The Office of the Auditor-General for the Federation (OAuGF) says about 178,459 different types of arms and ammunition went missing from the Nigeria Police armoury in 2019, without any trace or formal report on their whereabouts. Of the figure, 88,078 were AK-47 rifles and 3,907 assorted rifles and pistols from different formations nationwide. These could not be accounted for as of January 2020. A ThisDay report cites details contained on pages 383 to 391 of the Auditor General for the Federation’s annual report on non-compliance, internal control weaknesses issues in Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) of the Federal Government of Nigeria for the year ended 31 December 2019, which was dated 15 September and submitted to the National Assembly. The report accused the Nigeria Police headquarters of lacking comprehensive details of unserviceable weapons, lamenting that such could fall into unauthorised hands for illegal use. The OAuGF report also queried the police hierarchy for the award of contracts without evidence of project execution. It revealed that 10 contracts worth ₦1,136,715,200.00 were awarded to a single proprietor in the name of different companies with details of the three companies as the same. “The three companies did not disclose their relationship in accordance with the fundamental principles of procurement as required by extant regulations,” the report stated.

President Buhari has approved the lifting of the suspension on the Twitter operations in Nigeria. The lifting came into effect at midnight according to Kashifu Inuwa Abdullahi, director-general of the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA). In June 2021, the FG announced the indefinite suspension of Twitter’s operation after the platform deleted tweets made by the president, who had threatened to treat members of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) in the “language they understand”. It had attributed the suspension to “the persistent use of the platform for activities that are capable of undermining Nigeria’s corporate existence”. The government said it reached an amicable resolution with Twitter on various terms and conditions given to the micro-blogging platform including: establishing a legal entity in Nigeria during Q1 2022; appointing a designated country representative to interface with Nigerian authorities; complying with applicable tax obligations on its operations under Nigerian law; enrolling Nigeria in its Partner Support and Law Enforcement Portals to provide a direct channel for government officials and Twitter staff to manage prohibited content that violates the platform’s community rules.

Southwest governors have advised Lagos governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu to deploy Amotekun operatives to protect the residents of the state and their properties. The advice is coming on the heels of a face-off between Sanwo-Olu and a police officer over the occupation of Magodo Residential Scheme II by police officers from Abuja who say they want to enforce a Supreme Court judgment over the land. Police officers and some suspected thugs had on 1 December 2021 besieged the estate marking buildings for demolition. In a swift reaction, residents shut the estate and protested the invasion. In their letter to the Lagos governor, the South-West Governors’ Forum in a statement signed by its chairman, Ondo governor, Rotimi Akeredolu, said that the content of the video is very disconcerting. Sanwo-Olu had visited the estate to address the residents but met a phalanx of police officers who refused to vacate the premises even after he asked them to. The face-off at Magodo follows a 2012 Supreme Court judgment in favour of the Shangisha Landlords represented by the Adeyiga family. The military government of Lagos in 1985 had reportedly repossessed the property illegally and allocated the same to private individuals. Following a meeting with representatives of the Shangisha Landlord Association, members of the Magodo Residents Association and the police on 5 January, Sanwo-Olu said a committee had been set up to identify available plots and additional plots at mutually agreeable areas in the state.

An estimated 200 people or more have been killed in villages in Zamfara during deadly reprisal attacks by armed bandits following military airstrikes on their hideouts this week, residents said on Saturday. Residents gained access to the villages on Saturday after the military captured the communities to organise mass burials, Reuters reported. The state government said 58 people had been killed during the attacks. Ummaru Makeri, a resident who lost his wife and three children during the attack, said around 154 people had been buried including several vigilantes who were killed. Residents said the total death toll was at least 200. On Friday, at least 30 people had been killed in Anka local government area, when more than 300 armed bandits on motorbikes stormed eight villages and started shooting sporadically on Tuesday. The military said it conducted airstrikes in the early hours of Monday on targets in the Gusami forest and west Tsamre village in Zamfara state, killing more than 100 bandits, including two of their leaders, following intelligence reports. There have been a series of attacks in northwest Nigeria, which has seen a sharp rise in mass abductions and other violent crimes since late 2020 as the government struggles to maintain law and order. In a separate incident, 30 students abducted from their college in Kebbi were freed on Saturday, a spokesman for the Kebbi governor said, without providing details. Away from that region, gunmen kidnapped about six children of former Secretary to the Taraba State Government, Gebon Kataps, alongside their police escort and driver. The state’s police command confirmed the report, but could not ascertain the exact number of the victims. In Katsina, two soldiers and seven illegal miners were killed in a clash over gold nuggets at Magama, a border village in Jibiya Local Government Area. The clash occurred last Wednesday around 1800 hours after the discovery of huge gold nuggets in one of the open-pit mines dug by the artisanal miners. The Daily Nigerian reported that about 40 miners, who were also armed, paid the soldiers the sum of ₦2.5 million (₦500,000 per pit) before they were allowed to start the mining. However, after the miners were done, the soldiers insisted that the gold be shared equally with them. The miners refused, leading to an exchange of gunfire. Following the ban on mining in neighbouring Zamfara, the activities have now shifted to some parts of Katsina.

