Nigerian States: Applying Security Solutions To What Are Economic Problems, By Umar Yakubu
The Nigeria Police and Army cannot provide jobs. These should be the main focus of governors. So all the support these security agencies provide through Operation Puff Adder, Harbin Kunama, Sharan Daji, Snake in the Monkey Shadow, Cliff-Hanger won’t do much as long as state governors do not address the issue of the economy, poverty, unemployment, lowering the debt burden…
The government solution to a problem is usually as bad as the problem. – Milton Friedman
The general elections are over and 29 governors have been sworn in. As at June 12, 29 states had presence military presence, supporting the Nigeria Police on security measures. The Nigerian Army are in virtually every state in the North-East, the South-South, North-Central and North-West. The Nigerian Navy are in the South-South. The Air Force are providing aerial support across the length and breadth of the country and it’s important to remember that we are “technically” not at war with any foreign country. However, the federal government controlled armed forces and Nigeria Police have been stretched beyond capacity in the provision of internal security for the states of the country. We are currently in the phase of an unprecedented high level of banditry, illegal bunkering, cattle rustling and kidnapping in Nigeria. These crimes have, over time, become full-fledged industries for the actors involved in them.
During the week, the Governors Forum decided to set up a Security Committee, probably meant to address the challenges in hotspots of the country. Just like in other committees, there will the appointments of ex-this and former-that to sit down over a few months or years in well air-conditioned rooms with the adequate supply of good coffee, while receiving allowances, and come up with recommendations that will never be implemented. That has been the precedence in Nigeria.
But I have an advice for the Forum. They should shelve any security committee or any committee for that matter and simply go back to their states and focus on good governance, with a particular focus on the economy. The Forum is of little or no use because it seems to have spent more time in the past on politics than governance. Opening a WhatsApp group for members would be more effective.
When they decide to focus on security at different state levels, emphasis should be placed on the economy, business, investments, innovation, technology and trade. In analysing the level of insecurity across the country, one would observe that states with higher incidences of poverty face more challenges of insecurity. The Multi-Dimensional Poverty Index of 2018, which is a study of states which high incidences of poverty, indicates, as expected, that states like Zamfara and Sokoto are battling insecurity more than others like Kebbi, which is within the same geographical axis. This is directly related to the levels of poverty within them.
…if states are not ready for real reform, then maybe its time for the federal government to apply full neo-liberal economic principles and allow the states to fail. There will be the initial social and economic consequences of unemployment, and hence more insecurity in the short and medium term, but spoon-feeding many governors in the last decade has certainly not given us the desired social results.
The Human Development Indices derived from United Nations Development Programme infer that poor education, poor access to healthcare, potable water, nutrition, electricity and the lack of opportunities are factors that lead to higher levels of insecurity. This expresses that states with the higher presences of the Nigerian Army or other military outfits to handle issues of security, also have unacceptable levels of poverty. Taraba has a 78 per cent poverty incidence; Katsina 82.2 per cent; Jigawa 88 per cent; Bauchi 87 per cent; Gombe 77 per cent and of course, Zamfara 92 per cent! In summary, the South-West has 19.3 per cent; South-South, 27.3 per cent; South-East, 25.2 per cent; North-Central, 45.7 per cent; North-East, 76.8 per cent and North-West, 80.9 per cent.
In examining the literacy levels of some states with high levels of insecurity, it can be seen that Zamfara is at 19 per cent and Sokoto at 15 per cent, although there is a strong argument that most of the people in those states can communicate in Ajami, which is reading and writing in Arabic letters, but through Hausa or other languages. Still, out of the 75,000 applications for the Common Entrance examination by Unity Schools in 2019, 25,000 of these came from Lagos State, while only 59 applications came in from Zamfara State. This means that those neither educated nor trained in any skill would very likely grow up doing nothing productive. Among the thousands of those unfortunate children who were not able to apply are those with the brains of teachers, engineers, doctors, nurses, philosophers, ICT professionals and other professions that could give one a decent livelihood. But the lack of opportunities are created as a result of poor education, due to the fact that most governors are stealing all the resources of their states, with little chances left for the creation of opportunities for the generality of the people. The victims of these unconscionable acts are the potential bandits, cattle-rustlers and armed robbers.
With the situation of things in our country, the governors are not supposed to be having time for sleep, not to speak of continuously shuttling to Abuja and other countries for unproductive meetings and leisure. The current enormous economic challenges facing the states should ordinarily make persons to be skeptical about leadership in Nigeria, but the politicians know that the populace are too docile to do anything serious about their non-performance. That’s why we are satisfied with those few governors who manage to build roads, paint a few schools, buy fertilisers and pay salaries. They look us in the face and count the payment of wages as an achievement, and we applaud them.
The Nigeria Police and Army cannot provide jobs. These should be the main focus of governors. So all the support these security agencies provide through Operation Puff Adder, Harbin Kunama, Sharan Daji, Snake in the Monkey Shadow, Cliff-Hanger won’t do much as long as state governors do not address the issue of the economy, poverty, unemployment, lowering the debt burden, creating investments and so many factors that will improve the standard of living in the short and medium terms.
The principal cause of poor governance in our states is the diversion of resources meant for social services by the public service elite and politicians. States need to reduce their recurrent expenditures, including those on procurements and travels, and they stop the bleeding of their treasuries through corrupt practices…
As such, no matter how much the federal government supports states financially and militarily, governors need to wake up and set their priorities as alleviating the economic conditions of their states. Let’s not forget that the federal government has been supporting states financially through various bailout packages and other concessionary measures, but rather unfortunately these are not to build industries, but to pay salaries! This financial recklessness in the spirit of aid is what is making the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) struggle to balance its books. Of the over N800 billion received so far, there is not a single factory in any state to show for this humoungous volume of support. Only Lagos State reported having bought 820 buses to improve its transportation sector. Most state governors are already facing investigation by law enforcement agencies for the embezzlement and mismanagement of these funds.
The principal cause of poor governance in our states is the diversion of resources meant for social services by the public service elite and politicians. States need to reduce their recurrent expenditures, including those on procurements and travels, and they stop the bleeding of their treasuries through corrupt practices and devote a larger share of their resources towards building their respective economies.
This should entail the development of infrastructure that will promote and accelerate industrialisation and agriculture, which will accommodate the growing number of youth in society. More resources have to go into, not just painting classrooms but using technology to promote education and health. Countries with larger populations like India, Malaysia and China have done this, and hence it is not rocket science. But they did it with a lot of discipline, hardwork and low levels of corruption.
However, if states are not ready for real reform, then maybe its time for the federal government to apply full neo-liberal economic principles and allow the states to fail. There will be the initial social and economic consequences of unemployment, and hence more insecurity in the short and medium term, but spoon-feeding many governors in the last decade has certainly not given us the desired social results.
Umar Yakubu is of the Counter-Fraud Centre.