On April 9, 2021, the immediate past President of the Senate, Dr. Abubakar Bukola Saraki, convened the maiden edition of the Grow Nigeria Conversation, an interactive and solutions-driven dialogue, that is aimed at discussing and proffering solutions to the problems addressing the nation.
The maiden edition, which focused on: “Reversing the flourishing economy of kidnapped and banditry,” had guest speakers from across the world, including, Ambassador John Campbell, Matthew T. Page, Tanwa Ashiru, Kabir Adamu, Nnamdi Obasi, Nabilah Usman, and Cheta Nwanze.
Also involved to the conversation were three youth representatives: Jude Feranmi, Hadiza Shehu and Ayobami Adekojo.
Here are nine key takeaways from the session:
- Nigeria must learn from other countries: The problem of kidnapping and banditry are not peculiar to Nigeria. Countries such as Pakistan have likewise had to deal with not dissimilar security challenges at some point or the other and have done so with varying degrees of success. Discussants agreed that it would be apt for the Nigerian government to reach out to such countries and see whether we cannot learn from them as regards solutions to this burgeoning problem.
Nigeria must acquire new technology: Nigeria’s large ungoverned spaces are increasingly being occupied by criminal gangs as bases from which to act. As a solution to this problem, speakers urged the Federal Government to acquire surveillance as well as technology such as drones, satellite imagery and the like, to allow aerial monitoring of these spaces, mobile phone tracking and tracing, and thus make it possible to follow the movements of miscreants.
Nigeria must disincentivize kidnapping and banditry: There is a need to disincentivize kidnappers and bandits, by ensuring that the risk they face is higher than at present, and the rewards lower. One solution discussed was to lower the maximum sum allowed in cash remittances as a means for making it impossible for cash from ransoms to be used easily. Another tool would be for states to adopt legislation outlawing the payment of ransoms.
Nigeria must quicken the administration of justice: The dysfunctional justice system, the wheels of which grind very slowly, does not serve as a deterrent to kidnapping and banditry. The system needs urgent reform to ensure swift administration of justice in cases of kidnapping and banditry as the news of quick court sentences will serve as a deterrent.
Nigeria must work to increase the public’s trust in its security agencies: The lack of public trust in the country’s various security agencies has been to the detriment of the fight against banditry and kidnapping in Nigeria. Alongside the decentralisation of the Nigerian Police Force, speakers indicated that the security forces need to regain the trust of the Nigerian public. At the same time, it is clear that the security forces need better training and far more boots on the ground if they are to be effective. In this regard there was mention of the appropriateness of setting up a rapid response force.
Nigeria must work to become more transparent in the area of security spending: The lack of transparency surrounding security spending, specifically Armed Forces budgets and security votes, encourages corruption. Transparency here would promote a more effective security architecture as it would allow costs to be weighed up against benefits. Likewise better accountability would help achieve the same goal.
Nigeria must curb the human rights violations of its security agencies: In the past, the international community has not been able under their own laws to support the Nigerian Armed Forces owing to human rights issues and the fact that Nigerian military commanders felt such cooperation might impinge on Nigeria’s sovereignty. Both matters, the speakers concurred, needed to be rectified to promote the international cooperation in training, technological fit-out, and back-up that would enhance operational efficacy.
Nigeria must improve its local security systems: that curbing kidnapping always required the accurate use of local intelligence. To this end communications structures between the various arms of the security forces needed improving.
Nigeria must work to address poverty and unemployment: Overall increasing insecurity was a symptom of a deeper cause, namely poverty and specifically exceptionally high unemployment rates among young people and the under-35s. There is a clear correlation between highest unemployment rates and kidnapping/banditry hotspots. Therefore, while the above short-term measures might mitigate the situation, solving it requires strong efforts in the form of clear-cut policies geared towards tackling poverty and unemployment in the country. Since jobs are primarily created by the private sector, it follows that incentivising the latter and facilitating business are key in this context. Moreover, upskilling under-educated persons is also necessary to enable them to have future opportunities.