Sept 2019

YOUTH BANDITRY & KIDNAPPINGS, YOUTHS EXPLOSION & DRUGS, GUN CRISIS AND ETHNIC CONFLICTS IN NIGERIA

By Dr Baba J Adamu

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People especially youths are greatly influenced by those around them. In today's schools, drugs are very prevalent, “peer pressures” usually is the reason for their usage. Violence is a major social problem that society faces. Young people nowadays are very violent and tend to get in fights over minor things. These young people use violence to prove that they have a certain power over those who are weak. Violence is an increasing concern and in most communities nowadays there is always some form of group. Without knowing, they are slowly forming a gang and if they don’t split apart throughout the years this could develop into a bigger group as they get new friends and become violent.  The advent of social media due to increased access to the internet has arguably contributed to the formation of even larger, widespread groups, and more on issues of immorality and peer pressure to belong. Despite social media playing a positive role for most, a new survey has found out that the high use of social media, like too much-watching TV, can harm youth self-esteem and easy manipulation. Two in three young people feel pressure to look good with what is happening on Instagram these days; and with so much proliferation of fake content and fake news, children can easily be brainwashed.

In Nigeria, almost all frequent users look at social media in bed before sleeping and the same thing when they wake up. The survey also found 25% of teenagers reported being approached by strangers daily through their online world. Around 60% of parents never monitor or cannot even monitor their teen’s social media account and are wrestling their issues about how much is too much. Most are unsure of how to provide good guidance for appropriate social media use with their children. With technology moving at breakneck speed and organizations constantly changing, agility and adaptability can position a high potential to seize opportunities that others will miss, which is when positively using technology. As the International Bestseller “Who Moved My Cheese” asserts, being able to understand and adapt to change can mean the difference between thriving and failing. Soderstrom questions even the use of the phrase “change management” in the business lexicon. Instead, she insists, just call it leadership! Indeed, change isn’t about a new, separate event. It’s the ever-present day today, and organizational superstars, don’t miss a beat when changes are introduced. They are 'change ready' as in digital-ready, and agility is just part of their DNA." So, with the right guidance, youths can be led to seize the positive side of social media and avoid fake, propaganda content.

Youths Banditry and Kidnapping

Banditry has emerged as the new monster for insecurity in Nigeria, joining a long list of mayhem that includes Boko Haram, cultists, herdsmen, kidnappers and militants. In different parts of the county and especially in North-West, from Birnin-Gwari in Kaduna to Tsafe in Zamfara, bandits are offered as the trope for an intolerable carnage, and arguably, the inexplicable haplessness of the government to address the issue. Some forests in northern Nigeria, which are ideally supposed to be sources of blessings to the people, have rather become a curse for them. Criminal elements including bandits, kidnappers and terrorists have found some of these forests a haven to unleash mayhem on innocent people, like the famous Sambisa forest in the North-East where Boko Haram unleash terror. For many residents of Kaduna State and environs, the mention of Kamuku and Kuyambana forests create a sense of fear and despair, being the foremost fortresses for bandits in the state and parts of the northwest. Security agents have described the two forests as some of the most dangerous in the country and are often compared to the famous Sambisa forest in the North-East. It is gathered that Kamuku forest extends to Birnin Gwari, Chikun, Kajuru and Kiwa local government areas of Kaduna State and shares boundary with Zamfara, Katsina, Kebbi and Niger states. Kamuku and Kuyambana forests adjoin the Kamuku Park located adjacent to the Kuyambana Games Reserve which is about 14km away from Kaduna's main town. The park, established in 1936 as the Native Authority Forest Reserve of Birnin Gwari under the Northern Nigerian Government and later upgraded from a state Game Reserve to a National Park in May 1999, was closed down due to activities of cattle rustlers and bandits. Lately, on September 27, 2020, bandits from the forest kidnapped a nursing mother and five others at Jigi village in Udawa town in Chikun LGA and demanded N10m ransom. Daily Trust reports that Nigerian Air Force (NAF) aircraft including the Beechcraft KingAir, Augusta 109 power helicopter, the Alpha jet and the MI35 all took part in bombarding parts of Kamuku forests in Katsina, Kaduna, Zamfara and Niger states as part of Operation ‘Kashe Mugu 2’, the air component of Operation Thunder Strike.

The notorious Sambisa Forest in the southern part of Borno State, located along the Lake Chad shores near Nigeria’s border with Cameroon, used to be a game reserve where wild animals such as elephants strayed in from other countries, but constant hunting and other human activities drove most of the wild animals away. Mohammed Amin, a Maiduguri resident, said people visited the forest for wildlife tourism in the past but that the lack of ethical standards led to the increase in environmental and wildlife crime which eventually posed threats to plant and animal species. But the Boko Haram insurgents, driven out of major towns by both the military and civil defence forces, have sought refuge in Sambisa and the nearby Mandara Mountains from where they sneak out to launch attacks on their targets. The military had traced some of the insurgents’ camps to the forest at different occasions and dislodged them; yet, the terrorists move deep into the forest to evade arrest. In 2014, gunmen suspected to have emerged from Gomo forest attacked Sumaila divisional police division station, injuring two policemen and setting free some criminals in detention at the division. It was also gathered that resident Fulanis and farmers in the area have been victims of kidnappings and cattle rustling over the years. It was also gathered that the Gomo forest is linked with Bauchi State’s Yankari forest and as such, criminals usually navigate at will across the forest boundaries to unleash mayhem on innocent villagers. Two years ago, a retired Assistant Controller General of Prisons, Nanvyet Wuyep Gwali, was murdered by unknown gunmen on his farm in Laminga, along Keffi – Nasarawa Road, Nasarawa State. Some months ago, gunmen stormed the Odu community and shot the traditional ruler, Mr. Amos Ewa Obere (ASP Rtd).

