Gale of Killings in Nigeria, When will it End?

Buhari

Nigerians are increasingly bothered about the killings and general insecurity in the land as the President Muhammadu Buhari-led government appears incompetent to deal with this cancer ravaging the country

By Olu Ojewale

THE Nigerian political scene is currently and expectedly charged with a lot of movement of persons from one party to the other as politicians, scheme for political advantage. But it appears nobody really cares about the violence that has been taking the shine off the Nigerian democracy for sometimes now with killings in many places in the country.

In past months, weeks and days, hardly has a day passed without reports of violent attacks, killings, kidnapping among other crimes in Nigeria.

For instance, on Saturday, July 28, 15 persons were kidnapped by unknown gunmen in Maradun Local Government Area of Zamfara State.

Two days earlier, bandits had taken over three districts comprising more than 18 villages and towns in Zurmi Local Government Area in the state.

Sanusi Rikiji, the speaker, Zamfara State House of Assembly, who addressed journalists in Gusau, on Sunday, said that the security situation in the state called for serious review.

“Security agencies should do more and more to deploy enough security personnel in Zamfara; we need permanent security stations in the affected area.

“We thank the federal government’s immediate intervention on this issue. As I am speaking now the troops, security personnel, have been deployed to the affected areas in Zurmi.

“They have started restoring normalcy in the area. We appeal to the people of the area to remain calm as government in collaboration with security agencies is working to maintain peace and stability in the areas,’’ he said.

Indeed, on Sunday, July 29, President Muhammadu Buhari announced the deployment of a 1000-strong security force to Zamfara to check the worsening security situation there.

The security force includes the army, air force, police and civil defence. The president also ordered the deployment of two fighter jets to the state, which will operate from a base in nearby Katsina State.

The Premium Times reports said that hundreds of people had been killed in the past year by bandits in Zamfara. The attackers also often burn villages and kidnap for ransom.

Buratai
Buratai

Late in July, Boko Haram insurgents started bombarding the Nigerian military. To underscore their readiness to fight to the death, the jihadists reportedly launched horrendous attacks on Nigerian soldiers in Borno and Yobe states.

They first ambushed a military convoy in Bama, Borno State before attacking a military base, both within a space of 24 hours. In the ensuing fighting, scores of soldiers from the 21 Brigade were displaced. Aside from those missing in action, an AFP report said the corpses of 10 soldiers were recovered after the skirmishes, in addition to the members of the Civilian Joint Task Force who died.

Perhaps, to contain the damage, the military authorities tried to hide the extent of damage to life and property. Although the military officials later confirmed the incident, the casualty number is hazy.

The second attack, which occurred in nearby Yobe State, a day later, was just as devastating for the military. This time, the jihadists used their huge number to overwhelm the 81 Division Forward Brigade located at Jilli, Geidam. The base also lost some of its equipment to the insurgents. The base reportedly has over 700 personnel, with most of them just deployed from Lagos in the theatre of war. Initial reports said less than just 100 troops were accounted for after a fierce encounter that lasted for more than two hours.

As if that was not bad enough, the Police command in Bayelsa confirmed the theft of a set of three-year-old twins on Monday, July 30, by unknown persons at Ekeki Motor Park in Yenagoa, the state capital.

Asinim Butswat, a deputy superintendent of Police, and the public relations officer of the command, confirmed the incident in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria, NAN, on Tuesday, July 31, in Yenagoa, capital of the state.

Butswat said the assailants stole the babies and ran to an unknown destination.

“We have alerted our tactical team for investigations and the perpetrators will be brought to book,” he said.

Narrating the incident to the NAN reporter, Fumi, the victims’ eldest sister, said it took place at a time Modupe Joseph, their mother, went to a mini market in the area to buy salt.

She said: “Our mummy went to Etegwe-Tombia area of Yenagoa to buy salt to cook corn.

“The four of us were left in the custody of one Aisha Ahmed at the motor park.

“Suddenly, one man approached me and gave me N200 to buy food for my siblings but I refused and told him that we have already eaten,” she said.

Modupe said that the man persisted and made her to collect the money and proceeded to buy the food. “Unfortunately, before I could return, the man had carried my twin brothers away,” she said.

She said that the assailant came in a black Sienna bus, which he parked nearby.

In Abia, the state Police command on Monday, July 30, reported that it had arrested 43 suspects for various criminal offences including kidnapping, armed robbery, murder and defilement.

Anthony Ogbizi, the state commissioner of Police, disclosed this while briefing journalists in Umuahia on the efforts of the command to rid the state of violent crimes.

Ogbizi said that the arrest was a result of efforts by the command to ensure a peaceful and crime-free society.

“Some of the suspects are notorious. They have been arrested before in connection with crimes and later released but here they are today for similar crimes,” he said.

He also attributed the arrest to the improved synergy between the police and the state vigilance group.

Ibrahim Idris
IGP Ibrahim Idris

Some of the suspects included alleged members of a confraternity called Aro Confraternity, a syndicate that specialised in car theft and other crimes.

