Comical Dambazau and Communities Paying Bandits

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Abdulrahman Dambazau

Ring True

By Yemi Adebowale; yemi.adebowale@thisdaylive.com; 07013940521

Many of President Muhammadu Buhari’s ministers are plain jesters. One of these comics is the Minister of Interior, Gen. Abdurrahman Dambazau (rtd). He was in troubled Zamfara State on Monday, on a so-called “assessment visit.” Yes, that was what Dambazau went to do in Zamfara State as if he had not been to the state before for first hand assessment of the killings and maiming by the bandits. He also went to “listen to the challenges facing the people.” Dambazau is the only one unaware that these challenges are in the public domain. My dear Dambazau went to Zamfara to “warn the bandits to either surrender immediately or be killed.” He said that the federal Government had made adequate arrangements on how best to tackle banditry and other insecurity issues affecting the state. Dambazau informed the distressed people of Zamfara State that the federal government would soon “deploy adequate security personnel to root out bandits” from the state. So, all along, there have been inadequate security agents on ground in Zamfara to tackle banditry? No wonder the bandits have been pummeling the people with ease.

Still on Dambazau’s dehydrated message; he told Zamfara people that President Buhari was very much worried over what was going on in the state and that was why he sent him to the state:  “I want to assure the people of Zamfara State that the federal government would very soon end the killings and kidnappings in the state.” It’s just the same old rhetoric. The traumatised people of Zamfara State are tired of all these useless promises. They want action not unending assessment visits by Dambazau and other government officials. They want to see result and not cheap talks. It’s ridiculous seeing an Interior Minister “warning bandits to either surrender immediately or be killed.” We are talking about bandits that have killed hundreds of people here; bandits that are making millions of Naira daily here. Now, a government that is supposed to ferociously go after the bandits is “warning” them and asking them to surrender. This simply means that this government lacks the capacity to end banditry.

The bandits roam freely in Zamfara local governments like Maru, Maradun, Zurmi, Shinkafi, Gusau, Kaura-Namoda and Anka. To avoid being killed, citizens in several communities now pay the bandits for protection. This is because help is not coming from our security agencies. Of recent, it emerged that five villages under Maradun Local Government Area were levied a total of N20 million by the bandits to avoid attacks. A resident of one of the villages said: “They (bandits) would send a representative to our communities asking us to pay money running into millions of Naira as a condition for living in peace.

“It has happened to our village and other neighbouring communities. Let me give you a breakdown of villages and the ransoms paid. They placed N10 million ransom on Gora community, N5 million on Faru village, N1.5 million on Gidan Isah community, the people of Ilankwai village had to pay N2 million while Gidan Baushe village was levied N2.5 million. All the villages paid the levy but I’m not sure whether Gora people were able to meet the demand. I was part of the team that took the ransom put on our village to the bandits inside the forest. We had to mobilise ourselves by going from house to house to collect the money in order to meet the demand. Failure to do so would be very calamitous on us.”

Some council chairmen also pay on behalf of their people. The Vice-Chairman of Shinkafi Local Government Area, Alhaji Sani Galadima, disclosed that his council pays the hoodlums daily. Galadima said: “Even yesterday (last Sunday), these bandits sent a letter to the district head of Shinkafi town saying that they were coming to attack the town. This ugly situation is very disheartening; every day we pay millions of Naira to these bandits. We really need government’s urgent support to end this problem. Our women also suffer a lot because the bandits attack communities and abduct ladies from their parents’ homes. People no longer sleep with their two eyes closed in the night in Shinkafi LGA.

“We want the government to resolve the issue of shortage of troops and police. We only have 19 soldiers in this town. We need urgent intervention from the government; we are not satisfied with the efforts and strategies of the security agencies. We all know the camps where these bandits stay; even the security men are aware of these camps; our major concern is that security personnel are not getting to these bandits.”

It is pertinent to note that there are only 19 soldiers on ground in this town as disclosed by Galadima. Also, it should be noted that he said the indigenes and security agencies know the camps of the bandits. So, banditry has simply continued in Zamfara and other states because of failure of leadership. A good example here is what happened few weeks back at Warwanna village, in Rabah, Sokoto State. The community alerted security agents immediately they noticed the bandits in the area, hoping that the security agents would apprehend them but nothing happened.

Salish Ibrahim from Warwanna village said: “Security officials failed to arrest the bandits when the villagers complained about their activities. The bandits attacked our village because we did not cooperate with them nor accommodate them. There were times they came to buy foodstuffs, petrol, call cards and other items. Our people stopped selling these things to them when we discovered their identities and we reported to the government. The government sent security officials but no arrest was made.”