Commentary

  • An important context needs to be put around the missing police weapons. In 2020, an SBM report on small arms estimated the number of small arms in the hands of the military at 600,000. While we could not provide estimates for police arms, it is unlikely that the police are in possession of more arms than the military. The OAuGF’s report, therefore, suggests that the equivalent of nearly one-third of the Nigerian military’s small arms cache is unaccounted for by the Nigeria Police Force. There are several possible reasons to explain the disappearance of the weapons mentioned in the Auditor-General’s indictment of the police. Lone gunman or gang coordinated attacks on police officers leading to the theft of weapons are a very common occurrence in the country, something we warned about in at least two reports. These weapons are used in other crimes such as armed robbery and gang wars. Weapons theft is seldom reported or logged appropriately, further skewing the numbers. Secondly, the police have been accused of selling arms to some criminal groups in the past. The direct effect of such sales is that they leave the force under-resourced particularly as many police stations which apply for weapons often do not have their requests fully met. The implication: a direct threat to the lives of police officers. In September 2018, pirates raided the Aboh police post in Delta State, killing no less than three officers and carting away the armoury, leaving behind only three very old and barely functional rifles. The Aboh police station which serves at least 74 riverine communities in Ndokwa East LGA had only 22 officers who shared the remaining three rifles, and despite promises of improvement by successive commissioners of police, the situation remains the same. This example is, of course, small in the grand scale of the scale of national small arms circulation which we estimated at six million in that 2020 report. It is, however, instructive and a serious indictment on the police hierarchy and the usual voices that talk about arms controls in the force. Having highlighted the above, the state of security management in 2020s Nigeria is such that we are not holding our breath that anyone will be held accountable for this.
  • Expectedly, the Federal Government is claiming its ban and repeal as a victory for it, particularly in terms of mandating Twitter to register as a legal entity in Nigeria which it says will allow Nigeria to benefit from tax revenue from the global microblogging site. While Twitter does not report revenue from Nigeria or even Africa – it only reports from the United States, Japan and the Rest of the World – it is very likely that Nigeria is more of a cost centre than a profit centre for it. This is due to the fact that it is only the sixth most used social media app in Nigeria, and it generates far less advertising revenue compared to bigger competitors Facebook, Instagram and YouTube. As such, the expected taxation revenue will be negligible in the grand scheme of things. However, it still represents a sentimental and propaganda victory for the Federal Government. In adding Nigeria to its Partner Support and Law Enforcement Portals (PSP), it provides the government with a channel to expedite emerging issues directly to Twitter; although the agreement requires the government to provide legal justification for content they flag and Twitter still reserves the right to take action on it. When Nigeria’s newfound PSP admission is set within the context of the participation of a myriad of national and subnational governments, none of which banned or arbitrarily restricted access to the website, the victory lap being made by administration officials rings hollow. What does stick out is how digital freedoms were threatened by Abuja’s actions through a ban on a major space for critical discourse without a robust public discourse and its impact on civic engagement. The ban also cost Nigerian businesses, particularly small and medium enterprises, huge revenues, and denied the government and its agencies a vibrant channel of engagement with citizens. It is not lost on Nigerian netizens that in a penultimate election year where political engagement will ascend to stratospheric proportions, the ban became more than an inconvenience for political actors who are gearing up to make their sales pitch to voters. Already, many observers have noted an abnormal spike in new Twitter accounts following prominent critical voices en masse, and raising fears that the tone of conversation on the platform will be particularly toxic as the campaign season kicks into gear. Finally, the ban represented yet another feather in what is now a well earned reputation Nigeria has garnered for arbitrary and punitive regulation; one that has turned off investors in their droves. It is not a fluke that foreign direct investment, save for a few bright spots, has plummeted under this administration. Deconstructed, Aso Rock’s announcement represents the height of obfuscation, misdirection and face-saving that the current administration has proved adept at. It offered nothing and won nothing from Twitter. If this is what a victory looks like, it is the most pyrrhic of the lot.
