Home Writers Opinion Articles When The Tables Are Turned by Oluka Emmanuel.

When The Tables Are Turned by Oluka Emmanuel.

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Indeed, when animals turn the tables and fight back against their attackers – chasing them away or even killing them or maiming them, for whatever reason best known to them, – then, the hunter becomes the hunted.

This is presently the case with security personnel in the country. The tables have turned and the hunters have regrettably become the hunted. It is painful that officers meant to attack criminals, now become the attacked. These officers cut across the police, the army, the correctional facilities, and so on. The attacks range from the burning of police stations and patrol vehicles, ambush laying leading to a shoot-out with personnel of security formations, stealing of arms and ammunitions, and aiding jailbreaks at correctional centers. The frequency with which the attacks are being orchestrated is alarming! It is therefore no longer a case of one week, one trouble for our security personnel; it is now one week, several troubles for them.

As of 29th March 2021, the BBC reported that the Police suffered the highest form of attacks within the south-eastern region between January and March this year. A breakdown of the report shows that only Enugu state remained the state yet to be attacked within the region at the time1. However, as of 24th April 2021, Enugu state witnessed an attack on the Adani Police Station in the Uzo-Uwani area where two officers were shot dead, reports PREMIUM TIMES2. The south-south region is not also spared as there have been recent attacks by yet-to-be-identified gunmen on police formations in states like Rivers and Akwa-Ibom.

The Nigerian military has also had a share of the attacks. PREMIUM TIMES also reported an attack on the Nigerian Military camp in the Zagzaga community in Munya Local Government of Niger State. According to the online newspaper, no fewer than 60 bandits invaded the military camp in the early hours of Wednesday, April 21, 2021, leading to heavy casualties on the bandits2.

On the 21st of April 2021, Lagos state released a statement for the manhunt for a driver who smashed a bottle on a police officer’s head. There have also been many tales of unjustified aggression towards police officers within the same state for trying to apprehend drivers for breaking traffic laws. These assaults are just some out of numerous experiences security personnel have suffered in recent times.

These ugly developments leave the question, can a society survive without law enforcement? Is attacking these security custodians the best way to go? In this essay, the writer examines how we got here and the consequences such attacks hold for our society while exploring the way forward.

How We Got Here (The Causes…)

What readily comes to mind is mutual suspicion. For example, “Police is your friend,” is the agelong motto of the Nigerian Police Force. But, recent attacks on police formations across the country may suggest that its friendship with the people may have become strained. Thus, today, there seems to be a mutual suspicion between the people and their friend, the police.

Meanwhile, security agents have not always come out smelling like roses whenever their activities are being x-rayed. There have been documented cases of alleged abuse of their constitutional powers and blatant human rights violations. Also, there have been documented reports of the Nigerian Military and the Police using excessive force against civilians. Such violence against the people can ignite reprisal attacks if the opportunity presents itself for the civilians. Yet, the feeling that security personnel sometimes go unpunished and victims left helpless, is also telling.

Sad tales like these may have propelled the nation-wide End-SARS 2020. The demonstrations began amid calls to disband the defunct Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), a tactical unit of the police. The protest quickly moved into bigger calls for police reforms. The End-SARS protest and subsequent demonstrations were halted by security agencies, and the mistrust between the people and the security personnel seems to have deepened. So, is there any connection between how the End-SARS protest ended and the surge in attacks on security personnel across the country?

The media have also been indicted. Some media reports incite public calls for an immediate reaction through strategically designed sensationalism.  For instance, the approach of some media reports during the End-SARS saga may have inadvertently contributed to exacerbating undue public perception and hatred suspected to have links with the spiral of attacks we now witness on security personnel across the country.

Meanwhile, poverty and the lack of necessities by the people in Nigeria have created a pool of frustrated persons who are easily lured by any event to be violent. The argument is that an idle mind remains the devil’s workshop. When no jobs exist to engage these pools of people, they jump at any opportunity to launch their frustration on anything.

The Damaging Consequences…

Continued attacks on security personnel and their formations have dire consequences for Nigeria. It can lead to anarchy, breakdown of law and order, and no person will be spared. The writer reports that in his street, there have been increasing cases of phone snatching, secret cult clashes, and even broad daylight robbery. These crimes before now, were almost none existent, making the people’s hope of sleeping with their two eyes closed quite elusive.

The brazenness of the assaults creates fear within the security ranks, leading to the dearth of officers to prevent and detect crimes, maintain law and order, and protect lives and property. Tellingly, this also impacts negatively on the growth of existing businesses. Nightlife and the attendant business dependent on it to survive, suffer the consequences too.

The ferocious attacks on security personnel and the frequency of their occurrence especially by unknown gunmen give the signal to the international community that Nigeria is not a safe and secure investment destination. The economy bears the brunt because of this. This leads to the paucity of Foreign Direct Investments (FDI). Potential investors become scared to invest in the economy due to the uncertainties that would hang around the safety of their investments.

Also, on the inability to effectively protect lives and property in an ailing business environment, SB Morgan a Lagos-based intelligent platform claim that it took a toll on Nigeria’s economy to the tune of $10.3 billion in 2020, a report according to members of the Presidential Economic Advisory Council (PEAC).3

This means that resources that could’ve been useful in other relevant sectors of the economy will be deployed to strengthening the country’s security system. Therefore, this becomes a drain on available resources at the expense of visible developments.

The Way Forward…

Having highlighted and understood the causes and consequences of the attacks on security personnel in the country, the question yearning for an answer becomes, what can be done to overcome the ugly situation?

Now, going forward, Nigeria must find ways to mop up illicit arms proliferation. This is why the story of the truck conveying ammunition falling and spilling its bullets on the commercial streets of Onitsha, on 9th May 2021, must be thoroughly investigated and syndicates properly apprehended. These bullets probably would’ve been used by unknown gunmen to engage security personnel in gun duels.

Also, the nation’s security architecture must develop a strategy capable of breaking down unknown gunmen’s communication and interactive network. How? They can leverage superior technology to monitor their information flow and resources to isolate their strongholds and sponsors.

Under President Buhari’s watch, visible bad governance has given rise to the dearth of policy frameworks aimed at addressing poverty and unemployment which are the triggering factors of assaults on Nigeria’s security personnel. On the one hand, these factors which trigger violence must be surmounted while on the other hand, perpetrators of these assaults must be apprehended and brought to book so that it can serve as a deterrent for others. But how can this even happen when the nation’s courts have been shut down? For this reason, the government must begin to show serious commitment to the agitations of the Judiciary Staff Union, JUSUN.

To improve their operational capabilities and become proactive to nip attacks in the bud, security agencies must be trained on intelligence gathering, intelligence sharing, and superior technologies to outsmart their attackers. The media can also assist them in this regard via investigative journalism.

In a nutshell, attacks on security personnel must stop unconditionally. The country must strive to rise to the level where such attacks must be predictable. This is the only way the turned tables can be overturned and the hunter becoming the hunted, averted. Now is the time to act!

 

References

  • https://www.bbc.com/pidgin/tori-56552823.amp (visited on 11th May, 2021)
  • https://www.premiumtimesng.com/news/top-news/457324-four-policemen-killed-as-gunmen-attack-police-formations-across-nigeria.html (visited on 11th May, 2021)
  • Https://www.sbmintel.com/2021/05/may-2021/ (visited on 12th May, 2021)

Oluka Emmanuel Chukwuemeka is a graduate of Electronic and Computer Engineering from the Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, Anambra State. He is a research enthusiast and a passionate writer. He writes in from Enugu and can be reached via “write2oluka@gmail.com

 

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