• Tuesday, April 23, 2024
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BusinessDay

Battle against insecurity: FG must go beyond naming, shaming of kidnappers, sponsors – Nigerians

Tackling the triple threats against Nigeria

…Urge security agencies to take special interest on Zamfara

…Illegal gold mining, bad politics reasons for bandits’ activities in Zamfara

Nigerians have advised the Federal Government to go beyond naming and shaming of alleged sponsors of terrorism to prosecuting and punishing those found guilty of the offence.

Those who spoke to BusinessDaySunday said that the government must pursue the project of stamping out terrorism with every seriousness it deserves.

Read also: Taming inflation, ending insecurity: A “war council” for Nigeria’s economy

They also urged the Federal Government to take special interest in Kaduna and Zamfara States as the emerging epicenters of kidnapping and terrorism.

In the same vein, a retired military officer, who is into private security services said that Nigerians should not be surprised at the attraction of Zamfara to bandits and kidnappers, as according to him, they were being recruited by some powerful personalities to aid in the illegal mining. He also said that many of the bandits were those recruited as political thugs in 2015, 2019 and 2023 that decided to go full blown into terrorism after tasting free money given to them by politicians.

He however, disclosed that some of them decided to go into kidnapping after they were jilted by the politicians that promised them heaven on earth before the elections.

The recent rescue in Zamfara State of about 137 school pupils abducted on March 6, 2024 in Kaduna State, has raised a lot of questions about the place of Zamfara in the kidnapping ring in the Northern region.

With the recent release of the list of nine individuals and six companies accused of sponsoring terrorism in the country, it seems the Nigerian government appears tired of the usual lip service being paid to the fight against terrorism in the last two decades.

The list released on March 18, 2024, by the Nigerian Sanctions Committee, following the directives of the Federal Government, is commendable, and probably something the government should be bragging about.

It further emboldened President Bola Tinubu, who last Tuesday confronted kidnappers and bandits, condemning their reprehensible acts and declaring them as terrorists.

But as commendable as the feats are, drums were not rolled out to celebrate them, as one would have expected in a country that has been under the siege of terrorism for a long time.

For many, it is not about condemning bandits or releasing the list of sponsors of terrorism, but taking definite action against them to forestall future sponsorships.

As long as definite and legal actions are not taken against bandits and kidnappers, who are now designated as terrorists, according to the President, and their sponsors remain untouched, many think that such heinous acts may persist.

“The nine individuals and six bureau de change operators who were accused of financing terrorism in Nigeria should be apprehended, prosecuted in court and if found guilty, jailed for life and their companies shut down,” Bem Hembafan, a retired security officer, said.

Considering that no one has the right to take another’s life and the many lives lost to terrorist attacks in the country, Hembafan, who runs a private security outfit for estates in Abuja and Nasarawa State, urged the government to further its action beyond releasing the list to prosecuting the sponsors in order to curb terrorism in the country.

“I commend the feat, it is a show of political will to fight terrorism, but the work has just started and the government should not relent or the sponsors will fight back. It should not be only naming and shaming, most importantly, the sponsors should be prosecuted, else the list will make no sense,” he warned.

Toeing the same line, Abel Dadugu, a Lagos-based civil right lawyer and security expert, urged the government to act on the list as the names and companies mentioned are all in Nigeria, adding that the first thing is to freeze their accounts, seize their travel documents and put them under house arrest, pending prosecution in a court.

“We have heard the names, the government should fish them out, make an open show of them, charge them to court, freeze their accounts and anyone linked to them, seize their properties and make life difficult for them as they have done to countless families in the country. If the action ends with the release of the list, then banditry and kidnapping will persist,” the lawyer said.

For Samuel Onikoyi, a Nigerian academic in Brussels, the government needs to be applauded so far for stepping on toes to release the list.

While that is a show of political will, the applause, according to him, will turn to condemnation if the government relents because there are many people missing on the list and more lists are expected to be released amid corresponding action.

“If you follow recent and past careless comments of some Nigerians on the lives lost to terrorists in the country, you will ordinarily think that their names should have made the list, yet they were skipped.

“Nigerians are expecting more lists, and most importantly, severe actions on the one released recently to serve as deterrent to would-be sponsors,” Onikoyi said.

At the same time, he expressed fear that terrorism will persist in the country considering that the government will likely relax after naming and shaming the few sponsors listed.

“Sometime in 2021, the United Arab Emirates named six Nigerians among 47 others as terrorism sponsors. What did the government do with the names? I guess the accused are still walking free on the streets, while the UK has long prosecuted its citizens named among the sponsors.

“It is not just getting information, but what you do with that information matters. The government has started and needs to continue and has to be very firm on its stand else terrorism will persist,” Onikoyi noted.

Going to the root cause of the issue, Sani Abdullahi Shinkafi, executive director, Patriots for the Advancement of Peace and Social Development, noted that kidnapping and banditry would persist in the country if the government fails to address contributing factors, especially lack of education and unemployment.

“You will see in some states in northern Nigeria, some governors will stay for eight years and will not pay for WAEC and NECO. So, there are a lot of drop-outs from primary and secondary schools. These bandits are uneducated, both Western and Islamic education. So, instead of Almajiris being leaders of tomorrow, they are kidnapping leaders of today,” Shinkafi decried.

Onyewuchi Akagbule, a senior lecturer at the Nnamdi Azikiwe University Awka, shared the same opinion, warning that the high cost of education in the country is denying the most vulnerable Nigerians opportunity to go to school, a situation that is churning out more drop-outs and potential terrorists.

In the general view, most Nigerians think that President Tinubu’s threat will not deter kidnappers and bandits because they are used to such threats from the government in the past two decades.

“You need matching action against terrorists, it is only a superior force or action that can tame them, and not threats,” many insist.

Urging the Federal Government to beam its searchlight on Zamfara, a former military officer said: “I am not sure if it is a surprise to the Military that bandits seem to have found Zamfara attractive. I must tell you that a lot of youths there are radicalised. It was in that state some years ago that a governor pronounced Sharia. We hear about the activities of illegal gold miners using these bad boys as a shield. Do not also forget that the elections we have had since 2015 have been very terrible. Politicians planned full-scale war if the elections did not go in their favour; so, they recruited these bad boys. The consequences of those madness are what Nigeria is contending with today.”

In a recent interview, the executive Director of Patriots for Advancement of Peace and Social Development, Sani Abdullahi Shinkafi has called on political leaders to put politics aside and collaborate to put an end to the issue of banditry and kidnappings in the Northern part of Nigeria, especially in Zamfara State.

“The arm banditry in Zamfara state has some political affiliations. Banditry started in Zamfara state over 13 years ago and politicians have been using banditry as a tool to get votes during the election campaigns. Politicians should keep politics aside and join hands together to resolve the situation in Zamfara state.

“There is a need for political leaders, religious leaders and traditional rulers to come together to proffer this home-grown solution I am suggesting. Let them keep politics aside. In 2015, they used banditry to campaign, they did it in 2019 and this past 2023 is the worst,” Shinkafi said.