The Imperative of Social Security

in Time of Insecurity in Nigeria

Charles Nnamdi Olise1, Ikechukwu Eke Emeh2

Abstract: The Nigerian state has been having insecurity challenges at different times since independence but the recent wave of insecurity has taken different and outrageous dimension. Today, loss of lives and properties in the hands of insurgents are no longer news because we have lost count with the numbers of deaths. With the combined efforts of agitation for regional secession, religion extremism cum insurgency, and herder/farmers clashes, the Nigeria society has been soaked with blood of defenseless civilians massacred in their homes. Unfortunately, despite huge national budget committed to this menace in response to recommendations of many studies towards tackling state insecurity in Nigeria that include increment of defense allocation and regional and international assistance, the result has been disappointing. But anchored on the social contract theory, this study posits that with effective social security administration, state insecurity will be drastically reduced in Nigeria because state insecurity is driven by local grievances of poor governance and lack of economic opportunities, among others. This position was derived from data generated from secondary sources and analyzed with the content analysis approach. The paper thus, recommended among others that Nigeria government should spends more on social security and less on state security.

Keywords: insecurity; state security; Social Security; insurgency poor governance


The ugly tales of death in the hands of Boko Haram insurgent sect and Fulani herdsmen in the Northern and middle belt part of Nigeria alongside kidnapping in south-east and western region, without commensurate action by the government of the day has not only made it look as if security is no longer the prime responsibility of government but also questioned the efficacy and primacy of the Section 14 (2) of the 1999 constitution of Nigeria that states that “the security and welfare of the people are the primary purpose of the government”. Unfortunately, government seem to have fallen short of this constitutional responsibility by not providing a secured and safe environment for lives, properties and the conduct of business and economic activities in Nigeria. Besieged by all sorts of problems including insecurity of lives of properties, spiral unemployment, mass poverty, urban violence, environmental degradation and social instability, among others, the country is in deep trouble (Akpomera, cited in Ewatan 2014; Nwagwu, 2014).

The frightening tempo of insecurity in Nigeria has fuelled criminal and terrorists attacks in different parts of the country, with unpalatable consequences for the growth of the nation’s economy. The nefarious activities Boko Haram sect, Fulani cattle herders, kidnappers, ritual killers and even the yahoo boys in Nigeria has become a hydra headed monster which security agents appear incapable of handling giving the fear that has enveloped the entire country today (Ewetan, 2014). Scholars have attributed diverse reasons for insecurity upswing in Nigeria to include–hunger, anger, desperation, poverty, unemployment, inequality, leadership problem and Political issues (Adesina, 2013; Nwagwu, 2014; Dantala, 2014; Herbert & Husaini, 2018).

Unfortunately, measures to address the threat of insecurity by the federal government which saw huge allocations made to security by successive administrations and the present government (Ewetan, 2013), have not yielded desired result because the level of insecurity in the country is still high, and a confirmation of this is the low ranking of Nigeria in the Global Peace Index (GPI, 2018).

This study therefore seeks answers to the following questions:

  1. What are the root causes of insecurity in Nigeria?;

  2. Has the financial implication of executing the war against insecurity in Nigeria drifted government attention away from core developmental challenges of hunger and poverty, unemployment and lack of opportunities, inequality, dearth of social infrastructure and social security to the aged, vulnerable and needy in the society?;

  3. Will more attention to issues of governance that address core developmental challenges of hunger and poverty, unemployment and lack of opportunities, inequality, dearth of social infrastructure and lack of social security to the aged, vulnerable and needy in the country abate or end insecurity in Nigeria?.


Boko Haram insurgency, Fulani herdsmen attacks, kidnapping, armed robbery and ritual killings are some of the securities challenges in Nigeria. This study is about those perpetrating these criminal activities. Unfortunately, it is very difficult to have access to the Boko Haram members, Fulani herders, kidnappers and armed robbers to get information from them on their reasons for the persisting attacks on innocent defenseless civilian Nigerians. Alternatively, we made use of already-made information available on the internet, journal articles, magazines, newspapers and the news. These data were analyzed with the content analysis approach. This approach enabled us to systematically review other works carried out on insecurity and social security and arrive at the results.

Review of Extant Literature

Review of relevant literature is executed under the following sub-themes.

The Concept of Insecurity and its Implications in Nigeria

The concept of insecurity belongs to the legion of social science concepts that have no universally adopted definition. As a result of this, various scholars have conceptualized it differently. However, for better understanding of the term insecurity, it is important to shade light on the term “security”. Most of the mainstream writings on security studies literally defined it in terms of a state’s capabilities to defend its territorial integrity from threats, actual and imagined, as well as acts of aggression from other potential enemies (Okwori, 1995). Hettne (2010) defines it “as a reasonable level of predictability at different levels of the social system, from local communities to the global level”. Insecurity, just like, security, connotes different meanings such as: absence of safety; danger; hazard; uncertainty; lack of protection, and lack of safety. According to Beland (2005) insecurity is a state of fear or anxiety due to absence or lack of protection. Achumba, Ighomereho & Akpor-Robaro (2013) defines insecurity from two perspectives. First, insecurity is 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. Secondly insecurity is the state of being exposed to risk or anxiety, where anxiety is a vague unpleasant emotion that is experienced in anticipation of some misfortune. These definitions of insecurity underscore a major point that those affected by insecurity are not only uncertain or unaware of what would happen but they are also vulnerable to the threats of dangers when they occur. These dangers and threats happen within a society.

While Ali, (2013) asserts that insecurity in Nigeria has notably been on the increase and this has been compounded by the rising waves of militancy, terrorism and other social vices such as kidnapping, ritual killings, etc since the country returned to democratic rule in 1999, Ewetan (2014), contends that security challenges in Nigeria can be traced to the early years of military rule when large quantities of arms were imported into the country for the use of the military during and after the Nigerian civil war, some of which got into the hand of the civilians. Soon after the civil war these arms were used by civilians and ex-military men for mischievous purposes such as armed robbery. There was also the army of unemployed youths some of whom lost their jobs during the civil war. Simply put, insecurity assumed dangerous dimensions in the prolonged years of military rule beginning from 1970 during which people procure arms and light weapons for personal defence, however, the early days of civilian return to governance in 1999 saw most of these arms and light weapons got into the hands of unemployed youths who used them for deviant purposes after they have been used and dumped by politicians with unscrupulous mindset. While some researchers have attributed youth violence to peer group influence and other psychological factors associated with growing up, others emphasized the impact of political and economic factors such as ethnic agitation, political agitation, unemployment, Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP) as triggers of violent reaction among the youth (Source).