In Southern Nigeria, which comprises a mere 29% of Nigeria’s nearly 924,000 km² of landmass, urban banditry is very common. Unsurprisingly, armed robbery in built-up areas of the country was an early manifestation. An early exponent of this was Ishola Oyenusi, a high-school dropout who chose to be called “the Doctor” and terrorized Lagos at the end of the Civil War. In the 1980s, the poster-boy was Lawrence Anini, another school drop-out who concatenated indiscriminate violence with a touch of the Robin Hood marinated in advocacy for the downtrodden. Anini’s reign of terror in the then Bendel State and surrounding states was facilitated by the complicity of some senior police personnel who helped to provide his gang with intelligence and made evidence against them to disappear. In the 1990s, Shina Rambo terrorized parts of South-West Nigeria with similar escapades. In South-East Nigeria, the Otokoto case in Owerri, Imo State, in 1996 revealed an underworld of ritualized human sacrifice. By the 2000s, commercial kidnapping, political violence and assassinations would emerge as dominant forms of outlawry. The best-known exponents included a man is known as Osisikankwu (Obioma Nwankwo) in Abia State and resource militants in the Niger Delta. In Abia State and parts of South-East Nigeria, the government broke down and security was taken over by a bandit, vigilante horde, known as Bakassi Boys. In the Niger Delta, the military government of General Sani Abacha introduced guns to quell civic advocacy for resource justice. In 1994, they deployed the Joint (Military) Task Force. Nearly a quarter of a century later, the guns are everywhere and the JTF is mired in an interminable mission.

In some parts of the north, the situation is also pathetic. In a little-noticed release on December 21, Nigeria’s Defence Minister, Mansur Dan-Ali, a retired one-Star General, from Zamfara State, complained: “The issue of banditry and drug abuse, unemployment and governance amongst others contributes to the deplorable security situation in Zamfara State.”  The best the current administration has done is the launch in December 2018 of a Presidential Advisory Committee on the Elimination of Drug Abuse. Chaired by Brig. Buba Marwa (rtd.), its membership also includes the wives of both the President and the Vice-President. This looks more like a token than a policy response, it is argued. Successive regimes in Nigeria have in different ways made efforts, mostly futile or counter-productive, to address the different kinds of banditry and another menace that they are confronted with. The difference this time around, it seems, is that the government of the day appears not to be much bothered or cannot deal squarely with the problems. The Northern youth group, Arewa Youth Forum (AYF), has raised the alarm that some of the over 44,000 youths orphaned by insecurity in Zamfara State are being recruited by looting armed bandits terrorizing the North-West and some North-Central states including the South-West. AYF said this was discovered following research is carried out as part of measures to find the root causes of the persistent security challenges. It revealed that, within ‘eight dark years’ of banditry in Zamfara State, a conservative figure of about 11,000 adult males that were bread-winners of their families were killed, leaving behind an estimated figure of 22,000 wives and 44,000 children. “It is worrisome that the present situation of incessant banditry and barbaric killings, maiming, kidnapping for ransom, rape, cattle rustling and wanton destruction of property and economic livelihood assets by devilish forces of evil and bloodthirsty insurgents has reached an unimaginable and horrendous proportion in a region which was hitherto peaceful and calm, called Northern Nigeria”.

Hardly a day passes without such incidents occurring. Armed bandits, who launch attacks on innocent citizens of the state, infiltrate into Kebbi State through Dansadau forest from Zamfara State and Rafin Kuka forest from Niger State. Daily Trust gathered that the two forests that crossed from Zamfara and Niger into the state serve as camps for bandits who usually terrorize the people. It was gathered that once bandits attack and abduct people to such forests, victims only regain freedom after ransoms are paid. According to some sources, many are not so lucky to secure freedom as they often get killed. A resident of Zuru, who sought anonymity, said in the recent past, the Rafin Kuka forest which is not more than 100 kilometres from Zuru, used to be a peaceful abode where herders and farmers carry out their activities. “The locals around the forests can’t go to their farms neither can you see the one-time peaceful herders running around the forest with their herds of cattle”. Bandits rustle the cattle while farmers are maimed and killed in the process; the forests have been taken over by the criminals.

The people and the federal government are grappling with the issues of youth banditry all over in the country. All these are creating restiveness and destabilizing the economy because no investor will come to any environment that looks insecure. “But with massive youth training and empowerment, some of these crises will automatically be resolved without resorting to spending billions on amnesty programmes and other resolution mechanisms,” said a federal lawmaker, Senator Opeyemi Bamidele, a representative of Ekiti Central Senatorial District at the Senate. The Chairman Senate Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters, Bamidele, also said the country can only overcome its rising insecurity level through a well-designed training and empowerment policy for jobless youths.

The Defence Headquarters has said troops have killed two bandits and arrested three suspects in Kajuru Local Government Area of Kaduna State (Sept 2020). Some arms and ammunition were also recovered from the bandits, Coordinator, Defence Media Operations, Maj.-Gen. John Enenche said in a statement in Abuja. In the same month, angry youths from surrounding villages to Jibiya, (Gangiya and Kuka Babangida) headquarters of the Jibiya Local Government Area of Katsina State, blocked the Katsina/Jibiya Highway in protest against alleged bandits’ attacks. Eyewitnesses said the highway was blocked with old tyres, heavy stones and logs of wood, thereby preventing vehicular movement to and from Jibiya through the route. Although the circumstances surrounding the protest and the alleged bandits’ attack were still sketchy, it was learnt that the angry youths initially gathered at Kuka Babangida village before barricading the highway. The state police command later confirmed the arrest of 43 suspects in connection with the protest. The police also revealed that one man lost his life during the protest, while the protesters burnt down a police border control, a Nigeria Immigration Service post and several vehicles at Daddara village. Adamawa Police Paraded 36 for Kidnapping, Armed Robbery, Rape, car theft and receiving stolen properties. September 15, 2020, the Commissioner of Police in Sokoto, Olugbenga Adeyanju disclosed that the command had seized three AK 47 rifles, a G3 rifle, 199 rounds of live ammunition, 5 cartridges, a tractor, two vehicles, a barrel pistol and some cash. Police in Akwa Ibom Kill 6 Armed Robbers in Gun Battle, said the Commissioner of Police, Mr. Amiengheme Andrew on Friday, Oct 2, 2020, in Uyo while parading the dead robbers and other suspects. The victims died during a shoot-out with the police along Calabar-Itu Highway “Today, at about 5.30 am, acting on a credible intelligence that a six-man armed robbery gang whose specialty is car snatching in Akwa Ibom and Cross River were operating along Calabar-Itu expressway were killed by Police” The CP warned hoodlums engaged in cultism, armed robbery, rape and other vices to desist forthwith or leave the state as the command “under my watch has no room to accommodate any form of crime and criminality.” Many young people now use the excuse of being jobless to delve into the act of kidnapping people, while demanding ransom. In the case where the families of the abducted people are unable to pay up, the victims are usually killed or brutalized until they finally pay up or even die.

