A call to reflect on the challenge of insecurity and development in Nigeria

Apr 14, 2016

By Fatma Samoura, Resident Representative, UNDP Nigeria

On this day two years ago, suspected Boko Haram militants raided Government Secondary School – Chibok in Borno state of Nigeria abducting more than 200 girls in the process.  To date, most of these girls are yet to be traced and rescued. But even some of those who were rescued, especially those who fell pregnant as a result of forced marriage to their abductors, were never fully re-integrated into society, adding to their trauma. This, and other manifestations of human insecurity, including militancy in the Niger delta, highlight the critical challenge of insecurity and its impact on development that the country still has to grapple with. Nigeria’s 2016 National Human Development Report (NHDR), due for release later this month, focuses on the imperative of Human Security and Human Development with the specific aim of providing more nuanced policy propositions on the critical relationship between the two.  

At the global level, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) has been advocating this critical linkage since the 1990s. Indeed in the 1994 Global Human Development Report, UNDP called attention of world leaders; policy and decision makers; academicians; development partners; and other stakeholders at all levels to the imperative of a people-centered concept of human security. It was argued then that human security is about how people live and breathe in a society; how safely and freely they can exercise their many choices; how much access they have to markets and social opportunities; whether they live in conflict or peace; and how confident they can feel that the opportunities they enjoy one day will not be totally lost the next.  In essence, the overriding case then was that human security remains the cornerstone of human development.

In releasing the Nigeria 2016 NHDR, it is important to underscore that the impetus derives from the well-researched position that has placed human security in the upper matrix of human development. Unchecked poverty; persistent hunger; lack of access to basic services; disregard for human rights; sub-optimal response to natural and man-made disasters; unfettered natural resources exploitation and use – among others, pose serious risks to human development today. The 2016 report posits that there is a dialectical relationship between human development and human security and that whichever way we look at it, human security is a public good and a fundamental human right to which everyone is entitled.   

One of the key findings in the 2016 report is that although the rebased Gross Domestic Product (GDP) per capita increased from US$2,258 in 2010 and to US$2,689 in 2012, it remains the fact that a vast majority of the people are insecure in economic terms. The report highlights the fact that the general sense of human security in Nigeria is mainly constrained by economic access threats, high unemployment rates and low perceptions around job security. It implies that individual choices of sufficient and predicable income ought to be guaranteed because economic security at the personal and societal levels is an important factor in human security. Indeed, some of the most noted perception threats to economic security are the need to offer bribes in order to obtain a service; the inability to pay for one’s children’s or for one’s own education and being unable to support oneself. It is thus clear that the lack of predictable and sufficient incomes hinders people’s sense of security.  On the other hand, matters such as a poor state of health and inaccessibility of services inhibit ability and capacity for enhanced personal development. The report therefore recommends the need to improve the health sector by making facilities more accessible and services more affordable for the people. Moreover, quality service delivery that could have set the virtuous circle of human security and development in motion has been compromised by corruption that diverts resources for national development into private hands.     

In terms of food security and when viewed from a gender lens, the main finding of the report is that the threat to security in the food domain is higher amongst women, thereby underscoring the critical role of women as homemakers. Nevertheless, it appears that more males than female expect a general threat in the food domain in terms of low crop yield and decreased local production; itself an indication of the differing gender roles where men lead families in agricultural activities and food provision as opposed to women.  In terms of the environment the report finds a general low human security index. It is in fact not entirely surprising that from the national computation, more than half of the population do not have access to potable water and sanitation, an indication of the threat to their security in the environment domain .

With respect to the overall Human Development Index (HDI), there can be no gain-saying that a low Human Security Index (HSI), an innovative and comprehensive index computed and presented at sub-national level in this report for the very first time, leads to a low HDI. A good example is in the fact that the fear of kidnapping as a threat was seen to be more prevalent in the South-South zone, while the fear of armed robbery was prominent among all urban respondents. It implies that for as long as kidnapping and other related organised crimes have been attributed to poverty and social inequality, the national challenge is to have policies geared towards employment creation, poverty reduction and inclusive growth. Indeed, the report suggests that reduced crime rates will lead to improved human security in the personal and community domains while increased female participation in parliament will help engender inclusive representation and growth which are key components of the HDI. On a national scale, it would seem that the North-East geo-political zones lags other zones in most of the domains of human security, due, in large part, to the dire consequence of Boko Haram insurgency and poverty.

It is important to acknowledge that, as is the usual practice, the 2016 NHDR is the outcome of independent intellectual work supported by UNDP Nigeria Country Office. At UNDP Nigeria Country Office, we consider the report a timely intervention that should stimulate the robust application of the human security framework in the human development approach at all levels of Nigeria’s body polity. In particular, we hope that in presenting this approach, and especially in shifting the security discourse from over-concentration on the traditional notion of national security characterized by heavy investments in military preparedness and response to focusing more on broader and holistic dimensions that sustain the security of individuals and communities, policy and decision makers, as well as development practitioners, will appreciate the intricate link between human security and human development.  Most of all, we hope that recommendations made in the report will contribute to the evolution of a holistic approach to the challenge of human security and the on-going processes of national policy development and implementation and thereby lead to the great promise that the Nigerian nationhood has always held since independence.