According to Edukugho (2012), there are different forms of insecurity in Nigeria. In the South-West geo-political zone, armed robbery is prevalent especially in cities like Lagos, Ibadan, Akure and Abeokuta; in the South-South and South- East which is the oil base of the nation, kidnapping is rampant and the activities cover every part of the zone with victims of all ages and all walks of life; in the North, robbery across the border coupled with Boko Haram insurgence are the security challenges.

Fear of insecurity have continued to haunt all inhabitants of Nigeria as it is dawning on Nigerians that government may not effectively guarantee the security of lives and properties. The state security agents who are saddled with the responsibility for the security of lives and properties (the police, DSS, the military, immigration, and prison service have all performed abysmally in the discharge of their duties. The reason for their failure may have been captured by Agomuo (2013) when he asserted

At different times in the past, different groups have held the Nigerian nation to ransom. In each of these times, the groups reigned, the nation’s security agencies were unable to deal with them or quell their lawless conduct through superior fire power. Sadly, the government has always reached a form of settlement with these organizations. The unfortunate trend is that each time the government reached a compromise with these lawless groups, it became weaker and new groups emerged to use violent means to extract a commitment from government (Agomuo, 2013).

The assertion above by Agomuo did not only reveal the reasons for the failure of government in protecting the lives and properties of the citizenry but also the implications of government responding to the demands of lawless groups. Most of these lawless groups which are always handful members of the society which engage in different social vices in order to draw the attention of the public and government emerged as a result of government giving in to the demands of already existing groups. This however not only encourage the emergence of lawless groups but unfortunately compel the government to expend the resources which would have been deployed on social security to few persons (lawless group members) at the expense of the masses.

The incessant crime, violence and insecurity in Nigeria have been aligned with unemployment menace among the youths. Confirming this inference, Nnadozie (2014) pointed out that “because of the absence of decent jobs, many of our youths are compelled to indecent lives, sometimes as hardened and violent criminals or just thugs available to be rented as assassins or drafted into ethnic and criminal clashes”. Re- affirming this assertion, Ude (2010) stated that unemployed youth have been scripted into ethnic armies and militias such as the Odua People’s Congress (OPC), Movement for the Actualization of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB), the Egbesu Boys and the Arewa People’s Congress (APC), among others.

The obvious fact is that Nigeria as a country experiences an increasing unemployment rate which falls heavily on the youths. The same youths are most viable machinery to execute any form of social vices and insecurity. The inability of the government to provide social security (employment opportunities) as well as enabling environment for the youths to develop and utilize their entrepreneurial skills has consigned the youths to a severe poverty and vulnerable state. This invariably creates the pull of resources for any lawless group to explore. This conforms to the view of Burgoon (2006) who described social security as the provision of health care, education, and employment which goes a long way in reducing poverty, general insecurity, political and religious extremism, thereby reducing the tendency for violent militancy in a society.

Mu’azu in Ikezue and Ezeah (2015) argued that result of these situations are clearly the failure of governance; a complacent security regime and absence of strong culture that enables citizens to make effective demands on their rulers. While Mu’azu also contended that, "the conspicuous consumption of the ruling elite, the culture of impunity that reigns across the land and the unconscionable recruitment of the youth into violent gangs serving as political thugs, with the active backing of those in power, contribute to the security challenges Nigeria is going through.

On the implications paradigm, the insecurity upheaval in Nigerian has tremendously affected virtually all facets of the country ranging from economy, social, health, political etc. There are also the associated effects of insecurity which include fear, coercion, displacement and deprivation of basic daily needs such as drinking-water, food and health care. Human security entails access to food, nutrition, clean drinking water, hygiene and sanitation and housing which could only be got through peace. For instance, displaced populations are subject to a variety of health risks and are prone to a high mortality rate. This is largely because they are dispossessed of food, clean water, proper sanitation, and possibilities of providing economic security for themselves. Malnutrition, overcrowding, and lack of sanitation frequently combine to facilitate the emergence of epidemics of transmissible disease in such populations. Often, children and the elderly are the groups most susceptible to death from such causes. Thus, where basic conditions of peace and development are met, good health can be attained as part of human security (Meddings, 2001; Ghobarah, Huth and Russett, 2004; Mori, Meddling & Bettcher 2004; Bhadelia, 2005).

On the aspect of Nigerian economy, the productive aspect of most manufacturing business depends largely on the availability and regular supply of raw materials for production. Insecurity has cut off the supply of such raw materials hence, jeopardizing production activities. Besides this, insecurity affects marketing of finished product as there is a continuous exodus from areas of insecurity. There is also an increase in security spending as most business organizations operating in Nigeria spend a lot in maintaining private security outfits. The destruction of their business building, properties and equipment is tantamount to loss of capital which has ruined not a few businesses in Nigeria. Thus, security is critical for the nation’s development and its absence means that economic growth and development cannot be achieved (Achumba, et al, 2013).

Nigeria has been losing an estimated 600,000 barrels of crude oil daily to oil bunkering activities. This volume amounts to about N3.7 trillion per year (The Punch, May 20, 2011). This illegal activity has been compounded by kidnapping of foreign expatriates. This kidnapping that has become rather rampant in recent times has forced investors, businessmen and manufacturing companies to relocate to other peaceful cities in Nigeria or even to leave the country entirely. In Aba for example, the Nigeria Breweries Limited (NBL), Seven- Up PLC, UNILEVER PLC, Paterson Zochonis (PZ) PLC relocated to Enugu largely due to constant kidnapping of their expatriate staff (Nwagboso, 2012). Thus the decline in foreign investment in Nigeria as a result of insecurity when combined with the effects of global economic showdown has caused the closing down of tens of thousands of factories in Nigeria (Omoyibo and Akpomera, 2012).