  • History has consequences, and government is a continuum. These two things are the principles that the Magodo case exemplifies. However, the current furore around the treatment of Governor Sanwo-Olu by security agents on ground and the reaction of other South-West governors, has reignited debate about Nigeria’s federalism with arguments that the defiance of the Lagos State Governor by a junior police officer provides reasonable grounds for the creation of state police forces. In theory, it should be an anomaly that security operations this disruptive can happen in a state without the prior knowledge of the purported Chief Security Officer. Such is the warped nature of Nigeria’s federalism. The reality is that the myth of governors being ‘chief security officers’ is just that, as all security agencies are firmly in the control of Abuja going by the Constitution; as such, the police which was enforcing an almost decade-old Supreme Court judgement did not need the permission or even to inform the governor prior to carrying out the action. The presence of a subsisting judgement does not mean that the legal question has been definitively settled. The highest court in the land essentially called into question the validity of a key aspect of the country’s land laws by deeming the requisition by the Lagos State Government illegal; setting the stage for courts to reassess the execution of government land requisitions in the thousands of court cases challenging similar state actions across the country. In other words, this will not be the last we will hear from the Supreme Court on the controversial issue. In the meantime, measures such as Amotekun mooted by the other governors can only prove a temporary workaround. It also bears noting that if Amotekun was present at the scene, it could have escalated the situation further not just physically but also in terms of the discussion about the extra-constitutional nature of state-created militias. The Constitution is clear that the establishment of police and other government security services is exclusive to the Federal Government – what has happened with Amotekun is that a political settlement of sorts has been reached to allow its existence after much tussling between the Presidency and the South-West states. However, this is not cast in stone and could be set aside. This is why it is very important to continue with the conversations on state policing to the point of drafting constitutional amendments that will allow for their emergence and defining the parameters for how that will work in Nigeria. There are several valid arguments in favour of state policing, but the reaction of the South-West governors including their Lagos colleague to the Magodo issue plays to the arguments that state police forces would more than likely be used as personal armies against political opponents in the authoritarian games of the state governors. This is an important factor that needs to be thoroughly considered and debated in the push towards more autonomy for Nigeria’s subnational units. That aside, a successful resolution of the impasse requires Alausa to correct its past mistakes, mistakes that it is still making by expropriating land from landowners to fuel the feverish pace of luxury real estate development currently gripping the state.
  • The latest massacre in Zamfara puts the government’s effort at addressing insecurity in the region using force under severe scrutiny. Reports have it that the victims were killed by fleeing terrorists escaping aerial bombardment by the air force. The story of the military operations in the North West has largely been one sided with air power taking centre stage. The army, trying to minimise personnel loss, has refrained from carrying out operations too deep into terrorist encampments, inadvertently giving them time to regroup after aerial bombardments. The latest massacre is both a consequence of that strategy, a failure of intelligence, but most importantly, it is a failure of the non-application of ground forces. The terrorists operated freely for days without apprehension, an indication that the intelligence services did not anticipate this, and the army failed to respond in its duty to mop up terrorists fleeing the aerial onslaught. Little progress has been made in attempts to coordinate the security agencies to achieve a shared strategic outcome. On another note, this non-coordination could also be due to a lack of discipline and professionalism exhibited by officers of various agencies. The Katsina mining incident is illustrative of this. The army leadership’s decision to deny the story without a proper investigation ensures that this will not be the last time we will hear of its officers colluding with criminal groups to perpetuate illegal activities. Furthermore, bandit activity appears to be spreading in parts of the country that hitherto were not dealing with such incidents. This is evident in abductions in Kwara, Plateau and Taraba. This is not surprising as it speaks to the proliferation of armed non-state actors across the country and how weak and overstretched the security architecture is. The ease with which armed gangs can form and carry out attacks also highlights why a purely military approach will ultimately not work, and why smart policing, especially in rural areas, needs to be ramped up.