Security concerns have existed since time immemorial. But, the challenges have never been as readily manifested as they are presently. This is rather disconcerting. Moreso, because some of the security challenges and problems we encounter daily in the contemporary society are almost entirely unpredictable. Indeed, rapid growth and use of mechanical arts, applied science, and revolutionary dynamics of society apparently blend well with the desperate nature of the criminally minded to increase the spate of threats to life and property, a state which has assumed omnipresent and digital dimensions of crime in our society. The aim of this study is to examine Government and the Management of Security Challenges in Nigeria: a case of Akwa Ibom State (1999-2011). Governments, all over the world are accountable for the provision of security and well-being of their citizens through the use of instruments of state power, including defense and security agencies, backed-up by enabling laws. For instance, the 1999 Nigerian constitution outlines the role of government and relationship among levels of government in security management. During the period, Akwa Ibom State had suffered myriad of internal security challenges namely; kidnappings and hostage takings for monetary gains, murder and political assassinations, armed robberies, cult-related criminal activities and subversion. Others include illegal possession of fire arms, insurgency, economic sabotage, oil pipelines and NEPA installations vandalization, arson and fire outbreaks and boundary disputes. This work used descriptive statistics (including charts and tabular analysis) to analyze the role of government in security management. The study however, focused on security challenges arising from dereliction of statutory duties by police personnel due to poor salary, insufficient funding and equipping of security agencies with consequent high crime rates. This work adopted structural functionalist and levels 1, 2, 3 models as theoretical frameworks. The study recommends that government at all levels should motivate, approve good remuneration to security and law enforcement agents, properly fund and equip security agencies to boost their operational capabilities for effective protection of lives and property of the citizens.
1.1 Background to the Study
From time immemorial, man has been pre-occupied with the problems of self-preservation and survival. In recent time, emphasis had shifted from the narrow individual security to collective security perspective provided under the constitution. All over the world, provision of security to guarantee welfare and rights of the citizenry have always been the statutory function of any responsible government which is achieved through the use of instruments and mechanism of state power which, include the use of defense forces and security agencies backed-up by enabling laws and the constitution.
In the same vein, Nigerian state and its component units have the primary duty to guarantee the welfare of their citizens. In carrying out this mandate, government usually evolve policies and programmes that are security-oriented for the enhancement of the protection of lives and property of citizens through which a peaceful and tranquil atmosphere for human activities can thrive.
Consequently, government receives demands from citizens of the state concerning a great variety of services related to, for example, law and order, defense and security (Agi, 2003:29). Nnoli (2006:7) postulates that security has become a big issue in Africa today because of the forms of carnage, brutality, pogrom and even genocide associated with incessant civil wars and other forms of violent conflicts on the continent.
Security is a robust term used to describe all measures taken to discover, assess and contain threats from hostile intruders. It thus involves the protection of lives and property and the provision of a peaceful and tranquil atmosphere in which individuals can go about their lawful businesses (SSS Training Journal, 2005:28). In a narrow common sense and usage, security as a concept is similar to safety. Security means that something is not only secured, but has become secured (Eselbor, 2007: 102). This definition makes security a condition of protection against danger or loss.
Security in a more general sense, include activities involved in the protection of a country, property or persons against attack, danger, etc. There are internal and national levels of security. Internal security is concerned with issues of security interest occurring within a particular geographical location involving state and local governments whereas; National security on the other hand, is simply immunity from external threat to a country. National Security as a concept has undergone various perspectives from early times.
Me Namara (1968: 149) – former president of World Bank, also perceived National Security as:
In a modernized society, security means development; security is not military force, though it may involve it; security is not traditional military activity, though it encompasses it, security is not military hardware, though it may include it, security is development and without development there can be no security.
Oduneye (2008:1), perceived security as the establishment and maintenance of protective measures which are intended to ensure a state of inviolable from hostile acts or influences. It is also seen as a whole set of actions by which the government guarantees the safety of lives and property of its citizens from internal and external influences. National Security involves the protection of lives and property and the provision of a peaceful and tranquil atmosphere in which individuals and groups in an entity can pursue their lawful activities.
A number of areas that are posing security threats to our nation according to Shinkaiye (2004:5-16) include:
I. Communal clashes.
II. Lack of democratic culture.
III. Financial crimes.
VI. Religious Extremism.
In Akwa Ibom State, there are similar such crimes that have posed threats to internal security which this work is to examine.
