Out of the many heartbreaking stories of the breakdown of security in Nigeria, let me share this one. The same last week that the DSS railed over a media report, Abubakar Hassan, the Head Teacher of Salihu Tanko Islamiya School in Tegina, Niger State, where 136 schoolchildren were kidnapped about three months ago, reported that he had spoken to their abductors. They told him that five of the children were already dead, many were seriously ill, and because their clothes have virtually become rags, their parents should send change of clothes. The part that broke me completely was that some of those children are as young as four years. What kind of country watches babies languish in their abductors’ den? Unfortunately, these stories have become trite in today’s Nigeria.
Meanwhile, Hassan also noted that he had spoken to the abductors twice in three days. They had demanded N200m, but the parents could only raise N20m even after the families had solicited funds from the public. The abductors did not budge their demands. An elderly man sent to deliver that ransom in July was reportedly also seized. In all of these back-and-forth negotiations with kidnappers and even public fund-raising for ransom, notice that there is mention of the involvement of the organisations like the DSS or even the DFI?
How do the abductors call the teacher on the phone several times, and there was no reported official effort to track their location? Where do these kidnappers stash away the humongous sums they receive as ransom? In a country that supposedly registers everyone’s SIM card, why have the security agencies not availed themselves of the many surveillance tools of digital technology to find those children? They can find you if you abuse a politician on WhatsApp, but kidnappers that use cell phones somehow elude them? Elsewhere, security agencies train personnel to negotiate with hostage-takers, but these poor families have had to transact with their victimisers all by themselves. Imagine the many layers of trauma they must suffer. In all these, the efforts of security agencies that supposedly gather intelligence for national security purposes are glaringly missing.
What role do these agencies play in these frequent abductions plaguing Nigerians? And no, their silence on these issues does not mean they have been entirely passive. Here are some of the headlines of the reports of their activities: “DSS violates court order on Igboho’s aides”; “DSS finally complies with court order; “DSS denies detaining and torturing Buhari’s late driver”; “DSS cautions against violence and hate speech”; “DSS reiterates call against violence in Nigeria”; “DSS pledges to support protection of NNPC assets”; “DSS warns public against recruitment fraudsters”; “DSS denies arresting, detaining INEC staff”; “DSS says Mailafia’s allegations aimed at creating tension”; “DSS says there’re plans to incite religious violence across the country”; “DSS says some prominent persons plotting to destabilise the country”; “DSS uncovers plot to destabilise Nigeria”; “Why DSS invited Onumah for wearing Biafra T-shirt”.
The kind of inanity that engages the DSS while Nigerians are imperilled by insecurity adds a new cadence to the cliché of political authority fiddling while the country burns. Having wired their entire administrative impulses towards protecting the Buhari regime from dissidents, they frequently sacrifice administrative dignity to bark at every rat. Their lack of administrative focus has grown so acute they even usurp the role of the police -as it happened in the case of The Dunamis Five. These agencies are never linked to heroic retrieval of abducted victims or to effective management of the security threats that diminish Nigerian lives. You will never catch them protecting the lives and dignity of regular Nigerians. All they do is hound those who make their paymasters uncomfortable. The time is still coming when the DSS officials will take it upon themselves to regulate the price of fish in the market. (Punch)