Friday 30 March 2012

Presentation by Innocent Chukwuma, Executive Director, CLEEN Foundation
at the Centre for the Study of African Economies, (CSAE), Oxford University, March 16, 2012

·         Welcome your invitation and opportunity to share your perspectives on law and order situation in Nigeria.
·         Thank Dr. Cheeseman of CSAE for inviting you and framing the topic.
·         Stress that neither the law nor the social order it tries to reinforce and maintain in Nigeria is in the overall interest of the overwhelming majority of Nigerians who are poor and vulnerable. Give examples of where the law and maintenance of it have short-changed the people.
·         Note that this inherent contradiction predates Nigeria’s independence and it’s at the root and heart of rising insecurity in the country as there is simply no incentive for the poor to be part of law and order maintenance in the country.
·         Inform that other jurisdictions have done a better job at managing the contradictions in society by improving state capacity to respond through a medley of carrot and stick approaches.
·         Note however that in Nigeria, we have spentmuch more time on nation building than we have on state building.
·         Highlight that the consequence is that the ability of the state to respond to situations that seriously threaten law and order is consistently suspect due to legitimacy, accountability and capability deficits.

Focus of Presentation
Stress that the theme of the presentation is a broad canvass that allows you to focus on what you really want to talk about. Inform however that it would be deemed a misuse of time if you fail to dwell in some ways on the Boko insurgency in the north, militancy in the delta and of course the Occupy Nigeria protest in January, which were and still are major law and order challenges in the country.

Inform that you would like to structure the presentation through attempting to answer five questions around the three trending topics and after invite the audience to disagree, agree, comment or ask questions, which would hopefully make the discussion a lively and participatory one.

The questions are:

·         In what ways is the Boko Haram insurgency different from the other law and other challenges we have experienced in recent years in Nigeria, such as Niger delta militancy and OPC activities in the Southwest?

·         How has the mainstream media and commentators presented and analysed the group’s attacks?

·         What has been the response of stakeholders in government and civil society to the insurgency?

·         What are the missing links?

·         What difference did the occupy Nigeria protests in January 2012 make?

Inform that you would begin with the first question.

       I.            Differences between Boko Haram and others
Begin by noting that to many commentators, especially those in the south, Boko Haram is simply a northern equivalent of OPC activities in the 90s and Niger Delta militancy in the early 2000, aimed at attracting power back to the north by making the country ungovernable and forcing president Jonathan to hand over to their political elite.

Observe that a closer look at the groups and the goals they claim to pursue indicate that they differ from these other groups much more than they seem similar:

a)     The insurgency is over values, believes and faith even if the underlying factors of deprivation, poverty and alienation are similarly felt across Nigeria. This makes it much more difficult to resolve when compared to conflict over resources and political representation.

b)     Unlike Delta militancy and OPC, it is rooted in the mass of ordinary people in the north, especially the youths most of who are living on the margins of society – Alma Jiri.

c)      The northern political elites are yet to hijack and blunt the goal of the group unlike the case of delta militancy or OPC where the political elites were in the driver seat of the agitation and therefore easy to be brought to the table and make deals with.

d)     The state has rendered Boko Haram leaderless in a visible sense by killing Mohamed Yusuf and driving other leaders underground. This makes it a dangerous and difficult group to deal with in terms of finding political solution. In the case of delta militancy, the leaders were known and on occasions flown to Abuja in presidential jets. Similarly, in the case of the OPC, their leaders – Dr. Frederick Faseun and Gani Adams – were easy to reach and make deals with either in jail or in their homes.

e)     The Boko Haram groups have demonstrated the capability to mount low-scale and audacious attacks in different parts of the country than any militant groups in Nigeria have a ever done. And they seem to be getting better at their art and thus frightening the state and the people in more nightmarish manner than their predecessors. Thus their capacity to ignite the country is not in doubt.

f)       They also appear to have more international connection through the Sahel region than other groups making them a clear and present danger to the corporate existence of Nigeria.

    II.            Media Interpretation and Explanation of Boko Haram

·         Inform the audience that media reporting of Boko Haram’s insurgency and commentators analyses of the groups activities are sharply divided into northern and southern perspectives with very few middle grounds.

·         What this means is that to get a balanced perspectives on the issue you have to read reports from media outlets based in the south and the north. Therefore for every story you read on the group’s activity in the Punch, Sun, Guardian or the Nation, you have to read Daily Trust or Leadership to get a balance.

·         In the southern-based media, prominence is given to attacks involving southern and Christian targets. You are likely to read such screaming front-page stories: ‘Boko Haram kills 30 southerners’, Gunmen kill 12 Igbo, Yoruba in Adamawa. When the victims are mostly Moslems and northerners, you may likely find it buried in inside pages with such sober titles as ‘Boko Haram kills Another 3 in Maiduguri’.

·         Commentaries on the attacks are often slanted to give the impression that northern elites are behind it to wrestle power from Jonathan and the south.