This is the case of one fifty-year-old kidnapper simply known as Sani. Sani is said to have been kidnapping people for thirty years now and confirmed that he has killed 50 people who could not pay up their ransom after kidnapping them. Sani before he was caught by the Nigerian police, said he has carried out his acts in over 5 northern states including Kaduna, Katsina, Niger and Zamfara states in the northern part of Nigeria. A notorious kidnaper, popularly known as Malam Gayam Birnin Gwari, an indigene of Birnin Gwari in Kaduna state, has disclosed that he has over 120 kidnappers under his control. Responding to questions while being paraded to newsmen by the Force Spokesman, Frank Mba, in Abuja, he said that he has lost count of the number of people his gang has killed but they are more than 50 persons. Explaining, the kidnapper said: “I am a boy to the notorious kidnapper called Yellow Jambrose who bought guns and the military uniforms I am wearing for us. I have over 120 boys under my control. We go to work kidnapping people on the road and cattle rustling”. “When we kidnap people and take them to our camp, those who can pay a ransom, we release them, while those who can’t pay, our boss Yellow Jambrose will command us to shot them”. “I can’t know exactly how people I have killed, however, I can just say over 50 people because it is not every day that we shot them.” Stories like these are endless, all over the six zones, in both northern and southern parts of Nigeria. The government must wake up. “Just a few years back, everywhere was peaceful. One can move in and out of the places freely but now, you’d not dare it, otherwise, you may become a victim,” he said.

Timelines:

Jan 3, 2020: At least 19 people were killed by unidentified gunmen in a night-time raid on a rural community in central Nigeria, according to police. The attackers torched houses and other buildings of the Tawari community in Kogi state, 100km (60 miles) south of the capital Abuja.

March 2, 2020: At least 50 people were killed in multiple attacks by armed bandits on villages. Sources said about 100 armed assailants stormed into the villages of Kerawa, Zareyawa and Minda in Kaduna state at dawn on Sunday, gunning down worshippers as they left a mosque for morning prayers before killing residents and burning and looting homes.

On June 10, 2020, an estimated one hundred fifty bandits killed fifteen-seven people across six villages in Katsina state. Thirty-three of the victims were from the village of Kadisau and, according to a resident; they rustled two hundred head of cattle and looted every shop there is an operation that lasted some five hours. A similar but deadlier operation occurred on June 9 in Borno state. The locations of the attacks in Borno and Katsina are around 450 miles apart.

Sept 18, 2020: A gang of around 100 gunmen dressed in army camouflage stormed a police station in the town of Gidan Madi in Sokoto state killing two officers and injuring another. Later on Thursday, a group of suspected cattle thieves launched an attack on the farming village of Yanteba in Katsina state, killing five farmers. Armed gangs, called bandits by locals, regularly raid villages in central and north-western Nigeria, killing and kidnapping people as well as looting and burning homes. Gunmen are believed to hide in the nearby Rugu forest that stretches across Zamfara, Katsina, Kaduna, and Niger states.

Oct 15, 2020: Armed bandits kill 10 in northern Nigeria’s Kaduna state.

Large-scale banditry is on the rise throughout Nigeria, particularly in the northwest. In Niger and in other parts of West Africa, the line between "jihadis" and criminal networks can be very thin. Indeed, jihadi groups have financed their operations by kidnapping for ransom, cattle rustling and human and narcotics trafficking, among other criminal activities. That might be the case in Borno. Within the past week, military spokesmen have claimed success in operations against “bandits” and “jihadis.” According to the media, the government has also engaged in talks with certain groups, but without apparent success. In any event, the bottom line is that security everywhere in Nigeria, particularly across the north, appears to be rapidly deteriorating, resulting in popular discontent. In a protest, some Nigerians complained that the federal government is paying too much attention to COVID-19 and not enough to banditry, which, they say, is killing many more people than the disease. However, security forces in February announced a sweeping operation aimed at armed gangs in the area. Last month 21 people, including 16 members of one family were killed when bandits attacked a village in a reprisal attack. Armed thugs on Thursday chased away hundreds of anti-insecurity protesters in Kano.

The Protest organized across the Northern states by the Coalition of Northern Groups (CNG) against the lingering insecurity challenges bedevilling the north, couldn’t go far as the heavily armed thugs launched an attack on them. CNG gathered along with Bayero University, Kano road to proceed with the protest, but some hoodlums descended on them, beating and snatching their phones until they took to their hills for safety. According to CNG, it decided to stage the protest to express concern on the dwindling economy, prohibitive commodity prices, rising inflation amid mounting poverty and prolonged stay at home by university students. The group also expressed sadness about how northern leaders and politicians had neglected the region and its population, while the southern leaders help their people at the time of need. “That while the southern elected and appointed leaders and representatives are quick to identify with their people at the time of need, their counterparts from the North, including the President, the Senate President, Senators, Rep members, governors, state legislators and other government appointees would rather abandon the hundreds of thousands of people in northern communities exposed to crime, lawlessness and insecurity in the hands of bandits, insurgents, kidnappers, rapists rustlers, and other violent criminals without any form of protection”. That it is contradictory that despite several protests and pleas by northerners, the authorities never deemed it fit to extend the swift spirit deployed against FSARS into securing the North, or addressing the myriad distresses faced by northerners.

