The security agencies could do more to contain the violence across the country, writes Olusegun Adeniyi
It should worry the authorities that not only has life become very cheap in the country today, even the personnel of both the military and the police have now become easy game for sundry criminals. While there have been several reports in recent days of dozens of soldiers that cannot be accounted for after an ambush by Boko Haram, no fewer than 11 policemen have been killed this month alone. On 2nd July, seven policemen were killed in broad daylight at Galadimawa roundabout, Abuja and just 12 days later on 14th July, four policemen were ambushed at Sabongida Ora in Edo State and murdered.
Unfortunately, at a time you expect those saddled with the responsibility of protecting us to come up with a mapping of areas of the country where threats and vulnerabilities are active and deploy their human and material assets to such locations, we have a situation in which half the population of our police are either doing guard duties or carrying bags for spouses and concubines of politicians. Besides, our security agencies still rely on show of force, especially against defenceless citizens as we saw in Ekiti State last week rather than a close to the ground intelligence that will help in identifying possible threats and how to tackle them.
However, the problem in Sokoto was long foreseen. While hosting the Northern States Governorsâ€™ Forum (NSGF) meeting in July last year, Kaduna State governor, Malam Nasir el-Rufai spoke on the need for the federal government to hand over to the affected states the management of the Kamuku, Kuyambana and Falgore forests before he added: â€œFor such efforts to be credible and sustainable, the (Nigerian) state must vigorously reclaim its prerogatives as the guarantor of security. Robust actions in the security sector must be undertaken quickly to implant a visible, reassuring and effective presence of the protective hand of the state across our region. There are too many places where outlaws and non-state actors of all sorts have stepped into the ungoverned spaces like these forests.â€
Unfortunately, the authorities in Abuja paid no attention to the growing danger in the north-west while our security chiefs have not come up with any meaningful strategy to contain the threat. Yet, arguing that it would be catastrophic for the country to allow the emergence of another â€˜Sambisaâ€™ in the North-west axis, el-Rufai had warned that the forests which now provide safe refuge for outlaws and has become the headquarters for robberies, kidnappings and cattle rustling â€œconstitute sources of perils to ordinary people, the states and the country.â€
The villages within the Gandi district, like many across the country, have been left practically at the mercy of God but the problem is compounded when those whose mandate it is to protect the people also invoke divine protection as their only solution. As a commentator observed last week, security chiefs that can only â€œ(c)rack their brainsâ€ as hundreds of citizens have their lives brutally cut short almost by sundry criminal cartels almost on a daily basis cannot guarantee safety. So, President Buhari must do something urgent about that if we are ever to arrest the current drift to anarchy.
Meanwhile, my trip to Rabah local government of Sokoto opened my eyes to the richness of our country and the potential that we waste. Accompanied by Mallam Abubakar Shekara, Director- General, Media and Public Affairs to the Governor, the drive from Sokoto to Gandi took about 80 minutes but I had never seen such vast expanse of rain water bodies in any part of Nigeria as I saw on that stretch. From Sokoto through Rabah town ( home town of the late Sardauna of Sokoto, Sir Ahmadu Bello) up to Gandi, all that you see on both sides of the road are small lakes and ponds with lush green, though of shrubs since the trees have been harvested for firewood (another challenge we must address). Also being herded by nomads were very hefty and robust cows, the likes you hardly find in any of our markets. I was told they are called â€˜Sokoto Gudaleâ€™.
In my brief chat with Tambuwal before I headed for the airport after returning from Gandi on Tuesday, he said plans were on the table for harvesting the rain waters for irrigation during the dry season. While all the studies have been done on the idea of capturing rainwater and storing it for irrigation purposes, he added that funding is a problem. Yet, given what I saw in Rabah local government, this is an idea that the federal government should be interested in not only for Sokoto but for other neighbouring states where harvesting rainwater can help in growing crops in the dry season, support the ranching of livestock that has become a national security issue.
In Sokoto, I also learnt about the cattle ranch project started by the former governor, Alhaji Aliyu Wamakko which Tambuwal has continued. Covering 1000 hectares with capacity to cater for 10,000 cattle, what the idea suggests is that we can easily turn the current challenge into a huge opportunity. As Dr Chidi Amuta once argued at our editorial board meeting, â€œby allowing some people to roam the length and breadth of Nigeria often herding diseased and evacuated cattle, we violate the rights of these animals and endanger the health of these citizens through exposure to the elements and a cocktail of diseases.â€
In Sokoto State, investments have already been made for the acquisition of cattle from both Brazil and Argentina for cross-breeding with â€˜Sokoto Gudaleâ€™. While the species from Brazil is expected to improve milk yield, the species from Argentina is for the beef yield with the expectation that cross-breeding with â€˜Sokoto Gudaliâ€™ will significantly improve the quality of animal husbandry. Tambuwal said cluster farms will be established under a private sector arrangement while the cattle breeds will graze in the fields which take care of the security challenge posed by nomadic herding.
Aside helping to effect the much talked-about â€˜diversification of the economy to agricultureâ€™, it will also deal with the security challenge that has, in the words of retired federal permanent secretary, Dr Hakeem Baba-Ahmed turned â€œa huge swathe of the north into bandit territory.â€
On our way back to Sokoto from Gandi on Tuesday, I was so enthralled by how kind nature has been to us as a country that I muttered almost to myself but to the hearing of Shekara,â€we have no business with poverty in Nigeria.â€ Chuckling, Shekara, a soft-spoken but rather interesting man, responded: â€œA friend told me a story many years ago. He said after God had created the world, He sent an angel to carry resources to different parts. In America, God told the angel to drop a lot of resources because people from different parts would congregate there. In Asia, God also directed the angel to drop a lot of resources because the inhabitants would be very industrious. The same pattern continued until the angel got to Africa and he had not even expended half the resources he carried. But upon entering the continent, the angel stumbled and spilled all the resources. As he tried to pack them God told him: Donâ€™t bother, just watch: The people will not use them.â€
Sadly, this story, even when it is fiction, it nonetheless reflects the reality of our country since we have done little to optimize the abundant resources God has bestowed upon us as a nation. Even if we had taken a different path, it would still have been difficult to sustain production and human development in an environment where bandits set up parallel government, abduct people for ransom, sack villages and kill innocent citizens at will.