The Flaming Amber of Insecurity in Nigeria

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Like a bad coin that keeps on popping up, Nigeria is again experiencing a boot of insecurity as violent attacks, kidnapping, banditry engulfs the country, thereby causing concern for the government and people alike

By Olu Ojewale

THESE are not happy times in Nigeria. After what seems like a long interval, killing, kidnapping, banditry and other crimes, which abated during the electioneering have resumed across Nigeria in full force. Since the end of the general elections which held between February 23 and March 9, hardly has a week gone by without reports of violence, kidnappings, raids and killings in the country.

With renewed attacks of banditry, kidnapping and killing in Zamfara, Kaduna, Borno, Lagos, Katsina, Ondo and Anambra states, Nigeria has been in the throe of the unmerited dastardly acts. Consequently, hundreds of Nigerians have been killed while thousands of others have been displaced from their various homes and means of livelihood.

Zamfara State appears to be the worst hit. Indeed, the state government said that a total of 3,526 persons had been killed by armed bandits in the state in the last five years. Governor Abdulaziz Yari disclosed this on Tuesday, April 9, in Gusau during a Town Hall Meeting attended by Mohammed Adamu, the acting inspector general of Police.

Besides, the governor said: “Nearly 500 villages have also been devastated and 8,219 persons injured, some are still in critical condition.” The governor, who was represented by Abdullahi Shinkafi, the secretary to the state government, also said that more than 13,000 hectares of farmlands were either destroyed or made useless as the farmers could no longer farm there.

Muhammad Adamu
Adamu

“The economy of the state has seriously suffered because thousands of shops were destroyed by the rampaging bandits who had displaced thousands of our people from their places of abode, many of whom cannot sleep with their two eyes closed because of fear,” he added.

Yari said the government had written volumes of reports containing over 7,000 pages, giving details of the crises right from the beginning to the infiltration from Libya and Boko Haram.

He disclosed that the government was aware of eight prominent bandits’ camps at different bush locations in the state, and urged that they should all be neutralised to decimate the criminals.

Nevertheless, Yari said that recent suspension of mining activities in the state by the federal government must “be followed by enforcement, because, it is one thing to ban, and another to enforce.”

Earlier, Adamu told the gathering that the police would take more proactive measures in the fight against bandits and commended the state government for providing enabling environment to security personnel to operate in the state.

The crisis prompted the Nigerian Senate to resolve to make N10 billion available in the 2019 budget to alleviate the suffering of the affected communities in Zamfara crisis.

This decision was taken following a motion sponsored by Kabiru Marafa, an APC senator, representing Zamfara Central. At the start of plenary, Marafa had presented a motion on “the need to create an intervention fund to cater for internally displaced persons and other persons affected by the activities of armed bandits in Zamfara State.”

The Zamfara crisis was brought to the nation’s consciousness when protesters in their hundreds marched to the presidential villa in Abuja on Saturday, April 6, over the persistent killings in Zamfara State.

During the march, the protesters held placards which read “Shame on Yari,” “Silence is not an option,”  “Nigeria is a failed state,” among others. Kadaria Ahmed, a media personality and one of the conveners of the protest, blamed the governor for not showing “enough concern about killings” in the state.

Ahmed said Yari only cared “about the people of Zamfara when it comes to politics,” adding: “Our people are being killed like flies and it does not seem to matter to anybody, so that is why we are here and that is why we are marching.

“As far as I am concerned, that governor is the most useless in the history of Nigeria. This is a governor whose reaction to the killings in his state was to resign as chief security officer. He went on the record to say that he cannot be chief security officer. I don’t know what he is still doing in office.

“How can he govern a state for eight years from Abuja? What sort of leadership is that? We thank God he is on his way out. Under him, Zamfara has deteriorated. I grew up in Zamfara, the Zamfara I grew up was peaceful, we had textile, we had sweet factories.”

Ahmed asked the president to show the people of Zamfara that he cares about them.

Tukur Buratai
Tukur Buratai

Indeed, President Muhammadu Buhari had since July 2018, ordered the deployment of a thousand security personnel in the state without any visible improvement. On Sunday, April 7, the federal government ordered that mining activities in the state be halted forthwith and asked foreigners in the mining fields to leave the state.

