These days, I often wake up with my pillow soaked in tears. Tears for hapless Nigerians under the servitude of kidnappers, bandits and Boko Haram; tears for a country with coldblooded and unabashed failed leaders. For most of this week, the video of Lawan Andimi, the Chairman of the Christian Association of Nigeria in Michika Local Government of Adamawa State, begging to be rescued from the dungeon of Boko Haram, made it impossible for me to enjoy a sound sleep. Brave Andimi declared that if it pleased God that he be released, he would be freed, but if God decides not to get him out, his wife should be patient and his colleagues should look after his children. He requested his colleagues in CAN, as well as his family members, not to be weary, “since God’s will must be respected in all our lives.” What a courageous man.
Boko Haram invaded the predominant Christian Michika last week, killing and maiming, before cherry-picking some people, including Andimi. The military issued a statement the following day, saying they repelled the terrorists. It is absurd that they repelled the terrorists without killing a single one of them; they deterred the terrorists without pursuing them to their base and freeing the innocent people captured. These are the kind of strange stories the military now tell us about their exploits on the war front.
Nigeria is in a big mess. These days, criminals invade communities, killing, maiming and abducting unchallenged. The last four years and seven months of the Buhari government have been horrendous. Few days after Michika was invaded, bandits also attacked Kasaya village, in Chikun Local Government Area of Kaduna State unhindered. They abducted 41 people, including a pastor, Joshua Samaila. Up till now, nobody knows what has become of them. In the same Chikun, four students of the Catholic Good Shepherds Seminary, Kakau, were abducted by gunmen last Wednesday. The school is located along the dreaded Kaduna -Abuja road, noted for rampant cases of kidnappings and banditry.
Nobody is even talking about the case of Bitrus Bwala, a lecturer at the College of Education, Gashua, Yobe State and 10 others, who were abducted by Boko Haram on November 27, last year. Back then, Bwala in a short video, cried out for help. Up till now, the government has not secured their freedom or said anything about them.
These atrocities are unending. The dreaded Boko Haram detonated an improvised explosive on a crowded bridge in the market town of Gamboru Ngala, Borno State, last Monday, killing at least 30 people. More than 35 others were taken to the local hospital with injuries. “It is an unfortunate day for us to witness this frustrating and devastating incident in our community. I just heard a loud explosion, before I realised what was going on, I saw many of our friends and colleagues killed,” eyewitness Modu Ali told Reuters. On the same day, the emboldened Boko Haram ambushed a highly fortified team led by Major General Olusegun Adeniyi, the Theatre Commander of the counter-insurgency operation in the Northeast, Operation Lafiya Dole. The Theatre Commander narrowly survived the ambush few kilometres away from Jakana, in Borno State. Few days later, three policemen were killed by the terrorists on the same route. The personnel, who were men of the Special Anti-robbery Squad, fell after a fierce battle with the insurgents in Kundori village, Konduga Local Government Area.
Kidnappers are unrelenting across Nigeria. In fact, it has become big business, with security agents showing frightening ineptitude. They communicate with families of victims for weeks, using GSM phones, yet, security agents are unable to track and smoke them out. They have been doing this with the families of three indigenes of Obbo-Aiyegunle, Ekiti Local Government Area of Kwara State, abducted since December 31st, 2019. The abductors are haggling to extract a big ransom from the families before releasing their victims. It is so sad that the Osi-Obbo-Aiyegunle Road has become notorious for abduction due to its deplorable state, without appropriate response from security agents.
Bandits have reared their ugly heads in Katsina State five months after the state’s government granted them amnesty. The peace accord has collapsed with renewed attacks across five local governments – Dutsin-Ma, Jibia, Batsari, Safana and Kankara. Residents are fleeing their ancestral homes in hundreds. One of such attacks last week in Gizawa village of Dutsin-Ma was ferocious, with many killed and several others abducted. They also attacked Badole village same day, killing, stealing and maiming.
Tales from Munya Local Government Area of Niger State are terrifying. Bandits kill and maim people in this LG almost on a daily basis. Last Sunday morning, the bandits killed four soldiers (including a Captain) and injured three others in an ambush in Gwar area of this LG. The late Captain led the soldiers in an operation to clear Gwar community of bandits tormenting the residents.
Scores of civilians had been killed by the bandits in Gwar before the soldiers arrived. They were however over-powered by the bandits. The same bandits returned to another community, Beni, in Munya LG on Wednesday, and abducted the Chief Imam and 20 others.
On Thursday, gunmen strolled into Kulben village in Mangu Local Government Area of Plateau State, killing 12 people and injuring scores. They strolled out unimpeded.
