At last, the Federal Government last week promised Nigerians that it would do everything it could to end insurgency, banditry and violent criminal activities in the country this year.
The assurance came from President Muhammadu Buhari, during a Juma’at Prayer for this year’s Armed Forces Remembrance Day celebration at the National Mosque in Abuja. The President, who was represented by the Minister of Defence, Maj.-Gen. Bashir Magashi (rtd), also told Nigerians that 2021 “is a year of action and we will finish what we are doing.”
According to him, this is the year to conclude the war against Boko Haram and bandits. Magashi promised that the counter-insurgency war would be concluded this year. We recall that in his Christmas message to Nigerians, Buhari had told the nation that the solutions to the security challenges were not as simple as people thought.
Rather, he said that he would remain focused on following the complex, multi-dimensional route to reducing the incidents of insecurity to the barest minimum.
The President stated that providing security for all residents in the country remained an article of faith for him “as security formed a vital segment of his administration’s threepoint agenda right from inception.”
He said: “Our people must be free to live and move without let or hindrance. This is crucial not only to enthroning an atmosphere of calm and social cohesion, but for the economy to grow.”
It is gratifying that Nigerians have now received a timeline from the Federal Government on the commitment to deal decisively with the security problems that have bedevilled the country since 2009 when Boko Haram became violent in Borno State.
There is no gainsaying that since the killing of the Boko Haram founder, Mohammed Yusuf, by the Police in 2009, peace has eluded Nigeria. What is surprising is that since then, the country has moved from Boko Haram to banditry, cattle rustling, kidnapping for ransom and all forms of violent crimes in most parts of the country.
While the Buhari government, which came into office in 2015, has been battling Boko Haram to scale down its influence, the country is now held by the jugular by bandits, kidnappers, herdsmen and other pseudocriminal gangs. It is so bad that soldiers are killed; policemen, aid workers and many prominent Nigerians are either killed or kidnapped, including school children and vulnerable women.
Although we do not believe very strongly that the government would be able to eradicate insurgency and banditry within this year as stated, we believe that the level of criminality in the country could be reduced to a minimal level, where they would not impact so much on economic activities as it is presently.
For one, we are aware that most farming activities in the North-East and North-West zones of the country have either stopped entirely or running at very minimal levels currently. Those who manage to go to farms, either risk their lives or pay homages to insurgents and bandits. In some areas of the country where such fees are not paid, many farmers have lost their lives in their ancestral lands, while doing legitimate businesses for survival.
That is apart from the reality that many major roads in the country are now fields of play for criminal gangs, limiting movements across the country. Buhari had also hinted that he may also make changes in personnel in terms of his service chiefs.
We expect that the expected changes and his sophisticated methods of dealing with the security challenges are what Magashi talked about last Friday. What is not in doubt is that Nigeria is in dire straits with the security challenges. It has affected all facets of lives of Nigerians, limiting both movements and economic activities.
The depth of the challenges could be seen in the desperate cries of such people as the Sultan of Sokoto, the Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF), who were hitherto considered conservative. We are not talking of the voices of many prominent Nigerians and even ordinary ones, who have cried to the president and the heavens on the need to stop the carnage.
We, therefore, believe very strongly that since the Federal Government has committed to ending insurgency and banditry this year, it should stick to whatever plans it believes would do the magic.
We cannot wish anything better, when we remember the recent slaughter of over 40 farmers in Borno by insurgents, the kidnap of over 300 students of the Government Science Secondary School, Kankara in the president’s home state of Katsina, the incident in Dapchi, Yobe State, two years ago, where about 105 girls were kidnapped from their school.
These incidences and other daily occurrences have given Nigeria a name it did not deserve – the third most terrorized country in the world. President Buhari surely has a major task on his hands.
We hope and pray that his government would keep to the promise by making 2021 the year Nigerians heaved a sigh of relief from insecurity. We expect the presidency to be serious with the new timeline against insurgents. Otherwise, the president might as well finish his tenure in 2023, with Nigeria still drowning in the unwanted waters of insecurity.