Youth Explosion – Demographic Shift: Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Godwin Emefiele, asserted that Nigeria’s population will hit 425 million in 2050, the third-largest in the world unless urgent steps were taken to control it. Fielding questions from senators, the CBN governor, who painted a gloomy picture of Nigeria in comparison with other countries, said with the rapid population every year and penchant for sabotaging government policies on economic growth and development, there would be a serious crisis, if serious actions were not taken to control population growth. In May 2019, the CBN governor said he inherited a very precarious situation that led to the skyrocketing of the exchange rate to over N500 to a dollar in one year but noted that after serious monetary policies, it came down to N360 and had remained so. He promised to use his second term to promote the agriculture sector through the Anchor Borrowers program, relying on Small and Medium Enterprises, SME.

 

A fresh warning by the National Population Commission (NPC) that the prolonged closure of schools occasioned by the Covid-19 pandemic may lead to more girls dropping out of school, getting married and having children should be a major source of concern for any serious government. Although Nigeria has not conducted a recent census, thereby making it difficult to know the nation’s current population, studies and surveys being conducted by reputable bodies on the increasing population are heartrending and raise anxiety over the country’s future. It is estimated that India, China and Nigeria in that order will have the biggest populations by 2100. Ironically, it is in the very poorest countries that women have the most children, on average. 2018 Nigerian Demographic and Health Survey released last year that was conducted by the NPC in conjunction with the Federal Ministry of Health, the World Health Organisation and the United Nations Population Fund, among others, reveals a troubling trend. If this is not nipped now, it could deepen poverty, escalate violence and worsen unemployment. Nigeria is estimated to have 206 million people. According to the survey, the birth rate in Nigeria is 5.3 children per woman. Katsina State, one of the poorest in the country has the highest at 7.3 births per woman. Other states with high birth rates include Bauchi and Jigawa, which have rates of 7.2 and 7.1 respectively. The survey found that 44 percent of teenage girls with no education have begun childbearing, while only one percent of teenage girls with more than a secondary school education has given birth. While Lagos has the lowest rate of teenage pregnancy at just one percent, Bauchi has the highest at 41 percent.

 

The ongoing rapid growth in Nigeria’s population without an observable increase in the resources poses a serious challenge to the country’s development. Looking at the effects of youth population explosion on the standard of living in Nigeria; and how to guarantee economic growth, sustainability, and development, the apparent indicators are that poor education, low standard of living, increased cost of living, increased crime rate, overcrowding, family stress, malnutrition, health complications, sickness and death are some of the effects of this youth population explosion and demographic shift in Nigeria. To control the rapid population growth, however, there is a need for mass education and awareness, eradicate poverty and illiteracy which will, in turn, create awareness on the dangers of uncontrolled population growth as well girl-child education. Nigeria is the 7th most populated nation with an annual population growth of about 31 million with China and India taking the lead. This increases competition for limited resources and consequently reduces the standard of living of ordinary Nigerian citizens.

The high rate of population growth implies that more Nigerians are drawing from the nation’s resources including water sources, oil wells, natural gas, and farm produce. This also means more cars on the road (with greater pollution), higher demands for food production and land use. Indeed, poverty is not the cause of the population explosion in Nigeria; it is the effect. The more threatening aspect is that Nigeria’s population keeps growing without commiserate development and an increase in the resources available. When there is an uncontrollable increase in human population there is bound to be an unhealthy struggle for survival which has posed great change on survival in the country as there are many mouths to feed, clothe, and house, with scarce resources; consequently, more cases of malnutrition, overcrowding, crime wave, and low life expectancy. Ordinarily, Nigeria’s large youth population ought to be an asset, but with over 13.5 million out-of-school-children, the result is a largely uneducated and unskilled population that cannot spur social and technological development. It is not surprising that Nigeria is now the poverty capital of the world with a high level of unemployment and the associated crime rate. Nigeria needs therefore to take urgent steps to curb its rising population and tackle poverty. Addressing birth rates through a mix of women empowerment, education opportunities, birth control clinics and public enlightenment will make a difference. Ignoring population explosion warnings will keep many Nigerians permanently as hawkers of wood and drawers of water in an exponentially changing world.

Nigeria can become a laboratory for innovation for the world and own business systems in at least 3 areas – energy efficiency, internet applications, and in technology and outsourcing, 80% of incremental growth can be achieved solely through “offshore and low-cost” proposition. Providers will see the benefit and begin to consider distinctive approaches, each building on a source of competitiveness, with distinct performance markers and imperatives. Information and Communication Technology (ICT)-enabled solutions in healthcare, education, financial services and public services can drive socio-economic inclusion of more than 30 million citizens each year, faster, cheaper and more effectively than traditional models. Demographic shifts will fuel the growth of new sectors, markets, and service lines: the ability of diversity to build strength and unity is the power that will propel the organization and consequently, the Nigerian industry, into new dimensions of performance. Creating sustainable power, access to low business interest financing, creation of self-employment assistant programs (SEAP), and access to roads and availability of broadband internet technology are key elements that can spur the growth of human and intellectual capacity and service the industrial competitiveness.