That notwithstanding, the general state of criminality has become a source of concern for everyone in the country because the federal government appears to be incapacitated to handle the recurrence.

Irked by the sorry situation, Matthew Hassan Kukah, the Catholic bishop of Sokoto Diocese, has decried how lives are been aimlessly and mindlessly wasted in Nigeria by enemies of the nation.

When he led other members of the Catholic Church to Gandi town where he donated relief materials to the Internally Displaced Persons from Tabanni village in the Rabah LG area, Kukah called for solidarity with one another in such trying times.

Kukah, who warned that Nigeria was heading towards agricultural disaster because the killers were gradually but systemically preventing locals from going to the farm and rearing livestock, advised that the federal government should work out a more formidable measure capable of halting the ugly trend.

The bishop, who said the gale of unwarranted killings going on in Nigeria as a ploy to set the nation against itself, called for solidarity in trying times irrespective of region, religion or political affiliations.

“What we have come here to do as a Christian community is to respond to disaster within our limited resources.

“The tragedy has already happened. We are here on solidarity. We are not here to apportion blame.

“The governor, Sultan and other prominent personalities have already been here.  And this show of solidarity is important to send out the message to this men and women of evil intentions that we are together.

“We will only continue to call on the federal government to do more and protect us. Our people are dying aimlessly and mindlessly.

“This is another farming season, but now, people cannot go back to their farms. There is evidence of another looming agricultural disaster,” Kukah said.

The relief materials donated by the bishop included bags of rice, medicals and consumables, bales of wrappers, and detergents, among others.

Tukur Buratai, a lieutenant-general and chief of army staff, COAS, on Tuesday, July 31, advised all Nigerians to actively play a role in ending the incessant clashes between herdsmen and farmers in the country.

At the three-day national conference organised by Faculty of Law, Ahmadu Bello University, ABU, Zaria, Kaduna State on Tuesday, July 31, with the theme: “Promoting Peace, Security and Human Rights: Curbing Unsavoury Relationship between Herdsmen and Farmers in Nigeria,” Buratai, who was represented by Victor Okwudili-Ezugwu, a major-general and the commandant, Depot Nigerian Army, Zaria, said the call became necessary in view of the recurrence of the conflict across the country.

He observed that herdsmen/farmers conflict had remained a global and well known historical phenomena, adding that the two groups derived their means of livelihood around common resources, including land and water.

Buratai observed that while developed societies had found a way out of the problem, some parts of Africa and indeed sub-Saharan Africa were still grabbing with the problem.

The COAS attributed causes of herdsmen/farmer conflicts to competition for scarce resources, urban development and land grabbing, increase in herds population, destruction of farmers’ crops, encroachment on grazing routes and lack of acceptance of herders by host communities.

He also identified climate change as one of the key causes of conflict, saying it leads to environmental degradation, desertification, drought and inadequate rainfall in some places which forced herders to move around the country.

ari-Zamfara-state-governor
Yari

Buratai prayed that the conference would at the end proffer solutions which would be acceptable to the government toward ending the crisis.

“Nigeria is a great nation, nobody will argue that and Nigeria is the hope of Africa, nobody will argue that too.

“Therefore, I want to pray that the deliberations we are going to have here will find solutions for our national unity to be unequivocal and sacrosanct,” he said.

In a goodwill message, the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, prayed that at the end of the conference, solutions would be proffered to end the conflict.

Saraki, represented by Nuhu Jamo, a Law professor and the dean Faculty of Law, ABU, assured that the National Assembly was ready to act on the outcome of the deliberations that required legislation.

He lamented that the problem which started at the basic level now degenerated and assumed national dimension, adding that matters relating to the two groups were very important to the existence of Nigeria.

In a goodwill message, Lai Mohammed, the minister of information and culture, who was represented by Zubairu Galadiman-Soba, the director, National Orientation Agency, NOA, Kaduna State, promised to act on the outcome of the conference.

“NOA is waiting for the outcome of this conference to take it to the grassroots and in our efforts at mass mobilisation and value reorientation we shall put across the outcomes to the people of Nigeria.

“Whether you call them farmers, herdsmen or whatever, we know they are people of the same profession trying as much as possible to uplift their profession against incursion by others.

“But this is a very unique situation, where farmers who are supposed to be pillars of development and pillars of the nation are at loggerheads with their partners in the same profession.

“Without farmers, industrialisation will not be possible and decent living will not be possible. NOA will surely go to work with the outcomes of this conference,” he said.

Ibrahim Garba, the ABU vice-chancellor, applauded the efforts of Faculty of Law for what he described as a giant stride towards providing a lasting solution to the herdsmen/farmers conflicts.

Indeed, herdsmen have sacked thousands of farmers in Benue, Adamawa, Taraba, Plateau, Zamfara, among other states.

