The security challenges that have bedeviled the country have been described as capable of causing disintegration and anarchy in the country. In this report, DANIEL ATORI writes about the impact of armed banditry, kidnapping and associated mayhem underscore the need for modified emergency rule in the affected states
To say that the nation has almost been brought to its knees by pervasive insecurity is an under-statement.
Daily, deaths are recorded, scores of people especially students and travellers are kidnapped while million in many states of the federation are mortified by fear.
While security and welfare remain government’s reason for existence, that situation that exists as a result of the establishment of measures for the protection of persons, information and property against hostile persons, influences and actions still elude Nigerians.
Rather the country faces threats to peace, stability, national cohesion, political and socio-economic objectives of a country.
Thus, there is a general consensus in the contemporary literature that security is vital for national cohesion, peace and sustainable development. Despite the huge and seemingly growing security problems, the Nigerian government seems overwhelmed by the incessant attacks that take place in parts of the country ranging from kidnappings, robbery, abductions, and killings to political attacks and ethnic crisis.
The recent attacks in Zamfara, Niger, Kaduna, Borno and other states, have had hundreds of people killed, thousands homeless following the inhuman actions of the dreaded Boko Haram and armed Bandits in the past years.
Worst still, the repeated massive kidnapping of hundreds of students have become soft targets of the criminals. On December 11, 2020, over 344 students were kidnapped in Government Science School, Kankara, in Katsina, the second of such in few months, one of such occurred during the president’s visit to his home state.
Katsina State Governor Aminu Bello Masari later announced that 344 boys held in the Rugu Forest in neighbouring Zamfara State had been freed six days later. In Niger State, about 42 people, including 27 students of Government Science School, Kagara, three school staff and 12 members of their families regained freedom after 10 days in the hands of their captors.
The abduction of over 314 students of Girls Junior Secondary School, Jengebe, in Zamfara State, and another 60 women in the same state have drawn the ire of the Federal Government and many Nigerians about a near collapse of security in the country. Earlier, on February 17, the Senate asked President Muhammadu Buhari to declare a state of emergency on security without any delay.
This was sequel to a Point of Order raised by Senator Sani Musa, the senator representing Niger East Senatorial District, calling for urgent action after the abduction of some teachers and students of Government Science Secondary School, Kagara, Niger State.
The spate of insecurity and frequency at which ransom is paid rose to a disturbing level, suggesting that some prominent Nigerians are either funding the crime or benefitting from it.
The Senate President, Dr. Ahmed Lawan pointed in that direction when he said: “Some people are benefiting from the kidnappings and banditry. The menace has since become an industry.
A situation whereby a group of people will go to a school and take over 300 students away on motorcycles is not accepted. “Kidnapping without a trace is not acceptable. Something has to be given because, apparently, this is becoming an industry, some people are benefiting from this and we have to unravel who these people are, and fight bandits and insurgents until we rescue our country.”
Some Nigerians embittered by lack of political will on the part of the Nigerian government to tackle the issue of genre of terrorism head-on as so many states are now at the mercy of God as the problem persists.
While President Buhari has given shoot-on-sight orders to operatives on anyone carrying AK-47 and better monitor of borders, as if the security agencies needed any directive before policing such borders, the effectiveness of the agencies in handling the issues has been suspect.
Some found it inconceivable that government has continued to see the felons as bandits even when their penchant for kidnapping of students (a glaring imprimatur of Boko Haram) but watch as huge ransom are paid serve as slush funds for terror, instead of classifying them as terrorists in consonance with the provisions of the Terrorism (Prevention Act), (2011).
Also worrisome is that Boko Haram recently captured some villages as bandits continue to cause mayhem through countless kidnappings and massacres in parts of Niger, Benue, Zamfara, Kaduna and the President’s home state Katsina.
Former Spokesman of the APC in Niger State, Comrade Jonathan Tsado Vatsa called on President Muhammadu Buhari to declare emergency rule in Niger, Kaduna and Zamfara states, stating that it is long overdue.
“Mr. President has declared Zamfara as No Fly Zone, and he should do so in Kaduna and Niger states; let the military’s presence be felt in these states because the local government areas the bandits have attacked in Southern Kaduna and Niger, helicopters supplied them with arms, foods and in fact the helicopters signal any attack on villages and communities.
Also, I support the call by Borno State governor who suggests that we get mercenaries to support us”.
Speaking to the Sunday Telegraph, Comrade Vatsa, who was Commissioner for Information and Strategy, blamed the APC-led administration for disappointing Nigerians adding that declaring emergency rule now has become necessary because the primary responsibility of the government is to secure lives and property.
“We, the APC, the ruling government, have failed the people and we have caused a lot of tragedy. President Buhari should not forget that it is the same poor masses and commoners who voted for him and were screaming ‘Sai Baba’, ‘Sai Buhari’,
‘Sai APC’ that these armed bandits are killing, kidnapping and causing pains.” An independent researcher, Dr. Jose Luis Bazan, reported that an estimated 2,539 persons have been killed from 654 attacks between 2017 and 2020.
In 2019, Nigeria was ranked third below Afghanistan and Iraq out of 138 countries in the Global Terrorism Index and is said to be the 14th most fragile in the world and the 9th in Africa, according to the Fragile States Index.
