• Saturday, July 13, 2024
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BusinessDay

‘FG must take tough decisions to resolve Nigeria’s security crisis’

Expert cautions FG against engaging mercenaries to address insurgency

President Muhammadu Buhari has been advised to take tough decisions to end the high level of insecurity in the country, particularly in parts of the North. Some concerned Nigerians, who spoke to BusinessDay, said the rate at which Nigerians lose their lives to bandits paints a picture of a nation without leadership.

A Public Affairs Analyst and Lawyer, Idowu Omolegan blamed the Buhari administration and security agencies for not doing enough to stem the killings despite the availability of enough intelligence at their disposal, urging them to take decisive action to end the scourge. “I know the insecurity situation in Nigeria did not start today, but obviously, things have degenerated in the last seven years or so.

What is happening is a failure of intelligence. I just think that the President and state governors are not doing enough to fish out these criminals, deal with them, especially with all the intelligence at their disposal,” Omolegan said.

According to him, “Why would a criminal gang write a letter to a community that they are coming and they still come and carry out the attack successfully? It only shows how bad things have degenerated in the country, and it also shows that there are fifth columnists among the security agencies.

You can’t tell me with the huge amount budgeted for military and other security agencies every year, they do not have the equipment to go into the forest and face these guys.” Wale Ogunade, a lawyer and activist, alleged sabotage in the fight against the bandits.

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According to him, “I think the President is too soft in handling this issue of security; a lot of the officers are sabotaging the work of others. They are not performing; this practice of appointing people and you can’t check if they are doing well or not, is failing him.

You can see what is happening, it is a shame that our people are now taking refuge in Niger, Togo and other smaller countries.” Despite the efforts by the Federal Government, the spate of insecurity across Nigeria has become more pronounced and assumed a frightening proportion in the last six years.

The situation has also descended to a new low that continues to threaten the unity and sovereignty of Nigeria. Apart from Boko Haram insurgency, increased attacks on worshippers, travellers and kidnapping by suspected Fulani herdsmen, terrorists and other criminal groups are leaving tales of anguish in the mouths of Nigerians.

Thousands of lives have been lost, with many families displaced, many children turned orphans. Last Wednesday, members of the North/South Alliance staged a demonstration in Abuja on the escalating insecurity in the northern part of the country.

Tagged: ‘#NorthisBleeding,’ the protesters brandished placards with various inscriptions against President Muhammadu Buhari. The protesters complained that “Northern Nigeria is bleeding; Buhari is sleeping.” Recently, the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and its Trade Union Congress of Nigeria (TUC) warned that Nigeria cannot solve its security challenges with the alarming rate of unemployment, especially among the youths across the country.

The unions called on the Federal Government to do all within its powers to address the high rate of unemployment in the country to have any chance of addressing the insecurity and bring about a peaceful nation, warning that Nigeria was sitting on a time bomb, with the armies of jobless youths across the country.

Although the vicious attacks on local communities and kidnapping of people by criminal groups in the region are being described by state officials as banditry, experts say that further evidence suggests that the government is simplifying the dynamics and was not doing enough to curtail the situation.

They say that in actuality, Northern Nigeria has become the safe haven of increasingly active terrorist groups, including the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara; Al Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb; a splinter of Boko Haram popularly referred to as the Islamic State in West Africa once rated the fourth-deadliest terror group in the world.

Penultimate Friday, gunmen attacked a rural village in Northern Nigeria, in Niger State, killing 16 worshippers at a mosque and kidnapping others, according to a local official. Alhassan Isah Mazakuka, the local government chairman said the assault on Ba’are village in the Mashegu area of Niger State lasted for hours.

The assailants, who were said to be numbering about a dozen in number, were said to have arrived on motorcycles, rampaged through the village, killing people praying at the mosque and looting. “Those people (the gunmen) are dangerous,” he told The Associated Press in a phone interview on Friday. “They killed 16 and kidnapped many of our people. We don’t even know the number they kidnapped because they are uncountable,” the chairman said. Similarly, Just days after that, the Katsina State Commissioner for Science and Technology, Rabe Nasir Bindawa, was killed at his home.

The Commissioner was said to have been stabbed with a knife by the hoodlums in his sitting room and his corpse was locked in his toilet. Recently, it was confirmed that 23 travellers were slain in different parts of Sokoto State. Also, last week, a member of the Kaduna State House of Assembly, Rilwanu Gadagau was killed by terrorists.

Gadagau’s Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Ibrahim Danfulan made the announcement in a statement. According to Danfulan, the late lawmaker’s body was discovered in a morgue on Wednesday, adding that he was among those killed on Monday night along Kaduna-Zaria Highway. “He died during bandits’ attack along Zaria highway. This is tragic and painful. We are in deep grief over this sad incident.

Our prayers at this time go to his immediate family. Honourable Gadagau was a young and dynamic lawmaker, who had a passion for his constituency, state, and Nigeria. We will miss his vibrant contributions,” part of the statement read. Presently, it appears there is no hope in sight; promises made by the head of security agencies to halt the killings appear to be a mirage.

