How CACOVID is about to do what FG couldn’t do to provide security, harness youth demography

Policing in Nigeria is about to receive a boost through the injection of N100 billion naira investment into the Nigerian police force (NPF) to improve its fledgling services.

And the gesture is not courtesy of the government.

But it is out of the abundance of the heart and goodwill of members of CACOVID, an initiative driven by the private sector and initially aimed at helping in ameliorating the pains of the COVID-19 pandemic on the vulnerable in the society. The funding is a positive outcome of the #EndSARS protests that degenerated into riots. And the revelation was made by the CBN governor, Godwin Emefiele, (who is the leader of CACOVID) while giving account of the sum that was raised via donations from public-spirited members of the bourgeoisie club and leading business conglomerates in Nigeria.

There are myriads of areas that CACOVID is intervening in our society to help the critical mass of our compatriots that have fallen into severe poverty or lack, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

But this piece is only concentrating on CACOVID’s efforts to enhance the service delivery of the Nigerian police force (NPF) and the dynamic vision of the ‘Good Samaritan’ organization to engage our youths in productive ventures that would keep them out of mischief and boost their contribution to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of our country by converting their current negative energies — as reflected by their engagement in cultism, religious insurgency, banditry, cyber criminality (internet fraud /scams), kidnapping, vandalism and human trafficking as well as immigration via illegal routes, into positive outcomes.

As for the policemen and women who risk their limbs and lives to protect members of society from harm, (when they have not gone rogue) the assurance that the dearth of tools and equipment to discharge their duties that have hitherto hindered their ability and capacity for robust service delivery, would soon be over through CACOVID intervention of procuring the tools that are vital for securing and safeguarding lives and properties internally, is heartwarming. To say the least, it was mind-boggling and alarming that the police did not have basic riot control tools, as simple as tear gas, helmets, hot water canons as well as pepper sprays to manage the riots during the unfortunate incidents of #Endsars protests in October. Such is the abysmal level of the ill-preparedness of our law enforcement agencies which is to a large extent owed to lack of implements to work it, and lack of motivation, hence the near-zero dedication to duty. And the shambolic and dire situation of lack of tools to carry out their duties in the police force is perhaps replicated in the entire armed forces charged with quelling internal insurgency and external aggression, a function which Nigerians unanimously agree the military has failed woefully to deliver satisfactorily.

The assertion above is validated by the reality that Boko Haram, ISWAP and bandits have practically taken over the hinterlands of our country particularly in the northeast and northwest Nigeria where the outlaws are reportedly outgunning our military and as such bold enough to even demand and collect taxes from the hapless inhabitants to facilitate their ability to attend their farms or engage in other economic activities.

Alarmingly, life in the hinterlands of northern Nigeria currently reminds me of the lyrics of the hit song,Gang Star Paradise, by the rapper Coolio which goes like this “As I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I take a look at my life and realize there’s nothin’”. How chilling!

Who could have thought that life in Nigeria would mimic the Hobbesian state of life that a musician sang about the underworld in the USA? But that is the reality that our compatriots like the folks in Borno state and Zabarmairi, in particular, are faced with as reflected by the slitting of the throats of 43 rice farmers who dared to go to the farm without clearance from the army as presidential spokesman, Garba Shehu recently reminded the grieving families of the victims and the world.

In the midst of the heartbreak arising from the barbarism and savagery being unleashed on folks in the hinterlands, it is heartening that it is not only the provision of working tools that are being targeted for shoring up or boosting for the police force by CACOVID team. And with nearly N40 billion naira raised, CACOVID, which is more or less a private sector Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) for social intervention can do pretty much everything to turn around the fortunes of the long-suffering police force which would result in boosting their morale and guaranteeing peace and security; just as it would — at the same time — facilitate the harnessing of the potentials of the rapidly growing number of youths to avoid youth bulge crises. The celebratory ululation in acknowledgment of the good gesture even goes higher as the very miserable welfare package of the rank and file of the police force who are very poorly remunerated and housed in slum-like homes, as evidenced by the very dilapidated and filthy housing estates that look and feel like pigs stacks, would also receive CACOVID’s attention.

All the above extraordinary measures are ordinarily the functions and roles that a functional government is supposed to be performing for the wellbeing and prosperity of society in general, and citizens in particular, but which, in any way you look at it, has been abdicated.

