen were dismissed for selling arms and explosives to bandits, armed robbers and kidnappers. Some of the arms and ammunition recovered include 14 AK47 rifles with their official numbers still intact, three AK47 with their numbers etched out, one pump action rifle, one locally-made pistol, 42 empty magazines, 363 rounds of AK47 live ammunition, 71 K2 live ammunition and 25 live cartridges.
The list of unscrupulous members of our armed forces selling official arms and ammunitions to armed robbers, kidnappers and other criminals is so long that in November 2017, a Director in the State Security Service (SSS), Mr Godwin N. Eteng, made chilling revelations before a House of Representatives Joint Committee investigating the influx of small arms and light weapons into the country. “We had a situation where in one of the armouries belonging to one of the armed forces, many pistols just got missing with quantities of ammunition and all the pistols are new. In the armoury, no place was broken into, but the weapons were missing,” Eteng said. What that implies is that those entrusted with the arms and ammunitions were selling them to criminals. In June 2019, the police command in Kaduna State arrested a Lance Corporal serving in one of the military units in Jaji Military Cantonment, for selling arms to kidnappers. Paraded before journalists, this was his defence for the perfidy: “He told me that he needed the ammunition for protection of their cattle against rustlers. That is why I sold them to him. I never knew he is a kidnapper.”
If we connect the dots, it is easy to understand why the insurgency is proving so difficult to defeat, given reports that many of the arms and ammunitions used by Boko Haram and other terror affiliates were procured from our armouries. In September 2016, Major General Lucky Irabor, the then Nigerian Army theater commander in Maiduguri told journalists that some soldiers were selling arms and ammunition to Boko Haram in what he described as “a betrayal of the Nigerian people.” Although he gave no details, internal leakages that lead to subversive criminality within the armed services is itself a failure of discipline and collapse of intelligence and accountability.
That this sordid situation has gone on for so long is an indication that we learnt no lessons from the Niger Delta militancy that was sustained for several years due to arms and ammunitions procured from official armouries. In my book, ‘Power, Politics and Death’, I detailed a report of the Board of Inquiry convened by then Chief of Army Staff, the late Lt. General Luka Yusuf, which investigated a huge theft of arms at 1 Base Ordnance Depot, in Kaduna (1 BODK). The investigation was itself spawned by allegations that an arms syndicate involving soldiers and officers of the Nigerian Army had been breaking into the arms sheds in 1BODK, the Ordnance Sub Depot (OSD) in Jaji and the Ordnance Field Park (OFP) in Calabar to steal weapons. With Mr Henry Okah’s younger brother, Sunny Bowie Okah, as the sole customer, the investigation concluded that “some of the soldiers involved in the theft of weapons actually escorted the stolen arms in uniform to their destination in Niger Delta.”
In the report presented to the late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, the Army said the extent of the theft was so staggering and the crime so well organised that the investigating team could hardly determine the exact amount of arms removed due to deliberate false accounting and destruction of stock cards by the perpetrators. But some of the arms and ammunition removed included among others, GPMGs, Sterling SMG, Bren LNG, AK 47 rifles, grenades, rocket launchers, as well as several fragmentation jackets. Breaking that syndicate, and with it the supply line, helped in no small measure to weaken the capacity of the Niger Delta militants before the amnesty deal.
For as long as those entrusted with arms and ammunition are the main suppliers for criminals, insecurity will be impossible to contain. When there is no synergy between the military/security agencies, the challenge can only multiply. That is the only way to explain the manner in which the office of the National Security Adviser has practically been castrated by the Chief of Army Staff with the recent unilateral recall of top military intelligence officers without replacements. It goes without saying that when those who lead these critical agencies work at cross purposes, they will not be able to track the mischief makers among their rank and file who sell arms and ammunitions to criminals. Besides, a situation in which service chiefs have become virtual political chieftains with endless tenures can only produce a fragmented security response.
With the worsening economic situation, especially among young people, those who wish to destroy our country have a large pool from which to recruit and we can see the results of their nefarious activities in several theatres across the country. To defeat these criminals and their collaborators, there must be a unity of purpose. Sadly, it is becoming increasingly difficult to speak for Nigeria without being labelled either a traitor or a coward as mutual recriminations along ethno-religious lines replace peaceful engagements.
Ultimately, the issue of insecurity is the responsibility of political leadership. In a plural society where mutual suspicions have always run high, the only person who can put a halt to the continued erosion of our national cohesion is President Buhari himself. By a seeming unwillingness to doing just that—even in making the necessary adjustments to reflect our diversity in the composition of those who head these critical institutions—the country has been divided in a manner that helps the criminals in our midst and jeopardises any efforts to tackle insecurity as a national imperative. The president must summon the courage to arrest this dangerous drift before it is too late.