Causes of Population Explosion in Nigeria: Some of the causes of rapid population growth in Nigeria include the following: poor family planning, illiteracy and ignorance, poverty, culture, religion, migration, and urbanization, polygamy and early marriage:

Poor Family Planning: This is a major cause of the population explosion in Nigeria. Most couples fail to use contraceptives in the control of birth, especially among couples in Northern Nigeria. Analyses indicate that the use of contraceptives varies from state to state across Nigeria. For instance, the southern part of Nigeria has a higher prevalence of contraceptives usage among those of childbearing age; whereas, contraceptives usage in the Northern part of the country is abysmally low mainly due to religion;

Culture and Tradition: the traditional beliefs about the value of children, particularly sons, as an asset to be relied upon by their parents in agriculture, protection and to support them during old age and the polygamous system of marriage in Africa and low level of female education which has brought about early marriages and high fertility have caused a rapid increase in population. Furthermore, the African culture measuring a man’s wealth by the number of wives and children he maintains (not in terms of the money he has, although it is changing nowadays) is still prevalent in some parts of Nigeria. This practice was encouraged by the need for a Nigeria man, who by occupation is a peasant farmer to have as many hands as possible to help in the farm work;

Early Marriages: The support for early marriages in some part of Nigeria has also contributed to rapid population growth, especially in the north;

Religion and culture: Islam permits a man to marry at most four wives. Undoubtedly, this contributes to the population explosion problem facing the north and Nigeria today.

Some of the effects of population explosion on families include poor educational attainment for the children, the decline in the standard of living, and increase in the cost of living, increased family stress especially on the breadwinner, malnutrition, health problems, overcrowding, and an increase in crime rate/social vices. Still, on the effect of population explosion, high population exerts pressure on ecosystem leading to issues around food security, land tenure, water supply and environmental degradation. On the economy, rapid population growth will demand that the government spend more on the provision of education, health, shelter and other social facilities. However, in Nigeria, in recent times, there is a drastic decline in public expenditure on education, health, and other services in the face of the overwhelming population growth. This has brought about a decline in the quality of education, and the near-collapse of the health care delivery system. Under certain circumstances, population growth results in increased production; more people meant greater productivity. A growing population could mean more workers and labourers who would increase overall output. It is fairly simple to understand that if the economy does not grow as rapidly as the population; people essentially become poorer and no economic development. Due to rapid population growth in Nigeria, those living in rural areas quickly find themselves landless and possibly without an income. This likely leads people to migrate to urban areas in search of jobs. Consequently, urban areas within Nigeria suffer the double burden of population growth and the influx of rural migrants. As urban areas quickly grow, oftentimes without the necessary infrastructure to support such a population increase, slums develop around the city, and poverty, crime, and disease become complications that hinder future growth within the area.

Youths Drug Abuse

Nigerian criminals have established drug trafficking conduits that stretch around the world, trafficking heroin from Asia to Europe and South American to the U.S, back to Europe and Asia. And at home, a growing number of idle young population has made illicit drug trafficking and consumption thrive unrestricted, especially during the Covid-19 lockdown. For over a decade, cough syrups containing codeine were bought and sold in pharmacies, chemists, and even on the streets by drug hawkers all over the country. The massive patronage and consumption of Codeine, Tramadol and other opioids are usually by teenagers and young adults insatiably looking for a “quick high”. The investigation has shown the booming illicit drug secret market in Wuse Zone 4, Abuja; and all across the cities in the north like Kaduna, Katsina, Sokoto, Zamfara, Adamawa, Maiduguri; and in the south from Lagos, Ibadan, Ogun, Benin to the Niger Delta region. The high level of abuse and addiction was underestimated until BBC exposé; sweet codeine uncovered the level of addiction among Nigerians, especially youths and women including teenage girls who consume it for non-medical reasons. This led to the ban on the production and importation of codeine cough syrup by the Nigerian government. Unfortunately, the ban on codeine and other abused opioids may not be enough to curb Nigeria’s addiction crisis. Two years after the ban, it is still possible to purchase these drugs illegally as so many street drug merchants are seriously cashing in on the banned drugs, which has become more lucrative since the ban.

 

Substance abuse in Nigeria and the new trend is becoming a significant medical, psychological, social and economic problem facing the nation. More worrisome is the increasing number of secondary school and tertiary institution students that are getting involved in acid drug abuse. These are the future leaders of Nigeria. A lot of youths have tried to find solace by using different drugs to help alleviate or ameliorate some of the stressful situations they are passing through. This has consequences on their mental health. This is an area that needs urgent and critical intervention by not just the government, but by society at large. “There are other things we have to look out for like when your child goes out and comes back and his or her eyes are red, there is a problem. When your child goes out and comes back very late and goes straight to his room and sleeps off immediately and does not wake up until noon the next day and that is a signal that there is a problem” said an expert with NDLE.

 

Drinking of palm wine and locally brewed alcohol such as, in the South, it’s called “ogogoro”, or in the North, it’s called “burkutu” as well as chewing of different stimulating plants and their products and drinking alcoholic beverages and smoking of tobacco is very common in Nigeria. Reports have it that the use of these substances was more on the increase and now more of Cannabis or Indian hemp, Codeine, Tramadol, Morphine, ephedrine, barbiturates and other pharmaceutical opioids; and acid drugs like cocaine, heroin, amphetamines, mushrooms, LSD and even Fentanyl, etc. Research indicates that many Nigerian adolescents depend on one form of drug or the other for their daily activities (social, educational, political, moral etc.). According to the United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime (UNODC), drug abuse is a growing problem both in Nigeria and globally. Drug abuse threatens the social, health, economic fabric of the families, society and the entire nation. Every country in the world is affected by one or more drugs being abused by its citizens, with an attendant increase in violence and crimes, an increase in diseases (e.g. hepatitis B and C virus, HIV/AIDS) and the collapse of the social structure. According to a UNODC report of 2011, cannabis (marijuana) appears to be the most commonly abused drug by adolescents in Nigeria). They decried that drugs are everywhere in Nigerian cities, including places like motor parks, street corners, joints on campuses, uncompleted buildings, under flyovers. To an extent, drug abuse is determined by the socio-cultural values of the people. For example, certain tribes and cultures across Nigeria permit the consumption of alcohol and marijuana, while other cultures do not. For instance, among some of the tribes in Nigeria for example, Edo, Ijaw, Igbo, Ibibio, Urhobo, Itesekiri and Yoruba, alcohol is used in cultural activities. On the other hand, in the northern part of Nigeria, any form of alcohol or drug is not allowed but people take them in secret. Available records concerning drugs abuse in Nigeria indicate that the Northwest has the highest number of drug victims in the country, (37.47%) followed by the Southwest (with 17.32%), then the south-East (with 13.5%), and North-central (with 11.71%), while the North-east zone had the lowest (8.54%) of the drug users in the country, according to the United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime (UNODC).