From the above, it is clear that the war against bandits must be swiftly rejigged. Old commanders must make way for new commanders. Old tactics must make way for new tactics. I also believe that Nigeria must seek the assistance of developed countries in this war against bandits. Our military evidently lacks the requisite equipment and manpower for this job.

Buhari Upset with Nigeria’s Poverty Level?

After four years in power, President Muhammadu Buhari says he is upset with the level of poverty in Nigeria. Yes, the man elected to, among other things, tackle poverty is lamenting instead of taking pragmatic steps to reduce the scourge of poverty.

The President, who spoke when he hosted a breaking of fast at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, also frowned at the inability of the Nigerian elites to address the welfare and educational needs of the less-privileged members of the society. He challenged the elite to do something very urgent to ameliorate the pathetic situation in the country.

He said: “When I drive around the country, what upsets me very much is the status of our poor people in this country; you see young people, the so-called Almajiris with torn dresses, with plastic bowl. They are looking basically for what to eat. The question of education to them is a luxury. I think Nigerian elite are all failing because I think we should have a programme that will at least guarantee some basic education for our people no matter how poor they are. But, culturally some of us are quiet merciless; we don’t care about what happens to others, we just keep moving forward.”

Yes, the elite must help in reducing poverty, but the main responsibility is that of governments at all levels. What has the Buhari government done in four years to tame Almajiris? The federal government has performed poorly in this regard. Initiatives like the School Feeding Programme and the Trader Money are mere cosmetic creativities incapable of alleviating the hardship being experienced by the less-privileged individuals across the country. The truth that must be told is that more Nigerians have slipped into poverty under the Buhari government because of its actions and inactions. Its economic policies are antiquated and excruciating. Under Buhari, Nigeria wallows in darkness, rising fuel and food prices, disease, insecurity, hunger, unemployment and malnutrition, all leading to more people falling into extreme poverty.Thousands of businesses and manufacturers across the country are gasping for breath, resulting in millions of Nigerians losing their jobs.

As at press time, kerosene, the cooking fuel of the masses, sells for between N250 and N280 per litre in Lagos. It is much higher outside Lagos. The masses are being forced to spend more in the last four years to fuel kerosene stoves. It has been a big battle for survival for them as the prices of goods and services skyrocket, dragging many into extreme poverty. That was why the World Poverty Clock reported that over 1.1 million Nigerians slipped into extreme poverty just in four months – June, July, August and September – of 2018. This has brought the number of Nigerians living in extreme poverty (below $1.90 a day) to more than 88 million. Earlier in June 2018, the Brookings Institution named Nigeria as the poverty capital of the world, with 86.9 million extremely poor people. Nigeria overtook India as the world poverty capital, despite being six times smaller in population than the Asian country. The World Bank, IMF, United Nations, and major development institutions are forecasting that Nigeria will not hit the 2030 target for ending global poverty. This is because the responses to poverty reduction by our governments at all levels have been feeble.

So, Mr. President, there is an urgent need for a robust engagement of these unemployment and poverty figures. The way forward is not lamenting about poverty. It is about taking pragmatic steps to pull more Nigerians out of poverty instead of regaling us with poverty stories. I sincerely hope things will change in the next four years of your new tenure. Mr. President, if you genuinely want to reduce poverty, you must surround yourself with useful people.

Hell on Lagos-Ibadan Expressway

The Lagos-Ibadan Expressway is one big hell on earth. I spent over eight hours on this road last weekend. This journey, ordinarily, should not take more than an hour.  Nigerians are suffering on this road. The last two years have been horrendous. This road is awful. The Federal Ministry of Works must respond appropriately by engaging the two contractors working on this road to find a way of reducing agony of Nigerians to the minimum. This ministry can’t remain slothful on this while Nigerians wallow in pain. Lives are lost daily on this road while many are attacked by armed robbers because of the logjam created by the sloppy contractors. Julius Berger Nigeria, handling the Section I, commencing from Ojodu Berger to Sagamu interchange has been the biggest culprit.

On the flip side, this is another opportunity to draw the attention of the Buhari government to the shabby state of numerous federal roads across Nigeria, as it proceeds to its Next Level effective May 29. I doubt if any federal road was fully rehabilitated in Buhari’s first four years. Drivers plying federal roads across the country can testify to this.

Virtually all federal roads are in a mess. The following roads must be fully rehabilitated or completed within Buhari’s Next Level if he genuinely wants to turn Nigeria around. They are Calabar-Itu road, Enugu–Onitsha expressway, Kano-Kaduna road, East-West road,Gombe-Biu road, Gombe-Yola road, Ikorodu-Sagamu road, Calabar-Ikom highway, Aba/Enugu/Port Harcourt expressway,Oshodi-Apapa road, Lagos-Badagry expressway and Bauchi-Gombe expressway.