Delta State Governor and Vice-Presidential Candidate of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Ifeanyi Okowa, has identified alarming poverty rate, inequitable distribution of wealth as root causes of protracting insecurity in Nigeria.
Okowa stated this in his remarks as Chairman of the occasion at the 11th Zik Lecture Series with theme “Nigeria in the Throes of Insecurity Towards 2023: Any Panacea?” held at the Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, on Wednesday.
He listed other contributory factors to the current state of insecurity in the country as absence of modern security architecture, easy access to weapons by citizens, lopsidedness in power sharing and corruption.
Other factors, according to him, are lack of accountability and unproductivity, weak criminal justice system, religious bigotry and intolerance and lack of respect for the fundamental human rights of the citizens by the government.
He commended the organizers of the yearly event for their steadfastness and drive to see a better Nigeria where every Nigerian was free to pursue his dream of success and happiness.
Okowa said that the Zik Lecture Series had become a renowned platform for rich discourses on the Nigerian project, in addition to proffering pragmatic solutions to the many obstacles on our path to peaceful coexistence, unity and sustainable development.
According to him, the security situation in Nigeria is a hydra-headed monster that has undermined public safety and is threatening the continued existence of Nigeria as one united and indivisible country.
“The surge in mass kidnappings, insurgency, banditry, herder-farmer conflicts, ritual killings and other acts of terrorism is, to say the least, frightening.
“The Global Terrorism Index for 2022 lists Nigeria as the sixth most terrorized country in the world. The Nigeria Security Tracker (NST), a project of the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) of the United States, reported that 5,222 lives were lost to activities of violent non-state actors between January and June, 2022.
“Although we have dropped out of the top 20, Nigeria still ranks high – number 21 – on the list of the most dangerous countries in the world, according to the Global Peace Index 2022,” he said.
The governor remarked that it was obvious that widespread poverty in the country had fueled the fire of the protracted security crisis.
He said:”Experts agree that there is a strong correlation between increased terrorism and inequality and inequitable distribution of wealth.
“The widening gulf between the rich and the poor in our country is alarming. Equally alarming is the poverty rate, which stood at 40 per cent in 2021 and is believed to be around 45 per cent in 2022, which translates to 90 million citizens living below the poverty line.
“This has led to disenchantment and feeling of alienation among our teeming youth population, leading to rise in cybercrimes, kidnappings, ritual killings, and other violent acts that undermine public safety.”
He urged the Federal Government to take proactive actions to tackle the problem of herdsmen/farmers’ conflicts and banditry, which were fast becoming the greatest threats to national security and economic well-being.
Okowa called on politicians to play by the rules as the 2023 General Elections beckoned, adding that a credible electoral system was imperative for peace and security.
On his part, Anambra Governor, Prof. Charles Soludo, represented by his Deputy, Dr Onyeka Ibezim, said that the state government would continue to identify with efforts to immortalise the late Nnamdi Azikiwe, a great icon of the state.
He called on politicians to embrace the political ideology of the late Zik of Africa aimed at putting the interest of the people above self.
Keynote Speaker at the occasion, Chief Mike Ozekhome, said Nigeria could only remain united when the government “respects the rights and privileges of component parts of the country”.
Ozekhome called on President Muhammadu Buhari to order the release of Nnamdi Kanu without further delay, saying that the continued detention of the IPOB leader would worsen the insecurity in the South-East ahead of the 2023 elections.
He said that the marginalization of certain ethnic groups in the country contributed to rising insecurity in the country, he cautioned Nigerians to stop selling their votes to the highest bidder.
Welcoming guests earlier, Vice-Chancellor of Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, Professor Charles Esimone, commended the benefactor of the Zik Lecture Series for his endowment and for establishing the Institute of Legislative Studies in the university.
Benefactor of the Zik Lecture Series, Sen. Ben Ndi-Obi called on the Federal Government to pay lecturers their full salaries without further delay.
He urged the government to properly immortalise the late Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe by declaring November 16 as “Nnamdi Azikiwe Day”.
The 11th Zik Lecture Series was attended by former Chief of General Staff, Commodore Ebitu Ukiwe (retd); Chairman of United Airlines, Professor Obiora Okonkwo; Obi of Onitsha, Igwe Alfred Achebe and Obi Gibson Nwosu, Ezeuzu II of Awka.