Oct 6, 2011

Jos Crisis and Corruption

The American Government was recently quoted as saying that corruption is the single most important reason why the Nigerian government will not be able to end the current state of insecurity in the country.
Many times, people have been told that what has prolonged the Jos crisis is the fact that many people reap bountifully each time there is an outbreak of fighting in the Tin City. How this happens is not exactly clear to most members of the public.  Recently, a Nigerian daily newspaper publication reported that the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) has resettled one million victims of the Jos crisis in neighboring Bauchi State.
The report turned out to be about the first tangible proof that some people are indeed benefiting from continuous fighting in a city that was once the most peaceful in Nigeria. According to the 2006 population census in Nigeria, Jos North where the resettled person where said to have come from has a total population of 437,217. There is no way all the residents of Jos North would have been resettled in Bauchi. The total population of Plateau State as a whole is 3.2 million based on the very population census. What the report is saying is that a third of the population of the state was resettled in Bauchi State. The culprit here is NEMA that must have given this figure to justify its bogus expenditure. The journalist who wrote the story without cross-checking the figure is also a potential accomplice.
Government departments or agencies are not the only ones benefitting from persistent fighting in Jos. It will surprise people to know that many religious leaders are beneficiaries of perpetual fighting on the Plateau. The impression one gets from the behavior of religious leaders in the aftermath of conflict in Jos is that they see it as a period bountiful harvests. Relief materials usually do not just come from the different tiers of government but also from non-governmental organizations, local and international, women groups and many others.  These relief materials are given through these religious leaders. Of course, there have often been suspicions that the supplies don’t eventually percolate down to the bottom which is the reason why the donors insists on giving their donations before television cameras. Other religious leaders form non-governmental organizations, design websites on which they upload some of the goriest pictures and absurd statistics on the degree of destruction of lives and properties, all with the aim of wining the sympathy of financial donors. There is no doubt that the only way these fraudulent NGOs can be sustained is by persistent fighting in Jos.
One can say without any fear of contradiction that one fundamental source of irritation to Nigerians is the dire absence of discipline within men of the Nigerian Military such that the force is one sad repository of corruption in the coutry. You see this in the way they abuse the rights of ordinary and ignorant Nigerians by intimidating them in order to extort money, getting involved in matters that should be the exclusive jurisdiction of the police just to be able to take bribes from the situation, violation of traffic laws and general molestation of members of the public. The Nigerian Army should have been a model of discipline to be copied by other Nigerians. This has undermined the ability of the force to carry out its function optimally.
Since the killings in the village of Dogo Na Hauwa in Jos South in early 2010, it became necessary to post soldiers in nearly every village or along the roads leading to the villages in a manner that attackers cannot invade any village and stay below the radar. Despite these security measures, the attacks continued non-the-less. The proximity of security outposts to scenes of a good number of the attacks are such that the solders cannot claim not to have been alarmed by the sounds from the automatic weapons that are often used. The military men have never been successful at preventing a single case of these night attacks to give us the news at dawn. This is despite the frequency of the attacks.  In one incidence, it was alleged that an ID card belonging to a military man was said to have been recovered from the scene. This has led people to conclude that the solders are accomplices in the killings and that they take bribes to get involved or turn a blind eye to the killings. This has led some villages start rejecting military outposts in their localities. Recent involvement of men of the Nigerian Army in the kidnap of Michael Obi, the father of ace footballer John Mikel Obi confirmed that the men of the Nigerian Army have indeed been secretly involved in shady dealings.
Our military friends who made money during ECOMOG operations in Liberia in the 90s often confessed to us the horrible things they did to make the money. It is a tradition among peace-keeping missions that conflict and chaotic situations provide opportunities to make money particularly where there is corruption or the absence of order within the ranks. In the DRC too, India troops to the United Nations peace keeping delegation are known to have exchanged weapons in return for gold.  In the case of Plateau State, it is believed that soldiers either give their weapons for hire or are themselves hired as mercenaries. A friend of mine told me he ran into a meeting of soldiers and Fulani cattle herdsmen on the way to his farm after Gero village in Jos South.
There are emergency lines that the public is supposed to call when in distress. These lines are direct lines to the different Joint Task Force (JTF) squads working to enforce peace. In a situation where members of the JTF are accomplices to a particular attack, one could imagine how it will seem for a victim to call any of these lines.
If the Federal Government feels it can end the killings in Plateau State by simply throwing military and financial resources at the problem, then it is making a dire error such that the new command structure put in place to end the crisis will end up like the ones before it. What the government in Abuja needs to do is to enforced discipline and order and the NEMA report provides an opportunity to demonstrate what it can do and that it is truly committed to ending the blood bath in Jos.
For long, it has become apparent that corruption has undermined all previous efforts at restoring peace in Jos and Plateau State at large. Corruption should not be tolerated where it concerns even a single life. What we lose when peace is gone is far more than what corrupt officials “lose” when there is peace. We should understand that each time we fail to act, the world watches and our reputation gets messier. Problems are not solved by ignoring them.

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