Erstwhile Approaches towards Resolving Insecurity in Nigeria

The Nigerian state has witnessed superfluity of security challenges, especially since the inception of democracy in 1999, leading to loss of lives, properties and scores of deaths of innocent civilians, foreigners, some members of the nation’s security personnel, elected officials and many government workers. The number of violent crimes such as kidnappings, ritual killings, carjacking, suicide bombings, religious killings, politically-motivated killing and violence, ethnic clashes, armed banditry, insurgency and others has increasingly become the regular signature that characterizes life in Nigeria (Onifade, Imhonopi and Urim, 2013). In response to the incessant cases of insecurity in all parts of the country, successive administrations have adopted different approaches to tackle this menace. These approaches range from dialogue and institutionalization of agencies to counterterrorism. In response to Boko Haram insurgency, for instance, the state had adopted a military approach to the management of menace. Aghedo, and Osumah (2014) opined that since 2010, the coalition fighting the “War on Boko Haram” in Nigeria has broadened to include vigilantes known as the Civilian Joint Task Force (CJTF), the Multi-national Joint Task Force (MJTF) (comprising troops from Nigeria, Niger Republic, Chad, and Cameroon), and Nigeria’s Joint Task Force (JTF). The European Union and other Western allies have also been supportive of the country’s counterinsurgency measures. For instance, the US alone gives US $3 million (Nigerian Naira 480 million) annually to Nigeria as security assistance in addition to other technical and logistical support (Levan, 2013).

There has also been financial allotment approach. To address the threat to national security and combat the increasing waves of crime the federal government in the last couple of years has made a consistent huge allocation to security in the national budget. In line with this, Onime, (2018) asserted that the federal government through its annual budgets have continued to vote huge allocation to the recurrent component of internal security, military personnel and apparatus. In combating the waves of insecurity in Niger Delta region, government has adopted both institutionalization of agency approach and military approach. Several intervention institutions and programmes initiated and implemented by the government such as the Oil Mineral Producing Area Development Commission (OMPADEC) and Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), to address the problem of the Niger Delta. Undoubtedly, both OMPADEC and NDDC performed below expectations. Consequently, the government resorted to other measures to bring enduring peace in the region (Nwagboso, 2018), but before then, the Federal Government had launched a massive military crackdown on militants (Amaizu. 2008). Thus, the military patrolled waterways, hunted for militants, searched all civilian boats for weapons and raided numerous hideouts in the region. Also, on May 15, 2009 (the following year), a military operations undertaken by the Joint Task Force (JTF), was put in place by the federal government against members of the movement for emancipation of Niger Delta (MEND), and their affiliates in the region (Onoyume, 2008).

The issue of kidnapping that was peculiar with South-east and south-south part of Nigeria, but this has spread across all nooks and cranny of the nation has compounded already escalated insecurity in the country. In contending with this act, the federal government and some state governors have deployed hardened and military approach. Nwagboso, (2018) reported that in remedying the challenges posed by kidnapping in the South-East geo-political zone, the Federal Government of Nigeria, on passionate request of the Abia State Government, deployed soldiers to Aba metropolis. In the same vein, Anambra state government employed outright demolition of houses and properties associated with any kidnapper.

Federal government has also approached the insecurity issue in Nigeria through legislation and programmes. While the Niger Delta crisis necessitated the initiation of Amnesty program, the Herdsmen and farmers conflict birthed the launching of Anti Graze law and proposed RUGA that had generated hug controversies nationwide. There was also the enactment of Anti-Terrorism Act in 2011 by national assembly (Ewetanand Urhie, 2014).

Despite the plethora of security measures taken to address the daunting challenges of insecurity in Nigeria, government efforts have not produced the desired positive result; perhaps with the exception of the Amnesty programme in the Niger Delta region.

Social Security in Nigeria: Some Explications

Like other socio-economic concepts, the meaning of the term “social security” varies in scope from country to country because of their political ideologies. For example, social security in the socialist countries implies complete protection to every citizen of this country from the cradle to the grave. In other countries that are relatively less regimented, social security refers to measures of protection afforded to the needy citizens by means of schemes evolved by democratic processes consistent with resources of the State (Chand nd).

According to a definition given in the International Labour Organization (ILO) publication’, “Social security is the conglomerate of the safety measures that a given society establishes through appropriate organization against certain risks to which its members are exposed. These risks are essentially contingencies of life which the individuals of small means cannot effectively provide by their abilities, or foresight alone or even in private combination with other fellow citizens in the same societal strata”. This definition of social security may have spurred Iroabuchi’s (2009) assertion that social security is a human right, as well as an economic and political necessity. Therefore, as an efficient market economy, Nigeria has embraced social security as an indispensible part of its institutions towards enhanced societal advancement. Its main focus is to clamp down on poverty. However, the government efforts on social security have proven to be inadequate to compare to state security outflow. In the words of Nwabueze (1989), social security is about the social protection, (organized collective protection) of the individual against the economic uncertainties such as - loss or suspension of income, poverty, want, destitution, etc- arising from certain social risks of life such as sickness, maternity, invalidity, death resulting from non-occupational injury or disease, old-age, occupational injury and unemployment.

Semantically, social security is a public provision for the economic and sometimes social welfare of the aged, unemployed, etc, especially through pensions and other monetary assistances. It is a government programme designed to provide such assistances. In the United Kingdom (UK), for instance, social security is a monetary assistance from the state to the people with an inadequate or no income. In United States of America (USA), it is a federal insurance scheme providing benefits for pensioners and those who are unemployed or disabled. It is defined as the theory or/and practice of providing economic security and social welfare for the individual through government programs maintained by moneys from public taxation. It is a program in which the government provides money to people who are unable to work because they are old, disabled, or unemployed. Simply put, it is money that is paid to people with vulnerable situations through a social security program. Social security is a collective care arrangement to meet contingencies and other conditions of insecurity due to deprivation or contingencies of both. Strategically, it is a collectively collegial arrangement that redeems the person(s) protected against adversity as a result of some social deficiencies (

According to the Social Security (Minimum Standards) Convention (No. 102) adopted by the ILO in 1952, the following are the nine components of social security: (i)Medical care (ii)Sickness benefit (iii)Unemployment benefit (iv)Old age benefit (v)Employment injury benefit (vi)Family benefit (vii)Maternity benefit (viii)Invalidity benefit and (ix) Survivor’s benefit.