In apparent frustration, on one occasion, Yari said he had resigned as the chief security officer of the state. But the act of banditry is not peculiar to Zamfara alone. Kaduna and Katsina states have also been under serious attacks in recent times and thereby causing serious concerns for the Buhari administration.

While condemning the recent and persistent violence in Kaduna State, which led to the death of several members of the Adara community, the president expressed regrets and promised that justice will be done.

The latest incident was between the Adara and Fulani people in the state, who have a long history of mistrust between them. The president, in a statement by Garba Shehu, the senior special assistant on Media and publicity, also condemned the resurgence of cultist killings in Rivers State and ordered for increased community and law enforcement action against its escalation.

He appealed for peace and decries the on-going culture of ‘an eye for an eye’ which had fuelled a number of attacks and reprisal attacks, with the two communities at different times, suffering casualties in Kajuru and Kachia local governments in Kaduna State.

The president also appealed to indigenes of Kaduna and other Nigerians to refrain from comments in the traditional and social media, especially by people who have little knowledge of the history of the longstanding conflict.

According to him, such comments can fuel further conflict in the area and between the two groups.

Buhari made a special appeal to traditional and religious leaders to be cautious with their comments on the conflict, insisting that whatever words they share publicly should not be inflammatory but be inspired by an interest in peace.

The president condoled with those who lost loved ones in the attacks, saying: “The entire nation grieves with you. The Nigerian army and police are already in the area to ensure that peace and security are restored.”

In response to reports of the resurgence of cultism leading to loss of lives in Rivers State, Buhari called on law enforcement agencies to intensify their efforts to end the menace before it could further escalate.

He also urged quick and effective intervention by community and civic leaders in support of law enforcement efforts, in all such areas bedevilled by cultist attacks and inter-communal violence.

Indeed, no fewer than eight persons were reportedly killed in a clash between rival courts in Rivers State community. The cultists stormed the community in the wee hours of Sunday, April 7, killing eight persons and injuring several others.

Zamfara State Governor, Abdulaziz Yari
Zamfara State Governor, Abdulaziz Yari

An early morning invasion of Mgbuodohia community in Rumuolumeni, Obio/Akpor local government area of Rivers State, led to the death of eight people in the state. Some gunmen stormed the community in the wee hours of Sunday, April 7, killing eight persons and injuring several others. Confirming the incident, Sunny Odum, the chairman of the community, said the victims were killed in the attack, which caught the community by surprise.

Members of the cult group had invaded the community in search of members of their rival cult members. They moved from house to house in search of targets (rival cultists) in the area and in the process fished out and killed eight of them.

However, in his reaction to the incident, Nnamdi Omoni, the police spokesperson for the Rivers State command, said three persons were killed in the attack. Omoni said the police had also made some arrests and that the suspects were helping the police in their investigations.

He, therefore, urged residents of the community who deserted their homes to return as normalcy had been restored.

But the killings in Borno State have showed no respite. On Sunday, April 7, no fewer than 10 persons were killed while 43 others sustained various degrees of injuries when Improvised Explosive Device, IED, was triggered at popular Muna Park in Maiduguri, the state capital.

According to witnesses, two teenage girls suspected to be Boko Haram suicide bombers, had walked through a street of Muna, five kilometres away from the metropolis. “Not knowing that they would later turn out to be Boko Haram girls, I really saw them walking along a street nearby. I even wanted to help them out, thinking both girls who looked like strangers were looking for a house where a wedding ceremony was taking place.

“But shortly after, I just heard an explosion which turned out to be from those two girls I had just passed by 20 minutes earlier, they were suicide bombers. I could have been their first victim,” one of the witnesses said.

The national and state emergency agencies, after the evacuation of the victims, placed the death toll at five while a civilian JTF personnel, who participated in the exercise, said they had evacuated eight corpses; while three out of the injured ones died at the hospital.

Abdulkadir Ibrahim, spokesperson of the National Emergency Management Agency, NEMA, in North-East, confirmed that the bombing was triggered by two suicide bombers on the evening of Saturday, April 6. Ibrahim said: “Immediately we received a distress call, emergency response teams were dispatched to the scene. The suspected suicide bombers had detonated their explosives within five minutes interval at Muna Dalti settlement as a result, three persons died with the two bombers, while other innocent people sustained various degrees of injury.”