Security threats are challenges that are confronting Nigeria and its states, including Akwa Ibom state. The concept of national security on the other hand has been closely associated with military ‘might’ that can be used to ward-off the power of other states and consequently safeguard the state, its population and their other cherished values (Nnole, 2006:23).
The concern that states and their populations should have for their collective national security stems from the anarchic nature of international political environment in which states exist. Supporting the above standpoints Art (2007) avers that in such an anarchic system, states must be concerned first and foremost with their security, the extent which they feel not threatened by the actions of other states. A concern for survival thus breeds a pre-occupation with security (Art, 2001:757-758). One of the basic responsibilities of a state is to work to sustain security against external and internal threats and the components of state security include, safety, autonomy, development and rule (Collins, 2007:15).
Government on the other hand, is a body of men and agencies of the state involved in defined responsibility of ensuring the protection of lives, property and well-being of the citizenry. This, of course is the primary purpose of government which this study is designed to examine the roles of Akwa Ibom state government in the management of security challenges in Nigeria, focusing on Akwa Ibom state during 1999-2011 period.
In the words of Ekpe (2007), “it is in an attempt to reduce to the barest minimum threats that the government comes in to provide the shield. The government does this, not only by maintaining law and order, but also through its constitution and the criminal codes which elaborately spell out penalties for those who break the law”.
In spite of government efforts in harnessing human, material, technical, financial resources and spiritual interventions through prayers for ensuring effective protection of lives and property, the people of the state are still in serious dilemma of insecurity, threats and trepidation. At any time of the day, fears of insecurity rule the hearts of the inhabitants while going about their daily duties. It is not the natural fears of the unknown, but the fears of being shot down and getting eliminated or kidnapped by criminals in the state.
Ekpenyong (2004: 4) asserts that:
Those behind these unholy and dirty acts see the business of policing behind others as a lucrative one forgetting that no one can claim to be free when others are not free. Whatever is the reason for acting aggressively and violently involving the use of deadly weapons to hurt one another should be condemned since it is not for the progress and development of the state.
Insecurity for sometimes now has been a major problem confronting the state as banks and other public institutions were frequently robbed by criminals in broad daylight with sophisticated weapons and gadgets compared to the poorly-equipped state-owned security outfits, including the police. Security was absolutely porous during 1999-2011 periods, resulting in the infiltration of criminals and militants into the state from other parts of the Niger Delta region. The State became a safe heaven for criminals while the lawful citizens were forced by increasing criminal activities to shut down their businesses and went into hiding for the safety of their lives and businesses. This eventually necessitated collective effort of the police, State Security Service, the military and local security groups in tackling security challenges in the state. This notwithstanding, the precarious situation has continued as the state still cannot adequately guarantee the security of its citizens and their property till date.
1.2 Statement of the Research Problem:
Akwa Ibom State has suffered security challenges of various dimensions since its creation in 1987. There have been re-occurrences of security challenges which have outlived solutions as no day passes without the emergence of one security challenge or the other. Presently, security situation still remains worse as the phenomenon of violence of late seems to have gone deep-rooted into the state and it is increasing faster with each passing day (Niger Delta University, 2010:1). Akwa Ibom state being one of the thirty-six (36) states that make up the Nigerian federation, has the constitutional mandate to manage security challenges in its domain towards guaranteeing the protection of lives and property of its citizens.
The precarious security situation in Akwa Ibom state during the period coincided with the return to civilian democratic government from 1999 with its attendant security challenges after long military rule that militarized the psyche of Nigerian populace and politicians in the state in particular. The state had witnessed the intensification of Niger-Delta resource control struggle that was spear-headed by the then Akwa Ibom State Governor, Obong Victor Attah which also motivated the youths of Akwa Ibom State and Niger Delta region to register their long agitations for development of the region. The mounted protests and agitations were aimed at drawing the attention of the federal government to the long neglect and environmental damages being foisted on the oil-rich, but deprived Niger Delta Communities (NDC) by oil companies operating in the region.
The subsequent youth-restiveness further worsened the security problems experienced during the review period. There were cases of kidnappings and hostage-takings of foreign oil companies workers by aggrieved and long-neglected youths of the Niger- Delta Region (NDR) who saw kidnappings as a means of economic survival, having been long neglected and lacked job opportunities, despite the oil wealth drawn from their own lands.
