Security Challenges in Nigeria and the Implications for Business Activities and Sustainable Development

Security Challenges in Nigeria and the Implications for Business Activities and Sustainable Development


The paper examined the insecurity situation in Nigeria and its implications for business investment, operations and sustainable development. The evaluation of the level and dimension of insecurity which was based on secondary data and observations among authors in different places, zones and walks of life as expressed in their comments, as well as, on concrete evidences of insecurity incidence in different parts of Nigeria, indicated that the insecurity challenge in the country is enormous and complex and would continue to be, if the situation remains unabated. We therefore emphasized the need to evolve a safe business environment that allows for effective business activities and a sustainable development process. The security management models recommended to achieve this, are aimed at combating the creators and perpetuators of situations of insecurity, and simultaneously addressing and removing the sources of dissatisfaction and discontentment which spur security breaches and the involvement of all stakeholders both in public and private capacity-government, business organizations, civil society, religious groups and communities.




Nigeria in recent times has witnessed an unprecedented level of insecurity. This has made national security threat to be a major issue for the government and has prompted huge allocation of the national budget to security. In order to ameliorate the incidence of crime, the federal government has embarked on criminalisation of terrorism by passing the Anti-Terrorism Act in 2011, installation of Computer-based Closed Circuit Television cameras (CCTV) in some parts of the country, enhancement of surveillance as well as investigation of criminal related offences, heightening of physical security measures around the country aimed at deterring or disrupting potential attacks, strengthening of security agencies through the provision of security facilities and the development and broadcast of security tips in mass media (Azazi, 2011). Despite these efforts, the level of insecurity in the country is still high. In addition, Nigeria has consistently ranked low in the Global Peace Index (GPI, 2012), signifying a worsened state of insecurity in the country. Hence, Adagba, et al (2012), Uhunmwuangho and Aluforo (2011) are of the view that the efforts of government have not yielded enough positive result.

With the lingering security challenges and the inability of the security apparatus of the government to guarantee safety and security in the country, the question that borders everyone in Nigeria today is that “can there be security?” Is security of lives and properties achievable? Apparently, the security situation in Nigeria appears or at least have remained insurmountable and many people have argued that government at all levels has not done enough by not confronting the situation head on and dealing with it decisively, others have argued that the situation has a political undertone or inclination calculated to serve the interest of certain political gods, who have been dissatisfied and disgruntled about the political manifestations in the country.

Consequently, the purpose of this paper is to provide a synthesis of existing knowledge on insecurity by integrating diverse explorations and to propose a strategy for security management. In the following sections, we examine first, the concept of insecurity, the causes of insecurity in the country so as to provide a background for understanding and appreciating the enormity of the problem and our proposed model for security management in Nigeria. This is followed by an exploration of the connection between security environment and business activities and an evaluation of the Nigerian security situation and its implications for business and sustainable development. Finally, in consonance with the call on everyone by government, to contribute to the war against insecurity, the paper proposes a security management model that could assist in managing security challenges in the country.

1. The Concept of Insecurity

The concept of insecurity would be best understood by first presenting the concept of security. In the view of Akin (2008) security refers to “the situation that exists as a result of the establishment of measures for the protection of persons, information and property against hostile persons, influences and actions”. It is the existence of conditions within which people in a society can go about their normal daily activities without any threats to their lives or properties. It embraces all measures designed to protect and safeguard the citizenry and the resources of individuals, groups, businesses and the nation against sabotage or violent occurrence (Ogunleye, et al, 2011). According to Igbuzor (2011) it demands safety from chronic threats and protection from harmful disruption.