In this paper, we concentrated on the unemployment benefit. The reason is young people are more in dire need of social security because they experience higher levels of unemployment than any other age group. In Nigeria, the national unemployment rate for those aged 15 to 25 years is consistently doubled than that of the average national rate for 15 to 64 years of age. The result is the social unrest and crimes of unimaginable dimensions. Again, it is general knowledge that Nigeria is very rich especially in crude oil which gives her a place in global discourse. As former president Goodluck Jonathan once said, Nigeria is not poor but the problem is that the wealth of the country is concentrated in few hands (Pate, 2018) while many lavish in abject poverty; perhaps why Nigeria is currently described as the poverty capital of the world. This wealth inequality that has a lot to do with poverty, hunger and deprivation has something in common with unemployment.

In keeping with Goodluck Jonathan’s conviction that Nigeria is not poor but her wealth distribution is skewed in favour of very few citizens hence wanted to change the situation with his YouWin programme. YOUWIN as his administration’s anchor youth empowerment pragramme stands for Youth Enterprise with Innovation in Nigeria. It was an innovative business plan competition aimed at job creation by encouraging and supporting aspiring entrepreneurial youth in Nigeria to develop and execute business ideas. YOUWIN was collaboration between the Federal Ministries of Finance, Information and Communication Technology, Youth and Sports, Women Affairs and Social Development; the World Bank; and the organized private sector that launched an annual Business Plan Competition (BPC) for aspiring young entrepreneurs in Nigeria, in line with the Federal Government’s drive to create more jobs for Nigerians. The program was implemented in partnership with Nigeria’s private sector and donor agencies that provided funding support to the programme. The main objective of the YOUWIN Programme was to generate jobs by encouraging and supporting aspiring entrepreneurial youths in Nigeria to develop and execute business ideas. The programme provided such youths with a platform to showcase their businesses and business ideas to business leaders, investors and mentors in Nigeria. The YOUWIN provided grants ranging of #1-10,000,000 to selected aspiring entrepreneurs to start business concepts or expand their businesses. It was expected to generate 80,000 to 110,000 new jobs for unemployed Nigerian youths over the three years; provide business training for up to 6,000 aspiring youth entrepreneurs spread across all geo-political zones in Nigeria; encourage expansion, specialization and spin-offs of existing businesses in Nigeria; and enable young entrepreneurs to access a wide business professional network and improve their visibility (

The four years of Goodluck Jonathan administration witnessed another social security (youth empowerment) package termed - The Subsidy Reinvestment and Empowerment Program known as 'SURE-P. The programme sought to re-invest the Federal Government savings from fuel subsidy removal on critical infrastructure projects and social safety net programmes with direct impact on the citizens of Nigeria (New Telegraph, 2015). SURE-P was established on January 2012 when the Federal Government of Nigeria announced the removal of subsidy on Petroleum Motor Spirit (PMS) (Premium Times 2015). The scheme is one of the pivots of Transformation Agenda of the Federal Government. The core objectives of the programme include but not limited to: Provision of employments for unemployed graduates through internship programmes; creating database of unemployed youths and reduce social vulnerability among groups in the country through the mechanism of the policy (Thisday. (2015).

As a way forward, the Buhari Administration launched N-Power as his administration’s youth empowerment flagship programme. This idea was hatched with the conviction that skills and knowledge are the driving forces of economic growth and social development and that despite the current high level of unemployment, harnessing Nigeria’s young demography through appropriate skill development efforts provide an opportunity to achieve inclusion and productivity within the country. Therefore, large-scale skill development is the main policy thrust of the N-Power Programme.

Thus, N-Power is linked to the Federal Government’s policies in the economic, employment and social development arenas as it addresses the challenge of youth unemployment by providing a structure for large scale and relevant work skills acquisition and development while linking its core and outcomes to fixing inadequate public services and stimulating the larger economy. The modular programmes under N-Power will ensure that each participant will learn and practice most of what is necessary to find or create work. The N-Power Volunteer Corp involves a massive deployment of 500,000 trained graduates who will assist to improve the inadequacies in our public services in education, health and civic education. Some of these graduates will also help in actualising Nigeria’s economic and strategic aspirations of achieving food security and self-sufficiency. N-Power is also a platform for diversifying the economy. N-Power is preparing young Nigerians for a knowledge economy where, equipped with world-class skills and certification, they become innovators and movers in the domestic and global markets. Nigeria will have a pool of software developers, hardware service professionals, animators, and graphic artists, building services professionals, artisans and others. N-Power also focuses on providing our non-graduates with relevant technical and business skills that enhance their work outlook and livelihood ( N-power is just one out of the four-broad programmes are the N-Power, Conditional Cash Transfers, National Home-Grown School Feeding and Government Enterprise and Empowerment Programmes (GEEP). Under the GEEP, we have the Farmer Moni, Market Moni and Trader Moni (Olowolagba, 2019). However, apart from the N-power, the other three hardly pass for social security net.

Social Contract Theory and Social Security in Nigeria

The study is anchored on the social contract theory espoused by Thomas Hobbes in his work “Leviathan” in 1651. The theory originated during the Age of Enlightenment and is usually concerned with the legitimacy of the authority of the state over the individual. The Social contract posits that individuals have consented, either explicitly or tacitly, to surrender some of their freedoms and submit to the authority (of the ruler, or to the decision of a majority) in exchange for protection of their remaining rights or maintenance of the social order. This is because law and political order are not natural, but created by humans. The social contract and the political order it creates are simply the means towards the benefit of the individuals involved and legitimate only to the extent that they fulfill their part of the agreement (source).

