Nigeria’s fragile security architecture is collapsing | Opinions

Earlier this month, attacks that took place within minutes in various parts of Nigeria, and the apparent failure of security forces to respond promptly and effectively, demonstrate the immeasurable threat. How great is the law and punishment currently causing. country and its people.

At the end of July 5, heavily armed men on motorcycles raided the Kuje Medium Security Detention Center on the outskirts of Abuja and released more than 900 prisoners, including more than 60 members. Boko Haram members are being held. The Islamic State West African Province (ISWAP) – an offshoot of Boko Haram that is now allied with the group ISIL (ISIS) – has claimed responsibility for the attack.

Just hours before the Kuje incident, another group of heavily armed men attacked a convoy carrying a high-level security team for President Muhammadu Buhari in his home state of Katsina. The presidential spokesman said the convoy carrying a team of security guards, as well as protocol and communications officers, was en route to Daura, Buhari’s hometown, to prepare for his visit when the attack took place. happen. According to the president, two people in the convoy suffered minor injuries before the gunmen were pushed back. On the same day, robbers on motorbikes ambushed and shot down Assistant Commissioner of Police Aminu Umar Dayi in another part of Katsina, not far from where the presidential motorcade was attacked.

The Nigerian security forces failed to respond effectively to all three attacks, proving once again that they were incapable of properly defending themselves, let alone members of the public, against armed warriors.

While some inmates who escaped from the Kuje Detention Center were recaptured a few hours or at least a few days after the attack, many still had loopholes – and those who managed to escape the force’s control Security forces appear to include a number of combat-ready Boko Haram fighters and bomb experts.

The authorities’ response to the attack on President Buhari’s motorcade and the ambush by Assistant Commissioner Dayi and his team in Katsina were equally poor. Those who attacked the president’s motorcade, like those who killed the assistant commissioner, were not arrested but were “repulsed” meaning they escaped what they did and are still free to carry out their attacks. kill someone else. According to reports, the same robbers who attacked Buhari’s convoy have been raiding a nearby village ever since.

All of this shows the current state of Nigeria: A country where members of armed groups raid prisons, attack the president’s motorcade and brutally kill security personnel. easily and without punishment.

Indeed, the Kuje prison raid is just the latest in an escalating series of attacks on prisons around the country. In 2021 alone, more than 5,000 prisoners have escaped thanks to such incidents. And “robbers” – a term commonly used to refer to criminal gangs that masterminded kidnappings, assaults, sexual violence and kill citizens – has organized bloody attacks on rural communities without much meaningful response from security forces for at least a decade in northern parts of the country.

While the 5 July attacks represent a continuation of existing trends in many ways, they also mark a grim turning point in Nigeria’s fight against armed groups.

For ISWAP, the Kuje prison attack was a spectacular success, not only because it helped free some prominent members of the group, but also because it demonstrated that the group was now confident enough to carry out a Massive attack on a supposedly highly guarded prison. in the capital city. Much of the group’s success before this year was confined to the Northeast, but in recent months it has moved beyond its traditional sphere of influence in Borno, leaving its mark in Taraba and heading west. gained ground in Niger, Kogi, and even the Federation. Capital Territory (FCT). After the Kuje jailbreak, it organized a number of other attacks on communities around Abuja. Now, there is no question that even the most important and well-guarded state institutions in the Nigerian capital are facing a very real threat from ISWAP.

Meanwhile, the attacks on the convoy of Buhari and the deputy commissioner in Katsina state clearly show that Nigeria’s security forces are no longer capable of defending themselves – let alone civilians – against them. against robbers in some areas of the country.

After independence, Nigeria inherited a deeply flawed security architecture from the British, geared towards protecting only the political and economic elites in urban centers and leaving the rest of the people who actually fend for themselves.

A succession of governments, especially during the military dictatorship from 1966 to 1999, failed to reform this faulty infrastructure, leading to a worsening security situation in various regions. peripheral area. In recent years, the country’s economic downturn has forced the security forces to narrow their scope of operations even further and devote all available resources to protecting the regime and its top officials. This has resulted in even members of the security forces themselves becoming too vulnerable to attack by “bandits” and armed groups, and perhaps most importantly, many Nigerians, especially is in urban centers, starting to lose confidence in their country’s security forces. .

The apparent collapse of Nigeria’s fragile and faulty security architecture could have immediate and deadly consequences for the public beyond inciting robbers and armed groups. Specifically, security forces can use innocent civilians to protect their dignity and try to regain respect.

Even before the setbacks experienced on July 5, we had seen several examples of this dangerous behavior. For example, in late June, soldiers sent to Yakurr in the Cross River State to restore peace after a community dispute were said to have pointed guns at civilians after one of their colleagues was killed. kill. Local media reported that soldiers shot at anything that moved, killing at least 10 people and burning down several houses. Several other similar incidents have been reported in recent years.

After their defeat on July 5, Nigeria’s security forces may feel more incompetent and threatened than ever. This could easily lead to more tragedies as members of the underfunded, unprepared and frustrated security forces turn their weapons on the people they should protect and punish. community to regain respect, power, and control.

If Nigeria wants to ensure the safety of all its citizens and effectively counter the threat from robbers and armed groups, the government should stop downplaying the failures of its security forces and focus on effort into fixing – and perhaps completely reshaping – the country’s faulty security architecture.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial views of Al Jazeera.

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