Olonisakin
Olonisakin

In another incident in Kaduna, two policemen were killed when their police station at Kakangi village, Birnin Gwari Local Government Area of Kaduna State was attacked. The gunmen also attacked Kakangi Village in Birnin Gwari. It was gathered that the bandits descended on the village and started shooting into the air before torching some houses. Scores were said to have been killed, although the exact figure could not be ascertained.

A community source comfirmed the incident. It was gathered that the gunmen arrived the community on motorbikes around 5a.m., and began shooting sporadically. A resident of the community, who did not want to be named said the suspected bandits, who were armed with AK-47, killed two other persons. Those who sustained injuries in the attack have reportedly been taken to the hospital for treatment. Yakubu Sabo, the state police public relations officer, while confirming the incident said: “Combined teams of PMF Personnel, conventional Police and Vigilante were quickly mobilized to the village  to engaged the bandits in fierce gun duel and successfully repelled the attack. Our gallant men gunned down three of the bandits and several others escaped into the bush with bullet wounds. “However, two of our men paid the supreme sacrifice during the intense gun duel with the bandits. One Inspector Aliyu Mohammed and Sergeant Rabiu Abubakar both attached to Randagi Division, while Sgt Ibrahim Nasir along with six civilians were injured and are now receiving treatment at the General Hospital B/Gwari.” He said Ahmad Abdurrahman, the state commissioner of police, while condemning the attack and assured members of the public that the command will fish out the culprits.

In Anambra State, suspected herdsmen had at the weekend stormed a farm settlement at Mmiata Anam, Anambra West Local Government of the state, killing six persons and inflicted severe wounds on 30 others. One of the victims said: “The herdsmen stormed the Agweopia Farm Settlement Camp and Iyinkolo Farm Settlement Camp, respectively, around 5.40a.m., on Friday, killed people and burnt houses and raped women and escaped before information reached the people in the community.” According to the victim, who was lucky to escape, “Before people of the area knew what was going on, the herdsmen had killed six people, leaving about 30 people with different degrees of injuries.”

On Tuesday, April 9, the state government announced that the crisis had been resolved. C Don Adinuba, the state commissioner for Information and Public Enlightenment, said in a statement in Awka, the state capital, that the swift resolution of the crisis followed the directive by Governor Willie Obiano to the Anambra State Security Council, urging it to bring the crisis to an end immediately. The commissioner added that the governor also directed the council to find out the immediate and remote causes of the crisis and proffer suggestions on how to address them to avoid a similar crisis in future. Adinuba said among other things: “Last week’s incident in Anam was odd. The people and government of Anambra State deeply regret the occurrence. While commiserating with victims, we will not leave any person or group of persons in doubt about the determination and capacity of the state government to bring the culprits to book and make them feel the full weight of the law.” According to the commissioner, Anambra State had for years, adopted a Code of Conduct for herdsmen and crop farmers in the state, which had proved exceedingly effective in determining the excellent relations between the groups, adding that the faithful implementation of the code was one of the reasons the state had over the years been free of clashes between herdsmen and crop farmers, as experienced in different parts of the country.

Communal disturbance was the bane of the crisis in Taraba State. Daniel Adi, the chairman of Wukari Local Government Area of the state, confirmed that 10 people were killed and several others injured in the clashes between Jukun and Tiv ethnic groups, which started April 1.

Obiano
Obiano

David Kente, a former All Progressives Congress, APC, governorship aspirant who hailed from the area, has condemned the wanton destruction of lives and property. He described the crisis as unfortunate, adding that the Tivs and Jukuns in Kente had co-existed peacefully for many years after their first clashes in 1991. He appealed to both ethnic groups to embrace peace and sheath their swords, promising that all those who lost their property to the current crisis on both sides of the borders would be assisted.

In Lagos, after about three days in captivity, Rasaki Musibau, the acting director, Lagos State Fire Service, and six other people abducted by suspected kidnappers were released on Tuesday, April 9.

The victims were abducted at about 8.00pm at Iwoye Bridge on Ikosi-Ejirin-Epe road, Lagos, on Saturday, April 6.