Security however, can be described as stability and continuity of livelihood (stable and steady income), predictability of daily life (knowing what to expect), protection from crime (feeling safe), and freedom from psychological harm (safety or protection from emotional stress which results from the assurance or knowing that one is wanted, accepted, loved and protected in one’s community or neighbourhood and by people around. It focuses on emotional and psychological sense of belonging to a social group which can offer one protection). This description structured the concept of security into four dimensions. However, these dimension can be weaved together to give a composite definition of security as the protection against all forms of harm whether physical, economic or psychological. It is generally argued however that security is not the absence of threats or security issues, but the ability to rise to the challenges posed by these threats with expediency and expertise.

Insecurity on the other hand, is the antithesis of security. However, because of the very many ways in which insecurity affects human life and existence, the concept of insecurity has usually been ascribed different interpretations in association with the various ways which it affects individuals. Some of the common descriptors of insecurity include: want of safety; danger; hazard; uncertainty; want of confidence; doubtful; inadequately guarded or protected; lacking stability; troubled; lack of protection; and unsafe, to mention a few. All of these have been used by different people to define the concept of insecurity. These different descriptors, however, run into a common reference to a state of vulnerability to harm and loss of life, property or livelihood. Beland (2005) defined insecurity as “the state of fear or anxiety stemming from a concrete or alleged lack of protection.” It refers to lack or inadequate freedom from danger. This definition reflects physical insecurity which is the most visible form of insecurity, and it feeds into many other forms of insecurity such as economic security and social security.

Two views are of essence to this paper. These are (1) Insecurity as the state of being open or subject to danger or threat of danger, where danger is the condition of being susceptible to harm or injury, and (2) Insecurity as the state of being exposed to risk or anxiety, where anxiety is a vague unpleasant emotion that is experienced in anticipation of some misfortune. A major point about insecurity implied in these definitions is that those affected by insecurity are not only uncertain or unaware of what would happen but they are also not able to stop it or protect themselves when it happens. It is in this view that we would describe insecurity in this paper as: ‘not knowing, a lack of control, and inability to take defensive action against forces that portend harm or danger to an individual or group, or what make them vunerable’. ‘Vunerability’ is the situation that we do not know and we cannot face or anticipate. It is also something we may know would happen but we are not able to face it.

2. Sources of Insecurity in Nigeria

To tackle insecurity, a key starting point should be to understand the causes of insecurity as well as to investigate their sources of social disorder and instability. As Andrew and Kennedy (2003) pointed out, it is necessary to distinguish between different causes as each may require different remedy. Besides, it is to provide a holistic view to the suggestion or recommendations of solutions. More often, however, policy makers are disinclined to isolate and clarify particular causes. They prefer blanket references, with the consideration that the causes of insecurity are interwoven and contributory to one another. Like in many other societies, the sources of insecurity in Nigeria have been traced to a number of factors and explained by different people. These factors have been classified or grouped into external and internal factors. Beyond the external-internal dichotomy, sources of insecurity have also been classified as either remote or proximate and immediate sources/causal factors. In Nigeria, the challenge is not so much about insecurity of external sources, but rather that of internal sources. Hence, our focus in this paper is on the internal sources. We recognize that some internal factors have been enhanced and strengthened by the presence of external forces, but, there is no doubt that, if the internal situations did not present themselves, the external forces would be unable to infiltrate. We present the internal causes of insecurity in Nigeria using the dichotomy of remote and immediate factors.

Journal of Economics and Sustainable Development ISSN Remote (Root) factors

2.1.1 Lack of institutional capacity resulting in government failure

This result from what Fukuyama (2004) described as the corrosion or breakdown of institutional infrastructures. The foundations of institutional framework in Nigeria are very shaky and have provoked a deterioration of state governance and democratic accountability, thus, paralyzing the existing set of constraints including the formal and legitimate rules nested in the hierarchy of social order. Evidently, as Igbuzor (2011) observed, the state of insecurity in Nigeria is greatly a function of government failure, or can be linked to government failure. This is manifested by the incapacity of government to deliver public services and to provide for basic needs of the masses. The lack of basic necessities by the people in Nigeria has created a pool of frustrated people who are ignited easily by any event to be violent. The argument here, is that, Nigeria has the resources to provide for the needs of its people, but corruption in public offices at all levels has made it impossible for office holders to focus on the provision of basic needs for the people. Hazen and Horner (2007) described the Nigerian situation as a ‘Paradox of Plenty’. A situation where the country earns a great deal of revenue through oil sales, but fails to use these earnings to meet the needs of its people and to develop infrastructure as well as the economy. When these situations exist, crime rate is bound to rise and the security of lives and properties cannot be guaranteed.

