If there was any disclosure that rattled Nigerians and indeed mortified the nation recently, it was the expose by Senator Ibrahim Gobir, representing Sokoto East in the National Assembly, that over 5,000 Nigerians in troubled parts of Sokoto State have relocated to Niger Republic following increased attacks by bandits.
Besides being an unpleasant development, it was a sad commentary on the capacity of the country to protect its citizens, even as it signposts the imperative of urgent military actions against these relentless terrorists wrongly labelled bandits, to ensure their incapacitation and uprooted from Sokoto and indeed all the states of the North-West and Nigeria entirely.
Senator Gobir, during his contribution to a motion on security at the plenary, shocked his colleagues and Nigerians that a section of the state were left at the mercy of Nigerien soldiers for protection having been marooned by Nigerian soldiers.
Not done, he said within the last three months, no fewer than 300 people in Sokoto East District have either been killed or kidnapped by bandits. “In fact, based on very reliable and verifiable information from the area, many times the people of the area called on Nigerian Army for help and protection against the bandits, there has been no response. But graciously, the Nigerien Army has been assisting in warding off the bandits, the very reason while not less than 5,000 people in the affected areas have migrated to Niger Republic for safety.”
Arguably, Nigerien soldiers could exhibit good neighbourliness by providing reciprocal security cover to the Nigerians in conformity with the ECOWAS Defence Pact and Afro-centric nature of Nigeria’s diplomacy, but suffice it to say that the Nigerian military have not sufficiently convinced the people about their competence in some of these instances.
Indeed, it must be put on record that many local governments and villages in Sokoto, Zamfara, Katsina, Niger and Kaduna have suffered massive killings in the hands of bandits and Boko Haram in many parts of the North, and at this critical time, nothing can be more acceptable than decisive military actions against these felons.
From the benefit of hindsight,Nigerians are not oblivious of the embarrassing recurrent attacks by this new crop of terrorists in the North-West in the last three years, culminating in the decimation of many local governments.
On Sunday, June 9, 2019, about 25 people were killed in one of such attacks on Sokoto State, while in April this year, the police recovered 22 bodies in a search and bury operation after massive attacks this time on Gangara village in Sabon Brini Local Government of the same state.
The worse was to wait till May 28, when about 100 of the so-called bandits, riding in about 40 motorcycles, stormed Garki, Dan Aduwa, Kazuri, Katuma and Masawa villages in the same Sabon Brini Local Government and snuffed life out of 72 residents. Hundreds were also left to nurse different degrees of injuries during the daylight attacks by the gun-wielding terrorists.
This year alone, about 100 persons have been killed in Sokoto, Zamfara had lost tens of people while Kastina has buried over 200, even as the terrorists have killed more than 200 in the North-East, especially in Borno State, the theatre of war.
Without discountenancing President Muhammadu Buhari’s order to the bandits to sheath the sword or face full scale military action, we hasten to state that these attacks, especially allegations that Nigerian soldiers abandoned these hapless villagers to the mercy of the bandits, and the Nigerien soldiers deserve thorough investigation, because such action was not only unprofessional, it cast the country in grave opprobrium.
Not only is it appalling and scandalous to the nation, it smacks of betrayal of those Nigerian citizens who had relied on the nation for protection at this critical time, and could switch allegiance to Niger Republic, which rose to their assistance at that auspicious time.
These felons have sustained their attacks in the contagious forest reserves in the South-West, stretching from Katsina, Zamfara, Kaduna and Niger states with litany of safe havens in Zurmi and Kamuku forests, among others, there is no gain-saying that the job of the military has been simplified for them since the criminals can be subjected to serious aerial bombardments after being geo-located.
Regrettably, despite reports of successes supposedly recorded by the military against Boko Haram in various states in the North during this period, amid massive figures of fatalities recorded against the terrorists, coincidentally at a period the Chief of Army Staff, Lt.-Gen. Tukur Burantai, has just returned from a two-month stay with the Nigerian troops in the theatre of war, it is grossly disappointing that these terrorists still continued to make mincemeat of hapless Nigerians.
We pay glowing tributes to scores of Nigerian soldiers in the battle front in the current war on terror, some of whom have paid the supreme price, and urge them to sustain the patriotic spirit and commitment. We, however, reinstate our call for the replacement of the service chiefs and rapid reformation and overhaul of the Nigerian military to reposition it for desired performance.
On its part, government at all levels must address the spiking poverty rate, social injustice, arms proliferation, ungoverned spaces and poor law enforcement common in these states, as some of the multi-dimensional approaches to these attacks.