The Fury in Katsina State

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Last Tuesday, youths of Daddara village in Jibia Local Government Area of Katsina State violently expressed their frustration with unending killings by bandits in their community, burning the Police and Immigration posts in the border town. They have every reason to be annoyed. There are numerous security agents in Daddara village, yet, the killers enter with ease. The bandits are largely Fulani militias. This is the truth that must be told. Many have been sent to early graves inDaddara by these bandits. In anger, the youths came out in large number and blocked the Katsina -Jibia Highway for several hours, smashing vehicles of security agencies and those of innocent citizens.

Youths from Dutsinma Local Government of Katsina State were also recently on the street, to protest unending killings by “bandits” in the state. The frustrated youths from Turare, Marke and Dogon Ruwa villages blocked the Dutsinma – Kankara highway for hours, lamenting endless butcheries in their communities. One of the youths who pleaded for anonymity said: “We are tired of the activities of bandits in our communities. We blocked the highway to show our displeasure over insecurity here. We want the authorities to be aware of our plight and come to our rescue.”

All these protests are signals to Governor Aminu Masari to raise his game and end tacit support for Fulani militias. The killings by the so-called bandits will persist for a very long time if political leaders and security agents continue to act in support of a faction. This is largely a war between Fulani herders and Hausa farmers, over grazing land. The bandits are Fulani militias who fight for the herders that want unfettered access to farm lands. Herders often call the militias when they suffer casualties. The Hausa farmers also have their militias called Yan Sakai. They retaliate for Hausa farmers when their farm lands are destroyed and farmers killed. It is one big mess compounded by politicians and security agents that have refused to act impassively. The conflict was minimal prior to Buhari’s emergence as President. But immediately he became President, the Fulani herders were bolstered, because “our brother is now in charge,” and the drive for unencumbered access to farm lands assumed a frightening dimension.

As for leaders refusing to dispassionately respond to the killings, Masari remains the biggest culprit. This is why his hopeless amnesty programme for “bandits” is not working. I remember when Fulani militias killed scores in Tsauwa and Dankar villages (Batsari Local Government Area) last February, the reaction of Masari, from the comfort of his office, was to say that “two Fulanis were killed in Tsauwa and Dankar villages,” and that the Fulanis simply retaliated. This governor needs to be reminded that those who kill innocent people are as guilty as those who retaliate. The governor, after massive criticism, grudgingly paid a condolence visit to the traumatised residents of Tsauwa and Dankar.

Several months after the attack in Tsauwa and Dankar, the Police have only succeeded in arresting just one man in connection with a crime perpetrated by over 100 people on motorcycles. For the Army, they recovered nine motorcycles belonging to the “bandits” but they were unable to arrest a single “bandit” involved in the crime. Anybody expecting a good result would most likely wait till eternity. If those who carried out the attacks in Tsauwa and Dankar had been arrested and put on trial, it would have sent a strong signal to all the warring factions that government is serious about ending the crisis. But it did not happen. Just as in numerous previous cases, it may never happen.

The situation in Katsina, which happens to be our President’s state, is pathetic. The “bandits” are roaming freely in virtually all the local governments, killing at will. Just 10 days ago, the “bandits” attacked Unguwar Doka village, in Faskari Local Government Area, shooting indiscriminately and leaving many killed. Some soldiers, who were on routine patrol, ran into the marauding “bandits”. One officer and two soldiers were killed in the skirmish.

Buhari and Masari obstinately fail the people. A lawmaker in the Katsina State House of Assembly, Mustapha Jibiya, was apt, when he said the “irresponsibility and insensitivity” of relevant stakeholders were responsible for growing insecurity in the state. The lawmaker said both the federal and Katsina State governments failed to provide security for citizens, and that his constituents now prefer to call on security forces in Niger republic for help.

Back then, President Buhari was busy analysing the “retaliation” in the Tsauwa and Dankar killings, saying the killings were done in reprisal for what the farmers had done to the bandits earlier. He said bandits had been subjected to jungle justice by the affected communities, causing the miscreants to return to the places to wreak havoc. The President added: “Local communities that catch bandits should hand over the suspects to law enforcement authorities instead of meting out capital punishment, leading to a cycle of revenge and counter revenge. The authorities must be allowed to investigate and deal with any breach that occurs. There is no place for violence in a decent society.”

If justice had been served to the killers in the first place, there would probably be no retaliatory killings in these troubled communities. This violence will continue if criminals are not punished. I have not heard of a single bandit convicted in Katsina State since this crisis escalated.
For the herders looking for unfettered access to farm lands, they must be told that this is intolerable. The way to go is ranching. For peace to reign, herders must be compelled to cuddle ranching. Governors in the affected states have enough lands for this. They should further provide technical and financial support to the herders to settle in the ranches.

