To tackle pervasive insecurity in the country, governments at all levels have been advised to embrace dialogue and good governance approaches rather than resorting to full militarisation.
The advice came, yesterday, from speakers and panelists at a webinar on ‘Nigeria’s Insecurity: Addressing the Challenges of Banditry and Kidnapping,’ organised by the International Centre for Investigative Reporting (The ICIR) in Abuja.
During the event, former chairman of National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), Chidi Odinkalu; Editor-in-Chief of The Guardian, Mr. Martins Oloja; former senator representing Kaduna Central, Shehu Sani and former Executive Secretary of National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS), Usman Yusuf, all identified insecurity, manifesting mostly as banditry and kidnapping across the country, as a social malaise which stemmed from corruption and bad governance.
They noted that progressive dialogue with the bandits is capable of checking their activities, while good governance would progressively improve living conditions across the board.
Yusuf, who was the keynote speaker, said he had been involved in dialoguing with the bandits because of his belief that insecurity is capable of consuming the nation.
“Why did I get involved? Bandits are ours, IPOB is ours, Boko Haram are ours. All of these non-state actors are ours. Unless we come to this space (by talking), they will occupy this space and we’ll find nowhere to go,” he said.
Yusuf frowned at what he described as the government’s increasing militarisation of what is essentially a social problem and emphasised that dialogue is the best option to ending banditry and kidnapping in the nation. “There is a crucial role for the military but there is no military solution to this conflict,” he stated.
He appealed to state governors not to close their windows against dialogue with criminal elements within their domains.
For Sani, insecurity in the nation has economic and political undertones. He called on governors in the northern part of the country to come together and see the challenge as a serious problem threatening whatever efforts they make to develop the region.
“A situation where you have some governors believing that this is a channel that can be explored to bring an end to the violence and some thinking that it’s not something they should associate with would leave us with no solution to the problem. If you solve the problem in Zamfara and Niger and the problem is not solved in Kaduna and Sokoto states, the problem will never be solved,” he said.
Oloja, who was one of the panelists, stressed the need for a deep understanding of the intervention by Sheik Gumi, a prominent Islamic scholar and retired soldier, who has been consulting with the bandits.
According to him, some authors had alerted the public to the existence of ‘crisis entrepreneurs’ who are beneficiaries of insecurity in the nation.
“It appears that banditry has become a big business. So, how do we deal with crisis entrepreneurs? How do we deal with the Federal Government within the context of injustice, within the context of dominance?
“We have at this moment a Fulani man in office and in power. Why is it that Gumi, Sani, and some others were able to get these bandits to a point of dialogue? Why is it that the military authorities and indeed the Federal Government have not been enthusiastic about using dialogue to end this banditry, to even reduce the menace? Why the reluctance of the authorities?” Oloja asked.
Oloja also condemned increased budgeting for insecurity when the nation has been earning lower revenues. He called for a probe into what he described as crisis commercialisation in the nation.
Reacting to allusions by an earlier speaker that the Fulani were possibly reacting due to perceived injustices against them, Odinkalu said there was no justification for any ethnic nationality to carry arms against the state and its people.
“Nobody has a monopoly of grievances. Many other Nigerians could possibly argue that Fulani has dominated the country. This is an uncomfortable conversation, but I do think Nigerians must have a conversation about grievance and domination, and hegemony. If everyone who has a grievance resorts to shooting, there is not just going to be enough people to be destroyed in the country,” he said.
Calling for dialogue with all aggrieved groups in the country, rather than just Fulani, Odinkalu noted that there were between 379 to 383 ethnic groups in the country, with every one having its sense of grievances. “The Fulanis have no monopoly of grievance or capacity to shoot their ways into a grievance or out of it. I think that needs to be made very clear,” he stated.
Sani who said that Fulani bandits must be condemned corroborated Odinkalu.
“We all have grievances, but it is not an excuse for anyone to pick up arms, kidnap people and extort ransom from individuals, particularly poor people,” Sani said.