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The misplaced priorities of Nigeria’s security services

By Eromo Egbejule, in Lagos
Posted on Monday, 5 August 2019 22:47

Members of security forces secure the area outside the national assembly in Abuja, Nigeria 9 July 2019. REUTERS/Afolabi Sotunde

Kidnappings, killings and revolutionaries are keeping the overstretched Nigerian security forces quite busy. Over the course of last week, two Nigerian opposition figures were picked by unknown gunmen believed to be in the employ of the secret police.

Omoyele Sowore, presidential candidate of the African Action Congress (AAC) in the 2015 elections and publisher of controversial media outlet Sahara Reporters was apprehended by state agents ahead of a planned mass protests tagged #RevolutionNow. Sowore is a critic of President Muhammadu Buhari and has called for Nigeria’s oppressed people to launch a revolution.

  • While confirming the arrest, secret police spokesperson Peter Afunanya told the press that “Nigeria is not a banana republic and cannot suddenly be made one. So, the Department of State Services (DSS) will not just sit by and watch individuals or groups wanting to rise and threaten the peace and unity of the country.”
  • Aso Rock followed up with a more dramatic statement. “The ballot box is the only constitutional means of changing government and a president in Nigeria. The days of coups and revolutions are over. Those making the ‘revolution’ call hide behind the veil of social media modernity. But without revealing the identity of their sponsors this shadowy campaign is no better, and no more democratic than the days of old.” Demonstrators who eventually turned up for the protests were dispersed by soldiers and policemen firing gunshots.

If the presidency’s statement was a subliminal message to the main opposition, the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), then the arrest of one of its prominent voices in the commercial hub of Kano was a direct response. A few days before Sowore’s arrest, Abubakar Dadiyata, a member of the Kwankwasiyya movement, was arrested. His whereabouts remain unknown and the Kano division of the DSS have reportedly denied holding him.

  • The Kwankwasiyya movement, an ideological extension of former senator and governor Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso, moved to the PDP ahead of the 2019 elections after Kwankwaso exited the governing All Progressives Congress.
  • Its gubernatorial candidate, Abba Yusuf, lost to Umar Ganduje, also Kwankwaso’s successor and former protégé, in an election largely marred by bloodshed and electoral malpractice.
  • Dadiyata has been vocal about the elections and the Kano State government before and after the polls. His arrest seems to be a move to silence the movement.

The arrests are seen as a distortion of priority in governance as Nigeria grapples with security crises nationwide, especially kidnappings across north-west and south-west Nigeria. July also marked a decade of insurgency by Boko Haram, a group repeatedly defying the government’s talk about having ‘technically defeated’ it.

  • In June 2019, vice-president Yemi Osinbajo downplayed the scourge of kidnappings in the country, saying things were being “exaggerated”.
  • A little over a month later, four of his fellow clergymen at megachurch Redeemed Christian Church of God were kidnapped.
  • Also in July 2019, a Catholic priest was killed in the south-eastern state of Enugu by suspected  herdsmen – the latest in a string of unexplained priest deaths in south-eastern and central Nigeria. It led to priests protesting on the street in Enugu.
  • Still, special military assets were deployed to protect flamboyant clergyman Biodun Fatoyinbo after anti-rape protesters converged at the church headquarters to demonstrate the pastor’s alleged sexual misconduct.

Why this is important: The algorithm that determines how the police assign assets and personnel to security situations remains unknown, but recent events point to cases of misplaced priorities.

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