Unsurprisingly, in the same year the country was also ranked 148th out of 163 countries in the Global Peace Index, far below former war-ravaged countries like Sierra Leone (52), Liberia (59) and Rwanda (79). Attacks and reprisal attacks have continued in states like Kaduna and most recently in the South-West states with suspicion of ethnic cleansing and mismanagement of religious and cultural diversity.
Part of the reason for the spread of insecurity that has allowed these groups to operate with impunity is due to what has been described by Scot Bower, Chief Operating Officer of the United Kingdom based organization CSW, as ‘the failure or unwillingness of those in authority to address these and other non-state actors and to secure ungoverned spaces, has not only allowed the violence to mutate, but has also created an environment in which Boko Haram can extend its operations’. The heightening insecurity continues to impact negatively on the business environment and business flows into the country. Recently, many stakeholders including civil society groups and the National Parliament asked the President to sack the country’s security chiefs or force them to resign due to ineptitude as a result of insecurity’s escalation which he reluctantly did. Eniola Anuoluwapo Soyemi, Ph.D Candidate in Political Science, Boston University said in her work that, “most of the weak states in the world are considered weak because they failed in their main function in providing security for their citizens”.
There were claims that between 2014 and 2019 when the Nigeria political stage was heated with attacks on rival parties (especially between Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Nigeria) as local thugs and foreign mercenaries attacked and even killed some persons.
The PDP had in 2014 accused the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) of assembling and mobilizing thugs who caused chaos attacking its members.
There were series of clashes in Abuja and other parts of the country between alleged supporters of PDP and supporters of APC. In a press statement, the PDP National Publicity Secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan, the party warned the APC that “the whole world witnessed with dismay, how APC thugs, brandishing their party’s famished brooms and charms; armed with machetes and other dangerous weapons stormed PDP National Secretariat which has become a beehive of activities and attacked and wounded our members and supporters before they were dispelled by security operatives”.
The same year, the PDP also bemoaned the indiscriminate arrest of its members in Gwarinpa Municipal Area Council on flimsy excuses, calling the actions of suspected Islamic operatives with the backing of the All Progressive Congress (APC) a shameful and dangerous exercise and one that is capable of posting a major threat to the country’s democracy.
Hon. Emmanuel Michika, who was the PDP Chairman in Gwarinpa Municipal Area Council had cried out that “the senseless and indiscriminate arrest and detention of its members and supporters by the Nigerian Police who are being manipulated by faceless agents of a religious Sect into cooking up fake charges for no offence committed”.
He added that on May 3, 2014, the PDP Youth Leader in Gwarinpa Municipal Area Council, Hon. Samson Ukpolo was arrested by the police on fake charges of inciting violence even though he had actually gone into the Police station to report harassment, intimidation and threat to his life by people posing as agents of Boko Haram.
He was, however, arrested and was physically molested, mentally and psychologically tortured by the security men. Chairman of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF) and Governor of Ekiti State, Dr. Kayode Fayemi observed that the prevailing insecurity across the country is calculated at destroying Nigeria. Leading a high-powered delegation of the Forum to commiserate with the government and people of Niger State on the series of kidnapping the state had experienced in recent times, the last being the abduction of 27 students of Government Science College, Kagara, some of their teachers and family members that the polity is being heated. Fayemi said: “The agenda is to destroy the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Let’s not make any mistake about it; that is the ultimate agenda.
We will fight this agenda with every fiber in our body and indeed we will fight it in order to save our country. Nigeria is witnessing terrorism attacks and every hand should be placed on the deck to defeat it.
There is no other name for it. “Yes, we may call it banditry, we may call it kidnapping; these are remnants of the actors of the North-East that have found themselves in other parts of the country whether they are known as ISWAP, or Albanawi faction or known as Shekau people.
They are remnants of what we are still dealing with in that part of the country.” Former Presidential Adviser, Dr. Doyin Okupe while lamenting the spate of insecurity in the country, stated that if the current terrorist attacks, kidnapping and banditry rampaging the country continue unabated, he will contest for president in 2023.
He expressed the need for emergency rule in the states, stating that as President he will declare a state of emergency in the affected states, though politicians will not like this, but without security the nation and its politics will neither survive nor exist. In his concept of emergency rule, he said: “Governors will not leave their political offices but their duties and functions shall be strictly limited to administrative matters while the state of emergency is in place.
The state Assemblies will be on temporary holiday till things return to normalcy.” He said that a senior military officer not lower than the rank of a Brigade General to be the State Security administrator no, who will be fully in charge and be responsible for the safety and security of citizens of the state.
“I will deploy 2000 military troops and 3000 special police force to each of the affected states, subject to what is readily available; each state will have two transport helicopters, one surveillance helicopter with night vision capability and a surveillance helicopter. “I will arrange with international private and commercial satellite companies to cover the affected areas around the clock.
This service came into use sometimes ago during the Baga inferno attack by Boko Haram. We were able to see a whole town real time with each housing unit clearly demarcated. Today bandits can be located and movements monitored through infrared rays or thermal radiation from satellite focused on the area in question.”