By ADEMOLA YAYA
IT is not for nothing that the primary purpose of any government is security of lives and property. It is on this that other things are built – peace and progress, law and order, etc. Once this core responsibility is compromised, nothing is guaranteed. Although, there had been threats and actual attacks on the lives and properties of Nigerians since President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration, things have degenerated from 2015 when President Muhammadu Buhari has held sway. The regime has done a lot to tackle insecurity but its best is not good enough. Between 2015 and 2019, there were 100 reported cases of attacks on schools in Nigeria which have risen between 2020 and 2021 which resulted to shutting down many schools by the government. For instance, in January 2021 to 23rd, November 2021, 25 schools were attacked with 1,440 students abducted.
These spates of attacks have chased farmers out of their farmlands, which has contributed in no small way to the rise in the prices of food and hunger in the land, which in turn fuels violent crimes and insecurity. The security agencies who are supposed to tackle the insecurity are not immune from attacks. In South-East states alone (Ebonyi, Abia, Enugu and Anambra), 21 police stations were attacked by hoodlums with 15 officers killed between October 2020 and April 2021. On August 24, 2021, what was thought to be impossible happened: suspected bandits attacked Nigerian Defence Academy (NDA), killed 2 officers and kidnapped Major Stephen Dantong who didn’t regain his freedom until having spent 3 weeks in the custody of the bandits.
On Wednesday, September 15, 2021, there was an attack on Abuja-Kaduna bound moving train around Rijana village, close to Kaduna, destroying the rail tracks, disrupting train services and leaving the passengers with varying degree of injuries as they were trying to run for safety. There are too numerous cases of attacks as a result of insecurity. If one were to list cases of attacks in the North-East, New Year will meet us in the exercise.
Only President Buhari knows why he is yet to declare bandits and others terrorists, as they seem to perpetrate similar atrocities. Terrorism is defined as “acts of violence intentionally perpetrated on civilian non-combatants with the goal of furthering some ideology, religious or political objective.” Agenda of the terrorists is to make society ungovernable for the legitimate government and in fact, incite people against the government as live becomes miserable, living with fear and uncertainty, with nobody safe any longer. As this write up is being prepared, Hon. Lirwan Aminu Gadagau, a member of Kaduna State House of Assembly was shot and killed along Zaria-Kaduna Expressway on Tuesday, December 14, 2021.
This same scenario plays out on the attacks on custodial centres. What has happened in our custodial centres is no jailbreak; it is an attack from outside. Jailbreak is an escape or an attempt to forcibly escape from prison, especially by several inmates. There was only a singular case on Thursday, 22 October, 2020 when a jailbreak was attempted in Ikoyi prison, Lagos but was contained by the combined team of Nigerian Army and Police who also confronted some hoodlums who were around the correctional centre to aid escape of inmates.
Between 2004 and 2015, there were 15 external attacks on prisons; and 2015 till date, 15 external attacks. However, those who are calling for the head of Honourable Minister of Interior, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola, over these criminal attacks are simply myopic, parochial or mischievous. The Interior Ministry was obscure before Rauf Aregbesola’s emergence. He is the one whose creative ideas and attention to details have radically transformed the Ministry to making Departments under it more productive in their services to the people. Federal Fire Service has been more proactive in fighting fire in every state with newly acquired modern equipment; Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) has been more proactive in crime prevention, arrest of suspected criminals with good relationship with other security outfits for service delivery; Immigration Service has tremendously improved in issuance of passport and border control amongst others while a lot of transformation is taking place at the correctional centres. 3,000 capacity custodial centres are being built across the six geo-political zones to tackle overcrowded centres with special programmes of rehabilitation and re-integration of inmates back into society. There is a radical change from colonial feeding of inmates to a more dignified one with improved feeding system as a hungry man cannot be reformed. Under his watch, two annual retreats have been organised in Osun and Kwara to review the Ministry’s activities with the view to improving its services to the people. With Aregbesola’s foresight and creativity, there were systemic decongestions and management of the centres during COVID-19 pandemic and as we speak today, there has been no single incidence of COVID-19 recorded in the custodial centres nationally.
Rauf Aregbesola is controversial but a master politician, passionate and dutiful public servant with bagful of innovative ideas. As attacks on custodial centres are now being singled out for calumny campaigns out of thousands of various attacks on schools, army bases, INEC offices, court houses, police stations, NDA, farmlands in the North-East and everywhere today, so was Osun and Governor Aregbesola singled out in 2015 when there was financial quagmire where 23 states, including Osun, were owing at least 6 months workers’ salaries as a result of continuous daily theft of crude oil, missing oil money and consequent crash in the crude oil price at international market under President Goodluck Jonathan’s watch as crude oil sales accounts for about 70% of Government revenue and 95% of foreign exchange. Perhaps, that is the price to pay for being enigmatic; rather than situate Aregbesola’s challenges within the context of a larger Nigerian challenge, any of his particular issues is pettily politicised, forgetting that it is such short-sighted, malicious politicisation of serious security issues in the first place (as with Chibok Girls) that triggered a downwards slide into the hell we find ourselves in today. Time will tell, anyway.