Unfortunately, governments in Nigeria have variously failed to provide the citizens with the needed security in terms of social amenities and infrastructures as well as jobs. This job inadequacies and lack of social amenities have raised much grievances among the citizens, most of whom have tried to show their grievances by fermenting trouble while others have decided to take what ordinarily belongs to them (collective ownership of the wealth of the nation) by extra-judiciary means. The result is the wanton loss of lives and properties, disruption of the economic, political and even social system.

While, it seems obvious that government has reneged on the social contract, they still have the opportunity to make amends and the social security is the most feasible approach hence a measure of protection afforded to the needy citizens by means of schemes evolved by democratic processes consistent with resources of the state to represent a bonded legitimate agreement between the government and the government. The modus operandi is simple; while citizens handed their mandate via election to the government officials and recognize them as authentic representatives to aid the achievement of their social security and protection, the government on the other hand is obliged to faithfully fulfill the agreement (election promises at least) by providing social security to the people. Fulfillment of this agreement from the part of government goes beyond mere social welfare services provision to full implementation of the components of social security as adopted by ILO in 1952. Therefore, social security and social welfare services need to be coordinated for them to be able to complement each other; hence the latter had so eluded Nigeria (Nwabueze, 1989).

However, breach of this supposedly agreement by the government results to poor governance and unrepresentative government which manifests in social problems such as high rate of unemployment, poverty, poor education and health facilities, political apathy, quest for regional succession, etc. All these breeds grievances through which crimes and insecurity incubates and escalates as it is in contemporary Nigeria.


The result of the study is presented below in line with the research questions posed above

1. Root causes of insecurity in Nigeria

Authors and scholars have avidly expressed their views on what constitute the root cause of insecurity in Nigeria. The driving force, according to Achumba, et al (2013) is that a key starting point of tackling insecurity is to understand the causes of insecurity by investigating the sources of social disorder and instability. This study therefore adumbrated the underlisted as the root cause of insecurity in Nigeria.

Inequality and Social Vulnerability

It is no longer news that there is pervasive material inequality in Nigeria. At least the former president Goodluck Jonathan acknowledged that fact when he averred that Nigeria is not poor but that the only challenge is that her wealth is concentrated in fewer hands, hence the need for wealth redistribution. It is awful that while some few individuals get whatever they want, others go empty handed. In terms of wealth, there are some Nigerians who owns private jets, choice houses and cars whereas the greater majority has no idea of where the next meal is coming from. Take for instance, Yomi Kazeem (2017) documented that each lawmaker cost taxpayers $540,000 to maintain in 2017. While the Nigerian senators earn $55,000 a year in salary, the House of Representatives members earned $42,000. But the big bucks come in form of the generous allowances. Analytically, $540,000 is equal to #189million per year. This sum will pay a man working on the proposed, yet rejected #30,000 minimum wage for 525 years. Even a professor who earns #500,000 a month will only earn #120Milion in 20 years. Add this inequality to the fact we all buy from the same market and face the same social realities. This stark and pervasive inequality will not only lead to frustration but will most definitely lead to social vulnerability, and those subjected to social vulnerability are most likely to indulge in acts of social disorder, otherwise called insecurity.

Dearth of Equity and Social Justice

Equity is concerned with the fair and equitable provision, implementation, and impact of services, programmes, and policies. It heralds the principle that each member of society has a right to be given fair, just, and equitable treatment by the political system in terms of public policies and services. But what is obtainable in Nigeria today is absolute erosion of equity that demonstrates total neglect of social justice. There is untold hardship among the energetic population due to high rate of unemployment especially among graduates. Close to high rate of unemployment is high level of underemployment where graduates teach in private schools with salaries ranging from N5000-15000 monthly under stringent conditions. The inability of government to implement N30, 000 minimum wage for government workers whereas government officials go home with millions of Naira as allowances is another clear case of lack of equity and social justice. This high income parity between politicians and government workers, who have dependents and are exposed to the same economic environments, spells doom for any polity. While grappling with these challenges, the government in its wisdom have increase VAT from 5% to 7% in other to be able to pay N30,000 minimum wage without recourse to the advice of the Emir of Kano for elected and appointed government officials (executive and legislatives) at all levels to slash not only their salaries but also their allowances. The issue of lopsided political appointments that has seen 90% appointment on one ethic group and religion leaning as well as lopsided or/and dearth of development projects will definitely result to mistrust which is a catalyst for insecurity. The rejection of resource control as measure of checking marginalization and the recent Toll gate scheme is nothing but a clear show of disregard for equity and social justice (cite sources on skewed political appointment and tollgate schema).

These facts are also confirmed by Ogungbola’s (2013) contention that it is the scarcity of equity and justice in Nigeria that has essentially increased the threat and danger of crime and violence. Hence quality education is very expensive to get, admission into federal universities is very tough and the hardship that follows passing through the school is thoroughly exhausting-yet those who made it to graduate are without job, once again, joining the millions of Nigerians who are living in poverty. Small scale businesses close down by the day primarily because of high cost spent on generating electricity by the business owners; the leadership of Nigeria has practically denied the masses basic needs to survive especially in this modern age and also gradually normalized ‘pain’ on the populace. The masses are angered and the broad consequence is that, they have to survive through any means available to them, violence and crime are potential options in this situation.

Institutional Capacity Deficiency and Government Ineptitude

Whenever there is a breach of peace and security, tendency for wanton destruction of lives and properties is usually high. This signals a breach of the social contract. And when mechanism put in place to avoid, prevent, reduce, or resolve violent conflicts, and threats that originate from other states, non-state actors, or structural socio-political and economic conditions, people tend to believe that the government has failed the people it is meant to protect and provide for vis-à-vis the failure of the mechanism mentioned above (Kubiat, 2019). But because, it is the government that manages the institutions, when such institutions fail to protect and provide for the people, it is taunted that the institutional capacity is lacking or is deficient. Unfortunately, whenever such institutional capacities are down, the government performs abysmally. The issue of poverty and unemployment are clear issues where government has exerted visible efforts to champion but the expected outcomes have not been realized, despite the establishment of many poverty alleviation programmes like Operation Feed the Nation (OFN); the Green Revolution Programme; the Peoples Bank and Community Banks; Directorate of Food Roads and Rural Infrastructure (DFFRI); Nigerian Agricultural Land Development Authority (NALDA); Family Economic Advancement Programme (FEAP) and Better Life for Rural Women, Family Support Programme (FSP) to support the family as the basic unit of the society in the war against poverty; and National Directorate of Employment (NDE) for unemployment, these issues have remained untamed (Okoye, 2011). Currently, in pursuance of elimination of Boko Haram insurgency, it has been reported that the Nigerian military has resorted to or called for spiritual assistance in the war against terrorism. These facts, when summed up, depict Institutional capacity deficiency and government ineptitude fair and square.

