The state has now moved into a new stage of the more widespread use of repression and illegal detention. In this situation, it is important that our demands for action to be taken over insecurity are not seen as supporting state repression but are clearly linked to economic demands like the minimum wage.
For the last decade repression has been used extensively in the North East. Thousands of young men have been indefinitely detained, many have died of malnutrition and abuse. In addition, the army and state-sponsored militias have killed about as many people as Boko Haram. This level of state repression is now spreading across other states.
The Federal Government has a shoot to kill policy against the Islamic Movement of Nigeria. 350 or more of their members were killed in Zaria in December 2015. And 39 were gunned down by Karu bridge on the road to Nyanya in FCT in late October 2018. Others were killed during recent police attacks on IMN demonstrations in Abuja. Police could be clearly seen shooting unarmed civilians from the NLC offices in central Abuja. The police were so disorganised that they managed to shoot and kill a Deputy Commissioner of Police and a corper during demonstrations at the National Assembly in July. 54 more Shi’ite members were arrested around this demonstration and many are still in detention.
The Islamic Movement of Nigeria were recently banned and their “identified leaders” are being hunted down by police. This is after Sheikh Ibraheem Zakzaki and his wife have been illegally detained since the massacre in Zaria which included the murder of some of their children.
The Fulani are still being demonised. The farmer/herder dispute is exaggerated beyond all recognition so that all the poverty, inequality and other ills are blamed on the Fulani. In reality, the Fulani are probably the victims in what is now a complex inter-community dispute where even their traditional rights to pasture are not recognised in law.
A number of comrades were detained by the DSS around the first Day of Rage of the #RevolutionNow campaign of Coalition for Revolution (CORE). These include Omoyele Sowore (since 3rd August), Olawale Adebayo (Mandate) OAU activist still being held by State Security Services in Osogbo (since 3rd August). State governments are also detaining individuals including Agba Jalingo, publisher of Cross River Watch (since 24th August). The Navy and other state governments are also illegally detaining people without access to lawyers or their families.
There are generalised concerns about the level of insecurity including Boko Haram, the Farmer/Herder dispute, banditry in Zamfara, killings in Kaduna State, kidnappings, cultism and burglary. We should recognise that insecurity and crime are a symptom of inequality, poverty and high-level corruption. Insecurity cannot be dealt with separately.
The money for the Internally Displaced People (IDPs) in camps in and around Maiduguru is being stolen. Is it any wonder then that young men continue to join Boko Haram rather than just sitting around in the camps, watching their families starve to death?
As Femi Aborisade explains: “The uncontrolled insecurity is therefore the ’harvest’ or product of anti-labour policies. It is a phenomenon that can be explained rationally. The solution does not lie in militarisation of society. If the resources being pumped into military-focused solutions were used instead for implementing poverty reduction policies in order to provide humanising and enduring jobs, social housing units, free medical care in a revamped health care system used by the President himself, free education used by the children of the ruling class, food for the hungry, a policy of minimum income for the weakest in society, care of the aged, etc…, insurgency and physical insecurity would be massively undermined and reduced in ways better than any military focused solution could achieve which the successive governments in Nigeria have been pursuing over the years.”
In the first fifteen years of this century the economy of Nigeria increased by ten times (from a GDP of around $50billion to $500billion (https://data.worldbank.org/country/nigeria), but the poor majority saw little if any of the benefits. The proportion of the population who were extremely poor actually increased over this period.
The new minimum wage of N30,000 is only 40% of the level we won in 1998, in real terms. In 1998 if someone on the minimum wage could buy 10 bags of rice, they will only be able to buy four bags when or if they get the new minimum wage. But we still need to fight for N30,000!!
Is it any wonder that some individuals turn to violent crime to feed themselves and enrich their families? 60% of police spend their time protecting the looters of the National Assembly and other criminal money bags. There is no such thing as people who are ‘criminals’, ‘bandits’ or ‘terrorists’. Many people turn to these activities only to improve their situation, often out of desperation.
We need to ensure that insecurity is always linked to economic demands, like the minimum wage. The Revolution Now! second demand is: “An effective and democratic end to insecurity and insurgency”, but the five demands need to be taken as a whole. Only the reduction of inequality, poverty and unemployment will reduce crime and insecurity.
At its last NEC on 21st August, the NLC resolved to “convene a National Security Summit to dispassionately engage the current challenge of insecurity in Nigeria and proffer sustainable solutions. Prior to the proposed Security Summit, the NEC resolved that NLC would hold rallies across Nigeria to sensitize government and citizens on the need to urgently arrest the current drift in security.”
We need to try and ensure that the demands to implement the N30,000 minimum wage gain prominence at these rallies. Without this, the NLC will just provide further justification for state repression, detention of our comrades and further killings by the security forces. We also need to raise the issues of violence and killings by the police and for the disbanding of SARS.
The increased level of insecurity, crime and killings are providing an excuse for the state and security forces to increase their level of repression. We have to argue that insecurity arises from poverty, inequality and unemployment. Only when these issues are addressed will we see a reduction in crime and insecurity.
by Drew POVEY