 

The urban-rural differences in the use of psychoactive drugs, with higher rates in the urban areas for some drugs, suggest that urbanization may positively influence the use of drugs. This was so in the study (Research Cyber Team) with regards to the use of alcohol, tranquillizers, heroin, cannabis and others:

  • Heroin: The use of heroin and other opiates was more common in urban parts of Northern Nigeria than its rural areas. However, in the South, higher prevalence rates of use of heroin and other opiates were found, in the rural regions compared to the urban localities.

  • Alcohol: There is a wide variation in alcohol use across the geopolitical zones in Nigeria. Consistently, lower rates of drinking were reported in the North than in the South. This difference may be driven by the religious beliefs of most northern Muslims against the use of alcohol.

  • Tobacco: The prevalence rate of smoked tobacco in form of the cigarette remains high compared to smokeless tobacco. The lower prevalence rate of cigarettes in the North compared to the South can be attributed to the Islamic injunction against drug use in the north, especially the use of alcohol and tobacco.

Drug abuse and substance abuse constitute one of the major risk behaviour among adolescents in Nigeria leading to banditry among other vices. Indeed, drug abuse is an undesirable feature of our culture. From the foregoing, the following can be made:

1.      There is a need for parents to sincerely re-orient their children on the dangers of drug abuse on their health;

2.      There is the need for the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLE) to intensify their anti-drug campaigns to have a drug free Nigerian society with a special focus on the youths and adolescents;

3.      There is a need for the Ministry of Education (Federal and State) to add to their curricula a Drug-Education for both the primary and post-primary schools, along with lectures, seminars, rallies, and film shows for the youths and adolescents on the adverse effects of drug abuse.

 

Drug Trafficking: A review of drug seizures in the first half of 2009 shows that Nigerians are continuously been arrested for drug trafficking incidents around the world. In India, Pakistan, Malta, Spain, and other countries, Nigerians are swallowing cocaine or heroin packages, hiding them in their luggage or concealing them in their clothes. Nigerian criminal groups are also coercing gullible young people or prostitutes into transporting or shipping drugs to other countries. As recently as 1984, drug trafficking was a capital offence in Nigeria but public outcry caused a repeal of this law. Nigerian citizens are often found to be involved in drug trafficking inside the U.S., mostly in Eastern and North-eastern cities. They are also detected moving multi-ton quantities of drugs across the U.S.-Mexico border.

 

In November 2009, a Narconon drug educator joined with government officials and educators to bring a drug-free message to youths. The occasion was the International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking. Organized by Narconon Nigeria, the public lectures held in Lagos brought together the Representative of Oshodi-Isolo Federal Constituency 1, a lecturer from the Department of Political Science in the Lagos State University, a representative of the Daystar Christian Centre and the Executive Director of the local Narconon drug education and prevention office. Together, these concerned public service officials spread the message that a drug-free life is the best kind of life. In other events, government officials team up with Nigerian drug educators to visit secondary schools to continue the anti-drug and anti-addiction education. If Nigerian children learn to make drug-free decisions, then the entire country benefits from having an ever-increasing drug-free population.

 

Two Nigerians were, in Sept 2020, arrested by Anti-narcotics police in Ho Chi Minh City, for trafficking methamphetamine. The suspects: Ochie Paul Ejike, and his 35-year-old Vietnamese wife and business partner Ly Moc Kiu, along with fellow Nigerian Chukwuemeka Confidence Onyiriuka before their arrest were identified as “major figures” in a drug trafficking ring monitored by police for several months. The South African Foreign Affairs Minister, Naledi Pandor, has accused Nigerians of dealing in drugs, human trafficking and other related criminal activities in their country. A 35-year old Nigerian was executed for drug trafficking in Indonesia, Michael Titus and 2 other Nigerians were convicted and executed by firing squad. Tochi, born in Nigeria was a 21-year-old who was hanged after he was arrested for drug trafficking in Indonesia. Tochi was deceived by one Mr. Smith to deliver some herbs to someone unknown to him that he was carrying tons of heroines into that country. Nelson was found guilty and was later convicted in Singapore by the government, he was said to have been involved with Amara Tochi who was said to have brought the drugs without knowing that they were drugs, Nelson was the person whom Tochi’s was meant to deliver the drugs to. Sylvester was a Nigerian man who was born on 7th of July 1965, he was convicted and sentenced to death in 2004 and it was also reported that his clemency (appealing, begging) were rejected. He was charged for trafficking about 2.61b of heroin through Sukarno Hatta airport in 2002. The Saudi Arabian authority said, “We have 20 Nigerians (on death row) in Saudi; this is the eighth to be executed and so, it is pathetic, it is tragic but we will continue to appeal to Nigerians to obey the laws of the land where they are and not traffic drugs”. Dabiri-Erewa said in some cases, drugs were stealthily put in the bags of unsuspecting pilgrims by the cartels only for them to be picked up on arrival in Saudi Arabia. Cases like these are endless, many Nigerian are in jail, some have been executed, some pending court cases all drug smuggling related cases across Europe, Middle East, North and South America and in Asia.

