The authorities should do more to secure the countryside

When the bandits arrived the residence of the Lado Mairua in Mai-Ruwa community, Katsina State, the family was having the Muslim Ramadan Tarawih prayers. But that did not deter the hoodlums who reportedly asked the head of the family to follow them. When he refused, they shot him dead, and abducted his wife andtheir 15-year-old daughter. “This is the second time Lado’s wife is being kidnapped by bandits,” said the neighbour. Banditry has become a way of life in Katsina State, and indeed, in many parts of the country, particularly in the rural north.

The spate of attacks on rural communities across the country has gradually brought the average citizen to the Hobbesian state where life has become nasty, brutish, and short. That operatives of the various security agencies usually arrive scenes of attacks only after many people had been abducted or killed has only heightened the sense of foreboding. “The Nigerian authorities have left rural communities at the mercy of rampaging gunmen”, stated an Amnesty International report published last year. It is therefore incumbent on the authorities to find a solution to the growing lawlessness across the country, but most particularly in rural communities.      

The level of insecurity is such that the socio-economic activities and well-being of the rural inhabitants are severely threatened. People are being killed, kidnapped on the road, in business places, in farms, and in the comfort of their homes. Indeed, of all the 774 local government areas in the country, only 176 has not experienced serious security breaches, according to a leading indigenous intelligence outfit, Beacon Consulting. Even with all its strategic importance as the seat of power, Abuja is also getting more than a fair share of attacks and threat which are causing fear and apprehension among residents. Today, in Kwali, Abaji, Kuje and Kwali local governments of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), armed robbers have now been joined by kidnappers who abduct people in broad daylight.

The level of insecurity in many of these communities has made it practically difficult for farmers to continue to engage in agricultural production. For an economy that largely depends on imports – from petrol to fertilizers – the impact on the people, most of whom are unemployed, is hard. With rural dwellers denied access to schools, farms, and other sources of legitimate livelihood, it is little surprise that Nigerians are reeling from soaring food prices.

That terrorists and bandits are growing in numbers and challenging the authorities is rather troubling. They feel emboldened to embark on undertaking official functions, asking the communities raided or overpowered to pay taxes and levies. “It (banditry) has become a business venture,” acknowledged Katsina State governor Dikko Radda, who accused some government officials and security personnel of complicity.

With helpless and hopeless rural dwellers submitting to payment of taxes and levies just for their lives to be spared by non-state actors, the line between governance and anarchy becomes blurry. And as sundry criminal cartels mastermind destructions of lives and property in the rural parts of the country, the hope of victims in the government wanes. With vast ungoverned spaces especially in the Northwest, Northeast and North central, Nigeria is in dire need of security forces backed with technology. Besides, government should match security measures with severity of consequences. For instance, arrests and prosecutions should be matched with deterring punishments.

President Bola Tinubu should therefore be put on notice that insecurity is as big a challenge as the harsh economic downturn which incidentally is yet to respond to government efforts. It is also a disincentive to both local and foreign investment.  There is currently an intensive military operation in the Northwest and the Northeast. But this is part of the problem. The military is being stretched over what ordinarily is not their constitutional duty. The president must work towards reforming and repositioning the police to deliver on their primary duties of maintaining law and order, especially in rural communities. 

Fresh ideas are needed because the knee jerk ‘the president has directed’ orders of recent years has not led to any significant improvement. Those in charge of the security agencies should be given clear orders, incentives, and deadlines to produce results or face sanctions.

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