Sunday Magazine

Nigeria can’t surrender sovereignty to bandits –Rep. Olatunbosun

A member of the House of Representatives representing Saki- West/Saki-East/Atisbo Federal Constituency in Oyo State, Hon. Olajide Olatunbosun, in this interaction with newsmen examined the state of insecurity in the country. He advised the government to come down hard on bandits, kidnappers and insurgents. He also kicked against the suggestion of negotiation with criminals. LAWRENCE OLAOYE was there and reports

 

Could you examine the Nigerian security situation and tell us what is motivating bandits and kidnappers in their relentless attacks?

 

What government can do to end the development? The security situation is a mix-bag with both negatives and positives. In 2013-2014, we had a situation where we have bomb explosions in some states in Nigeria, notably in the North-East and some parts of the North-West and even up to Abuja and Kogi State.

 

That has stopped in the last five or six years. But we have also lost in so many other areas. Insurgency has not abated. We heard that they’ve been defeated technically but they still have the power to hit soft targets and also overrun military bases.

 

For me, that’s a challenge. It’s a double whammy because banditry has now escalated. Pre-2015, banditry was not a very serious case but now it has escalated and by the time you add that to the farmers/herders clashes, then we have a triple whammy in our hands.

 

So, the security situation has not really improved. It’s more or less like a cancer that has grown to an advance stage.

 

My prayer is that it does not become terminal because banditry, kidnapping have spread to southern Nigeria like we have in the South-West. I don’t want to be drawn into controversy about ethnic profiling.

 

People that we call bandits in the North, when they get to the South-West they call them Fulani herdsmen and when they get to the South they call them gunmen.

 

For me they are all criminals. So, let’s not go into the issue of profiling any tribe. What is happening is that we have criminals on the loose. This is a sovereign nation, we cannot allow non-state actors to overrun this country and something must   be done urgently about it.

 

Do you agree with the suggestion that government negotiate with bandits?

 

That’s a defeatist approach to the challenge. Nigeria is a sovereign nation and the most populous black nation in the world; a country of 200 million people and I believe we have the capacity and material resources to defeat the bandits.

 

But what I know in conventional warfare, I’m not a military man, is that people come to the negotiation table after they have been defeated. Let’s deal with the bandits; we have what it takes.

 

I’ll not subscribe to Nigeria negotiating with bunch of criminals that are killing our people, raping our women, adopting our children, making life insecure for all of us. What kind of negotiation? It means that we are handing over our sovereignty to criminals.

 

How will you react to President Muhammadu Buhari’s no-fly order in Zamfara State and the order for the security agents to shoot whoever carries sophisticated arms without authorisation?

 

Let me thank the President for his recent directive. In the last few weeks we have seen better coordination and even the pronouncements coming from the presidency give hope that we’re headed in the right direction.

 

On the issue of no-fly zone, he’s the Commander-in-Chief and he has far more information than us. It is rumoured that, not only in Zamfara, in most places you have serious banditry that people use helicopters to drop ammunitions, guns and other logistics for the bandits and insurgents.

 

So, if we can have a no fly zone, it means it would be used to stop the people from having to drop supplies for them. I’ll only plead with Mr. President to extend this no-fly zone to other areas where we have kidnapping by criminals whether in Taraba, Benue, Niger, and Borno states where you have serious insurgency. I think it’s a step in the right direction. The issue of shoot-at-sight looks good but I see that as a knee-jack reaction. It has to be implemented

 

 

in a careful way so there won’t be issue of mistaken identity. If you order shoot on sight, is it when they are found in the bush, city or town? For instance, the bandits don’t come into the town with their rifles; they only come at night when they want to hit at a target.

 

So, definitely when you find them in the bush, they are most likely to be criminals. It’s not a bad idea but the implementation must be tactful.

 

Some have argued that criminality is festering in the country because of the central policing system we operate. What’s your opinion about creation of state police?

 

I agree absolutely because it is obvious that the current policing system has failed. There is no window dressing we can do about it to make it effective. Incidentally this is a federal structure. The founding fathers knew that a central structure won’t help us and that’s why they fought for a federal system. Nigeria is only a federal state that I have seen in the world that has a centralized police.

 

All the arguments that the governors will misuse police have become stale. Let’s create state police, if there are challenges coming along let’s find a way to mitigate the risks. We won’t say that governors will misuse state police and stay with this system that’s not working.

 

Security is local and can only be managed locally. When you have state police, it’s going to cascade. In the US you have police of Chicago City, you have Illinois Police, you have FBI, you even have Capitol Police. People that will manage our policing system must emerge from the locality.

 

It’s only when we have this and our policing is intelligence driven that we can reduce insecurity to the barest minimum. What we have now, no matter the resources we throw into it, cannot give us desired results.

Widespread insecurity has given room for the emergence of nonstate actors, is this the way to go?

 

No! It’s not the way to go because they’re not structured. When purpose is not defined, abuse is inevitable, says Mice Monroe. It’s like resorting to self-help. Local warlords won’t help us.

