May 27, 2012

Security and Life Pattern in Jos

If you have been away from Jos in the last seven years at least, you will be astonished with the degree with which the poor security situation in the country has reshaped life in the city. Previously the major security challenge in Nigeria had been due, largely, to activities of armed bandits. The emergence of militias in the Niger Delta and their modes of operation which involves the kidnap of ‘lucrative’ victims in return for monetary compensation from their family or the oil companies they work for, led criminal gangs to realize that kidnapping is a far better option to making money than outright robbery. Thus kidnapping replaced armed robbery as a major security concern in the country. The next security challenge that emerged after kidnapping is linked to ethno-religious conflicts in many parts of the country. Then came Boko Haram that started by fighting members of the Nigerian Police Force, then other Muslims who don’t buy their idea of Islam, then government agents and finally the general public. In Jos, security issues had centered mainly on ethno-religious fighting. With the gradual spread of the activities of Boko Haram fundamentalist Muslims to other parts of Nigeria however, it has became obvious that the activities of this religious fundamentalists has become a second security issue in Jos where several incidences of bomb attacks have been recorded.
The conflict in Jos has led to segregation of Christians and Muslims in residential areas, markets and schools. Above all, there exists a strong absence of trust among members of these two religious groups. As the activities of Boko Haram gradually spread from the North-Eastern part of the country, where it originated, to other parts of the country, it has affected life in Jos too. While ethnic and religious conflicts have often led to the deployment of Joint Task Forces (JTF) who mount roadblocks on the highways, the fear of surprise attacks by Boko Haram members have modified the nature of the security check points erected along the roads. At the roadblocks currently, protective walls made by piling up sand bags are very common. The walls narrow the road compelling motorists to drive slowly and causing long traffic queues. You are not a patient man, you cannot drive in Jos especially during late hours when people are coming back from their offices.
Since Boko Haram members are known to make their quick get-away on motorbikes after launching attacks, police have come up with an order mandating all riders of motorbikes and their passengers to disembark and push their bikes with the engines shut down at such roadblocks. If you are coming to town and unaware of this new rule, you will be greatly astonished if not frightened by the large population of persons dragging motorbikes with passengers trekking along with them at certain locations.
The poor security situation has led to worsening poverty in Jos too. Due to incessant security problems in Jos-North, Jos-South, Riyom and Barkin Ladi Local Government Areas, President Goodluck Jonathan declared a state-of-emergency in the areas. What the public don’t understand however, is the refusal of the Federal Government to release monthly subventions these are entitled to since the declaration. The result is that nothing happens in these local councils of the affected local government areas. If you are a staff of any of these councils, you have to find money elsewhere to take care of yourself.
The fear of Boko Haram, has led to the closure roads leading to churches with huge stones on Sundays. Once these roads are closed, you can never use them until the worships are over. Church members are also mandated to park their vehicles far away from the church location and finishing the completing the journey to church on foot. On a humorous note, this could be said to have worked against persons who come to church merely to show off the expensive vehicles they own. The directive coming from the state security council followed the third incidence of congregational attacks within five months by persons claiming to be Boko Haram members in Jos. Armed soldiers are also posted to major church premises while Sunday church services last.
Commercial vehicles in Jos are often apprehensive of loading their vehicles with goods fearing that some may contain concealed explosive materials.
After second bomb incidence at football viewing centers, police have also banned football viewing centers in the city.
At banks, people have to be inspected thoroughly before getting in and bags must be placed very far away from the buildings.
The presence of members of the JTF has affected the manner of delivery of justice in Jos with bitter consequences. Members of the public who are fed up with Nigeria’s often distrustful and unsatisfying path to justice have resorted to engaging members of the JTF to settle disagreements that are usually centered on money. Recently, a soldier beat up a culprit to death. The victim was reported to the soldier by his own sibling. When irate youths tried to react, the soldier opened fire in self-defense, killing more persons.
Huge gatherings especially in late hours are seldom common in Jos these days as they could provide the right atmosphere for the killing of many, using explosive materials. Thus the status of the Jos Township Stadium and Polo Field as host venues for huge gatherings has also changed.
It is sad to see how the lifestyle in Jos is changing. It is the beginning and many fear how it will end, whether pleasant or otherwise especially seeing how the federal government has demonstrated gross incompetence at handling the security problem across the nation as a whole.

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