Insecurity in Nigeria and the Failed State status

The Crisis States Research Centre defines a “failed state” as a condition of “state collapse” – i.e., a state that can no longer perform its basic security and development functions and that has no effective control over its territory.

The state of insecurity in Nigeria is deteriorating and solution to it seems not to be on sight. It is almost like Nigeria is sitting on a crucible and dancing on the precipice and going by the recent happening at the corridors of power, there is uncertainty and a seeming governance vacuum that insecurity is thriving on.

Nigeria has been suffering from a syndrome of insecurity for a decade now.  Three administrations within that period were unable to put it under control. Disappointedly, the problem has deteriorated more than ever before, with the emergence of more violent non-state actors, like Fulani marauders, bandits, kidnappers and an epidemic that poses a huge security threat.

The Boko Haram group has stepped up operations; they have begun a killing spree on innocent villagers, travelers and soldiers. The armed bandits have gone on a revenge mission on communities. Just recently, they attacked a Katsina village, destroying and murdering everyone on sight including women and infants. Unbelievably, a report has it that they were collecting infants from their mothers and throwing them in burning flames.

The kidnappers have become very vicious and could take away the life of their hostages at the slightest provocation, notwithstanding if ransom was paid or not.

Murders and homicides have increased and even those close to the corridors of power are not safe. Just earlier in the week, a presidential staff was gruesomely murdered for reasons that are not yet clear.

Our security operatives, on whose hands our security lies are not any safer. The latest is the killing of four soldiers in Bayelsa state by gunmen.

But then, if one thinks our insecurity is limited to only insurgency, terrorism, armed banditry, kidnapping and homicide, then one may be wrong after all. A more potent threat lies ahead- and that is the coronavirus epidemic that is ravaging the Asian continent and fast spreading all over the world.

With our demographic structure which is characterized by a huge and highly vulnerable population, coupled with the present humanitarian crises, it is unimaginable, the effect it would have on the country.

Apart from the health, social and diplomatic implication for Nigeria, the coronavirus has implication for drug shortage, since Nigeria almost wholly depend on China for its drug supply.


Speaking at an event held ahead of the African Medicine Quality Forum, which will hold between February 24 and 28 in Abuja, the Director-General of NAFDAC, Prof. Mojisola Adeyeye, revealed that: “Seventy per cent of our drugs are imported and the alarm I am sounding now is one that everybody should take seriously. We have drug insecurity because of the coronavirus.

“India is already feeling it because they buy most of their materials and active ingredients from China. If India is feeling it, we should start praying because we don’t manufacture anything here except water. We import almost everything, active and non-active ingredients, equipment and so on.

“So it is a scary thing and I have been emphasizing this from day one. We need drug security. Since we import 70 per cent of our drugs, then, we are in trouble if such things happen.”

Unfortunately, the Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA), which is supposed to coordinate the national security strategy and deal with such eventualities, has found itself in a deep political mess with the Office of the Chief of Staff. It is into a battle of supremacy with the Chief of Staff, thereby leaving the country vulnerable to violent non state actors. No wonder attacks on citizens have intensified at an unprecedented level. The office of the National Security Advisor, has abdicated its responsibility, leaving everything to the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, the Ministry of Health and the World Health Organization (WHO), as far as the coronavirus epidemic is concerned.

An epidemic of this magnitude in Nigeria has a far reaching implication on the West African sub region and even Africa as a whole and with the generally poor health system in the country, the devastation could be unimaginable.

In one of the memos written to the president, the NSA, Babagana Munguno, said Abba Kyari, the President’s Chief of Staff, was one of the major impediments to Nigeria’s national security interest. Kyari was accused of sidestepping presidential directives and giving out unilateral directives to the service chiefs. The NSA also accused him of having meeting with service chiefs without him, being the coordinator of national security. As a way of curbing the excesses of the Chief of Staff, Munguno directed the service chiefs not to carry out any further directives from the Chief of Staff. The implication of that on our national security and the fight against the current syndrome has been the subject of debate nowadays. The latest report from the Villa is that the President had a meeting with the service chiefs, and as it turns out, Munguno, the embattled NSA was not there.

Meanwhile, the applied indicators for a failed state, according to the Crisis States Research Centre, include demographic pressures; massive movement of refugees and internally displaced peoples; legacy of vengeance-seeking group grievance; chronic and sustained human flight; uneven economic development along group lines; and sharp and/or severe economic decline.

Others are criminalization and/or de-legitimization of the state; progressive deterioration of public services; widespread violation of human rights; security apparatus as ‘state within a state’; rise of factionalized elites; and intervention of other states or external factors.

Even though States suffer challenges as seen globally, these challenges are not to the extent of affecting the smooth running of the State. That is the idea that forms the basis for categorizing a failed state.

In fact, from a sociological point of view, every society is moving towards ‘equilibrium’- a condition where all the structures are functioning optimally for the survival of the system. However, the functionality of the structures may be affected by so many factors.

Certain phenomena like crime, violence, inequality, unemployment are normal in every society and the society can take a healthy dose of them. But a situation where these phenomena affect the normal functioning of the society, they assume a ‘pathological’ or diseased state, just like the pathogens in the normal human body, kill it when they overwhelm the body defense system.

One of the indicators of a failed state is the rising inequality and it seems like the wide gap in standard of living, corruption by public officials and the deteriorating poverty are predisposing factors to the phenomena of Boko Haram, banditry, kidnapping and the rest. For the fact that those who commit these crimes, fall within the category of the poorest in the land, indicate a positive relationship between crime and inequality in the land.

Karl Marx, the 19th century social philosopher, defines crime as “the expression of the isolated individual against the prevailing conditions”.  Who is the ‘isolated individual’? It is that vulnerable child in poverty who has been recruited by Boko Haram. It is the unemployed child on the streets who has found a job in kidnapping. It is the oppressed, who is used and dumped as a political thug and who has resorted to violence as an expression of anger and frustration.

The ‘prevailing condition’ on the other hand, is the unjust system that rewards the lazy and punishes the hardworking. If not, why should our lawmakers earn so much from doing little and the civil servants earn less for doing more? Why should former politicians earn huge pensions while retired civil servants die trying to claim their entitlements. Why should the federal government and states earn more while local governments, where the people reside most, earn little, whereas more state funds are wasted on frivolities like health tourism and diplomatic shuttles around the world that have little benefit to the states? Ironically, our public office holders are the highest paid in the world while our public servants are the least paid in the world. It has always been an unjust system where inequality thrives and which is beginning to tell in the security of the nation.

Therefore, as government is adopting the ‘hard measures’ to deal with the insecurity syndrome in the country, it must adopt the ‘carrot or soft approach’. This entails dealing with the problem of inequality, unemployment and poverty, and a way of doing so is by curbing corruption in high places, reducing cost of governance, delivering good governance and making sacrifices.

But it is doubtful if the political elites are ready for this sacrifice as corruption is still endemic. They have also refused to agree that their emoluments are eating deep into the public purse; they have even disagreed that they are the source of the problem.


In such a scenario, the only thing we could envisage is that they may be consumed by the ‘internal contradictions’ they have created in the system.




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