BusinessDay

Audacity of Nigerian terrorists: What, where, and when is our red-line?

The red-line in military parlance is a warning to the enemy to expect extreme response if they crossed ‘point-x’, which may be geographical, or operational. I heard that term in the hay days of the Syrian crisis when the US warned al-Asad and his allies that applying chemical weapons against the anti-government forces would be crossing the red line.

By the way, how come that everything suddenly became dead-quiet on the Syrian front? What happened and who won the war? Anyway, just the other day, Jake Sullivan, the US National Adviser, promised Russia that ‘catastrophic consequences’ awaited them if they applied nuclear weapons in their expansionist, land-grabbing enterprise in Ukraine. Red-line is thus a situation in which a nation tells the aggressors, thus far and no further.

Such a nation may be directly at war or in sympathy with those at war. And we know that Nigeria is at war, both the one brought at its door-step by a diverse but related array of insurgents (BH, ISWAP, bandits, kidnappers) mostly in the North and the one that the government has declared in the South-East. So, in this war against insurgency, what or where is our red-line and when will the red-line response be activated?

I ask this question because our traducers, (I will generically term them bandits), have gone beyond what any government, even an unserious one, should tolerate or overlook. They not only indulge in noisy gyration where angels fear to tip-toe; they are issuing orders to the government and the citizens with audacity and impunity. They tell the government what to do; they tax the helpless citizens and give them deadlines, and they strike in such a way that ridicules the competence and determination of our security forces.

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On March 28, 2022, the audacious bandits bombed a Kaduna-bound train and killed 8 Nigerians on the spot, one of whom was Chinelo Maegafu, a medical doctor, who was billed to escape from Nigeria few days thence. And since then, they have been ‘retailing’ the captives, for as much as N100 million apiece, and some of them are still in their custody as at today.

Luckily and to the glory of God, one of my sons took the train-route to Kaduna earlier in the day. Ransom-bearing relatives reported that the soldiers on the route were taking a piece of the cake, assuring them that the bandits would not bother because they understood.

Before then, they had set up a permanent camp on Kaduna Abuja highway, where they attacked and kidnapped people at random, with embarrassing regularity. Of course, that was the reason for the increased train traffic. And on one of those occasions when the army acted, a more embarrassing scenario emerged. Sometimes in April 2022, soldiers dealt with bandits along Kaduna-Abuja highway, arrested some of them and made a public show of it.

I told some jubilatory Nigerians that the bandits would soon repent, be rehabilitated and reabsorbed and the matter would end just like that. The following day, the police announced that there was a mistake; that the people the soldiers captured and loaded into their trucks were not bandits but ordinary herdsmen.

How come our soldiers moved without intel, attacked and captured the wrong people, made a lot of noise about it and then made a U-turn…just like that? The shame of a nation. And while the attack was carried by soldiers, the denouement was done by policemen and as I had predicted, the matter had ended.

Of course, it is very difficult to differentiate the herdsmen from the bandits and probably, at times, they are the same people, changing their identities as the need arose. And while some people are arrested, interrogated and released, because of mistaken identity, in other places like Awomama, (Imo State) people were shot and killed before questions were asked, if need be.

The bandits had also had the audacity to attack the Kaduna Airport in broad daylight. It was then that people started asking openly why they wanted to cut Kaduna off from Abuja and indeed from the rest of the country because they took over roads, train-tracks, airports and as somebody suggested, they even took over the astrophysical route to Kaduna. You will recall that they had attacked the Nigerian Defense Academy in the past, where they abducted a soldier.

People were and are alarmed about the porous security situation in Kaduna because the state has the highest concentration of defense institutions in the country including 1 Division of the Nigerian Army, NDA, Nigeria Army Depot, Command and Staff College, Airforce Training School, Defense Industries Corporation, Army School of Artillery, Nigerian Police College, School of Military Policy, Naval School of Armament. Around that period, they attacked the presidential convoy in Kastina State where they murdered two policemen and capped it all by promising to abduct the president.

It was in the midst of all these that the attack on Kuje Prison occurred. It would be recalled that the powerful bandits had demanded the release of their comrades in exchange for the abducted train passengers, who had become their cash-cows. The attack, which was the most embarrassing assault on our security architecture, involved an armada of motorcycles with about 300 armed men and lasted for about 3 hours. There was no counter attack; no bandit was felled and none of their numerous motorcycles was seized. The bandits had time to give sermons to the prisoners, gave them some cash, and successfully released all the BH members, some of whom had been there for the previous 20 years. 65 well-armed security personnel were on guard before the attack on the celebrity prison (it had hosted Orji Kalu, Olisa Metu, Fani Kayode, Ahmed Fintri Abdulrasheed Maina and Farouk Lawan) that had neither CCTV cameras nor concrete walls.

People wondered how the bandits were able to locate and release their comrades; how they escaped the various military check-points and why the various military formations in Gwagwalada, Mogadishu and Lungi could not rise to the occasion. Yul Edochie lamented that while it was easy for terrorists to free their comrades from our prison, it was difficult for our soldiers to rescue citizens from the terrorists.

And then while the Senate declared that our security system had failed the President, who left for a foreign tour on that day queried how terrorists could organise, acquire weapons, attack military installations and get away with it. If the Senate was lamenting and the President was raising questions, what do they expect we, the people, to do? If them ask me, ‘na who I go ask?’

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