Bala Elkana, a deputy superintendent of police and the Lagos Police Public Relations Officer, said in a statement that the director and the others were released unhurt at about 11.45pm on Tuesday, April 9.

In the meantime, Mansur Dan-Ali, minister of Defence, seemed to have found some traditional leaders culpable in the banditry crisis rocking some parts of the country. Dan-Ali alleged that some of the traditional leaders are among those helping bandits with intelligence to carry out kidnappings and compromise military operations in the North West of Nigeria.

Tukur Gusau, a colonel and spokesman of the minister, in a statement on Tuesday, April 9, said: “in spite of the concerted efforts of the Armed Forces and other security agencies some unpatriotic persons including highly placed traditional rulers in the areas were identified as helping the bandits with intelligence to perpetuate their nefarious actions or to compromise military operations.”

He said, in the last three years, the ministry carried out several reforms geared towards the reorganisation and expansion of the Armed Forces to meet up with contemporary security challenges across the nation and the sub-region.

He added that: “In line with this, the Nigerian Army established 8 Division with headquarters in Sokoto to cover Kebbi, Sokoto, Katsina and Zamfara states while the headquarters of 1 Brigade was relocated from Sokoto to Gusau.”

Indeed, the military and the police recently launched rejuvenated security operations to fight kidnapping and banditry that has ravaged communities and citizens in some North Western states that include, Kaduna, Niger, Zamfara, Plateau and Katsina.

The operations is to effectively flush out the activities of criminal elements in the North West. The Nigerian Air Force has also intensified air strikes against the bandits in Zamfara.

Nevertheless, Buhari said the constant activities of bandits and kidnappers across the country have made him one of the unhappiest leaders in the world. In a statement by Garba Shehu, his spokesman, Buhari said his mind is constantly preoccupied with the insecurity challenges in the country. Shehu quoted the president as saying: “How can I be happy and indifferent to the senseless killings of my fellow citizens by bandits?

“I am human and I understand the pains of the victims and their families who have been traumatised and impoverished by constant ransom demands by bandits.

Nasir el-Rufai
el-Rufai

“The politicisation of tragedy reveals the darkest sides of our primitive politics. Almost every week, I summon my security chiefs to get an update on the strategies being devised to defeat these mass murderers. There is no issue that dominates my mind every 24 hours like security because, as an elected president, protecting the citizens of my country is one of the primary functions of my administration.

“I constantly listen to our security personnel in order to understand their problems and needs, and I have never hesitated to attend to those needs in terms of motivating and equipping them to respond effectively to our security challenges. It is, therefore, ridiculous to suggest that I am indifferent to these killings. I have ordered rapid and robust deployment of troops to all the areas currently under attack from bandits and we are determined to tackle this challenge ferociously until these remorseless killers are crushed and utterly defeated.”

The president reassured Nigerians that ending banditry remains a key priority of his administration.

Also, Buhari on Thursday, April 11, charged security agencies to put their acts together and deal ruthlessly with bandits, kidnappers and other security challenges in the country.

Gabriel Olonisakin, a general and chief of Defence Staff, briefed State House correspondents at the end of about two hours meeting with Buhari at the Presidential Villa, Abuja. According to him, the president said that no stone should be left unturned towards securing every part of the country.

Mohammed Adamu, the acting inspector general of police, who has been going round the troubled states assuring Nigerians of their safety and justice said: “We have put in place every mechanism to end activities of banditry, hence, the launching of operation puff adder. We assure you that banditry and criminality will soon come to an end in all the affected states,” Adamu said.

That notwithstanding, Rotimi Dakore, a public analyst, said as long as Nigeria does not take education seriously and there is army of unemployed Nigerians there will always be crisis. “What the country needs to do is to declare a state of emergency on Nigeria’s education system, because lack of education is what is making our energetic youths to misdirect their energy,” he said.

Besides, Dakore said the failure of intelligence and inadequate policing have also contributed to the adverse situation. He, therefore, enjoined the government to find a way of engaging Nigerian youths positively so that they will not be used as cannon fodder by politicians and other naysayers.

Well said. But whether Nigerians who have constantly been subject of harassment and intimidation can be convinced that the Buhari administration is up to the task of saving the situation is another matter.

– Apr. 12, 2019 @ 17:25 GMT |

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