New Year message to President Muhammadu Buhari: Stem the tide of insecurity, salvage democracy
The National Association of Seadogs (Pyrates Confraternity) has taken stock of the actions of your government in 2021 and finds it imperative to bring to your attention some urgent steps needed to change the trajectory of our country in 2022.
In your New Year speech on January 1 2021, you mentioned “Re-energizing and reorganizing the security apparatus and personnel of the armed forces and the police with a view to enhance their capacity to engage, push back and dismantle the operations of both internal and external extremist and criminal groups waging war against our communities in some parts of the country.”
Making reference to the rescue of the abducted students from Government Science Secondary School, Kankara, in your home state, Kastina, you stated that: “our administration is fully aware of the responsibility we have to protect the lives and property of all Nigerians, and we will not relent in learning and adapting to changing threats to our national security and civic wellbeing.”
Mr President, we acknowledged the changes of the Service Chiefs in January 2021, but after a lull in the activities of criminal elements, things rapidly grew worse. Criminal gangs are all over the country, killing, maiming and kidnapping innocent Nigerians including members of the armed forces and law enforcement agencies in the most horrific and barbaric circumstances.
Under your watch, Nigeria is bleeding heavily with states such as Kaduna, Zamfara, Sokoto, Kastina, Niger and Borno most affected. The Nigerian Security Tracker, a project of the Foreign Relations, an American think tank stated that no fewer than 3,125 Nigerians including members of the armed forces and other security agencies have been killed, while 2,703 people including children have been victims of abduction as at September 2021. Between November 1 and December 12, reports in Nigerian media indicated that over 300 Nigerians including 23 military officers and 11 policemen were killed. Certainly this is not what Nigerians bargained for after your re-election in 2019.
However it is not too late for you to stem this tide of insecurity. Nigerians are tired of you issuing directives that have no consequential effect. Your administration has pampered terrorists, bandits, kidnappers and violent non-state actors for too long. You have condoned their impunity to the detriment of the general interest of Nigerians. To date, the 400 alleged sponsors of terrorism announced by your Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, Mr Abubakar Malami are yet to face trial. Recently the Inter-Governmental Action Group against Money Laundering in West Africa (GIABA), in its 2021 Mutual Evaluation Report, disclosed that Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) had through different means moved N18bn through the Nigerian financial system. Yet your government has not lifted a finger to act.
The Federal Government under you must demonstrate a single-minded commitment to securing our country and visit these criminal elements, and their sponsors and collaborators, with the full wrath of the state. In the year 2022 there should be no hiding place for terrorists, bandits, kidnappers and other criminal elements. Nigerians are no longer interested in reading statements and listening to comments by your aides quoting you giving marching orders to security agencies to fish out criminal elements. Nigerians expect you as the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces to order the immediate flushing of criminal elements from wherever they could be. We have had enough words and now wish to see tangible action.
Furthermore, like previously stated, you need to initiate the process to decentralise the security apparatus of Nigeria. The over-centralisation of security, especially the Nigeria Police Force, has done more harm than good. There is no better time to decentralise the policing of Nigeria than now.
2021 Electoral Act (Amendment) Bill
A few days ago, you vetoed the 2021 Electoral Bill Amendment citing various reasons including protection of the democratic rights of Nigerians. Your refusal to sign did not come across as a surprise to many Nigerians. While we recognise your constitutional powers to withhold assent to bills you feel uncomfortable with, waiting for the expiration of the constitutionally guaranteed time to elapse before you communicated your decision to the National Assembly is dereliction of duty on your part. Your handling of the Electoral Amendment Bill issue is clumsy and suspicious. Your action is at clear variance with your avowal commitment to leave a legacy of a credible electoral process for Nigerians.
Your sincerity to transparent elections would have been better demonstrated if you assented to the Bill and returned it to the National Assembly for further amendments just like you did to the Petroleum Industry Act (PIA). In 2018, you refused a record of three times to assent to the Electoral Bill until it was no longer tenable for the 2019 elections. Many Nigerians believed your refusal to sign the Electoral Act (Amendment) Bill in 2018 was because your party was uncomfortable with certain provisions that would ensure free, fair and credible elections.
As you enter the final lap of a full year of your Presidency, you should be mindful of the verdict of history and actions that would endure in the minds of Nigerians. As recently as December 11 2021, you were quoted to have said in a Virtual Summit for Democracy organised by President Joe Biden of the United States of America that: “As we countdown to our general elections in 2023, we remain committed to putting in place and strengthening all necessary mechanisms to ensure that Nigeria will not only record another peaceful transfer of power to an elected democratic government, but will also ensure that the elections are conducted in a free, fair and transparent manner”.
Mr President, you need to walk the talk of commitment to a peaceful democratic process. There is no better way to express this by ensuring you rally the leadership of the National Assembly to resolve all grey areas including issues raised by Civil Society groups for the bill to be passed and resent to you for assent to be in full operation for the 2023 general elections. You were a beneficiary of the improvement in the electoral process and the expectation is that you would make the electoral process better than you meet it. The choice is yours to make on what you would be remembered for. May you have the will to do what is right for Nigeria.
Happy New Year, Mr President.