Kole Shettima at 60
For more than three decades, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation has invested hundreds of millions of dollars in Nigeria. Dr. Kole Shettima, the man who has led the process of that philanthropy and advocacy for the public good, turned 60 yesterday. Shettima is a quiet but very impactful man whose work speaks for him. He may not be a popular man in Nigeria but those who matter within the development space in Africa and across the world, know him.
Prior to joining the MacArthur Foundation, Shettima had already earned a reputation as an advocate for social justice and African development. With a Masters from Ahmadu Bello University in Zaria and doctorate from the University of Toronto, Shettima taught at the University of Maiduguri, his alma mater in Canada and at Ohio University, USA. His publications are featured in several academic journals including Africa Development, Review of African Political Economy, African Studies Review and Journal of Asian and African Studies.
Shettima’s commitment to a life of advocacy for the underprivileged of our society is a reflection of his own life’s trajectory from humble beginnings as the only child of a widowed mother in Machina, Yobe State to an internationally recognized champion for human and civil rights in Africa and beyond. It is therefore no surprise that as Country Director for the MacArthur Foundation in Nigeria since 1999, Shettima has facilitated strategic contributions towards improving reproductive health, human rights, justice, secondary and higher education as well as accountability in our country. I wish him Happy Birthday!
Tribute to Dr Olaiya
The death yesterday in Lagos of Dr Victor Abimbola Olaiya at age 89 marks the end of a glorious era in Nigeria’s musical history. I am sure that in the days and weeks ahead, appropriate tributes will be paid to the late Highlife maestro. To mark his passage, I am recalling a short piece I did seven years ago following the release of what may have been his last major work. Titled, ‘Kunle Afolayan’s Musical Classic’, I hope readers can enjoy the slightly edited piece along with the musical video of that timeless track that will stand as a lasting memorial to Dr Olaiya over many generations to come.
Okay, I am almost certain the first question that would come given the above headline would be: “Is Kunle Afolayan also a musician?” And the answer to that is No. The young man is still a movie producer/director, one of the most creative film-makers we have around; and a chip off the old block. What I am referring to is his latest work, the musical video of Dr. Victor Olaiya’s evergreen track, “Baby Jowo” or “Mofe mu ‘yan” as some naughty men have rechristened it (please don’t ask me for the interpretation). In the clip, the trumpet grandmaster did a remix duet with 2Face Idibia, in a rare musical collaboration that could simply be described as the ancient and modern.
Interestingly, ever since Mrs Ayo Obe posted the youtube link: https://youtu.be/enf68hEsvys
on a listserv put together by our dear egbon, Mallam Mouftah Baba-Ahmed, where you have the movers and shakers of our society, I have enjoyed a most rigorous intellectual discourse about the richness of Nigeria’s entertainment heritage. In lending his voice to the discussion of the music video, my friend, Waziri Adio (current NEITI Executive Secretary) had written: “I think we should see this as a well-realised contemporary twist on a classic. Beyond bringing in the new generation, 2Face adds enormous value with his rendition in Idoma and English, and a hint of that soulful edge that made ‘African Queen’ such a memorable song. It is the rebirth of a classic! And kudos should go to Baba Olaiya for being part of this inter-generational conversation; to 2Face for raising a flag for his generation; and to Kunle Afolayan for being the son of his father.”
In his contribution, Baba-Ahmed described the five-minute video clip as a beautiful conversation in which “the restrained, bashful ‘innocence’ of the past meets the excess and licence of today” with a powerful message for mentorship. He added: “When experience and originality meet energy, imagination and unrestrained ideation, the frontiers of achievement are pushed forward. This collaboration attests to that. The universality of music is reflected in this mix, too. Across ethnic and time divides. 2Face’s obeisance, at the end of the clip, seems genuinely spontaneous and unscripted. Which means that the old, as long as they are well-meaning and confident, willing to respect and work with the young, have nothing to fear from the coming generations. Similarly, the young, as long as they are willing to acknowledge the experience, love and goodwill of the old, they (young) and the society will be the better for it.”
What more can I add except to say I give kudos to Dr. Olaiya, an octogenarian who still shuffles his feet so elegantly; just as I commend 2Face and Kunle for this brilliant work of art which marries the past and the present, with the promise of a glorious tomorrow.
To the family of Dr Olaiya, please accept my condolences. His music will forever play on…
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