The authorities could do more to secure the zone
Northwest of Nigeria is lurching towards chaos. The eruption of insecurity across some North-western states is a concern not only for the authorities but indeed all of us. Armed robbers and kidnappers, who mainly operate on motorcycles, are freely roaming many of the major streets and have turned a large swathe of Zamfara, Kaduna, Katsina and recently, Sokoto States into a bandit territory.
Several villages have been displaced on account of this onslaught, while economic activities, particularly agriculture, which is the mainstay of the affected region, are being paralysed. The level of desperation, especially in Katsina, the home state of President Muhammadu Buhari, is such that many of our citizens are reportedly fleeing to neighbouring Niger Republic for abode and safety.
Until recently, the North-west zone was a template and shining example of geo-political stability and peaceful co-existence among Nigerian communities. In the eye of the public, the zone was insulated from the security challenges to lives and property that has become the frightening badge of other parts of the region, notably the North-east and North-central zones. Sadly, while the Boko Haram insurgents are still fighting over the control of the North-east and the killings by sundry armed militia and herdsmen are yet to abate in North-central, scores of bandits are now gradually taking over the north-west, thus putting the entire northern region at risk.
In Zamfara State, where this crisis is prevalent, armed bandits and other criminal elements, who specialise in cattle rustling have killed many innocent people as a result of their uncurbed activities. Their bestiality now makes many people in the communities to now sleep with only one eye open out of fear of attack and abduction to unknown destinations. As of now, the cattle rustlers have extended their tentacles to other states in the North-west, with the affected state governments and security agencies becoming helpless. Only recently the armed bandits on several motorcycles killed 26 persons in Sokoto State after a broad day light raid on several villages in the herding settlement of Rabah district.
The hopelessness of this situation was portrayed by the Governor of Katsina, Aminu Bello Masari, who lamented that the state had become unsafe. He said that bandits and kidnappers have laid siege to the state and have made everyone vulnerable to attack, irrespective of their positions in society. “No one, including myself, is safe; I’m not safe. Our state is currently under serious siege, by bandits, kidnappers, with cattle rustlers taking the third position. Kidnapping is now the order of the day in Katsina State,” Masari declared nervously.
Masari’s portrayal of the situation is dire and a declaration of lack of confidence in the response by the federal government to this festering and dangerous security situation. We are at a loss as to why banditry is being allowed to thrive in the northwest given the costly experience in the north-east and north-central where Boko Haram insurgency and herdsmen brutality have claimed lives, displaced communities, destroyed property and rendered economic activities almost impossible.
The federal government has claimed it has responded to this new danger by creating a division of the Nigeria Army in Sokoto and established a new brigade in Gusau, while a new one is in the offing in Birnin Kebbi. But we are yet to see the impact of troops’ deployment and that of other security agents towards curbing the activities of the bandits, who have continued to inflict a reign of terror and bloodletting on the affected states. Yet, as we have always stated, the current culture of impunity in our country will not end until people with criminal tendencies realise that the law can, and will, always catch up with them.