Customs bribe terrorists: Who will guard the guardians?

When the video of Nigeria Customs Service’s (NCS) officials surfaced via Channels television’s social media handle, showing them to have handed over at least seven bags of 50kg rice to bandits in Katsina State as a bribe to escape abduction or other forms of attack, it showed one section of the victimology of Nigeria’s horror not always talked about: the security services.

Col. DC Bako, commander of 25 Task Force Brigade in Damboa, in September, was killed in an ambush at Sabon Gari/Wajiroko in Borno. The colonel’s death is one in a growing list of senior security officers (both military and paramilitary) that have been killed in active duty on the front lines in the past two years.

It was in the same year that no fewer than two officers of the State Security Service (DSS) were ambushed, kidnapped and killed by terrorists operating in the restive north west.

A state dysfunction is a feature that swallows all, especially its vanguard. That Nigeria’s security forces are both perpetrators and victims is not a new concept. What the discussion should be framed is: “who will guard the guardians”?

This is an important question considering in the second quarter of 2020, no fewer than 221 security officials were killed in this country.

Soldiers accounted for more than 70% of that number with about 173 deaths. 39 lost their lives in that period. Since the #EndSars protest in October 2020, police personnel and facilities in the South have come under increasing attacks, with the most recent carried out in Imo state by an angry mob.

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What is glaring from all of these is that asides the fact that in so many times there are no tears for some of these officials whom some believe to have had it coming, the fear factor is gone. The broken relationship between the state and its citizens is an important factor guiding some of these incidents.

In January 2017, a Nigerian Air force jet bombed Rann IDP camp in Borno–an action allegedly done by mistake, which killed at least 115 people, including six aid workers. Four years later, the probe into the incident has not hardly seen the light of day, nor the perpetrators punished.

The resentment to atrocities carried about by security agents fuels the decline of the fear factor which makes them a fair game, even in their barracks or bases.

If Customs officers had to food-bribe their way out of a terror enclave, it not only speaks to the severe economic problems, which fuels the security crises, it also asks another important question: what happened when the Nigerian state can no longer afford to pay its security officials?

Also, what would happen when customs officers run out of both food and money to bribe terrorists with?

In effect, who will guard the guardians?

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