Amaechi Should End Secure Anchorage Garbage
Few days back, the Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, was heard openly lamenting about the unending operation of an illegal anchorage known as Secure Anchorage Area (SAA) on Nigeria’s territorial waters. According to the minister, an individual has been exploiting the country by collecting huge forex from ship owners coming to berth in Lagos in the so-called secure anchorage. The minister, who protested while delivering a virtual keynote address at the recent 2020 World Maritime Day celebration, said the operation of SAA “is quite unsettling.”

He said: “There is a crisis in the maritime sector. The crisis is on the issue of security. Today, we have a single individual, partnering with the military, collecting $1,200 to the detriment of shipping companies. That one individual is still managing the business with support of other institutions.” The minister accused stakeholders of doing nothing to the individual, stressing that no one other than the minister had the right to set up a secure anchorage area.

I find Amaechi’s lamentations shocking. I expect him to take concrete action to end this baloney called Secure Anchorage Area instead of his useless public lamentation. The minister admitted that he is the only one legally allowed to set up a secure anchorage area on the nation’s high sea. So, what has he done to end SAA’s operation? Why is he asking Maritime stakeholders to act?

Few weeks back, I exposed the secure anchorage rubbish created on the Nigerian high sea by a Nigerian company since 2014. It provides security at a high cost in USD to vessels calling at the Lagos ports. Normally, the business of protecting ships on our territorial waters is largely that of the Nigerian Navy. This is backed by our laws. Unfortunately, the leadership of the Navy provides the services to the Hosa Wells Okunbo-led firm in charge of the so-called Secure Anchorage Area, while exploiting foreign ships heading to Lagos ports. Vessels purchased for the Navy by the Nigerian government and the NPA to secure our waterways are being used to service the SAA project.
The SAA managers threaten ship owners that they run the risk of being attacked by pirates if they don’t use their facilities. So, they are forced to patronise the SAA. Nigerian consumers are paying heavily for this. How? The cost of shipping goods to Nigeria increases with this extra security bill for ships, which is invariably passed on to the final consumers – Nigerians.

Wells Okunbo is a key member of the ruling APC. He dines with any government in power. I guess his conspirators, the Nigerian Navy leadership inclusive, are now above the laws of our land. This is why a private company can slice out a portion of our territorial waters and name it, “Secure Anchorage Area”, then, charge foreign vessels in USD for protection. It can only happen in Nigeria. The big men in Abuja are not concerned about our security and the rising cost of shipping goods to Nigeria. For obvious reasons, those with statutory responsibility for the security of the country’s waterways – Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Marine Police, and the Nigerian Navy – are unperturbed by the activities of the secure anchorage firm.

It’s not enough for Amaechi to be lamenting openly on the SAA issue or is he waiting for Maritime stakeholders to come and do his work? He has to take on the cabal backing Okunbo with all his might in order to end the SAA garbage. If this minister can’t do it, he should pack his load and return to his village in Ubima. The Nigerian Navy must fully assume its responsibilities of protecting the nation’s high sea.

Zulum Must Learn to Fight Tactically
Governor Babagana Zulum’s love for his people in Borno State is unquestionable. His desire to have the people displaced by Boko Haram resettled in their towns and villages is also commendable. But this governor has to go about this with a lot of wisdom and tact so as not to end in a bigger tragedy for him and the people he loves so much. Thrice, he was attacked while on this mission to facilitate the resettlement of internally displaced persons, with the second one resulting in the death of 15 security agents.

Zulum has resolved to return all Baga IDPs and inaugurated a 23-person committee to see to it. This is preposterous and an unnecessary exuberance. The governor said feeding the displaced was not financially sustainable, insisting the only option was for them to return and rebuild their homes and live a “dignified” life. I am shocked that he is untroubled by the security risks the returnees would be exposed to. Evidently, Borno State is not at the stage it should be talking about resettling IDPs. Why? Those who displaced the hapless people are still very much in control of the affected communities. This is why previous efforts in this direction ended in failure. Those resettled in the past had to scamper to Maiduguri after ferocious attacks by Boko Haram. Schools and buildings constructed for the purpose by the Kashim Shettima government in Baga were destroyed by the terrorists last year. Zulum can’t claim to be unaware of this.

The point I am making is that, for now, Zulum should redirect all resources of the state’s government towards eliminating the terrorists. Boko Haram fighters are still roaming freely in affected communities and often render resettlement useless. So, they must first be eliminated before people can be returned to their homes. What should Zulum be doing in terms of fighting Boko Haram? He should be spending Borno’s resources on quality hunters capable of tackling the terrorists supernaturally and physically. Zulum should go in search of these brave hunters all over Nigeria and further into other West African countries. The Borno governor should go further by assembling marabouts to tackle this war from the spiritual angle. This governor should pay special attention to this. He should get the very best marabouts from within and outside Nigeria for this task.

On a last note, Zulum should stop his exuberance of jumping into unsafe areas in Borno State in the name of resettling IDPs. The facts on ground do not support this. Showboating is absolutely unnecessary here. Boko Haram still controls most of these areas Zulum is aiming at resettling his people. He has alluded to this severally. So, what is he trying to prove jumping into these dangerous areas? Populism should be accompanied with tact and wisdom.