With governance in Nigeria in the recent past being highly challenged by the overwhelming level of insecurity nationwide, and particularly in the northern parts of the country, which is being driven by religious insurgents like Boko Haram, ISWAP, and bandits such as cattle rustlers as well as herdsmen clashing with farmers; the salutary value of the intervention of the private sector-driven CACOVID can not be overemphasized.

So, is this a throwback to the days of the Petroleum Task Force (PTF) under the regime of the former military head of state, army general, Sani Abacha and which was under the chairmanship of then army general, now president Muhamadu Buhari ?

It may be recalled that at that time, our current president, Muhammadu Buhari functioned as the executive chairman of the social intervention agency, which took over practically every function of Government except those bordering on state security and international relations. The mandate of PTF included the provision of educational facilities, roads infrastructure, urban mass housing, access to healthcare for the masses, and other social security safety measures such as skill acquisition. The influence and intervention areas of PTF were so sweeping that the only no-go-area for the agency was the management of the army, (even then, there was ARMY PTF) and foreign affairs of our country which were the only functions of Government excluded.

Although like most public agencies in our country, the PTF was a cesspit of corruption, the good legacy of the social development agency is reflected by the enduring monuments like schools, roads and other social infrastructures like water projects which are located across Nigeria serving the masses and therefore positive testimonials to the efficacy of social intervention to alleviate hardship in the polity.

Today, in the absence of any significant government action to provide a better life for Nigerians, the private sector by the name of CACOVID initiated by CBN governor Godwin Emefiele and driven by billionaires, Aliko Dangote, Jim Ovia, Tony Elumelu, Femi Otedola, Samad Rabiu, Modupe Alakija and a host of other successful entrepreneurs are weighing in with help in the sectors that they have considered to be more challenged in Nigeria.  And that happens to be a combination of the police force and the burgeoning number of youths whose boundless energy and talents have remained untapped.

And in the light of the consequences of the recent #Endsars protests — a clash between the aforementioned groups,  that reportedly left in its trail the carnage of loss of lives and limbs of about 57 civilians, 37 policemen and women as well as 6 soldiers who suffered the ire of the aggravated youths that were lashing out against the brutality on fellow youths via mob action; society has become more unsafe and tending towards being in a state of anomie owing to the retreating of the internal security agencies, whose members -Special Anti Robbery Squad (SARS) had allegedly created a nefarious industry of killing and maiming youths that fail to yield to their extortionist inclinations.

Although the good gesture of CACOVID is largely altruistic, it is also serf serving because a society in anomie arising from an atmosphere of anarchy in the system would not be conducive for businesses to thrive.

It is for the same reasons that today, business are currently not thriving in crisis ravaged countries like Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq, Somalia, Sudan or South Sudan. So if the state of insecurity in Nigeria is allowed to degenerate to the frightening and horrific levels in the conflict-ridden countries listed above, entrepreneurship and industry would suffer grave consequences.

Mr Samuel Adetuyi, former commissioner of police and ex-Police Force Secretary put it best when he made the following statement in an interview published in the Punch newspaper of 10th December:  “Go round Nigeria yourself. “If we continue like this, in five years time, go and mark my words, you will see what our security will be. Here will be worse than Afghanistan”.

And that in my view is the underlying raison d’être for the proposed intervention by the philanthropists under the umbrella of CACOVID.

And there is a precedent to this type of intervention, albeit in a nihilistic manner.

In 1915, about 105 years ago, when an oil refinery was first established in the Baku region of Azerbaijan, by the Rothschilds, one time richest family from France and a major investor in oil and gas explorations, there happened to be some tensions resulting in conflicts between the Armenians and their neighbors, Azerbaijanis-a breakaway province from the former socialist republic.

The threat of the conflict escalating into a war and jeopardizing the huge oil/gas refining investments compelled the Rothschilds to procure the services of the Turkish army during the Ottoman Empire to ‘remove’ the Armenians from the region.  Of course ‘remove‘ is an euphemism for exterminate.

The action which lasted till 1917 resulted in the loss of the lives of about 1.5 million Armenians and that dastardly incident represents the first genocide recorded in history which today has remained a hot-button issue in the United Nations (UN).

Only recently, the conflict has resumed again after several decades, as evident by the ongoing mild war between Armenia and Azerbaijan over the disputed land in Nagorno-Karabakh.

And Turkey, once again, has been in the front and centre of the crisis by providing support to the Azerbaijan army.

