Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo has told Nigerians in the Diaspora that the spate of kidnappings in Nigeria is exaggerated and not entirely new.
This is despite recent travel advisory issued by the United Kingdom asking its citizens not to visit some states in Nigeria due to the rising insecurity occasioned by kidnapping, banditry, militancy, terrorism and other challenges.
The Vice-President spoke just as the Special Adviser, Media and Publicity to President Muhammadu Buhari, Femi Adesina, said the level of insecurity in the country had put the nation in “dire times.”
Osinbajo, at a town hall meeting in New York on Sunday evening, insisted that the social media “tends to be hysterical about practically everything,” News Agency of Nigeria reported.
The Vice-President spoke in response to several questions and comments on the security situation back home.
Many members of the audience had taken turns to express concern about the reported spate of killings and kidnappings back home, and wanted to know what the government was doing to address the situation.
Responding, the Vice-President said, “With respect to general kidnappings which we have seen in parts of the country, again, this is not entirely new. In fact, some of the kidnapping stories you read or listen to are simply not true anywhere, some are fuelled by politics.
“There are cases of kidnappings, no question at all about that, but some of the more dramatic stories that you hear are simply not true.
“Every report of kidnapping we receive, we try to verify, and at the end of the day you find out that people just tell all sorts of stories.”
Osinbajo said the Federal Government was working with the states to check kidnapping where it was actually taking place, using technology to track the perpetrators.
He said the efforts were already yielding results with several arrests made by security agencies in affected areas.
Osinbajo said the government was capable of addressing the security challenges, assuring Nigerians that the news “will be a lot better very soon.”
On the banditry and farmers/herders’ clashes in the North-West and the North-Central, the Vice-President described them as “resource conflicts.”
According to him, banditry, especially in Zamfara and Katsina states, was more of a fight over the control of mining sites by armed groups.
He said the government was taking several measures, including shutting down the mines, to address the problem.
The Vice-President added, “In the North-Central, we have the livestock transformation plan to address the farmers/herders’ conflict.
“Ultimately, it is ranching that will solve the problem because you cannot have people wandering across the country with their cattle.
“It is not helpful to them, this they know, because ranching is more convenient and profitable.
“So, we are building herd dams in the northern states so that people don’t necessarily come down south in search for water and green pastures for their herds.
“We are also trying to ensure we provide grazing areas before we come to cattle routes.”
Osinbajo said in fairness to herders, the livestock sector had not enjoyed the kind of government’s funding and support accorded farmers over the years.
But Adesina admitted that the level of insecurity in the country had put the nation in “dire times.”
He, however, said the government was not overwhelmed by the challenges such as terrorism, banditry, militancy, kidnapping and other crises.
Adesina’s admission comes barely a week after the Chief of Army Staff, Lt Gen Tukur Buratai, attributed the recent losses incurred by the armed forces in the fight against insurgency to the lack of commitment of the troops.
However, Adesina blamed the insecurity on previous corrupt administrations.
The President’s aide, in a chat with The Interview magazine said, “The security challenges are enormous. Insurgency, banditry, kidnapping, armed robbery, communal strife, criminality generally.
“These are truly dire times, and as the President has said, they are results of the corruption, decay and neglect of the past.
“But is the government overwhelmed? By no means. The challenges are being tackled, and we will eventually overcome. Nigeria is greater than the challenges, no matter the hidden hostile hands that are encouraging them. The country shall be victorious.”
Adesina also admitted that Nigeria was deeply divided across religious and ethnic lines.
He blamed the division on the forced amalgamation of the country by Lord Frederick Lugard in 1914, but argued that the nation’s fault lines became more pronounced with the advent of democracy and its attendant free speech.
The President’s spokesman said, “Nigeria has never been without social and ethnic tensions. That is due to the nature of our union, which was a forceful one in 1914. It was an unwilling union, forcefully consummated by Lord Frederick Lugard. Since then, it had been uneasy, with grave suspicion rifling through the polity.
“It was not helped by the colonial masters themselves, who played one ethnic nationality against the other, to serve their own interests. These tensions spiked in recent times, particularly with the advent of democracy, in which people could make utterances, however indecorous or divisive they may be.
“And you found deep fissures being driven into the various peoples and regions of the country. Awareness of where one came from became heightened, other than national cohesion.
“Politicians cashed in on our fault lines – ethnicity, religion, language, state of origin – and many others, to divide the people, and advance their own interests. That is what has led us to where we are today.”