Bandits Now in Free Reign

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Operations of bandits in many parts of the country have scaled up terrifyingly hence the authority must approach the challenge differently. Olawale Olaleye writes

Last week, the story of a certain woman and her family (husband and daughter), who were victims of some marauding bandits, alleged to be of the Fulani extraction, along the Akure-Ilesa road, South-west Nigeria, trended fiercely.

It was not the typical story of kidnappers, who picked up their random victims for instant financial reasons and moved on as quickly as possible to the next prey. This woman painted the gory details of the humiliation and dehumanisation her family was subjected to, in addition to parting with N8 million for their eventual freedom after six days in the dead and nondescript part of town.

The operations of the kidnappers were so organised that, according to her, the settlement was properly structured including a traditional medical section, where victims are sustained pending their release. She didn’t forget to mention that they trekked nine hours from the point they were kidnapped, when their tyres went bad to the operational base of these monsters.

This happened in South-west, Nigeria’s supposed most civilised region, a few weeks after a lecturer at the Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU) was also kidnapped along the Ife road and released days after some ransom had been paid.

That was just two out of the many victims of everyday assault by these evil elements, who could not come out to tell their story. There were too many details in the woman’s narration to be ignored. From their molestation to what they saw of the state of other victims, Nigeria, perhaps isn’t only sitting on a time-bomb, explosion appears inevitable at this rate except there is an intervention that defies canal logic.

From the homestead of the president, Muhamamdu Buhari in Daura, Katsina State to Zamfara, Kaduna, Sokoto, the whole of the North East, parts of North Central, South-east, South-south and South-west, Nigeria is arguably not a safe place any more. Recent statistics showed that about 25,794 people had been so far killed under the current administration.

Although the Police Public Relations Officer, Frank Mba, paraded some of the suspects believed to be terrorising different parts of the country with loads of ammunitions recovered, in addition to seeking to link up with the said woman mentioned in the opening paragraph with a view to combing the area and apprehending the criminals, the challenge as it were appears to be overwhelming and therefore, approach must change significantly.

The First Lady of Nigeria, Mrs. Aisha Buhari, last week alluded as much to the negative impact of bandits’ operations, when she expressed her frustration about the general security of the country, and Katsina State in particular. She had warned that if the security agencies failed to quickly contain the menace of increased banditry in different parts of the country, it could consume all of Nigeria’s civil population.

A flustered Mrs. Buhari had immediately reminded the government of her husband, President Muhammadu Buhari that it could not continue to watch bandits kill her people of Katsina after giving him 1.2 million votes, which she described as the highest in the country, during the just concluded general election.

The first lady also called on all well-meaning Nigerians to talk about things that were not right in the country in order to force action by the government, saying silence could be counterproductive.

But if anyone had thought Mrs. BUhari was playing to the gallery, how about a former Defence Minister, Lt. General Theophilus Danjuma; former Military Governor of Rivers State, General Zamani Lekwot and Chief Solomon Asemota (SAN), who recently told the United Kingdom Parliament that President Buhari was pursuing a jihad or Islamisation agenda and not serious about tackling insecurity arising from Boko Haram insurgency and herdsmen-farmers crises in the country.

The trio acted under the aegis of Nigerian Christian Elders Forum (NCEF), which also has General Joshua Dogonyaro; Justice Kalajine Anigbogu, Elder Matthew Owojaiye, Dr. Kate Okpaleke and Elder Moses Ihonde, as members.

While blaming Lord Lugard for sowing the seed of ethno-religious crises and dichotomy between Northern and Southern Nigeria, they called for a deepening of democracy and rejection of sharia in a paper dated June 3, to the All Party Parliamentary Group for International Freedom of Religion or Belief, APPG, UK Parliament.

Compounded by the intractable reign of insurgency, herdsmen attacks, ritual killings and armed robberies amongst others, what the government currently has on its hands, shows it must prioritise security as soon as possible as its second term begins to count.

There is no debating how bad the security of the country has degenerated and particularly disturbing is the seeming reality that the government is still unable to wrap its fingers around possible solution to the menace of bandits. The news that the police are currently seeking a different approach to the situation including the enactment of stronger laws that enable confiscation of assets linked to kidnapping and similar crimes is cheering.

Government must of course do more to prevent and burst crime scenes, a possibility that can only be facilitated through diligent intelligence gathering (with the cooperation of the people) and prosecution. The situation is currently very bad and the habitual pretence that all is well is no longer an option.