Value System Decay

Indeed, the days when the family had great responsibility of instilling values into their children and wards have fast gone. What we have today is a system where almost anything goes. Onifade, Imhonopi & Urim (2000) contends that the youth have fast abandoned our value system and imbibe the western values. Our value system places high premium on human life and despises greed, oppression and exploitation of the weak. Due to the unnecessary abdication of these values, killings, kidnapping and ritual murder are what we hear almost every now and then. The premium the society once placed on diligence and hard work has dissipated and both old and young ones are engrossed in endless competition for self-enrichment at the detriment of the society. Politicians who are entrusted with the lives and properties of the people to protect, contract youths (the energetic force for the development of the society) to maim, kill, or kidnap political opponents and sometimes to kidnap and bring to them children of the people he is meant to protect for ritual purposes. The youths who are so contracted, fast learn this act of politics and when the political calculations no longer favours them, they form terrorist groups and gangs dishing out mayhem everywhere while their political senior men/friends, ensure that the long arm of the law is shortened towards them.

Again, in the olden days, where our value system was intact, premium was placed on success whose means is clear. People who became rich out of dint of hard work in any sphere of human endeavour that is decent were usually the pride of the society. That was why and when such individuals were honoured with chieftaincy titles. Then, chieftaincy titles were not bought. It was usually a gift of appreciation of diligence and outstanding performance. Today, corruption had ran wide like tornado, piercing through the fiber and fabric of the society to the extent that youths within the age of 20-30 are or want to be driving cars worth millions of Naira when they are not working. Indeed, those working can hardly afford such vehicles, while our politicians’ park assorted choice cars in their many compounds. These acts of bad stewardship of public funds have led youths into get rich quick. This is why, in Nigeria today, killing and kidnapping do no longer resonate surprises but wails of a failed state.

Rural-Urban Drift

Many causes of insecurity in Nigeria are related to the outcome of rural –urban migration. This is because, when many people migrate to and cluster at the metropolitan urban areas, abandoning many opportunities in the non urbanized areas, they come face to face with the reality of the hardship of township and city lives, but such individuals will not want to go back to the rural areas (usually called village) without making it big. As a result, they take to several ungodly acts to make money. To a large extent, these activities are illegitimate and disrupt social orders. Many of such persons do graduate to armed robbers, kidnapers, pocket pilfers, hired killers and ritual killers in quest for money.

Poverty and Hunger as the Cause of Insecurity in Nigeria

There is this saying that a hungry man is an angry man but an angry man who is hungry is very dangerous. Again, it is said that hunger is the greatest weapon of warfare. Unfortunately, Nigerian politicians have up-scaled the use of poverty and hunger as a weapon of political and leadership warfare. Indeed, vast majority of Nigerians are poor and hungry. The elderly and younger ones who are poor and hungry are earnestly depending on the energetic youths to feed them. Unfortunately, these youths lack opportunities to earn a decent living and therefrom attend to their family and social responsibilities. Whenever the pressures to meet their expectations becomes unbearable, the youth, finds how and where to get the means to meet his basic responsibilities. This explains why kidnapping, armed robbery, assassinations, ritual killings and Yahoo ritual killings abound in Nigeria today. Thus, Ibbih (2010) asserts that the consequences of poverty are loss of confidence in the leadership and consequent disrespect for rules, policies and authorities, resulting to social, economic or political violence as we are witnessing in Nigeria today.

Unemployment, Underemployment and Poor Remuneration

Unemployment and poverty among Nigerian youths are major causes of insecurity and violent crimes in Nigeria. Youth’s high unemployment rate has contributed to the rising cases of violent conflict and general insecurity in Nigeria. Indeed the major cause of insecurity in Nigeria is the failure of successive administration to resolve the problems and challenges of unemployment. Imagine 32 million Nigerian youths being unemployed and expect peace and security of lives and properties. While this number is threatening, the undiscussed majority of the youths are the underemployed who are poorly remunerated. Many of our gradates and youths who refuse to be on the street engaging every illicit deals are working in the petrol stations, private secondary, primary and nursery schools as well as bar/restaurants and hotels. These mentioned firms are littered everywhere in Nigeria and majority of them do not pay monthly salary of #10,000 which is about #330 per day. This is obviously less than a dollar per day paid to workers at a time when the government and labour are battling for improvement in the pay level from #18,000 minimum wage to #30,000 minimum wage to reflect global poverty line bracket of $1.7 dollars per day. This kind of situation, be it outright non employment or underemployment, the family and societal pressure is bound to make such individual to get involved in activities that expose the society to danger. If people are selling their kidneys and killing their parents just to make money, then it really will not amount to anything for them to maim or cause security threats for money (Kubiat, 2019).

Political Gerrymandering and Electoral Maneuvering

The end of the first republic on January 14, 1966, and the incursion of the military into governance (at the same date) began a long history of politically motivated violence in Nigeria. Consequently, elections and politics in Nigeria right from 1960s till date have been characterized by violent conflicts, political thuggery, assassinations, and wanton killings and destruction of properties. Nigerian politics has always been characterized by desperation, and violent struggle for political power among politicians; hence breeding insecurity in the country. Politicians in Nigeria want to win elections and remain in office at all cost and this has been responsible for electoral and political violence and general insecurity in Nigeria. This has also led to three major causes of insecurity in Nigeria: Corruption, struggle for resource control and widespread material inequality (Kubiat, 2019). Indeed, corruption has been largely responsible for government failure and breakdown of institutional infrastructures, which has led to large-scale insecurity in Nigeria. Undoubtedly, the state of insecurity in Nigeria is a function of government failure, traceable to widespread corruption. Insecurity correlates with corruption not because money and benefits change hands in an unjust manner, but because it privatizes valuable aspects of public life, bypassing processes of representation, debate, and choice.