Gun Crisis in Nigeria

A United Nations (UN) report indicated that as of 2010, more than 70 percent of the 500 million illegal small arms and light weapons (SALW) in the West African sub-Region are in Nigeria. Director of United Nations Regional Centre for Peace and Disarmament in Africa, UNREC, Ms. Olatokunbo Ige, who gave the shocking figure, said such arms were in unauthorized hands of non-state actors threatening the existence of the country, as well as lives and properties of the people. Lately, the country has been battling with serious security challenges evident in the spate of violent killings, involving herdsmen, rival cult groups, as well as kidnapping and armed banditry in various cities: Niger Delta - cities like Abia, Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa, Cross River, Delta, Edo, Imo, Ondo, and Rivers to other cities like Lagos, Port Harcourt, Ibadan, Benin City and Warri to cities in the north like Maiduguri, Zamfara, Katsina, Kaduna, Abuja to Kano, Adamawa, Kebbi, Sokoto, Niger and Benue. One reads daily dangerous exploits of gruesome reports of bloody violent shooting and attacks. This is aside from the battle against the insurgent and terrorist groups, Boko Haram that has resorted to suicide bombing in states in the North-East. The port town of Warri in Southern Nigeria plays a vital unacknowledged function: It is the hub of the gun trade in the Niger Delta. The prevalence of light arms in that part of the country is not a new phenomenon. It has been known for years that sailors trade in guns at the ports. Warri sits on the bank of River Warri which joined River Forcados and River Escravos through Jones Creek in the lower Niger Delta Region. Warri is garrisoned by the Amphibious Infantry battalion (Effurun Army Base) located in Effurun, a [twin city] to Warri and is administratively under the Brigade HQ in [Port Harcourt]. The Nigerian Navy operates from its facilities in Warri. The 61 Nigerian Air force Detachment also operates from its facilities in Jeddo, close to Warri. There is the Warri Refinery and Petrochemicals located at Ekpan, with the majority of international and local oil companies operating in Nigeria having their operational offices close by. One of the nation's major seaports is sited within Ugbuwangue, Warri. Delta Steel Company is located at Aladja and Otorogu Gas Plants at Otu-Jeremi, near Warri but after the crisis in 1999, most of the oil companies relocate out of the town.

 

The rise in the number of ethnic clashes in the Niger Delta has expanded the frontiers of the gun trade and sparked an increase in the number of gun owners. Supply has since leapt to include smugglers from countries in the sub-region of Guinea-Bissau, Gabon, and Cameroon. Using fast boats, these smugglers cruise to ships anchored in the high seas and obtain guns the origins of which may be as far afield as Eastern Europe and Asia. Hardly a week passes without gruesome reports of abduction for ransom and robberies targeting mostly banks, bureaux de changes and other profitable businesses, these hardened armed robbers leave no one in doubt of their sophistication, determination and dare-devilry.

 

Arms and ammunition from at least 21 different nations, including the United States, Israel, Iran and 18 other countries are used in the farmer-herder crisis in Nigeria, a report by SB Morgan (SBM) Intelligence. Using data sources and research, there is a clear movement of arms from the south to the north; and its relationship with mass atrocities as seen today within Nigeria. Findings from the report revealed that the proliferation of small arms in southern and northern Nigeria is responsible for the mass atrocities in the different parts of the country. In the southern region, it said instances of such atrocities “include communal clashes, cultism, kidnappings, ethnic and religious clashes as well as militancy in the Niger Delta”. “Southern Nigeria has established local arms manufacturing sector and there is also significant importation/smuggling from international sources,” it said. The report said nations in East Europe and Asia “are the major sources of illegal arms in southern Nigeria”. In northern Nigeria, the report identified the rise in small arms from its neighbouring states and smuggling from south to north, mass unemployment as well as corruption as the cause of the high rate of criminality and violence in the region. “Locally manufactured arms, which are normally fabricated in small-scale factories, without legal permits, contribute to a large percentage of arms in circulation in northern Nigeria (especially in North-Central Nigeria,” it said. It said in Benue and Plateau states “locally made weapons are estimated to be used in over 50% of crimes committed”. The report revealed that Nigeria’s porous borders with neighbouring countries like Chad and the Niger Republic facilitate the sourcing of weapons externally in the northern region. “Ammunition from at least 21 different nations have been used in the herder versus farmer conflicts in north-central Nigeria (some of these nations include Israel, Poland, Brazil, Iran, USA, Czech Republic, Algeria and Egypt,” it said. The report added that the mass atrocities have led to a rise in the number of internally displaced people (IDPs) in the country.

 

In the Niger Delta alone, for many years, the trade-in arms have fuelled ethnic clashes between the Ijaws and their neighbours, the Urhobos, as well as between the Urhobos and their western neighbours the Itsekiris. This is not to say that everyone in this area has access to weapons. But agents, who are often prominent men in their communities, buy guns from the sailors and sell them to the youths who fight the wars. When there are no battles to fight, these weapons find their way into the hands of bandits and robbers who terrorize people on highways and in cities. An AK-14 rifle sells for the equivalent of 100 dollars. Very few people in Nigeria own guns legally, a greater percentage of those who carry firearms, however, never submitted to any scrutiny. In the police armoury in Lagos, there are no fewer than 6,000 types of automatic guns and rifles on exhibition, representing just a fraction of the weapons in circulation today. Many Nigerians, particularly if they are wealthy, keep guns in their homes in case they are attacked by armed robbers in the middle of the night. In July 2013, an ex-Niger Delta militant, Anietie Etim and four others who allegedly specialized in buying arms in Bakassi Peninsula for supply to Boko Haram insurgents were arrested by the police.

