Registration of indigenes: How not to tackle insurgency

(By Okoro Gabriel)

The irony of it all is that governments across the federation keep allocating a large chunk of the nation’s budget to the security, while paying lip attention to job creation and youth development. Imagine that such huge budget allocations are geared towards addressing joblessness in the country. Of course, the impact is better experienced than imagined.

IT cannot be gainsaid that this is a trying period in Nigeria. No thanks to the ravaging insurgence across the country. Moreover, it certainly appears there is confusion on the best method to adopt in the fight against the snag. The consequence of this uncertainty is the multitudinous but sometimes non-workable formulae and methods being churned out every day by the concerned authorities that often expose their inept leadership approach to national issues. The menace has equally bred all manner of security “analysts” and “experts” whose recommendations and ideas continue to undermine the expectations and general interests of the Nigerian populace. One of such weird ideas is the planned registration of Northern residents in some South-East states of the country allegedly being orchestrated by the Imo State government.

  The planned registration began like a speculation when the story first appeared on the media in June this year. But today, it has become an open secret that, indeed, there was a subtle move to embark on registration of our Northern brothers in some states in the South-East which take off point was Imo State. The policy, ostensibly, was a reaction to a recent aborted bomb attack in one of the popular denominations in that state, believed to have been planned by the deadly Boko Haram group, in addition to the subsequent arrest of 486 northerners suspected to be members of the sect in Asa near Aba, Abia State, who were at the time travelling to Rivers State without a clear mission and in a convoy of 35 vehicles, two of which escaped.

  The initial reaction by the Imo State government was that the exercise was the brainchild of the Northern leaders in the state targeted at documenting the bio data of the northern residents in the state. Subsequent media reports claimed that some governors in the region had lent their support to the policy and were ready to replicate same in their states before the move backfired. Expectedly, albeit to the extreme, the Northern leaders through their umbrella body, Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF) had, while denouncing the policy, threatened retaliation if the exercise was not discarded. Some Northern youths have equally called for the balkanisation of the country across ethnic lines while purportedly issuing a two-week deadline for the Southerners to vacate their region. One expected that those who muted the idea ought to have weighed the dire implications before attempting it in the first place.

  Without mincing words, the purported planned registration is not only a thoughtless policy capable of throwing the already-battered country into more chaos; it is discriminatory and should be immediately halted. It must be stated here that the policy runs afoul of the fundamental rights of the peoples as guaranteed by the 1999 Constitution of Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended) as well as the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights. For avoidance of doubt, Section 42 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) captures this right in the following unambiguous words:

   “(1) A citizen of Nigeria of a particular community, ethnic group, place of origin, sex, religion or political opinion shall not by reason only that he is such a person: Be subjected either expressly by or in the practical application of  any law in Nigeria or any executive or administrative action of government, to disabilities or restrictions to which citizens of Nigeria of other communities, ethnic group, places of origin, sex, religion or political opinions are not made subject…”

   It is abundantly evident from the foregoing that the fight against terrorism and other related crimes does not in any way derogate this right. At best, such discriminatory policy will further threaten the fragile unity of the country much as it will render Nigerians second-class citizens in their own land, in addition to creating more problems than it intended to solve.

   Furthermore, assuming, but without conceding, the so-called registration meets constitutional requirements, how does the exercise arrest the menace without first addressing the fundamental factors like unemployment, corruption, poverty, etc, in the country? If, and only if, our leaders knew that an idle mind is a veritable tool for societal vices, maybe they would rework their strategies towards tackling insecurity in the land, rather than this wild goose chase. It is completely disturbing to read recently that some of the members of the devilish sect were being recruited to carry out the dastardly act with a paltry sum of N10, 000. This mind boggling revelation lend credence to a notorious assertion that youths’ unemployment in the country is largely responsible for the menace and other related vices in this part of the clime. It follows, therefore, that the solution does not lie in the discriminatory registration; for having the bio data of every Nigerian captured would never solve the problem if the source factors continue to be ignored.

   It cannot be argued further that the best and most effective way of addressing the current challenge in the country is through a concerted and pragmatic effort anchored on transparent and competent leadership. Nigeria is in dire need of leaders who will see the growing unemployment in the country as a problem that requires urgent attention. We need leaders that will make job creation top on their priorities. The country needs leaders that will be moved by the disturbing statistics that an average Nigerian lives on one dollar per day. There is no better time for various governments across the country to embark on a massive infrastructural development that will lead to steady jobs for the Nigerian youths than now. Our current educational system that makes an average graduate highly dependent on so-called “white collar” jobs should be reviewed to encourage self reliance through entrepreneurship.

   The irony of it all is that governments across the federation keep allocating a large chunk of the nation’s budget to the security, while paying lip attention to job creation and youth development. Imagine that such huge budget allocations are geared towards addressing joblessness in the country. Of course, the impact is better experienced than imagined.

   It is, however, gratifying that the Presidency has waded into the registration quagmire by directing her security and other agencies to stay clear from the controversial exercise, while advising state governors to jettison the policy. Nonetheless, it should go ahead to find a lasting solution to the malady. And to this end, it is strongly canvassed here that there is no alternative to job creation, poverty alleviation and transparent governance as lasting solutions to the Boko Haram insurgency and other related phenomena in the country.

• Gabriel wrote from Ebonyi.

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