This is not the best of times for our brothers and sisters in the Northern part of the country, especially with the casualty figures being churned out on a daily basis. It is unbelievable that we can get to such a scary situation where lives are no longer sacred, where certain elements under the guise of banditry or terrorism could resort to wanton killings of our people in their ancestral homes.
One is even amazed that these bandits or terrorists can easily take human lives without batting an eyelid.
It is highly regrettable that these elements in our midst can terminate what they did not create and proceed to walk around the areas without the fear of God.
At this juncture, one cannot but ask these pertinent questions: Are these killers truly Nigerians?
This is because it is unusual and unimaginable that certain groups of people, without provocation, will proceed to kill their brothers and sisters in the guise of banditry and also demand ransom from the same hapless people. Again, who are these people terrorizing our people in the North? Their bestiality shows that they are animals in human skin (apology to the iconic Afrobeat legend, the late Fela Anikulapo Kuti).
Today, there are two governors in the North coming out with naked truths and not living in denial about the casualty figures in their states. Unlike their colleagues who are playing the ostrich, the two governors have raised the alarm about the precarious security concerns in their states. Who are these governors by the way?
I’m talking about Kaduna State Governor Nasir el-Rufai and his Borno State counterpart, Prof Babagana Zulum.
It is important to state that the two governors, in spite of their shortcomings in certain areas, bemoaned the current situation in their states and called on stakeholders to fashion a holistic approach to tackle the ugly situation.
Governor el-Rufai, in an unprecedented manner on February 1, 2022, reeled out the numbers of people that have been killed in one year. The casualty figures are quite disturbing. According to him, Kaduna lost 1,192 residents to bandits and violent attacks across the state in 2021 alone while he proceeded to announce the incredible figure- 3,348 citizens were also kidnapped in 2021.
How did we get here? We are talking about human beings and not yams. Never before has this country witnessed these mindless killings after the Civil War between 1967 and 1970.
Receiving reports of the security challenges facing the state compiled by the Commissioner for Internal Security and Home Affairs, Samuel Aruwan, el-Rufai stated that the fatality figure represents an average of three residents being killed daily in 2021. The report also shows that there is a 27.21 per cent increase in deaths, compared to 2020.
The Kaduna Governor also confirmed that an average of nine persons were kidnapped daily in 2021 while the report also gave 891 as the figure of people who sustained various forms of injury during the attacks.
Apart from human casualty, 13,788 cows were rustled within the 12 months covered by the report.
Curiously, the report highlighted the main sources of revenue for bandits as follows: Ransom for kidnapped hostages, sale of rustled cattle, profit from gun running/arms trade, leasing of weapons to other criminal groups, proceeds from joint operations (mostly kidnappings) with other criminal groups, protection levies imposed on farming communities and individuals and proceeds from commercial motorcycle operators and other businesses set up for local collaborators.
Speaking on the disturbing report, el-Rufai said: “Like the 2020 maiden edition, the report is a sobering reading because it is a factual account of a challenging situation. Its pages contain hard data, which reflect the pains inflicted on our people across the state by criminals and outlaws. The report also provides background and an update on the steps being taken by Kaduna State government to manage this serious challenge.
This writer was bewildered about the frightening fatality figures of our people dispatched to the great beyond without committing any crime. It is a painful reality that Kaduna, the bastion of the North and a cosmopolitan city, can witness these avoidable deaths.
A resident living in Kaduna once asked a pertinent question from an Abuja-based public analyst – “Can’t el-Rufai use his security vote to deal with the security problems in Kaduna?” But the analyst answered him thus – “Your governor is handicapped. He doesn’t control the security apparatus in the state. They are all federal establishments and they take control from Abuja. Even if he has billions of naira as security vote, he lacks the power to direct the security machinery in the state”. The flustered resident then lamented thus:
“We need State Police to address security issues in my state.”
The analyst concluded the conversation with this: “I concur with your point. It is a national question that stakeholders must address.”
It is certain that we can no longer pay lip service to the security issue as all hands must be on deck to address the situation.
But the Kaduna Governor has called for the establishment of a Theatre Command similar to that of the North-East, to tackle the security situation in the five states of the North-West and Niger State.
Making suggestions for the way forward, el-Rufai said, “The Kaduna State government appeals to the Federal Government to create a Theatre Command similar to the situation in the North-East-East to confront the insurgency that has clearly emerged in five states of the North-West and Niger State with continuous and contiguous forest ranges.
