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Questions seeking answers

Friday the 20th of January was a frightening day for me as the bombings and gun shots continued. As I desperately called friends and relations…

Friday the 20th of January was a frightening day for me as the bombings and gun shots continued. As I desperately called friends and relations in Kano over a five hour period that the attack lasted, the question they all had was why no one is stopping the attacks.

I was frightened because of the scale of the rampage and the silence of the Nigerian state. I was asking myself questions. Was it not two days to the event that the Minister of Defence proudly announced to the country that the terrorists had been confined to the North east? I was frightened because Boko Haram had announced to the whole world that they would hit Kano and I assumed contingency measures would have been planned to contain them should they make an attempt. I asked myself where the rapid response forces were and why they were not ferried by helicopters to thehot spots to contain and foil the attacks.

The Kano attacks were virtually a declaration of war against the Nigerian state and its security agencies and so I waited all evening for reassuring words from my government that they were responding to the attacks. I waited for twenty-four hours before hearing a statement from the Presidential media aide expressing sympathy and promising to deal with the culprits but was surprised that the focus of the statement was the sad death of the Channels television reporter. I wondered about the over two hundred other deaths, were they not as important.

I read Nasir El Rufai’s column in Thisday that Friday on the 2012 Budget and worried about our security policy. He had pointed out that the Office of the National Security Adviser was an advisory one with a small staff of about one hundred but had:

“The highest budget of all in the intelligence community higher than that of the SSS with about 15,000 staff and the smaller but far more effective, NIA. The NSA’s budget consists of N212 million for personnel cost, N3.64 billion for overheads and a whopping N33 billion for capital projects! The respective proposals for the SSS are N17bn, N5bn and a paltry N1.8bn! No wonder the SSS is handicapped in dealing with security threats within our borders! The NIA is not much better with N19.7bn for staff costs, N3.9bn for overheads and N2.6bn for capital projects.”

I ask myself questions about the Nigerian police. During the Abacha Era, I had read numerous stories about the police officer Zakari Biu. I followed the sad story about the assassination of the journalist Bagauda Kaltho and the airport bombing. Zakari Biu was officially the head of the Police anti-terrorist squad at that time. The speculations then however that was the anti NADECO strategy of the Abacha regime consisted of security agencies placing bombs and blaming it on NADECO. I was so frightened to learn that not only was Zakari Biu still in the police, but had responsibility to investigate suspects charged with the Madalla bomb blast. While I don’t doubt that Boko haram was placing explosives, I wondered who else was doing the same.

Newspapers had reports that the Federal Government through the Assets Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON) has given Capital Oil owned by Ifeanyi Uba 60 days to pay back N5 Billion being rogue proceeds he made from Kerosene subsidy or risk arrest and prosecution. The company was said to have made N22.4 Billion from petrol subsidy. We in civil society had said repeatedly that the problem was not fuel subsidy but corruption in the downstream petroleum sector. Why did it require massive popular revolt to push the State to ask questions of those looting our national resources? Why did it require public hearing by the House of Representatives for the relevant ministers to confess that they did not know how much we have spent on fuel subsidy and how much fuel we have actually imported.

I read the revelations by Farouk Lawan, Chairman of a House of Representatives committee probing sub- sidies that “that 59 million litters were discharged by vessels, but the daily consumption locally was 35 mil-

lion liters,” This means that we had a fuel subsidy regime that was paying for 24 million liters of petrol per day which were not brought into the country and used. The committee heard the subsidy paid for the 24 million liters per day imported by marketers but not consumed by Nigerians amounted to 669 bil- lion naira ($4.14 billion) a year. This is an unbelievable level and scale of graft. I was shocked by the revelations from the Customs Service that they had no access to the bills of laden of the ships that brought in the fuel because the ships were in the high seas or in Cotonou and they brought in fuel in small transfer boats. I wondered why these issues were not addressed before the Government concluded that fuel subsidy, not corruption was the problem. I know that Nigeria imports     most of the fuel it consumes because its four refineries are in shambles, and yet government ministers give conflicting percentages of what is produced locally.

Ehsan ul-Haq, one of Pakistan’s most accomplished military officers recently spoke with NEXT on lessons for Nigeria to learn as it struggles to deal with a series of terrorist insurrections by Boko Haram:

“First of all, you need a comprehensive national strategy to tackle terrorism. This comprehensive national strategy must be over-archingly a political strategy. It may have other components; for example it must have a media component, an information component, a political component, an economic component and of course a military component. But mere use of military force will not solve the problem. It has to be a comprehensive strategy encompassing all the aspects. And above all, if the terrorism is based on an ideology, then most critically it’ll be important to address the narrative of that ideology. In which case, you have to develop a counter-narrative or an alternate narrative to persuade people away from the narrative which they are pursuing.”

Combating terrorism and insecurity does require a comprehensive approach. The real problem however is reinventing governance that goes beyond the purpose of the primitive accumulation of capital for the few who are ruling and ruining the country.

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