On the recent security crisis in Zamfara and Birnin Gwari in Kaduna State, Buratai also on Tuesday, July 31, promised to ensure the state of insecurity in those areas was over very soon.

Buratai made the promise while addressing newsmen during an operational visit to the Nigerian Army base in Kachia, as well as the forward operation base in Kafanchan, both in Kaduna State.

Lai-Mohammed
Lai Mohammed, Minister of Information and Culture

He said while the Southern Kaduna area had been stabilised there were still problems around the Birnin Gwari area in Kaduna state and Zamfara as well.

“We have reinforced our troops that are there, and we are really reinforcing our equipment too. We are adjusting the deployment in that area.

“We are getting the relevant platforms to ensure that all the security agencies are able to deal with those issues,” Buratai said.

He said the visit was a routine, in order for him to see the troops and look at what the Army has in Kaduna.

While the COAS trip was to pacify the troubled people in Kaduna, the Police in Adamawa State found it exigence to halt a peaceful protest organised by the state Christian Association of Nigeria on Wednesday, August 1.

The protest called by Stehpen Mamza, the CAN chairman, Adamawa State, drew a large turnout from Christians who trooped to St. Theresa Catholic Church, the venue initially planned for the take-off of the procession.

But Mamza, shortly before the take-off of the protest scheduled for 9:00 am told the congregants who had turned up for the protest that the police had cancelled it.

The protest was to draw the government’s attention to the imperative of protecting human lives whether Christian, Muslim or Fulani.

Mamza, who gave an instance of the recent attacks in Mayo-Belwa which claimed the lives of several Fulani, said the people were not comfortable by the silence and neglect by the federal government while killings were still going on in the country.

He said the peaceful procession would have afforded the church the opportunity to present its petition to Mohammed Jibrilla, the state governor, who will then pass it on to President Muhammadu Buhari.

“The police have refused to grant us the permission but they cannot refuse us access to God. The police have no authority to stop us access to God,” Mamza said.

In any case, Charles Soludo, a professor of Economics and former governor of Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, has warned that unless steps were taken the current clashes between herdsmen and farmers will be a child’s play in the future. Delivering a lecture in Lagos, on Thursday, August 1, at the Ndigbo Lagos Foundation, he said the global warming had started to drive herdsmen down south to look for grazing lands and if the issue was not quickly solved it will escalate to unimaginable proposition.

Soludo, therefore, suggested that states should be allowed to control their territories and not be dictated to by the federal government. “We need to abrogate the Land Use Act of 1998, the Solid Minerals Acts, as well as various Petroleum/Gas Acts and amendments, and return the right of ownership, control and exploitation of these assets to the federating units. In turn, they should pay appropriate taxes to the federal government,” he said.

Soludo
Soludo

In his own assessment, Aminu Turuaki, a presidential aspirant on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, described Buhari as a despot under whose leadership the country has had the highest occurrence of wanton destruction of lives and property, kidnapping, armed robbery, farmers/herders clashes and sectarian crises. Turuaki, therefore, asked that Nigerians should reject him at the next election.

But Banji Ojewale, a veteran journalist, in an article, ‘Go on, Buhari, Be a Devil!’ said: “Buhari can win again if he stops the killing spree across the land. He must change the headship of the regnant security apparatus. Nigerians no longer have confidence in them.”  In an interview with Realnews, Ojewale, not related to this reporter, said although Buhari could lay to the fact that he inherited the problem concerning the herdsmen and farmers his record in resolving the crisis is not something to proud of. “Because Buhari has failed to solved the problem that is why people are resorting to self-help. Look at the killings in Benue, Taraba states; why has it taken the government such a long time to stop? That is why (Governor Samuel) Ortom of Benue has to leave the APC,” Ojewale said.

On his part, Frank Odita, a retired commissioner of Police and security expert, told Realnews that the government will need to go back to the old traditional way of policing and that security agencies should work in synergy for the betterment of the country.

Besides, Odita said declaring herdsmen as terrorists will not be wrong, because unlike in the past when they were known to be armed only with cudgel and machetes. “But now they commit armed robbery, rape, and other crimes and criminalities with sophisticated weapons. They are even more armed than the Police and looked properly trained than the Police in the use of arms. There must be a motivation driving them to commit the acts.

“If we have to deal with the problem, internal security scheme must work. Soldiers are now taking over the work of Mobile Police who are the militant arm of the Police.

“Incidentally, Mobile Police are now being used as security men and orderly to some big politicians and CEOs. That is not their work. There must well trained, well equipped and given motivation to perform.”

Odita also expressed regrets that even the Department of State Security Services, DSS, that supposed to pass information to the Police to act on is also not cooperating with the Police. “Sadly, DSS is now doing their own. Unless we go back and allow everyone to do his job, the crisis will not be solved. Unfortunately, Nigerian politicians are not helping the matter,” he said.

Be that as it may, Nigerians will like to see an end to the seemingly endless killings taking place across the land and live in a safe country.

– Aug. 3, 2018 @ 14:27 GMT |

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