“The creation of such a Theatre Command will enable holistic approach to counter-insurgent operations across the six affected states and the enhanced coordination of resources of the armed forces, the police, DSS, our respective state vigilance services, hunters and other local volunteers to fight the insurgents”.
On his own part, Governor Zulum, who is at the epicentre of terrorists activities in Borno State, has been showing leadership qualities and suggesting solutions to the devastating effects of senseless killings in the state.
The Borno Governor further displayed courage and rekindled hope when he told the nation on Thursday, February 10, 2022, that Boko Haram insurgency will end under his tenure, by the grace of God.
Speaking to State House correspondents after the meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, Zulum said that over 30,000 former fighters have now surrendered and are in the custody of the authorities.
He said the Borno State Government does not offer any incentive to the fighters to come out of the forests, rather, they have done so voluntarily.
Zulum also stated that he discussed the continuing surrender of the insurgents and the case of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) with the President.
He further assured that the security situation in Borno State has improved considerably, saying that things will continue in that direction.
Speaking on the need to consider political solution to end the menace, Zulum stated that kinetic measures alone will not end the war and therefore advised that a political solution be applied.
He said, “As I’ve been saying before, the kinetic measures alone will never end the insurgency. The social and political dimension of this crisis is very important. So, we have decided to engage them through dialogue and mediation, with a view to ensuring that many of them should lay their arms.
“So far, so good, the objective has started yielding positive results. Apart from this also, in the Borno State, for example, as I told you last time, we had problems on the shores of Lake Chad as well as in Southern Borno. I’m pleased to inform you that there was a very heavy military deployment into Southern Borno. And I hope such a deployment will also take place in Northern Borno, with a view to clearing the ISWAP insurgents in Lake Chad.
“So, this has also yielded positive results.
It is also instructive to state that Zulum, on November 30, 2020, recommended the recruitment of foreign mercenaries by the Federal Government to help in ending the Boko Haram war.
Former President Goodluck Jonathan-led administration utilised foreign mercenaries, including South Africans, against Boko Haram in the build-up to the 2015 general elections. The mercenaries reportedly contributed to the successes the military recorded in the few weeks leading to the 2015 general elections.
But the Buhari administration, jettisoned the use of mercenaries, promising to equip and empower the Nigerian military to defeat the insurgents.
Zulum made his suggestion when he received a Federal Government delegation that visited the state to condole with the people of Borno over the killing of 43 farmers by suspected members of Boko Haram.
Making six key recommendations to the Federal Government to resolve the insurgency, Zulum said, “One of our recommendations as possible solutions to end the insurgency is the immediate recruitment of our youths into military and paramilitary services to complement the efforts of the Nigerian armed forces.
“Our third recommendation is for him to engage the services of the mercenaries to clear the entire Sambisa forest.
“Our fourth recommendation is for him to provide the police and the military, with armed resistant armoured personnel carriers and other related equipment.
“We are also soliciting the support of the Federal Government to support the Borno State repatriation of our displaced persons currently residing in Cameroon and Niger Republic.”
The Borno Governor also called on Buhari to increase federal support for residents of Borno State.
He added that the Federal Government-owned Ministry of Works had not constructed or rehabilitated roads in the last 25 years “in Borno State and most parts of the North-East.”
He said, “If the federal can fix the bad roads in Borno and the North-East, the insurgency would be reduced by 60 per cent.”
Sadly, about 350,000 persons have lost their lives in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa states as at 2020. The United Nations Develop Programme stated this in a report made available on June 28, 2021.
Mr. President, the bucks stop on your table. Please take a decisive action and stop these senseless and avoidable killings of our brother and sisters in the North.
As the Commander-in-Chief of our Armed Forces, kindly summon the courage and direct the military to take out these bandits in their known forest. It is better to strike with the attendant collateral damage than to allow daily killing of our people.
Now that we have better equipment and the game changer –Super Tulcano Jets, there must be no hiding place for terrorists and bandits. Our people deserve new lease of life where they can sleep with their two eyes closed. Our military personnel have lived up to expectations and our security forces are doing their best and we are getting favourable results. But they need to put more efforts to change the narrative.
As the wise saying goes, a stitch in time saves nine. President Buhari must rise up to the occasion and act now.
Amokeodo, a journalist and media consultant, writes from Abuja.