Ungoverned Spaces and Non-state Actors in Nigeria

Ungoverned spaces are areas where there is weak presence of formal institutions. It is often characterized by lack of formal authority which gives rise to activities of non-state actors who assume power and undermine government and its appellate institutions. The notoriety of criminals on our roads paints a clear picture of neglected, deserted or ungoverned areas across the country.

A Senior Political Economy Analyst, Dr.UcheIgwe defines ungoverned spaces “As zones that lie beyond the reach of government and thus pose a significant threat to security and stability. They are often perceived as fertile grounds within which terrorist organisations incubate and thrive, proliferating drug trafficking, criminal networks and the presence of illegal migrants and, therefore, containing these spaces falls within the strategic frontier of security priorities” (2021).

In recent years, Nigeria and other countries around the Lake Chad basin and the Sahel have suffered the onslaught of terrorists, bandits, kidnappers and criminal herdsmen. In countries like Mali, Niger, Burkina Faso, Chad and Nigeria, there has been an increase in criminal activities with the resultant effect of internally displaced persons and refugees leading to economic downturn. An erstwhile free-trade agreement is met by non-state actors who target the rich and politicians for elimination on a cash and carry basis.

That there are ungoverned spaces presupposes the presence of non-state actors. Insurgents such as Boko Haram, killer herdsmen, bandits, hoodlums, armed robbers, commercial kidnappers and their ilk fall into this category. They operate in clandestine fashion only to unleash mayhem on unsuspecting members of the public. Non-state actors take advantage of lack of government’s presence to flex their muscles. Non-state exist for the following reasons:

First, they are rife because government has not been able to recruit more personnel. The poor ratio of police officers per number of citizens creates vulnerability in various circles. The population explosion plus and expansion of housing units makes it difficult for security operatives to meet up with the growing demand of providing adequate security. As such, criminal elements take advantage of this situation to carry out their ungodly actions.

Second, there are issues around lack of training to meet up with the demands of contemporary policing. In third-world countries, the police are often undertrained and ill-equipped to outrun criminal elements. It is sad to note that money that is meant for the training and retraining of officers finds its way into private pockets of individuals. What is more, the obsolete nature of firearms often renders officers and men ineffective to fight insurgents and other criminal gangs threatening the peace of society.

Third, there is lack of community policing. In the United States of America, the Police agencies include City Police Departments, County Sheriff’s Offices, State Police/Highway Patrol and Federal Law Enforcement Agencies. This is to make for effective and efficient response to security issues. This makes emergency response easy. By contrast, our system has one federal police system which operates mostly at 2 levels. The local council level suffers as security is often concentrated at the federal and state levels. While politicians and top government officials enjoy maximum security, the masses suffer in penury.

This brings us to the issue of state policing. The refusal of the government of the day to initiate state policing has given birth to various regional Security Networks such as Amotekun, Eastern Security Network et al. Since Section 14 (2) (b) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as amended provides that “the security and welfare of the people shall be the primary purpose of government,” it is crucial for government to secure the nation through licensing state police. This would consolidate the efforts of the Nigeria Police Force and enhance the security of lives and property at state, regional and federal levels.

Without prejudice to Section 214(1) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) which states that, “There shall be a Police Force for Nigeria which shall be known as the Nigeria Police Force and subject to the provisions of this section, no other Police Force shall be established for the Federation or any part thereof,”the current constitutional review process of the 1999 Constitution by the Legislative Arm of government should without delay accommodate security initiatives such as Amotekun and Eastern Security Network. It is better to consolidate on the existing federal police than play the ostrich when the house is on fire.

Government needs to put an eye on all ungoverned spaces by massive recruitment of personnel. This would reduce youth unemployment on the one hand and criminality on the other. By the same token, this should be complemented with community policing, neighborhood watch, or state policing. Oftentimes, it is members of the community who know criminals better than foreigners. This would make surveillance and response easy.

Training and retraining of officers along the demands of a digital society as well as provision of modern equipment is critical to internal security. A modern policeman or woman should be media-savvy and abreast with the rudiments of contemporary policing. Security personnel should be able to beat criminals in their game through intelligence gathering or espionage. By exploiting the slogan “Police is your friend,” the police can liaise with members of the public to track down criminals. Until ungoverned spaces are secured and non-state actors are dislodged, Nigeria would remain a safe haven for criminal elements to unleash terror on unsuspecting members of the public. God bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria!

Fr. Dyikuk is a Lecturer of Mass Communication, University of Jos, Editor – Caritas Newspaper and Convener, Media Team Network Initiative (MTNI), Nigeria.






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