Other security challenges faced by the state during the period were those of violent crimes as the state experienced spates of armed robberies almost on daily basis with the poorly-equipped and ill-motivated security agencies who acted on behalf of the government in the state, looking helpless in the face of superior fire-power of the robbers who had field days.
The threat of kidnapping and other dangerous crimes have rendered Akwa Ibom State generally restive, with pockets of insurrection and armed rebellion which manifested in form of damages, destructions, espionage, sabotage, vandalism, subversion and other miscellaneous risks. The state has also witnessed proliferation of fire-arms and violence, hostage takings for ransom, insurgency, sporadic communal and tribal unrests, youth’s restiveness, militancy, cultism, and so forth.
In the area of politics, the state has had its fair share of political violence characterized by politically-motivated assassinations by political thugs who after being used and abandoned by politicians, resort to using those fire arms and ammunitions supplied to them by politicians to engage in violent crimes and kidnappings with attendant security consequences and deaths. Suspected members of deadly cult-groups have had field days in some parts of the state, killing and maiming innocent people at will. Such criminal activities were believed to be politically-motivated to scare political opponents for taking part in elections. Instances abound where some political opponents were forced out of their homes by gangs of gunmen and shot dead in full view of the public. Investigations showed that such killings have spread across the 31 Local Government Areas in the state (Global Concord, 1st June, 2012:2).
The lack of training of old and un-educated security agents in the state coupled with poor salaries paid them by government created low morale amongst the security agents operating in the state during the review period (1999-2011). Another source of insecurity in the state is the discovery and exploitation of crude oil in the Niger Delta Region vis-à-vis in Akwa Ibom State which has always generated in conflicts between the oil producing communities on the one hand, the federal government and multi-national oil companies (MNCS) whose operations have caused serious damages to the oil-rich, but, poor and neglected Niger-Delta communities. This brought about youth’s restiveness and subsequent arm-struggles for economic emancipation of the long-neglected Niger-Delta oil producing region.
The attempted suppression of the genuine agitations of the people of the oil producing communities of the Niger-Delta by the federal government’s vindictive security forces were met with stiff resistance by Niger Delta youths in which Akwa Ibom youths played greater roles in the resistance.
Socio-economically, the state has suffered seriously due to re-occurring kidnaps of well meaning indigenes, foreign oil workers and investors, who out of fear of being kidnapped for ransom have relocated their businesses to states where they feel safer other than Akwa Ibom state.
Eduongo (2008:5), maintains that, “the spate of kidnappings and related crimes are fast gaining grounds in the state. At the last count, there have been over 100 incidents of these obnoxious and in-human crimes. In the last few days, there have been about five cases of alleged kidnaps within Uyo, Eket and Etinan axis which have made screaming headlines in most of the indigenous Newspapers and Magazines. One may be forced to ask, are these cases of kidnapping in the state connected with the Niger-Delta struggle for justice or sheer greed? You may further probe if our society is returning to Hobbes’s state of nature described as the survival of the fittest. The problem needs appropriate response from our leaders in authority. There is another dimension or twist to the issue of kidnapping in the state and perhaps in our country. A lot of evidences abound in some of these cases of kidnap where family members were directly involved. Sometimes, children, relatives, house-helps, drivers, name them, are involved in these kidnap cases”. Kidnappings and other criminal activities have become lucrative businesses which many people in government have shown little concern because of their shares from criminal gains (Ekong, 2010:5).
The traditional inclinations of some indigenes of the state to customs and Ekpo Masquerade Justice Systems and some traditional rites created room for proliferation of cults and cultists who played inglorious roles in political assassinations and as they were used by politicians to murder actual and perceived political rivals which worsened the security situations in the state during the review period.
Similarly, the proliferation of cult groups in institutions of higher learning and even at secondary school levels in Akwa Ibom State also posed serious security problems during the review period.
The various cult-related murders by rival cult groups in tertiary institutions in the state during the period gave the citizens grave concern as young students at the prime of their youth were inexplicably murdered in most tertiary institutions in the state by warring and rival cult-groups fighting over supremacy and sheer demonic urge to take human lives. These un-guided student cultists operated with abandon in most of the tertiary institutions during the review period, particularly in the University of Uyo, the Akwa Ibom state Polytechnic, Ikot Osurua in Ikot Ekpene local government area and College of Education, Afaha Nsit, Nsit Ibom Local Government Area, where series of cult-related deaths of rival student-cultists were recorded almost on daily basis.