Sunday, March 23, 2014

Counting the cost of government's inefficiencies: failure to connect the dots

One flaw of  Nigeria's governments is the failure to connect the dots. Events and issues are treated as isolated incidents without recognizing patterns and preparing for the consequences for actions and inactions. That clich√© a stitch in time saves nine" does not resonate with the leadership.
The indifference and actions of  the governments in the 1960s, 80s and 90s to  Niger-delta agitations bred  the culture of violence that became Niger-delta militants and opportunists. Today, the Federal budget for militants is larger than that of the country's security apparatus (Military and Police) combined. The government also suffers loss of revenue due to oil bunkering activities in that area.  
That same mistake is being repeated with Boko Haram and Fulani herdsmen who have between February to March, 2014 killed  about a 1000 people in the North East and Middle belt and destroyed livelihoods and properties.  
The evolution of Boko haram from a group that used unsophisticated weapons and motor cycles  to attack police stations to attacking people with RPGs in luxurious buses is very telling.  The blame for  this evolution lies with the government.
There are two schools of thought on the emergence of the  group- these theories are  linked because both have melded together-. The theories believe that Boko Haram is either politically or religiously motivated.
The first thesis is that Boko Haram evolved from ECOMOG a group sponsored by Ali Modu Sherriff, Ali Ndume and some other politicians who used them as thugs during the elections and dumped them after the elections. The problem with discarding people that have been violently empowered is that they become Frankstein. Cases in point include OPC, Egbesu boys and a faction of Niger-Delta militants who were used in the 2007 and 2011 elections.
The second thesis  claims the group has its roots in some youths disenchantment with the way Islam was practiced in the North and sought to establish true Islam. The group clashed with authorities in 2002 and were ruthlessly dealt with by the establishment who killed the group's first  leader, Mohammed Ali. The group regrouped and in 2009 attacked some police officers, the officers retaliated and killed the group's new leader, Mohammed Yusuf.
The forceful reaction to what was probably a misguided group of youths/ the empowering of thugs for political gain has led to a group that is now linked to Al-Qaeda, has superior weapons to the State's security agencies and is a scourge in the North East where economic and social activities have been grounded. Other hoodlums benefit from the situation by attacking in the name of boko haram. Another dot the government is failing to connect is the re-emergence of Fulani herdsmen that have been killing people in the Middle belt  since 2012. As date over 400 lives have been lost and several villages burnt. In the recent attacks in Benue, chemical weapons were reportedly used by the herdsmen. From the attacks, it obvious that the attack has more  than economic undertones for land (grazing). There are also reports that foreign fighters  help these herdsmen in the attacks.  These attacks by herdsmen did not begin in 2012. There is a history of violence between the Fulanis and the natives in the middle belt. Yet, all the government does is offer condolences
The incidents in Northern Nigeria depict a failure of military intelligence, a failure of Nigeria's diplomatic clout and influence (it is incredible that Cameroon would act nonchalantly and refuse to support Nigeria on disarming Boko Haram)
The after effects of the handling of the Niger-delta agitations offers lessons for the country. The price the government is paying for peace- state monies channeled to militants and oil theft-  should cause a rethink in the handling of similar problems but that is the not the case.

What is the cost of this?
Nigeria is grooming future militancy in the form of civilian JTF who give  soldiers intelligence
To borrow from Reuben Abati, Nigeria is also grooming "children of anger". Children who have lost parents, family and hope and would one day fight back.
Nigeria is  further entrenching food insecurity. Most of the food consumed by Nigerians are  from the North and if people cannot farm, there would be no harvest and food. In last 3 years, food prices have been on the  increase.
Related to above is because the poor have to spend more on food, they become poorer, add this to the cost of kerosene and transport and  the cycle of poverty continues.
85 schools have been closed in Borno. This means that 120,000 students are out of school because of the fear of attacks. For Nigeria North where literacy and education especially for women is  typically low ( about 20% according to World Bank 2012 reports), more numbers are been added to the current 10.5 million children out of school in Nigeria.

A stitch in time saves nine.

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