The traffickers carefully constructed a special tank at the booth of an Audi salon car where they conceal arms for shipment to the north. The car also had an extra tank constructed for fuel to ensure enough fuel that will take them to their destination. A police raid in Orilowo-Ejigbo, a Lagos suburb, showed a sizeable amount of arms that was sufficient to outfit a 20-man army is one single example out of many. In another incident, at the border town of Seme, bandits overwhelmed the huge security presence at the border post, laid in wait for traders and robbed them. Many lives were lost. As an officer testified after the incident, it wasn't the boldness of the robbers that unnerved him and his colleagues, but the sophistication of the arms they used. This kind of violence is the flipside of Nigeria's involvement in the wars in Liberia and Sierra-Leone. Although they are not being fought on Nigerian soil, these wars have provided the Nigerian black market with a ready source of assault weapons. Investigations have revealed that 21 million arms were smuggled into the country within seven years, with indications that the overflow was usually at the dawn of major general election in the country.

In the north, however, hundreds of weapons including RPGs, rocket launchers, anti-aircraft missiles, and AK 47 rifles have been intercepted by security operatives in various locations in north-eastern Nigeria. It is widely believed that these weapons found their way to Nigeria from Libya and Mali. RPGs are explosive projectile weapons used by insurgents to attack or destroy targets from long distances, while rocket launchers are devices that are used to propel missiles or explosives from long ranges. Some of the launchers can go as far as 900 meters. Possession of these high calibre weapons not only confers on Boko Haram's deadly firepower but also enables fighters to hit targets from long distance.  During the Libyan uprising, for instance, state armoury was either ordered opened (in February 2011) by Muammar Gaddafi or looted by rebel forces and mercenaries, and the majority of these weapons were never recovered. Terrorist groups like AQIM acquired these heavy weapons such as SAM-7 anti-aircraft and anti-tank missiles, transporting them back to the Sahel region. They were either surreptitiously obtained by posing as Gaddafi’s supporters or indirectly purchased from mercenaries who had acquired these arms from Libyan depositories.

Courtesy of the AQIM, these arms have been transferred to groups such as Ansar Dine, Boko Haram and MUJAO, emboldening and enabling them to mount more deadly and audacious attacks. Thus, the audacity of Boko Haram grew with the proliferation of weapons in the Sahara-Sahel region. The porous borders in Borno and Yobe States, which are the strongholds of the sect, made it possible for Boko Haram to smuggle arms into Nigeria. They have been able to smuggle arms into Nigeria using various methods such as the use of specially crafted skin or thatched bags attached to camels, donkeys and cows where arms are concealed and moved across the borders with the aid of nomadic pastoralists or herders. Its members are known to connive with merchants involved in cross-border trade to help stuff their arms and weapons in goods that are transported via heavy trucks, trailers, and Lorries. Given the huge size of the goods loaded on these vehicles, very little or no scrutiny is conducted on them by security and border officials. Arms can also be hidden in improvised compartments in a vehicle designed to evade detection by security agents. Cars used for such operations are constructed with chambers for concealing arms or additional fuel tanks to minimize the rate of refuelling. Another method used by Boko Haram is tunnelling - using tunnels to traffic arms, drugs and other substances is not a new tactic among terrorist groups. They used such tunnels for arms trafficking, especially in Borno State. In July 2013, for instance, security forces discovered a vast network of underground tunnels connecting houses and many bunkers used by Boko Haram for trafficking SALWs in the Bulabulin area. Some of the tunnels and bunkers can accommodate over 100 persons, enabling its fighters to hide and move SALWs around the area.

The ECOWAS Protocol on the free movement of persons, goods and services, has thus created a space that criminals exploit to facilitate cross-border trafficking. These traffickers exploit loopholes in state capacity in monitoring cross-border trade in the region and relaxation of national borders intended to enhance regional integration, to perpetuate their nefarious activities. Since corruption is endemic and systemic in Nigeria, cross-border arms trafficking is sometimes facilitated by security agents. In May 2013, for instance, senior customs personnel were arrested for allegedly assisting Boko Haram insurgents to smuggle several trucks loaded with a large cache of arms and ammunition into Nigeria.

As security agents tighten the noose around known smuggling methods, Boko Haram militants have resorted to disguising themselves as women to evade the attention of security forces while transporting arms. They have equally recruited women (sometimes wives of members) as arms couriers. The women hide AK47 rifles on their backs covered with their veils or conceal improvised explosive devices (IEDs) on their backs as if they were carrying their babies. Such women arms couriers receive between N10, 000 and N 50,000 ($28 and $139), depending on the mission and the location for the delivery of the guns and IEDs. They have equally concealed guns and ammunition inside grains in plastic buckets and sacks in their homes. Beyond SALWs smuggled into Nigeria from outside, the sect also obtains arms by breaking into the armoury of police stations. On another account, a gunrunner confessed “I have been doing this for 15 years. I am not the one that brings them [the arms] into Nigeria. I have contacts in Burkina Faso and Ghana… They conceal it in a vehicle, under the floor of the vehicle. Perfectly concealed and sometimes they use hides and skins which they have it more in Burkina Faso and the Sahara areas,” one of the suspects said. Presently in all across the northern region, Armed-robbers operate often for hours without police or security intervention, kidnappers attack for hours and sometimes two days in a row without any security intervention and bandits storm towns and villages un-averted and almost always get away without being caught.

This gun revolution in Nigeria has thrown up many questions. Questions like: how did it get to this breaking point? Has life any value in Nigeria? When will the police live up to its responsibility of protecting lives and property? How far can people be more traumatized to reach the very limit of tolerance? Why is there so much violence in the streets and so many sophisticated guns available? What is the price of crime and criminality? Who cares; does the government care for the people? Should the government grant amnesty to the militants to disarm them? Armed to the teeth with sophisticated weapons, is amnesty the only way out or what can the Military and the Civil Defence Corps do to support the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Small Arms Control Program? One area where the military may assist is the task for peacebuilding in the disarmament and demobilization of rival regular and irregular militant groups, and for the government to address the issue of poverty, hopelessness and despair.


 
 
 

 

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