As it was in the 7th and 8th Senates where debates on the problem of insecurity were recurring decimal so it is in the 9th Senate. Taiye Odewale reports.
Armed banditry-driven insecurity
Historically, armed banditry – driven security problems have no doubt crept into the Nigerian polity immediately after the civil war in 1970 largely because of the proliferation of all kinds of arms and ammunition with attendant usage by non – state actors like the Ishola Oyenusi-led six gang of armed robbers caught in Lagos on 27th March 1971, prosecuted and executed on the 8th of September 1971 along with his entire robbery gang.
Besides, the increase of communal clashes, where local weapons such as dane guns, cudgels, machetes, knives, dagger, spear, bow and arrows etc, were often used by assailants in such clashes, tended to have improved with somewhat ‘sophisticated’ weapons. Thus, ammunition – driven security problems in the country from the 1970s up to 1990s were either perpetrated by armed robbers or hired assassins.
The scale of such pockets of security challenges in the country however got widened and deadlier with the start of guerilla warfares against the Nigerian State by Boko Haram insurgents in 2011.
Though the Boko Haram insurgency has, to a large extent between 2015 and now, been restricted to Borno, Yobe and Adamawa states respectively but the emergence of armed banditry in the North Western and part of North Central axis of the country, has further worsened the problems of insecurity in the country with attendant loss of innocent lives and destruction of properties of affected victims almost on daily basis.
Little wonder that as representatives of the people, issues relating to the menace are often brought and debated either on the floor of the Senate or House of Representatives mostly through motions anchored on point of Orders raised by concerned federal lawmakers. The lawmakers often sought urgent debate by colleagues on it as well as insisted that action be taken against it by relevant authorities within the executive arm of government, particularly the security agencies.
The latest of such legislative interventions were the ones carried out on the floor of the Senate penultimate and last week Tuesday.
While the resolution passed by the Senate on debates held on armed banditry in Niger and Katsina states penultimate Tuesday via motions separately moved by Senators Sani Musa (APC Niger East) and Mandiya Bello (APC Katsina South), centred on wakeup call issued to members of the armed forces and the Police, the one passed last week Tuesday on similar motion, moved by Senator Aliyu Sabi Abdullahi (APC Niger North), was on President Muhamnadu Buhari for rescue operations in the affected areas.
Although Senator Ibrahim Gobir (APC Sokoto East ), was not mover of any of the motions, but made submissions that far outweighed the ones made by primary movers of the motions.
Senator Gobir had in the course of general debate on separate motions moved by Senators Sani Musa and Bello Mandiya penultimate Tuesday said: “Matters of insecurity in Nigeria, seems to be getting out of hand for the security forces as banditry is now a daily occurrence in Sokoto state.
“In some areas of Sokoto state under firm control of the bandits, issues on marriage and land disputes are now being adjudicated upon by leaders of bandits in the affected areas.
“Government needs to wake up before the affected communities resort to self-help, which will be informed of full scale war against the criminals and invariably anarchy “.
Expectedly on the strength of his submissions and those of other Senators like Jibrin Barau ( APC Kano North), Mohammed Enagi ( APC Niger South ) etc the Senate passed resolutions believed to be way out of the killing spree in the affected areas .
It specifically urged security agencies to rise up to the disturbing challenge by setting up permanent military bases in the affected areas of Niger, Katsina, and Sokoto states.
Apparently thinking that such motions may not be necessary again since the Senate itself had organised a security summit with far reaching suggestions to the executives on redesigning of the nation’s security architecture, the President of the Senate, Senator Ahmad Lawan, in his remarks assured his colleagues that the nation’s overwhelmed security agencies would rise up to the challenge.
“The security agencies have not at any time shirked away from their responsibilities of ensuring security for all and sundry in the country. But with inadequate personnel and equipment, they are no doubt, overwhelmed by the spate of crimes across the country.
“They are, however, expected to redouble their efforts in getting armed bandits, kidnappers and other criminals out of their various hide outs through redesigning of the entire security architecture as recommended by the Senate”, he said.
Another debate, same matter
However, exactly a week after and intact, at the next sitting after the previous one, matters of urgent national importance was raised again on worsening state of insecurity in the land by another Senator from Niger state, Senator Aliyu Sabi Abdullahi.
During general debate on Senator Abdullahi’s motion, Senator Gobir, made another shocking submission on state of insecurity in Sokoto as regards persistent attacks of armed bandits on hapless citizens in the affected areas by saying the Sokoto incidences are worse than any other parts of the country.
According to him, within the last three months, not less than 300 people in Sokoto East senatorial district, have either been killed or kidnapped by the rampaging armed bandits on daily basis.
“The situation in Sokoto East as far as armed banditry is concerned, is pathetic and tragic because it is only Nigerien Army that had been coming to their rescue while the Nigerian Army looks the other way round.
“In fact, based on very reliable and verifiable information from the area, many at times that the people of the affected areas called on Nigerian Army for help and protection against the bandits, often they get no response.
“But graciously, the Nigerien Army have been assisting in wading off the bandits, the very reason while not less than 5,000 people in the affected areas have migrated to Niger Republic for safety”, he said.
He lamented further that aside the 300 people who had fallen victim of banditry attacks in the area through kidnapping or outright killing, hundreds of cows and other animals have been rusted by the bandits the worth of which is about N2.5billion.
“Fallout of this is grinding poverty ravaging the affected people in form of serious hunger since their cows and other animals are on daily basis being stolen and even made from some of the cows they hurriedly sold.
“The situation is so bad that we only get help from Niger Republic and not from Nigeria at all, be it from the military or the police. The affected people cannot be perpetually at the mercy of Nigerien soldiers and still expected to proudly see themselves as Nigerians.
“Very urgent drastic action is required from President Buhari through the military in form of expansion of anti- banditry operation currently being carried out in Zamfara and Katsina state to Sokoto state “, he said.
Consequently, the Senate in its resolutions demanded for urgent rescue operation from President Muhammadu Buhari on the affected villagers in the State through extension of similar ones going on in Katsina and Zamfara states.
However, in his usual statesmanly remarks, the President of the Senate, Senator Ahmad Lawan, said the security challenges are enormous but surmountable.
“Nigeria is definitely up to the task and Mr President will deploy military to the areas for restoration of sanity as gradually being witnessed in Zamfara and Katsina states “, he said.
With issues bordering on insecurity being raised and debated in the Senate almost on monthly or weekly basis, it is glaringly clear that aside COVID-19 ravaging the entire world , is the topmost problem facing the Nigerian State today .
Whether the Police and by extension, the armed forces, would eventually tame the tide or not, time will definitely tell.