As for Boko Haram, bandits and kidnappers, Soldiers battling them are weary, because they are poorly equipped and poorly motivated. This is why they are struggling to check terrorism. As at press time, soldiers on the war front had not received November and December field allowances. Many have overstayed on the war front and are tired. That was why troops of the 159 Battalion, Geidam Sector 2, Yobe State, threatened to abandon their duty post over neglect by Army authorities. The soldiers complained that they had been on counter-insurgency mission in the North-East region since 2016. They stated that many of them had been pushed into depression as a result of the situation. The men stated that they had participated in operations in Liberia before their deployment in Yobe, adding that they were being exploited by “insensitive superiors for personal and material gains.”
Going forward, this government has to accept the fact that the war against Boko Haram is beyond the capabilities of our gallant soldiers. The leaders of the military have failed the soldiers on the war front by denying them quality equipment and welfare. The way forward, as I had persistently suggested, is to engage mercenaries for this war against Boko Haram. The strategy for getting result against Boko Haram is largely through aerial power. It requires quality fighter jets, quality armoured attack helicopters. Our military lacks the capacity for these. We must hire mercenaries to finish this war. This is the way forward if President Buhari is genuinely interested in ending this fratricidal conflict.
As for the police, they persistently fail Nigerians in tackling kidnapping and other internal security challenges. The level of ineptitude of the Nigerian Police Force is sickening. A total overhaul of the force is necessary if we want result. To do this, the present leadership of the Police must make way for a result- oriented one that will address the issues of equipment and quality manpower. As for our President, he should be ashamed of endless killings in Nigeria. The buck stops on his table. He should shape in or ship out.
Ebelechukwu Obiano’s Charity in Houston
The recent video of the First Lady of Anambra State, Ebelechukwu Obiano, giving to charity in downtown Houston, Texas, United States, under her pet project, Caring Family Enhancement Initiative (CAFE), was irritating. In the video shared on social media, Ebelechukwu was seen feeding homeless Houstonians and distributing gifts to them. I thought she would deny the video, with the usual excuse that it was doctored. It did not happen. Her husband, Willy, subsequently shared the video on his Facebook page, extolling the act as a virtue and giving it a stamp of approval. What a country!
Many Nigerians myopically think the Western world is everything, including going to feed the poor there, as this lady did. I am sure that the money for Ebelechukwu’s US Charity work was raised in Nigeria. There is nothing wrong with feeding poverty-stricken people. But, honestly, the Anambra State First Lady’s charity should concentrate on the people at home. The United States has enough resources to take care of its poor. There are thousands of hungry, homeless and very poor people in Anambra State. The CAFÉ project should spend more on Ndi Anambra instead of this show of shame in the US.
The World Igbo Congress (WIC), a Diaspora group, was apt when it said Ebelechukwu’s action was wasteful, mindless and unjustifiable. It added: “We noted the lavish distribution of food and supplies and we have wondered whether this is not a case of carrying coal to New Castle or of Emperor Nero frolicking while Rome burnt. We are aware that there are about 500 active gully erosion sites in the state. These active sites have swallowed up human habitation, killed Anambra citizens and rendered survivors homeless. In terms of priority, these erosion sites deserve a ‘save our soul’ attention before the Houstonians and indeed the European countries that the First Lady has threatened to expand her kindness to.”
Ebelechukwu must avoid a repeat of the Houston fiasco.
The Monster Called NERC
On the one hand, Professor James Momoh, the Chairman/Chief Executive of the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) announced an upward review of electricity tariffs, effective April this year, in line with the Multi-Year Tariff Order 2015. On the other hand, following an outcry, the professor said the regulatory agency did not give approval to DisCos to increase tariffs, and that they would still have to negotiate with consumers. I think this professor is confused. Members of the DisCos, who are not professors, have since told their consumers that tariffs would go up by April in line with the approval. The excited Association of Nigerian Electricity Distributors, the umbrella body for DisCos, says the body is looking forward to implementing the tariff increase and that the new adjusted tariffs “shall begin to gradually reflect the dynamism of our macro-economy.”
The long and the short of this story is that electricity consumers will start paying more from April. The NERC has never been on the side of Nigerian consumers. An agency that is supposed to protect the interest of consumers, persistently pummel them, while protecting only investors. Electricity tariffs grew threefold in the last four years, while NERC did nothing about estimated billing by the DisCos. For me, NERC should first ensure the metering of all consumers by the DisCos, before approving further increase in tariffs. By so doing, consumers can control what they want to use, according to their ability.
Besides, I don’t think persistent increase in tariffs will help to stabilise electricity supply in this country. The power sector problem is multilayered; it is not just about raising tariffs. If we want stable electricity, the approach must be all-inclusive. Even if tariffs are increased tenfold today, supply will still be epileptic. NERC should be interrogating the capacity of the DisCos and GenCos. Virtually all of them are incompetent. They just want to make money. If we want stable electricity, we should also be talking about the quality and adequacy of investments by the DisCos, the transmission problems, holistic decentralisation of the sector and renewable energy solutions.