Section 14(2)(b) of the Nigerian 1999 Constitution states: “the security and welfare of the people shall be the primary purpose of government…” This can only mean that the first role of any responsible government is to keep the people safe from crimes and criminals. There is no acceptable explanation for failing in this sacred responsibility else no need for government in the first instance!
Still on the 1999 Constitution, section 130 not only establish the office of the President but also created a military dimension to that office, Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, just to serve as an enforcement wing to that normative provision in section 14(2)(b) cited earlier to serve as the driver of the governance. Like I wrote earlier this is what must guide Mr President’s work every single day that he stays in Aso Rock.
Taking a critical look at everyday occurrences and reality here in Nigeria, one would ask if we are ever safe from crimes and violence? The unparalleled rate of crime; ranging from financial crimes, kidnappings, terrorism and other violent crimes to say the least, is alarming. There is no gainsaying to the fact that Nigeria is swimming in the ocean of Failed States in the class of Somalia or Zimbabwe. In spite of the fact that our government hates criticisms, but truth be told no matter how sour it tastes, only the truth can set us free as a nation. The final proof of greatness lies in our ability to endure criticisms without resentment, as former President Olusegun Obasanjo recently said.
Just recently the case of former Governor of Lagos, Mr Babatunde Raji Fashola’s spending of N139m to drill two boreholes and another N78 million to build a website came up. In his defence the eloquent former Governor could only do his best to tell the world that he didn’t sign any cheque as governor. Bad as that sounds, the characters who acted as his interviewers for a ministerial job he applied for looked defenceless and hapless then went on to passed him as Minister!
There is also a related case of a child and the mother who were attacked by robbers at FESTAC, Lagos recently. This same notorious gang were said to have kidnapped the wife of the Deputy Managing Director of The Sun newspaper, Mrs Toyin Nwosu. There is also the case of Chief Olu Falae’s kidnap by some Fulani herdsmen. All these are prominent cases so many other simply go unreported probably because victims lack a formidable voice. The status quo is tantamount to what transpires in war torn-environment. The relative peace inherent in the nooks and cranny of Nigeria has been ruined due to the irresponsibility on the part of our government whose duty it is to protect, preserve, and defend our communities against these beasts in human skins.
Some years ago, places like Jos, Kaduna, Yobe, Adamawa and the likes are known to be peaceful, but can we then say they murdered peace?
The weaknesses in the judicial system, corruption, nepotism and gross culture of impunity on the part of the faces of the government all contributed in no small in propelling crimes across the country and in the government coffers. Crime begets crime; from the powerful to the powerless; from the Head of State to the “Tails” of the State. Some government officials commit all manner of crimes and get away with them. When justice is said to be meted out, the government officials get a slap in the wrist for stealing or embezzling billions of naira when some majority percentage of Nigerians go to sleep in hunger and the poor is sentenced to God knows how many years in prison for stealing goat . A gross violation of human rights as referenced in Pope Francis words: “Human rights are not only violated by terrorism, repression or assassination, but also by unfair economic structures that creates huge inequalities.”
When common wealth isn’t shared “commonly”, crimes will take the place of the government among the powerless. It seems there is a competition for who wins the highest awards for stealing or corruption in our society. In a country where some indicted oil subsidy culprits negotiated out their way from being jailed or a case of such kept under the carpet forever. From the Police to the Immigration; from the Citadels of Learning to the Civil Service; from the hospitals to the Churches appear to compete for laurels or badges in corruption.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission(EFCC) and the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC) appear weak as these institutions were created by some factions or gangs in government to fight one another or negotiating the spoils in our Commonwealth. A very popular ex-governor in Nigeria escaped justice in Nigeria but was subsequently jailed in the United Kingdom (UK) . The abuse of power like shutting down the National Assembly for the sake of an accused criminal head of the Senate who is under trial by Code of Conduct Tribunal is another name for corruption, a burden Nigerians are forced to bear.
Who benefits from criminality anyway? In civilised climes, it’s unlikely that government officials or politicians get away with crimes. One recalls the Defence Minister in Germany that was relieved of his position because he plagiarised his doctoral thesis. A former Canadian minister resigned because she could not reconcile expenses of about $16. These are familiar instances in Nigeria, aren’t they?
Unemployment contributes in no small measure to instability and insecurity in Nigeria. Do we still wonder why western countries pay unemployed people stipends or give them food stamps to temporarily earn livelihood till they get jobs? We sit on a time bomb with the staggering rate of unemployment yet stealing is not corruption. Our government must strengthen institutions, empower the energetic and passionate youths (Operation Leave the Streets) economically and all citizens must be equal in the eyes of the law. Unemployment must be tackled as a matter of emergency and urgency to promote a healthy economy and reduce crime. India was once where we are but they took responsibility for engaging their youths to build a future dream.
Kolade Gbolagade is a social commentator and public affairs analyst. He can be contacted through firstname.lastname@example.org or +2348130924163