 

That’s why we have a government. The duty of government is to organise the people; the people have surrendered their sovereignty to the government. We don’t need non state actors to intervene. Government should just rise and do what they need to do.

Will you suggest that these nonstate actors be incorporated into the security structure to help the police?

 

I’m sure they have some experience, they can handle weapons. If they are recruiting policemen in their areas, they can join the police to gather intelligence and cooperate with others to secure their area. They can be employed as individuals but not like we’re merging their structure with the police.

 

Recently, foodstuffs traders from the North blocked the movement of food items to the Southern parts of the country in protest against alleged killing of their people, what does this portend for the unity of the country?

 

That was a very sad situation and it’s unfortunate that the spirit of enterprise has been wounded by that action. Farmers are businessmen and they are free to move in the country but when you bring politics, it becomes something else. I hope and pray that such will not happen in Nigeria again.

 

The North has comparative advantage in planting certain crops and we should encourage them to do that. We have a big country with a massive population and that’s what makes us strong. In the southwest where I come from, we plant some crops. Let’s also not forsake farming.

 

Let’s plant what our environment can support. I’m looking at it from purely business angle and it is unfortunate that we’re bringing politics into it.

 

There have been tension between the farmers and the herders, especially in the North-Central and the South, how do you think that this can be resolved?

Everybody must come out clean on this.

If we have people of northern extraction in the southern part of Nigeria engaged in criminal activities, our brothers in the North should please allow them to be treated as criminals.

 

I don’t want jungle justice; we have a process of arraigning people in courts that will ensure that justice is served. The idea of food blockade, are we saying that those criminals from the North committing atrocities in the South should be allowed to go scot-free even when there are overwhelming evidences against them? We should look at it in a dispassionate manner. A criminal, whether from the south, east or west is a criminal.

 

Once we see it that way, all hands can be on deck and we find the solution. There is no tribe in Nigeria without criminal elements. Recently, a kidnapping syndicate was busted in Ogun State and they all belong to same family from a certain section of the country. If that has not been busted, we may be saying that they are Fulani herdsmen. Profiling is not making us to find solution.

Talking about the problem between herders and farmers, specifically we have to go ranching. The Vice President headed a committee that came up with the National Livestock Transformation Plan (NLTP). What are we waiting for? This is big business.

 

Nigeria doesn’t even have as many cows as they have in Namibia. We have large expanse of land especially in northern Nigeria. That’s why I support the governor of Kano State on his call for ban on migration of cattle from the North to the South unless they are being transported.

 

Who in your view you should build the ranches?

 

There has been lot of debate on this. Cattle-ranching is big business. It’s like a farmer that’s planting maize or rice, cassava. Luckily for us we have precedence; CBN has done Anchor Borrowers for the farmers.

 

Let’s have a scheme for cattle herders too. So if the government wants to provide support so be it they are Nigerians. But we have to look at it that this is private business and the owners of such business should look for capital but government can come in form of grants, loans with concessional rates.

 

The National Assembly is in the process of amending the constitution again, what specific area do you think should be the focus?

 

The question of federalism has not been resolved but what I think people are demanding is fiscal federalism. Let’s have resource control; let’s look at the Exclusive List. It’s unwieldy; let’s bring some items on that list to the Concurrent List so that governments at the sub-national level can start to take more responsibilities.

 

It’s then we’re going to have a true federal state. What we have now is a unitary state disguised as a federal system.

Taking the issue of resource control for instance, every state or every region has what it takes to become very prosperous in terms of mineral resources not yet tapped because the mineral under the ground belongs to the federal government. Let’s bring all those from the Exclusive List to the Concurrent List. What is sustainable in the long run is for every state to own its resources and pay tax to the federal.

 

What motivated you to sponsor a bill for the establishment of a University of Agriculture and Entrepreneurship in Saki, your constituency?

 

The motivation is to ensure we have federal presence in my constituency. Since I got elected in 2015, my legislative advocacy is to bring to the centre the suffering and neglect that my people have suffered since independence.

 

As we speak we do not have any federal presence in terms of roads or hospital, nothing. In Shaki, in my constituency and in the larger geographical area called Oke-Ogun, we have 10 local governments and my constituency is in Oke-Ogun which consists the local governments.

 

I see Shaki as the centre of that geographical area. We are very industrious people and our major occupation is agriculture. It’s (the proposed university) going to take our agriculture from subsistence farming to mechanised one and also value addition; that is to agroprocessing. It will also resolve a major social issue: unemployment.

 

We are churning out graduates that, in most cases, will come out and will begin to look for jobs. So how do we ensure that we put in place a strategy that will ensure a paradigm shift? Graduates that should have acquired some lessons in entrepreneurship while in school; graduate that would have acquired real life experiences, may be in some small scale agro-processing, while in school and by the time they are leaving schools they would have been able to stand on their own. Maybe government would give them grants or some concessional loans from the CBN and other development finance institutions so that rather than looking

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