As outright theft, and embezzlement of public funds, corruption, hinder Nigeria’s development and threatens the fabric of the Nigeria society. It is responsible for massive unemployment in Nigeria, it is the reason Nigerian youths and entrepreneurs lack power (electricity) to run their businesses and it is the reason many businesses fail. Ultimately, corruption contributes significantly to insecurity in Nigeria by causing unemployment and poverty in Nigeria (Kubiat, 2019).

Religious Intolerance Prompted by Political Ethno-Political Sentiments

According to Kubiat, (2019), it is important to note the diverse ethnic make-up of the country is not on itself a cause of insecurity in Nigeria; however, political and religious elite across the nation sometimes employ ethnic sentiments in order to achieve their selfish ambition. This way, the elites manipulate the consciousness of the people to rouse suspicion and distrust among various ethnic groups and among the major religions in the country causing insecurity in Nigeria. In a multi-ethnic country like Nigeria, the relationship between members of one ethnic or religious and another of such group or religious group ought to be cordial, without mutual suspicion, fear, and a tendency towards violent confrontation.

The frequent and persistent ethnic conflicts and religious clashes between the two dominant religions (Islam and Christianity) is a major cause of insecurity in Nigeria. Due to elite manipulation, and leadership failure in the country, ethno-religious identities have become disintegrative and destructive social elements threatening the peace, and stability; breeding insecurity in Nigeria.

2. High Budgetary Allocations to state Security Negatively Affect Budgetary Allocations for Social Security

The negligence or inadequacy of social security provision by Nigerian government has invariably resulted to heavy allocation and expenditure of resources in the annual budget to the state security which would have been supposedly deployed to other social security components. This is not to say that government has not been investing on social security. Indeed, Nigeria especially between the period of 2011-date has tried various social security schemes such as youwin, sure-p, and N-power; however, these have not been implemented satisfactorily. Instances of alleged embezzlement/misappropriation of funds prevail. Unfortunately, the huge resources expended on the state security in this time of insecurity have not quenched the rising spate of insecurity in Nigeria (Ndujihe, 2018). Below is the Nigerian budget on national security from 2008 to 2018.

Table 1. Allocations to Defence from 2008- 2018


Budget (n)

Allocation to defense



2.213 trn

444.6 billion

20.09 %


3.049 trn

233 billion

7.64 %



264 billion

5.03 %


4.972 trn

348 billion

7.0 %


4.877 trn

921.91 billion

18.90 %


4.987 trn


21.16 %


4.962 trn

968.127 billion

19.51 %


5.068 trn

388.459 billion

7.67 %


6.061 trn

429.128 billion

7.08 %


7.444 trn

465.87 billion

6.26 %


9.12 trn

580.145 billion

6.36 %



6.098 trillion

Source: Ndujihe (2018): FG spends N6trn in 11 years

The huge allocation to defence represents 10.51 percent of the N58.001 trillion appropriate in the past 11 years. The sum of N2.945 trillion (48.30%) or almost half of the hefty budget was spent in 2012, 2013, and 2014. By the end of 2018, President Buhari spent N. 1.864 trillion (30.57%) or more of the 11 years defence budget since coming to power on May 29, 2015. This exclude the request of the president and approval of the National Executive council (NEC) for the sum of one billion dollars (about N350 billion) from the Excess Crude Account (ECA) to buy weapons to confront security challenges, the defence budget in 11 years will rise to N6.5 billion (Ndujihe, 2018).

In the exact words of Nwabueze (1989), the abandonment of social security is the reason for any threat that Nigeria is facing when iterating that the wantonness with which state security is pursued in place of social security is the real cause of social insecurity necessitated by economic insecurity. The dominant attention of the state with “state security” and the neglect of the “Social security” of the citizens evidently show a misrepresentation of priorities. The social security of the individuals ought to be far greater a concern to the government and society than the security of the state, for, as the constitution solemnly proclaims, “the security and welfare of the people shall be the primary purpose of government” S.14 (2)(b). Paradoxically, whatever threat of danger that faces the Nigerian state today seems more from the absence of economic security, particularly economic insecurity arising from mass unemployment (Nwabueze, 1989 cited in Emeh, 2014).

Employment opportunity which is one of the key components of social security is a veritable instrument to poverty reduction and ultimately alleviates the idleness among the youths. All form of insecurity – terrorism, insurgency, kidnapping and armed robbery thrives in any society or part of society where unemployment rate is high. This is due to the fact that there is pool of idle and hungry youths that are willing to accept any financial peanut in order to indulge in any social vices. In other words, high rate of unemployment is a readily machinery for escalation and radicalization of goal(s) of any sect or group. The vitality of employment opportunity and its relevance for curbing down insecurity and improve national development was echoed by one time Nigerian Minister of Employment, Labour and Productivity, Abubakar Umar, who said, “Full employment is …our guarantee of stability, security and balanced economic development” hence our effort as a country should therefore be directed more at fighting the root causes of whatever threat there is to the security of the state. Rotberg (2004) further stressed that when sovereign countries are battered by continuous internal unrest and failure to deliver the basic needs to the populace, the nation tends to fail. Burgoon (2006) described how social welfare policies such as social security, provision of health care, education, and employment would go a long way in reducing poverty, general insecurity, political and religious extremism, thereby reducing the tendency for violent militancy in a society.

The hue and cry of insecurity in Nigeria (that has occasioned loss of lives and properties have been linked to poverty and unemployment) is because of inadequacy of organized social security system that accommodates the needs of the deprived, less opportune and less privileged people (Emeh 2014).Without protection from the state, the individual is left largely to his own devices in the fight against the risks of social life- a situation made worst and confounded by the insecurity of life and property occasioned by a harsh economic environment made manifest in escalated poverty, inequality and unemployment (Nwabueze, 1989).