2.1.2 Pervasive material inequalities and unfairness

Greater awareness of disparities in life chances is a major root cause of insecurity in Nigeria. This is a rooted general perception of inequality and unfairness which has resulted in grievance by a large number of people. This perception stems from the perception of marginalization by a section of the people, government development policies and political offices and this has become a primary source of disaffection and resentment. As noted by Onuoha (2011) a large number of the Nigeria population is frustrated and have lost hope, especially the youths, and have now emerged to express their disillusion about the pervasive state of inequality.

2.1.3 Ethno-religious conflicts

These have arisen from distrust among various ethnic groups and among the major religions in the country. Ibrahim and Igbuzor (2002), Hazen and Horner, (2007), Salawu (2010) and Igbuzor, (2011) identified ethno-religious conflict as a major source of insecurity in Nigeria. Ethno-religious conflict was defined as a situation in which the relationship between members of one ethnic or religious group and another of such group in a multi-ethnic and multi-religious society is characterized by lack of cordiality, mutual suspicion and fear, and a tendency towards violent confrontation. Frequent and persistent ethnic conflicts and religious clashes between the two dominant religions (Islam and Christianity), present the country with a major security challenge. In all parts of Nigeria, there exist ethno-religious conflicts and these according to Ibrahim and Igbuzor (2002) have emerged as a result of new and particularistic forms of political consciousness and identity often structured around ethno-religious identities. The claim over scarce resources, power, land, chieftaincy, local government, councils, control of markets and sharia among other trivial issues have resulted in large scale killings and violence amongst groups in Nigeria (Adagba, et al, 2012).

2.1.4 Conflict of Perceptions between the public and government

Over the years, there has been a standing mismatch between public and government perceptions. A situation which often result in the reactions of the public to the excesses of the military regimes which governed Nigeria and has continued after the end of military regimes and created a sensitivity by those in government at public intrusion in matters of state. Frequently, on any given incident, public and government reactions diverge. In such situations, the media has never helped matters. Media practices have always focused on the dramatic and the spectacular view of the given situations. Such reports have always been capitalized on in sophisticated ways by various groups, some of which are violent to incite public clamour for a change and immediate reaction through strategically provocative violence. The point here is that the approach of media report over the years has contributed to exacerbate insecurity or perception of insecurity in Nigeria. President Jonathan alluded to this situation when he made reference to the popular axiom that the pen is mightier than the sword. In his statement, “the sword is used to kill and destroy but what we use the pen to do is also very critical. When you have a society with these unending political conflicts, it is there on the media whether print, electronic or social media and this brings a lot of insecurity to the system” (Bello and Oyedele, 2012).

2.1.5 Weak Security system

This results from inadequate equipment for the security arm of government, both in weaponry and training. This is in addition to poor attitudinal and behavioural disposition of security personnel. In many cases, security personnel assigned to deal with given security situations lack the expertise and equipment to handle the

situations in a way to prevent them from occurring. And even when these exist, some personnel get influenced by ethnic, religious or communal sentiment and are easily swallowed by their personal interest to serve their people, rather than the nation. Thus, instead of being national watch dogs and defending national interest and values, and protecting people from harm by criminals, they soon become saboteurs of government effort, by supporting and fuelling insecurity through either leaking vital security information or aiding and abetting criminals to acquire weapons or to escape the long arm of the law.

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This article is published under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License 4.0

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