Before the State Surrenders to Armed Criminals

Buhari in Maiduguri shakes hands with Governor Zulum

The federal government must tighten its noose on insecurity before the state loses the initiative, writes Samuel Ajayi

On his way back from Ethiopia, where he had gone to attend the Ordinary Session of Heads of State and Government of the African Union, President Muhammadu Buhari, headed straight to Maiduguri, the Borno State capital.

The state had just suffered an upsurge in violent attacks from the Boko Haram insurgents and the Islamic State for West Africa, ISWA.

Last week, about 30 people, mostly travellers, killed and almost two dozens of vehicles were destroyed by the insurgents in the village of Auno, about 20 kilometres from Maiduguri.

Those killed were burnt to death inside their vehicles, where they had decided to spend the night after the gate of the state capital was shut after the time for closure had lapsed.

During the visit, the President commiserated with the people and government of the state and promised to do all within his powers to curb the menace of insecurity in the country. He, however, charged the leaders of the state to do more to help security agencies fight the Islamic insurgents.

The President had this to say: “This Boko Haram or whoever they are cannot come up to Maiduguri or its environs to attack without the local leadership knowing.”

The problem is not the fact that the insurgents are attacking and killing hapless locals and travellers, the issue bothering Nigerians is that the state seems to be helpless. 

In normal societies, the power of coercion and deployment of violence seem to be exclusive preserve of the state. But the Nigerian state seems to have lost this power. And that is where the danger lies.

Shortly after the President departed Maiduguri to Abuja, the village of Jiddari Polo came under attack from the Boko Haram insurgents, who forced residents of the area to scamper to safety. It was a stark and scary testimony of the firepower of the insurgents and an indication that even the visit of the President was not enough to scare them.

In Kaduna State, last week, a family of 11 was set ablaze by bandits, who had turned the state into a killing field. The burning of the defenceless family members happened, when the bandits attacked their village of Bakali in Fatika District of Giwa Local Government area of the state.

These 11 victims were part of a total of 21, who were killed during the attack, when the houses were set ablaze in the attack described as being “unprovoked”.

Mallam Sani Bakali, head of the family of the victims, told newsmen that the bandits attacked their village with sophisticated weapons.

“The bandits stormed our village on several motorbikes, brandishing AK47 rifles. Immediately they came they started moving round the village shooting sporadically.

“In the process, they came to our house and set it ablaze, with 11 people inside. All the 11 people were members of my family. They included three women and eight children of my three younger brothers,” Mallam Bakali explained.

Kidnappings and abductions have become the order of the day in Kaduna State, which is a state that prides itself as the political headquarters of the North.

Also, last week, during the burial of a seminarian, Michael Nnamdi, 18, who was killed by his abductors, who had also killed wife of a medical doctor, the Catholic Bishop of Sokoto Archdiocese, Most Rev. Matthew Kukah, took a heavy swipe at the President, whom he accused of nepotism and clannishness.

Kukah, a man often used to diplomatese and constructive engagement, was livid that the state seems helpless in tackling growing insecurity in the land.

Fulani herdsmen have practically taken over many villages in Benue State. And there are fears that their activities might affect the nation’s food security. Not that alone, in Kaduna, Kano and Jigawa States, farmers are complaining that they could barely go to farms again for fears of being attacked by bandits.

Large parts of Zamfara State were practically ungovernable in the later part of last year till the beginning of this year. On January 17 this year, bandits attacked Baban Rafi community in Gummi Local Government area of the state, killing 14 persons.

As usual, the bandits came on motorbikes and were shooting sporadically, leaving many of the victims to die of stray bullets. A resident of the community said they buried 20 people with many still missing as at then.

The seeming helplessness of the state is not only dangerous in terms of maintaining law and order, it also does not forebode well in terms of individuals and the need to ensure personal security.

Experts are of the opinion that it won’t be long before Nigerians start resorting to self-help in order to secure their lives and properties. And perhaps, this is already happening and it is an indication that the state might be losing it.

Oladele Morakinyo, an online marketer, said most Nigerians do not have confidence in the government to protect them. To him, killings across the country are an indication that bandits and insurgents are not only having an upper hand, security agencies and their agents are overwhelmed.

Perhaps, the setting up of Operation Amotekun by the state governments in the Southwest geopolitical zone could not have come at a better time. The initial hostile disposition to the idea by the federal government has given way to working out of modalities on how to go about the initiative.

With the community policing of the Inspector-General of Police also coming up, perhaps, the state can regain control over the security of lives and properties and the President can do less of condolence visits.