It suffices to state clearly here that the Nigerian government have made couple of efforts at social security. Between the Goodluck Jonathan administration and this Buhari administration, we have seen two major social security programmes under different nomenclatures. During the era of Goodluck Jonathan YouWin was the flagship empowerment programme whereas during this Buhari era, it is N-Power as the flagship of his Social Intervention Programmes (SIPs).

In terms of financing, while #19.7 billion was released from 2015 to 2018 for the Youwin, the presidential adviser to the President on Social Investment, Mrs. Maryam Uwais disclosed that the 322 million dollars Abacha recovered loot is to be used for the social investment programmes. She however revealed that only 22 million dollars had been utilised by her office. She further revealed that the Federal Government budgets an annual sum of N500 billion for social investment but lamented that while in 2016 only N79.98 billion was released, #140 billion was released in 2017 and N250.4 billion in 2018 (#470.02 b) has been expended on N-Power that carters for 526,000 youths who are currently reaching in government schools across the 774 local governments in Nigeria (Olowolagba, 2019).These figures when compared to the budgetary size for defence between 2016 and 2018 (429.128+465.87+580.145) of #1.474.360 trillion clearly shows that Nigeria spends more on state security and less on social security, yet the security situation in Nigeria has not improved. This figure is without the $1billion the president took from the foreign reserve and it was said that the states gave approval for its deduction to fight Boko Haram insurgency. This call for a paradigm shift to more budgetary allocation to social security than state security

3. Enhanced Social Security Administration will abate Insecurity in Nigeria

The underlying philosophy of social security is that the State shall make itself responsible for ensuring a minimum standard of material welfare to all its citizens on a basis wide enough to cover the main contingencies of life (Chand, N.D). Article 22 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states: Everyone, as a member of society, has the right to social security and is entitled to realization, through national effort and international co-operation and in accordance with the organization and resources of each State, of the economic, social and cultural rights indispensable for his dignity and the free development of his personality (

This assertion and that of section 14 (2) of the 1999 constitution heralds the imperativeness of social security as action programmes of a nation geared towards promoting the welfare of the population through assistance measures, guaranteeing access to sufficient resources for food and shelter and to promote health and well-being for the population at large but especially the potentially vulnerable segments of the population such as children, the elderly, the sick and the unemployed. Hence, social security is a vital element of social stability globally (Bhandari, 2016).

In Nigeria, the social security failure ranges from inability of the common citizens to access quality and affordable education, health facilities, roads, electricity, and enabling environment for business establishment. The corresponding effects of this includes endemic rural and urban poverty, high rate of unemployment, debilitating youth unemployment, low industrial output etc. The absence of projects and other basic needs have been responsible for the increase in economic and social gaps between the rich and the poor, and has led to massive vacuum in infrastructural development. The result has been continued level of poverty, illiteracy, and unemployment within the ranks of average Nigerians, thus creating the perfect arena for breeding violent militancy in Nigeria (Emeh, 2014). Rotberg (2004) had established that there is a link between poverty, poor governance, state failure and militancy and insecurity in Nigeria.

The inability of government to provide a secure and safe environment for lives, properties and the conduct of business and economic activities has led to resentment and disaffection among ethnic groups. This has resulted in ethnic violence, communal clashes, and religious violence in different parts of the country that has destroyed lives and properties, disrupted businesses and economic activities, and retarded economic growth and development of Nigeria (Adesina, 2013; Emeh, 2014).

Recommended Policy Options

1. Adoption of a more human security-centered approach: This situates the well-being of the people at the centre of fight against insecurity, with greater focus on safeguarding human rights and protection from both state and non-state-sponsored violence. The approach recognizes the interconnections between sustainable peace and development, as well as the important role of political, social, economic, environmental and cultural structures as key factors in people’s security and livelihoods. It entails a holistic view of insecurity combat that seeks to understand the underlying drivers of insecurity, the impacts of interventions on people, and what individuals and communities need to feel safe. By addressing the full range of challenges faced by people affected by violence, insecurity and insecurity combat activities, the human security-centered approach would serve the dual purpose of fighting insecurity and addressing development issues.

2. Reduction of national budget on state security: successive administrations in Nigeria had expended enormous resources through the instrumentality of annual budgets and various supplementary allocations to national security. However, the expected result ought to be a drastic declining in the rate of insecurity issues in Nigeria; rather the reserve is the case. Cutting down the national security will boost the resources to be apportioned to social security.

3. Apportionment of more resources to social security components: Social security implementation in Nigerian has shown to be insufficient. The alarming rate of unemployment in Nigeria shows abysmal safety net for the citizens especially the youths who been centrally associated with other kinds of violent activities in many parts of the country, not only as triggers and executors of the violence, but equally as casualties. Delving into more social security components will provide much desired safety nets to the citizens and invariably curb down the insecurity escalation.


Insecurity in Nigeria which has manifested in different forms – insurgency, armed robbery, ritual killings, kidnapping, communal clashes etc can be tackled more proactively by ensuring adequacy of the social security of individuals. This is due to the fact that in a society characterized by harsh economic environment where poverty, inequality, unemployment, social exclusion on account of tribe and religion prevails, the hope of eradicating insecurity will remain a mirage. Hence, irrespective of the amount of resource (both human and material) expended on state security in order to fight insecurity in Nigeria without commensurate efforts towards reducing hunger, poverty, high rate of unemployed youth especially, addressing the regional agitation as result of feeling of disconnect or deprivation from social security, insecurity in Nigeria will continue to escalate. This assertion is in tandem with a description of a more fertile ground for insecurity to thrive by Fearon and Laitin's as Poverty and slow growth, which favor rebel recruitment and mark financially and bureaucratically weak states, rough terrain, and large populations” is their assessment of such violence-prone states (2003). All of these characteristics pertain to the Nigerian climate in which Boko Haram operates and enhanced or adequate social security will curb it.


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1 Lecturer, Department of Public Administration and Local Government, University of Nigeria Nsukka, Nigeria, Address: Nsukka Road, Nsukka, Nigeria, E-mail:

2 Lecturer, Department of Public Administration and Local Government, University of Nigeria Nsukka, Nigeria, Address: Nsukka Road, Nsukka, Nigeria, Corresponding author:

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