Observers say that Nigeria’s security forces are already overstretched as they have been fighting Islamic extremists in the North for more than a decade and called for more armed men to be deployed to various states in the North. In many remote communities in Northern Nigeria, the armed groups often outnumber and outgun the security forces.

Recently, a coalition of Northern youth groups under the aegis of Northern Ethnic Group Assembly, (NEYGA) condemned the killing of travellers by bandits in Isa Local Government Area of Sokoto.

The spokesperson of the group, Ibrahim Dan-Musa, said it was one attack that cannot be forgotten in a hurry, lamenting that Nigeria has been turned into a killing field by terrorists terrorising the country.

According to him, “Nigeria has been turned into a killing field by these bandits terrorising the country where innocent civilians looking for their daily bread are forced to live in perpetual fear. “The body language of Monguno (Mohammed Babagana Monguno, national security adviser) shows that he is only interested in power and more power and acquisitions of properties instead of intelligent gathering”.

“Virtually all parts of Nigeria are currently battling with one form of insecurity or the other with various crimes going on, largely unabated.” “Despite attempts by the Muhammadu Buhari-led administration to curb the rising criminalities and killings across the country, the nation’s security apparatus under Monguno appears to be overwhelmed by criminals maiming and extorting their victims,” Dan-Musa further said.

In his opinion article, published on December 12, 2021, by the International Centre for Investigative Journalism, entitled, ‘Never in the history of our nation has it been this bad,’ Usman Yusuf, a professor of Haematology-Oncology and Bone Marrow Transplantation, lamented the precarious security situation across the country, particularly in the North. He recalled the gruesome massacre of 42 innocent travellers including women, children and babies at Gidan Bawa in Sabon Birni LGA of Sokoto State on December 6, 2021. “Armed bandits ambushed and shot at their bus setting it ablaze and stood guard watching until all the passengers were burnt alive.

The menacing presence of the armed bandits prevented anyone from responding to the people’s screams for help,” he said. He also noted the apprehension in Sokoto East, saying, “Sabon Birni, Isa, Goronyo, Illela and Wurno LGAs in the Eastern part of Sokoto state are now under the control of a notorious bandit called Bello Turji who was dislodged by recent military operations in Zamfara State.

His gang is terrorizing these parts of the state and is responsible for the recent burning to death of 42 passengers in Gidan Bawa and more.” According to him, “Residents of these areas come under constant attacks by armed bandits, their markets and schools remain closed and farmers are scared off their farms.

Bandits change the village heads and impose taxes on the villagers. There is a mass exodus of refugees into the neighbouring Niger Republic. In Sabon Birni, residents say that only about 20 lightly armed soldiers were sent to fight more than 300 heavily armed bandits and that these soldiers stayed for a short time leaving them to endure lethal reprisal attacks by these bandits.”

Professor Yusuf alleged that the Zamfara Military Operations: Code named, ‘Operation Hadarin Daji’, was a classic case of a military operation that was poorly planned and poorly executed without any strategy on how to handle the predictable disastrous consequences. This military operation is singularly responsible for the recent upsurge of banditry in Sokoto, Katsina, Kaduna and Niger States that has cost the lives of many citizens.

He noted that there are many more atrocious deeds and attacks that are being reported. “The gruesome nature of the Gidan Bawa massacre in Sokoto state made headlines but, there are many more equally as gruesome that occurred in the NW and NC that did not make the headlines. In Niger state, armed bandits killed 9 worshippers in Ba’are in Mashegu LGA following a similar attack in October in Maza-Kula in the same council area where 17 worshippers were killed.

In Katsina state, Batsari LGA, gunmen killed at least 11 people and injured 13 others setting dozens of houses and vehicles on fire. “In Kaduna State, the news is equally as depressing with the recent killing of a Pastor and innocent citizens in the rural areas. Kaduna-Abuja highway has now become a highway to hell due to abductions by bandits.

Zamfara State, the epicentre of banditry, has not seen any respite from bandit attacks who control major highways and villages operating unchecked,” he said. Recall that Governor Aminu Tambuwal had recently blamed the escalation of attacks in his state on the uncoordinated attacks by the military against the bandits without carrying along with the state governments.

According to him, “Our situation in Sokoto State got worsened by the military operations in Zamfara State. The operations took us by surprise. I can tell you, Mr. NSA, we the governors of the North-West have been appealing for this operation for the last four years.

What we requested was that once the military is ready for the operations, it should be carried out simultaneously in Zamfara, Katsina, Kaduna, Kebbi, Sokoto and Niger states where we are having infiltration of these criminals.

Unfortunately, Zamfara was isolated and this was what we got by ‘Operation Hadarin Daji’, which was carried out without any blocking force around the neighbouring states, particularly speaking for Sokoto State. Also, the timing of the operation didn’t help, unfortunately, our security agents do not have enough equipment to move and curtail and contain those that would wander towards Sokoto State.

So, the timing and way the operation was carried out left Sokoto very vulnerable,” Governor Aminu Tambuwal lamented.