·         However, the northern-based media outlets are also not free of slanted reporting. In their stories, northern victims are highlighted to show that they suffer the most.

·         Their commentators also explain away the attacks as a function of poverty and deprivation as if poverty is a trigger rather than a risk factor in violence.

·         They are also increasingly asserting even though without any empirical evidence that there is link between the violence in the north and the current revenue sharing formula of the country, which appear to privilege the south south where the president comes from.

·         The result of these varying accounts of and interpretation of Boko Haram’s phenomenon is that Nigeria is today perhaps more divided than it has ever been. This makes it much more difficult for law enforcement and security agencies to get the desired support they need from the communities to respond effectively to the existential threat posed by Boko Haram to the Nigerian state.

 III.            Stakeholder Responses: Government and Civil society

·         Stress that collectively, stakeholders in government and civil society have not responded adequately to the existential threat posed by Boko Haram and other extreme groups in Nigeria.
Government response
·         Beginning with the government, observe that it appears divided into three camps:
                                 i.            Security solution camp versus political solution
                               ii.            Northern camp versus southern camp
                             iii.            Jonathan continuity camp versus 2015 handover camp

·         Stress that these divisions have made it difficult for the government to speak with one voice on the situation, with the security camp led by the national Security Adviser stressing that they are winning the battle and urging for total wipe out of the groups, while the political camp are calling for dialogue and for the group to lay down their arms.

·         Observe that so far that the security solution camp appears to be gaining upper hand with the dramatic increase in both the 2011 and 2012 budgets on security, with 2012 crossing the one trillion benchmark.

·         Note however, the ascendancy of the political solution camp buoyed by the killing of the two expatriates in Sokoto and the attendant external pressure by powerful nations on the government to find a lasting solution to the menace of the group.

Civil society response
·         Observe that beyond occasional statements in the media, civil society as a collective has largely remained silent on Boko Haram insurgency in Nigeria when compared to the way the sector responded to the withdrawal of fuel subsidy.
·         Highlight the limited efforts of groups like CLEEN Foundation and others have done in response to the phenomenon:
                                 i.            Public opinion survey on call for dialogue with the group
                               ii.            Forum on responding to Boko haram and other extreme groups in Nigeria.
                             iii.            About to commence study on security governance and conflicts in West Africa including Nigeria.

  IV.            Missing Links

Highlights the missing link in the fight against Boko Haram:

·         Profound disconnection between the policy and scholar communities in Nigeria, which has led to very little informed and dispassionate account of what is going on and how they could be responded to, which would feed into policy making. Academics seems to be essentially on leave of absence as far as Boko Haram’s insurgency is concerned.

·         Lack of cohesion in government about what needs to be done, which has made it difficult for the government to tap into its resources to deal with the phenomenon as a result of deep division and suspicion among the major functionaries. 

·         Lack of political will within the government to deal with the tripod of issues behind the seeming invincibility of the Boko Haram group:

                                   i.            Alma Jiri phenomenon and other destitute children drawn from neighbouring countries such as Cameroon, Niger and Chad.
                                 ii.            Financial support from some politicians and wealthy people to the group, which enables it to procure arms and weapons, training and compensation for the wounded and families of dead members.
                               iii.            Influence of local ideologues that frame the violent and hate ideology of the sect.
·         Rising poverty, deprivation and alienation of young people across Nigeria and in particular the north amidst the wealth of the country, which is being squandered and wasted by those in political and economic authorities.

     V.            Occupy Nigeria Protests and the Difference it made

Note that in the midst of despondency and divisions created Boko Haram’s attack, the Occupy Nigeria protests in January in response to fuel subsidy removal by the government came to present a different picture of what is possible and forward looking as far as Nigeria is concerned:

·         It started as a protest against fuel subsidy removal but ended or introduced a new phase of struggle and campaigns against waste and corruption in government.

·         United Nigerians across ethnic, class and religious divides.

·         Showed that Nigerians can fight back against oppressive system if the messaging and mobilizations are couched in such away that they connect and resonate with the livelihood challenges confronting the people.
·         Brought out the middle class to for the first time in a long time join the struggles of the people for better deal in the Nigerian state.

Major lessons
However, the major lessons of the protests and while it could not be sustained beyond one week are follows:
·         Leadership of such a protest in the future should no longer be left in the hands of the trade union movement.

·         A national platform is needed to drive the process of building on the gains of the protests.

·         Social media has become a key tool for catalysing change in Nigeria that can no longer be ignored.

·         A national opposition party is needed to work with civil society groups for change in Nigeria.

·         Various measures are currently being initiated currently in Nigeria to take forward the lessons of Occupy Nigeria Movement and build on it.

There is a lot to make one feel despondent about Nigeria with regard to law and order situation. But there is also a lot more to make you assured and hopeful that change is around the corner.

Don’t give up on Nigeria!

Thanks You!


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