Although Armenian genocide issue appears to be a diversion from CACOVID’s proposed social intervention in the provision of material support to Nigeria police force and creation of positive and productive engagements for our youths, the desperate actions taken by the billionaire businessmen and women embodied by the Rothschild family nearly a century ago when their investments in oil/gas in areas around the Caspian Sea was threatened, merits being shared for all to see the length and extent that unscrupulous corporate organizations can go to preserve their wealth and provide. Essentially, the enlightenment is aimed at providing a background for the understanding of the spirit behind CACOVID’s intervention, which although not entirely altruistic, but in this stance, the intention remains largely noble and benevolent.

Of course, unlike the Rothschilds, the motive of CACOVID members who are major stakeholders in the industry and economy of Nigeria, do not have nihilistic intention or undertones, however, the Nigerian billionaires are being driven by a similar motive of safeguarding their investments in Nigeria. The good thing is that they are intervening in positive ways that would help restore stability in the system for the survival and safety of their enterprise and by the extension Nigerian public.

How did l know all of these?

It is an extrapolation of part of the research that l conducted in 2005/7 for the literature review in the thesis titled “Darfur: Why The West Failed To Help” which l wrote and presented for my masters degree from Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Tufts University, Massachusetts, USA.

At the time of writing the thesis, l had no idea that the knowledge would be of use in such a profound way and manner today. Given that the wars leading to the founding of South Sudan with Darfur as capital has persisted, history which is always dynamic has continued to evolve and the conclusion of my thesis has also become somehow obsolete as new dimensions have been added to the conflicts in the Caspian Sea area of Armenia and Azerbaijan countries,  and the Sudan in the Sahel area. In light of the changing dynamics listed above, I’m updating or rejigging the thesis which I’m converting to a book on conflicts and the role of private corporations around the world.

As the saying goes, self-preservation is the first rule of nature, so there is nothing wrong with the action of the CACOVID members to protect their businesses and in the process protect members of the larger society.

In any case, before the current initiative, the financial services sector, particularly, the banking sub-sector had hitherto provided funding for security agencies, particularly in Lagos state where their head offices and core businesses are mainly domiciled.

For instance, in Lagos state, there is a security agency trust fund under the chairmanship of my good friend, Kehinde Durosimiti-Eti former MD of Skye bank plc.

The security intervention fund/agency in Lagos has substantially been responsible for the remarkable safety and security of Lagos and Lagosians.  Since #Endsars protests/riots, it has been providing the funds for security enforcement tools and devices such as most of the amour personnel carriers that dot street corners in hot spots around Lagos.

The Lagos security trust fund is quite unlike the Police Trust fund floated by Kenny Martins under ex-president Olusegun Obasanjo’s watch that collapsed under the weight of massive corruption.

Hopefully, the proposed CACOVID initiative would be immured from the malfeasance associated with the bureaucratic complications experienced in the past with the Police Trust Fund and which wracked similar agencies of Government including the PTF.

The much-needed interventions in the Nigerian Police Force and the lofty initiative of harnessing the potentials of our burgeoning youth demography which is the second area of intervention in the CACOVID agenda, reechoes Tony Elumelu’s Africapitalism vision which is about businesses partnering with the communities in which they operate in symbiotic ways for the mutual progress and development of society.

Obviously, the CACOVID initiative will be more consequential than the Africapitalism efforts, simply because it is local and more profound in its proposed areas of intervention, which is quite unlike the Africapitalism agenda being driven by Tony Elumelu Foundation’s initiative for the empowerment of young Africans in 54 countries through mentoring or imparting of entrepreneurial knowledge.

While applauding the CACOVID as it embarks on its mission to positively impact society in very big ways, (which is yet to become the reality) l hope the implementation of its grand plans would be as impressive as the way it is written on paper and stated on television by the quartet — Emefiele, Dangote, Elumelu and Herbert Wigwe, CEO of Access bank — and not end up being as scandalous and shambolic as the outcome of its distribution of COVID-19 palliatives which was disastrous or end up like the sleaze ridden Petroleum Trust Fund introduced under the military dictatorship of army general, Sani  Abacha.

Magnus Onyibe, an entrepreneur, public policy analyst, author, development strategist, alumnus of Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Tufts University, Massachusetts, USA, and a former commissioner in Delta state government, sent this piece from Lagos.

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